Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Hiking Lauenen near Gstaad

The day after my walk up Rochers de Nayes I was aching all over and I really didn't feel like more walking. However, I could see blue sky out the window and this was enough to motivate me to get moving.

I was going to catch the train to Gstaad, which is part of the scenic railway system that leaves from Montreux, but the timetable wasn't agreeable so I instead grabbed the car. In retrospect this was probably a good thing since it gave me some extra flexibility for the day.

So I drove to Gstaad, passing the Glacier 3000 cable car - which reminded me that it was still on my list of things to do (it's a long list) - and past numerous cyclists who must have been freezing in the light rain and cold at this mild altitude.

I arrived in Gstaad, which was of course mostly closed, even though it is a resort town, because it is Sunday. I wandered around and took some photos and it looks like it would be an amazing place to visit in Winter when there was snow on the roofs of the hotels and houses. I also grabbed an espresso and a pain au chocolat at a patiserie whilst consulting a Walking in Gstaad map that I luckily found.

I picked out what looked to be a nice easy (flat and short) path from Lauenen to Lauenensee (Gstaad in is Kanton Bern which is German speaking), and drove out to Lauenen to start my walk.

I really enjoyed this walk, even though it was not quite as flat or short as I expected (though this impression may have been skewed by my existing aches and fatigue from the previous day).

In fact not far into my walk I noticed a waterfall off in the distance. I didn't think I could be walking that far, so satisfied myself with a few zoomed-in photos, but as the walk continued I found myself increasingly sure that the path would take me by the falls.


Eventually I reached Lauenensee, and there was a side path off which led in the directon of the falls, which of course I followed. I found the falls and spent some time taking photos of the fast-moving water.



After I had exhausted the photo-taking opportunities, I returned to walk around the lake. Lauenensee is a lovely little lake, of the sort that reflects the surrounding mountains, and I again took many photos. I was a little foiled by the fact that the sky was clouded over and made it difficult to capture the contrast between the clouds and the dark trees and lakes, but I got some photos I was very happy with.

By the time I got back to the car I was again exhausted but really happy with my day of walking. I'm determined to make the most of the Swiss countryside which lends itself so easily to walking trips, and has so many opportunities to do so. It's no wonder you see so many people doing this with their weekends!

Hiking Rochers de Nayes

Linda was out of town on the weekend for a conference, so rather than mope around at home I decided I would instead take myself out for a couple of hikes around Switzerland; something I've been meaning to do for a long time.

Having never really done much walking in Switzerland, I decided to pick what I thought would be a relatively simple first hike, up the nearby Rochers de Nayes. I even thought I was being easy on myself by starting at Caux, which is half-way up the 2041m Rochers de Nayes.

I arrived at Caux without really any idea how I was going to do the climb, but I had faith in the Swiss system of marked walking trails, and even found an extremely dodgy tourist map of the trails. The map indicated a more difficult route up the mountain, by the Dent de Jaman rocky outcrop, which of course appealed to me immediately - so off I went!


The start of the walk was quite sedate, along a road and through some forrest, and at some point I decided the route I was on didn't quite match my expectations from the map, so I headed up a side path that pointed in the right direction. This turned out to be an incredibly steep path of loose rocks, and I was exhausted by the time I got to the top of this stretch, but was rewarded by a much more interesting walking track than the road I had been on.


At some point I reached an altitude where I could no longer see where I was going due to the thick fog, so I just followed the path until eventually I was sure I was lost. I asked some kind people who pointed me in the right direction, but I think they misdirected me and again I was off the path that I expected to be on.

What I really wanted to find was the Grottes de Nayes, which is a system of caves that you can explore. I didn't have a head lamp and I didn't actually want to go into the caves as such, but the route sounded quite interesting. Anyway this is something for me to do next time.

Instead I traversed the mountain below the cliffs of Rochers de Nayes, and then climbed a very steep 'path' that looked more like a rock fall of loose stones. During the climb some mountain goats ran across the path. It was amazing to see since before then the only wildlife I had seen was some snails that had come out after the rain of the previous night.

I stopped for a while to see if there was more goats, and there was. Another group ran across the path, and then while I was waiting I saw some more looking at me from on top of a rock downhill from where I was sitting. I had put my camera away for the difficult climb, and when I reached for it out of my backpack they ran off.

The last part of the climb was also steep, and by the time I got to the top I was exhausted and really felt like collapsing for a while. I restored my energy with a Swiss mountain meal of sausage, gravy and chips, plus one of those Ramseier Jus de Pomme drinks we've become addicted to in Switzerland.

For the walk down I left my camera in my bag - I just wanted to make a quick descent and not muck around taking photos. I took the easier route back to Caux, which is along the long ridgeline from Rochers de Nayes, and then a traverse across the valley to Caux. It was also a very nice walk, and I'd like to do it again some time when I've got more time and energy.

When I was arriving in Caux I heard the train coming down the mountain behind me and I realised I'd have to run to catch it. So I jogged to the train and fortunately made it on time, but I really didn't need that run at the end of my long day!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Rhinefalls

The Rhinefalls are only a short trip from Zurich, and make a very pleasant day trip on a Sunday when all the shops are closed.

The falls are the largest in Europe. Although they aren't particularly high they have an impressive rate of flow; averaging around 700 cubic metres per second in summer.

Unfortunately there was some renovations going on while we were there (they were meant to finish the previous month, but are evidently experiencing some delays), so we couldn't visit the castle on the Zurich side.


Consequentially, we had to make do with boat trips across the river and one that took us all the way to an 'island' right in the middle of the falls. This was really impressive as you really are in the middle of the action, and we stopped for a while to watch some fish take their chances at jumping up the falls (impossible of course).

We stayed at the Rhinefalls for a while, taking photos and wandering around, since it was a hot day and the mist from the falls were nice and cooling.

Once it started to get late in the day we decided to head home - it is about 2 1/2 hours from Rhinefalls to Vevey and, as usual, we had a big week ahead of us at work. We were really happy to have made the trip to Zurich and the Rhinefalls!

Zurich

On the weekend we drove up to Zurich. We had a flimsy excuse: we are looking to buy a tent and apparently there are some big camping stores in Zurich. But anyway it seemed worth going since Linda hasn't been before, and the weather was looking good.

In the end the camping stores were a bit of a bust - they were expensive and anyway we had better things to do with our time than poke around camping shops.

Instead, we wandered around the old town of Zurich for a while, grabbing some food and window shopping. We also visited the two main churches in Zurich, climbing the towers of the Grossm√ľnster to check out the view over the town, and the Fraum√ľnster to see the stained glass windows.

Then we walked over to the Bahnhoffstrasse, which is the main shopping strip in Zurich, where we did a bit more window shopping - which can be a real hazard in Switzerland, where windows are stuffed with multi-thousand franc watches and jewellery.

Once the shops started to close up, we headed down to the lake for a little tour. It was perfect weather so it was a good time to be out on the lake.

For dinner we found an outdoor bar beside the lake, which served up some delicious grilled chicken. It was a good way to wrap up the day.

The next day we visited the Kunsthaus museum, which houses everything from classic to modern art, before heading out of town to see the Rhinefalls, North of Zurich.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Martigny

This weekend was another long weekend, but after 5 days in the Netherlands we needed to take it easy. We decided to head up to Martigny, not far from Vevey in the Valais, to see the Rodin exhibition at the Fondation Pierre Gianadda.

The exhibition was quite good, especially considering how close the gallery is to where we live, although having been to the Rodin museum in Paris it was difficult to get over excited by it. There was also some Roman artifacts from the area which were quite interesting to see.

We had some pleasant surprises, however, in the automobile museum, which houses a large collection of antique cars, including a Model T ford (apparently the first one produced), the car that would have been delivered to Czar Nicholas II had there not been an inconvenient revolution, along with a number of other cars that are now unique in the world.

Outside we found the sculpture garden a very pleasant place to wander around.

We then moved on to the Saint Bernard museum, which is located in Martigny since this is the home of the breed. Of course they aren't used for snow rescues any more (certainly not with the barrels of rum around their necks). There was also a Himalayan mask exhibition (Switzerland likes to think it is related to the Himalayas, courtesy of the mountainous link).

Lastly we loitered around the town, which was surprisingly open (from a commercial perspective), which Linda puts down to its proximity to Italy, and in fact Martigny is on the cross-roads with France also. There is even the remains of a road that reports to be the link between Rome and London!

Anyway we had a nice time in Martigny, and will probably come back if any new interesting exhibitions open up in the Fondation.