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 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 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.

Grande Dixence Dam Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Firstly let me say a big THANK YOU to Vivienne at BugWomanLondon, David at White-Rainbows and Brian at blhphotoblog for taking the time to reply to my Damsel/Dragonfly quiz. I don’t know the correct answers, so all I can say is, you’re all winners! 😊

The road up to the Grande Dixence dam is now open. So yesterday I thought I’d take a drive up there, to walk along the track which runs by the side of the reservoir. Everything was going well until I came across a huge patch of snow, (see pic 21), which was probably the result of an avalanche during the winter. So I turned about and headed up to the Gentiane hut, which was closed and completely deserted.

The reservoir is one of a 1000 in Switzerland and ‘Lac des Dix’ is the largest lake over 2,000m in the Alps. As I’m sure many of you will already know, (since I’ve posted this a few times now 😉) at 285m or 935ft, it’s also the tallest gravity dam in the world. (It’s the 5th tallest in the world and the tallest in Europe). The dam itself is 700m or 3,000 ft wide and contains around 6 million cubic metres of concrete. It holds up to 400 million cubic metres of water, but it was only just over half full yesterday. It’s fed by 4 smaller reservoirs in the neighbouring valleys, including Ferpècle and Zermatt, via around 100km or 62 miles of tunnels. The level of water gradually rises throughout the year in preparation for the huge increase in electricity usage during the cold winters.

My walk started in sunshine, but the clouds soon came over, so it wasn’t a great day for photography. If you’d like to see some impressive aerial shots and to find out more fascinating facts about the dam, please click here.

Walk to Roc Vieux, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

If you look out from our chalet balcony, you cannot help but notice the ‘twin peaks’ of the Grande and Petite Dents de Veisivi. I have posted several pictures of these over the years – including this one from last week. To get to the top of the smaller one, which is ‘only’ 3,183m (or 10,443ft) high, you need to be a proper climber, using ropes, etc. However, I’m advised that it is possible to walk, or maybe scramble, up to the top of the larger one, at 3,418m (or 11,214ft), but I’ve not tried that yet. (We hear rocks falling off this peak all the time, so it’s not a proposition to be taken lightly).

Thankfully, about half way up the ‘front’ of them, there is an area called Roc Vieux, which affords a wonderful view back down the valley. I’m not sure if there is a precise spot or ‘old rock’ as such, but there is a wooden cross, so that serves as a good point to aim for.

On the map I noticed another path, which was only partly marked, to the hamlet called Lu Veijuvi and I decided to give it a try on the descent. It turned out to be safe enough, (if you avoid the bridge in pic 25), but it was quite steep.

As you will see from the pictures below, there were quite a number of butterflies around, including an Alpine Grayling and a Small Tortoiseshell laying her eggs. (I wondered why it never flew off when I took the first set of photos). 🤔

Pic d’Artsinol Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Yesterday I set off from home to walk to the top of the Pic d’Artsinol (@2,998m or 9,836ft). After my experience on Monday, I was hopeful that I’d be able to reach the top, since there are some wide open meadows and the final ridge to the summit faces south. However, as you will see from photo no. 16, I had to turn around at 2,580m (8,465ft), as there was too much snow.

Nevertheless it was a great walk and I spotted a new plant for me in the Alpine Butterwort (pic 9) which my Alpine Flora book tells me is “not common” and is carnivorous. “Insects become glued to the glandular leaf surface and digested by the plant”. And at the very end of my walk I spotted a mating pair of, what I believe to be, Osiris Blues which, if correct, is another first!

Remointse du Tsaté Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

For the past few days I’ve been itching to do this walk, but the clouds have been clinging steadfastly to the mountain tops. With clear blue skies forecast yesterday, at least initially, I set off to drive the short distance to La Forclaz (VS).

My aim was to reach the small lake or pond at the area called Remointse du Tsaté (@2,502m or 8,209ft). I had no idea how much snow there would be and, in the event, my route to the lake was clear, but the lake was almost surrounded, as you will see below.

I was quite lucky because the sun had all but gone in when I arrived at the lake, though the distant mountains were still as bright as ever. I took a few photos and then, miraculously, the sun came out, so I took them all over again! It was an amazing sight for sure and one which I had all to myself. 😀

Tsalet d’Eison Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

When our road was closed on Sunday, I created a Plan B, just in case I couldn’t get out to do my walk on Monday. That was to take the cross path from our chalet to Eison, then climb around 500m (or 1,600ft) to the Tsalet d’Eison. From there I’d take the track towards L’A Vieille and then the path back down through the woods to Evolène. My only doubt was how much snow there might still be on the north facing slope.

With the weather set fair on Thursday, this was my chosen route. However, as you will see from pictures 25 and 26 there was quite a lot of snow on the return path. So rather than risk soggy wet feet, a slip or, worse still, an avalanche, I returned the same way that I came. Though it worked out pretty well, as the bright sunshine had brought out many more butterflies for me to photograph. 😊

My apologies for so many images, but I hope it gives you a flavour for the abundance and diversity of the flora and fauna I’m privileged to see on these walks (even if I can’t identify them all!)