Swiss Trip to the South-East (Part 1)

For our first full day in the Engadin, we decided to walk from Maloja along the path which runs by the side of Lej da Segl or the Silsersee to the village of Sils Maria. Jude was keen to see what it looked like as Colletts Mountain Holidays have (or at least would have, had it not been for COVID-19) started running holidays there.

Quick aside here: I first met Jude while on a Colletts Mountain Holiday in the Italian Dolomites in 2004. Jude was the chalet host. The rest is history as they say… 💕😊

Anyway, even before we’d left our apartment, we’d noticed some people, running in pairs towards the lake. Only the day before, Jude had read about an event called the ötillö, which required a team of 2 people to run, swim, run, swim, run, swim, etc. for a total of 45km. (39km of this is running and 6km swimming across the 2 lakes in the Engadin). One of the rules is that the 2 competitors should never be more than 10 metres apart, so they are tied together with a piece of rope. (The madness of the human race never ceases to amaze me!) On the plus side, if there is a plus side, they are allowed to use paddles on their hands and floats between and on their legs. (In the second picture below you can see the 2 competitors had them on their shins, but not everyone had them). Of course, these had to be carried during the run sections. All I can say is, it’s not an event you’ll catch me doing!

We stopped at the rather quaint village of Isola on the way for a coffee, where there’s a huge cascading waterfall. Sils Maria itself was quite charming, with restricted motorised transport from what we could see. It’s clearly a great base to explore some of the excellent walking routes and attractions in that area. (But it’ll never beat the Val d’Hérens of course! 😉)

We returned to Maloja via a small ferry boat, which criss-crosses the lake to pick up passengers. Apparently it’s the highest operating ferry in Europe, at an altitude of 1,797m or 5,896ft. Swiss facts – Jude has them all! (It’s no wonder I married her! 😍)

Swiss Alpine, K23 – DNS

For the past few months I’ve been in ‘secret’ training. After 6 months of inactivity following a chronic calf injury, I started running again when the lockdown started. This was mainly because I was unable to walk high up into the mountains due to the snow. Not wishing to get a recurrence of the injury, I started slowly, like I’d never run before, doing 4km (2.5 miles) here and 5km (3 miles) there, before increasing it gradually to maybe 10km (6 miles).

I then received an email telling me that the Swiss Alpine series of races covering 10, 23, 43 and 68 km was going ahead – though slightly altered due to the virus. Two races would on the Saturday and two on the Sunday and competitors would have to wear masks at the start and (obviously) be aware of social distancing. There would be restricted feed stations and no after-race presentation ceremony.

This coincided with me having just walked 23km and ascended almost exactly the same height as the K23 race. Now any runner will tell you that there is a certain buzz about competing and being involved in any race (even if you are never likely to win or to do a PB/Personal Best). So I entered the K23. The other 3 races were based in Davos, but my race would go from Klosters to Davos. It’s a 5 hour drive across Switzerland from Evolène, so Jude and I decided to make a bit of a holiday out of it, by also extending our stay to the Engandine valley – but more of that in future posts. 😊

Then disaster struck! Exactly 2 weeks before the race, I went out for my last ‘long’ run (well, 1h 30 mins) and after only 20 minutes my heel started to hurt. Rather foolishly, I carried on for another 5 minutes, hoping it would go away, but no joy. So I limped home.

Ever the optimist, I figured it would be fine in 2 weeks and I’d at least be able to jog around the course in the 4 hour 30 min time limit. But that was not to be, as my achilles was still sore, even the day before the race. So I would be a DNS (Did Not Start).

But, we’d made plans to go and off we went. Although through some amazing scenery, there was not much to report about the journey across as it rained off and on all the way. (So no pictures of that I’m afraid).

On the morning of the race, Jude and I decided to take the cable car up from Klosters to Gotschnagrat to walk to the top of the Gruenhorn (@2,500m / 8,200 ft) and from there across to Casanna (@2,557m / 8,390 ft).

In the afternoon we drove over the Fluelapass to the Engadine valley and to our next accommodation in Majola. This took us through St Moritz and we noticed a game of polo was underway (which turned out to be part of an 8 team Summer Tournament). Neither of us had ever having seen this sport being played live before, so we stopped to take in the atmosphere.

Swiss Trip to the North (last part, 5)

As you may recall we chose to go to Schaffhausen as it’s very close to the Rhine Falls, which is the largest waterfall in Europe. OK, it’s not as high as the Angel Falls, nor as wide as either the Niagara or Victoria Falls, but it’s impressive nonetheless. As with the Tinguely fountain, a static image doesn’t really do it justice, so today you have not one but TWO videos. I spoil you.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, since you are possibly wondering where all the big mountains have gone, I’ve included some photos of our journey home.
From Schaffhausen we headed east to the small town of Arbon, which sits on the shores of Lake Constance, or the Bodensee, just a few miles from the Austrian border. After lunch we headed south, through Glarus and over the Klausen and Furka passes back to our beloved Rhone valley. During our trip, we travelled through 16 of the 26 Swiss cantons.

It also seems someone has found a new and potentially much more useful role for “Mr President”. (See pic 15 in the second gallery).

Swiss Trip to the North (part 4)

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s nothing my wife enjoys more than being on a boat. So when she discovered that you could take a boat up the river to one of, if not, THE best preserved medieval towns in Switzerland, it had to be done, even if it did involve wearing a mask en route.

Above the town sits Hohenklingen Castle. We hadn’t planned to visit it, but when we discovered there wasn’t a return boat at 15:30 and the next one was at 5pm, well… It’s only a 200m/650ft climb and there is a café/restaurant at the top so, it just had to be done. It was worth every step of the way though for the views from the top of the tower – and the refreshing beer of course! 🥵+🍺=😋

Swiss Trip to the North (part 3)

For the second half of our holiday, we drove over to Schaffhausen, primarily to see the Rhine Falls – but more of them later…

On the way we stopped off at a small village called Kaiserstuhl, which sits on the Swiss side of the Rhine and border with Germany. So we took great delight in walking over the bridge into a different country. Indeed, although we had planned to stay wholly in Switzerland during our trip, we were encouraged by not being challenged at gunpoint on the border (in fact we saw nobody), so we decided to take the direct route to Schaffhausen from there. This involved going into or, rather, through Germany not once, but twice. (Such is the weird shape of the border in that area, that there is even a small German enclave completely inside Switzerland, called Büsingen am Hochrhein). Maybe it was because we crossed the borders at lunchtime, but we didn’t get stopped once.

Having checked in to our hotel, we again went for a wander around the town. I can certainly recommend a visit and I hope my pictures do justice to both of the locations we visited.

Interesting footnote: Although Switzerland was not directly involved in the 2nd World War, Schaffhausen and the building in the last photo in particular, was bombed on 1st April 1944. This was apparently due to a navigational error, caused by bad weather conditions. Wiki says that it was mistaken for Ludwigshafen am Rhein, as it sits on the north side of the Rhine. Four million dollars were paid in restitution and, the writing on the front indicates that, the building was rebuilt in 1945.

Swiss Trip to the North (part 2)

As mentioned in my post yesterday, the main reason for our trip to Basel was to see the Edward Hopper Exhibition at the Beyeler Museum. Due to the COVID virus, we had to book a time slot, but there still seemed to be too many people for our liking in each room. Thankfully, after pausing for a few minutes, the crowds dispersed and indeed, the other exhibits seemed to be almost free of people. In case you are wondering, masks were recommended, but not compulsory.

Sadly, we were not allowed to take photos of some of Hopper’s more famous works, so the images below are my personal favourites from the rest of the exhibits.

Afterwards we took the tram back to the city centre and any trip to Basel would not be complete without a look at, or around, the magnificent Rathaus. As you will see, I was again amused by some of the ‘face’ detailing.

As an added bonus, since any static image of the Tinguely Fountain could never do it justice, I’ve included a video of it at the bottom of the page. The Fountain was created in 1977 by Jean Tinguely where the stage of the old city theatre once stood. The Swiss artist has created 10 mechanical figures which are in constant motion, mimicking the artists, actors and dancers who once performed on the theatre stage. Enjoy!

Tinguely Fountain video:

Tinguely Fountain, Basel

Swiss Trip to the North (part 1)

Back in April, Jude and I were due to go to Basel, to see an Edward Hopper exhibition. But this, of course, had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, museums, hotels and restaurants have now re-opened in Switzerland, so we decided to re-book our trip.

In addition, we hope to visit every canton in Switzerland and see some of the many delights the country has to offer. So we decided to include a couple of nights in Schaffhausen, to see the famous Rhine Falls, which are the largest in Europe. But more of them later…

After driving directly to Basel and checking in to our accommodation, we had just enough time to visit the Kunstmuseum, which also has an excellent collection of artwork on show.

As you will see from my selection of photos below, I often find the detail of some paintings more fascinating than the overall images themselves! For example, I was particularly amused by the 3 tiny people standing on the glacier in the painting of the Finsteraarhorn by Kaspar Wolf. (See pic no. 7). It looks like one of them might be waving. Kaspar obviously had a great sense of humour as the 3 people sitting on the rock in the next painting look incredibly relaxed for such a precarious position.

Ferpècle Valley Walk to Bricola, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Long-time followers will recall how a ‘hole’ mysteriously appeared in the Ferpècle glacier in 2015. Each year since then I’ve been back to see how the hole has collapsed and receded to what it is today.

You can walk along the Ferpècle valley and scramble up a rock slab at the end to get a closer view, but this year I decided to walk up to Bricola, where you can look directly down upon the glacier.

The glacier doesn’t look to be much different from last year, but there was plenty of water rushing down the Borgne as I crossed the wooden bridge. It was so loud, I was drawn into taking a video. (It’s funny how, once you find a ‘feature’ on your camera, you keep using it! 🤔) However, I’ve spared you that today.