Sunday, 24 January 2010


Normally when I think about doing a park-and-ride to get to a major sporting event, I imagine that it will take forever to park and that you will wait for an hour for a bus to arrive and take you to the event. Not so in Switzerland, where the parking lot was a disused airfield, and there was a long queue of busses just waiting to take everyone to the event. We were in Adelboden in no time!

The weather had cleared nicely from the previous day, and we arrived just after the first racers had begun their descent.

Linda had bought tickets for the stands, but it took us a while to figure out the ticketing system so we ended up standing in one of the side stands, from where you could see the course perfectly well, but it was a real crush of spectators.

Once we figured out where we were meant to be (in the main stand with a view right up the course) the situation improved markedly and we had plenty of space to stand.

Of course it was amazing watching the skiers come down the mountain and to be in the crowd cheering enthusiastically. Naturally we didn't really know what was going on - not knowing the competitors or anything - but the atmosphere was the most important part.

In between the qualifying and final rounds we wandered around Adelboden a bit, although to be honest there wasn't much to see apart from the usual selection of holiday chalets.

We caught a lift up along the slalom course to check out the view from the top, where it was so cold water vapour was crystalising in the air and glittering in the sun (I tried to take some photos of this but it just looks like I have something on my lens).

After some lunch at the top we headed back down the mountain. By this stage the final runs were underway and we got to watch the racers from some different angles.

When we finally made it back to our spot in the stands the race was practically over. We watched a few more racers come down the tracks and with a couple of the last few racers crashing out it was all over much quicker than we expected!

Anyway we had a great time experiencing a world cup racing event and even sampled a unique swiss fast food - the Gruyeres fondue-in-a-roll!

Saturday, 23 January 2010


For Christmas Linda got me tickets for a world cup slalom event in Adelboden. Of course, being a world cup event, it was impossible to stay in Adelboden itself, so she found a hotel in Kandersteg, which is somewhere we'd been planning to visit anyway.

The drive up on Friday night was a bit of a nightmare, since it was snowing heavily and the snow-ploughs were unable to keep the roads clear. We crawled along the moterway most of the way towards Bern. After that the snow was not so heavy and we made it to Kandersteg without too much trouble.

Kandersteg is a really beautiful town in a valley surrounded by high mountains. When we were visiting there was an ice-climbing event, that we stopped to watch for a while. It was impressive to watch but we were a bit disappointed they seemed to spend more time climbing the rock than the ice..

On Saturday the clouds hung low in the valley (in fact the downhill event in Adelboden was cancelled - so lucky we weren't watching that!) so we caught a lift up to Sunnbuel, where we hoped to be above the clouds.

Unfortunately it wasn't quite high enough to be properly above the clouds, but in the end that didn't bother us at all, because the mist in the trees meant that ice formed on the branches and leaves and looked amazing!

We had a leasurely stroll through the forest on our snow-shoes, taking many photos of the icey trees (although it was so cold that Linda's camera stopped working - instead she took some photos on my camera and pointed out some good shots for me to take).

We had a nice lunch in the Restaurant and then returned to the town, where we hired some toboggans and spent the rest of the afternoon tobogganning in the hills around the town.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Sankt Moritz

On the last day of our holidays we had a long drive ahead of us to get home again, but we didn't let that stop us from exploring and enjoying ourselves. So after we had packed the car, we headed into one of the most famous ski resorts in the world - Saint Moritz.

We had driven past Saint Moritz on the way into Pontresina, and had seen the multitude of fur-coated people strolling on the frozen lakes. Clearly this was no modest, little, swiss village.

It was a crystal clear day and we were keen to check out the view, so we took the lifts (two funiculars and a cable car) to the top: Piz Nair.

Indeed the view, from 2500m, was incredible, and we took many photos. But made the mistake of trying to get a quick bite to eat, which we timed poorly to coincide with a busy lunch hour.

After our morning of mingling with the rich and famous on the ski slopes we jumped back in the car and headed a little further around the valley to Majola, where we were hoping to do some snow-shoeing (yes we are getting a little obsessed with the snow-shoeing).

We didn't really find the marked trails which supposedly exist there (the tourist office was closed and we didn't want to lose time searching around ourselves) so we just threw on our raquettes and marched into the forest.

It was a really nice walk through the forest, although we kept stumbling upon the langlauf tracks that had been cut through the forest, making us feel a little less intrepid than we might have done.

We stayed until dusk before packing ourselves back into the car for the drive back through the Julier pass and home. The end of an amazing few days in Eastern Switzerland, that left us wanting to go back soon.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Bernina Express

One of the attractions of Graubunden/Grisons/Grigioni/Grischun (pick your language), is the Bernina express - a little railway that runs between Chur and Tirano in Italy, and we had booked ourselves some seats!

In fact we thought we had booked seats, but when I checked through my records I couldn't find any confirmation of the booking, so we took our chances on the train and luckily found ourselves some free seats without a booking.

While we only travelled a segment of the journey, between Pontresina and Poschiavo, it was an incredible journey through a snow-blanketted landscape. If you look at the map of the line, you'll notice the little red train twists and turns its way up and down through the Bernina pass.

We ended up in Poschiavo, in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, which was actually a bit bleak in the freezing weather, and we spent most of our time in a restaurant eating pizza and drinking espressos in 'pretend Italy'.

On the trip back we skipped the panoramic train, taking a regular train, in what turned out to be blizzard-like conditions. The snow flowed over our windows, having been kicked up by the plough at the front of the train. Amazingly there were people outside on the flats kite-surfing on their snowboards.

In the end we made it back to Pontresina just fine, after a small pause in the journey while they cleared the line, apparently with a broom.

Muottas Muragl

From Appenzell we headed south to the Engadin valley, via the Julier pass which was quite an amazing drive.

We were staying in Pontresina, which we chose because it seemed a good spot to start a trip on the Bernina Express railway (more on that later).

Since it took us a while to get there from Appenzell, we only arrived mid-afternoon which left us only a short amount of time to take advantage of the remaining sunlight. A quick look in our guidebooks lead us to Muottos Muragl, a point at the top of a mountain which had a view right up the Engadin valley.

We caught the funicular to the top and headed out in the very sub-zero temperatures (it was -18C during our stay).

The view is indeed incredible, with a fresh blanket of snow over everything, and we were there as the sun was setting down on the valley, which only added to the feeling that we had arrived in a really special place in Switzerland.

We had brought our snow-shoes with us, although we spent most of our time on the 'winter walk' track, which is a well groomed path up the mountain. However, with the setting sun the visibility was rapidly reduced.

We weren't worried by the lack of light, we were well dressed and had more than enough 'emergency supplies' for the return trip, and wandered onwards along the path.

At some point we decided it was time to turn back, and put on headlamps and our snowshoes to go cross-country back to the top of the funicular station. It was amazing to be strolling through the knee-deep fresh powder snow, with headlamps lighting the way. Really an amazing way to start our stay in the Engadin valley!

Friday, 8 January 2010

NYE in Appenzell

We decided it would be almost impossible to top our previous two attempts at NYE in Europe, being in Paris in 2007 and in Venice in 2008, so we decided to have a more low-key NYE this year.

From our little research, we had found an event in Urnash that seemed suitably odd and interesting for us: the locals get dressed up in various outfits (I won't go into the details) and wander around the town and surrounding countryside putting on a performance and getting a sip of spirits in reward.

The tradition only survived in Urnash, but apparently it was previously more widely spread in Appenzellerland and is starting to make a comeback.

However, after reading more on the Appenzell website, it seems they have so many of these strange and inexplicable traditions around Appenzellerland that we began to wonder if they just made them at random, or to attract the tourists...

In any case it was highly entertaining and we took many many photos. Of course the little kids, in their miniature versions of the outfits and half-hearted attempt at the yodelling that accompanies the performance, attracted the most attention.

Originally we thought we would be watching this event into the small hours of the morning, but it turned out we could get everything out of it we wanted by watching it during the day, which left us wondering what to do at night.

Fortunately we found that some of the restaurants at the top of some of the surrounding mountains were putting on a banquet. Most of them were already fully booked but we found one that would take our booking. We caught the lift up to the top of the (admittedly quite small) mountain and took our seats.

For a long while we thought we would have our 6-seat table to ourselves, until we were joined by a Swiss family, who were very nice, but we mostly kept to ourselves for the duration of the evening.

The 5 course dinner was very good, and we ducked out on a couple of occassions to set off some fireworks we had bought earlier in the day (still very exciting for us Australians who are no longer allowed the pleasure of fireworks).

Once midnight came around we all toasted in the new year, in our best Swiss German, before heading outside for more fireworks and sparklers.

It was an amazing night, since it was a full moon (even a blue moon!) and the mountains all around were quite lit up as a result.

As the fireworks went off in the valley below us, it made an amazing site - we could see for miles around at all the other towns in Appenzellerland celebrating the new year. All in all another successful NYE!