Switzerland - an autumn at home
And what a turbulent autumn it was: visit from South Korea, playing the alphorn, bed bugs at home and lots of hiking. This is our "playground" in the mountains around home.
A visit from South Korea
We were a bit scared when our friend Minji from South Korea wrote us that she will visit us by the end of september. It can be already really cold then and the weather might be really bad. And what can we do with bad weather in the mountains - not to much. But we stayed positive and were really looking forward for Minji's visit. But before, we had lots to do. We had just moved into our new flat and were still living in between all the boxes. So we had to
hurry up to get everything ready before Minji's arrival. Well, let's not talk about sour muscles and long nights ;-). In fact, we did not know each other very well. We met about 1,5 year ago in a hostel in Kuala Lumpur. We spend 2 nights together drinking some late night beers int he hostel - that was all. But we stayed in contact and when she told us to backpack around Europe for 2 month we were really happy that she had Switzerland in her destination list. In the meantime, Minji is married to a canadian who unfortunately could not travel with her. But they will meet later on in Paris before the move to Canada. So, we surprised Minji (she was coming from Southern Spain by train to Berne) at the train station with a canadian flag. It was so good to see her again and we had a fun evening together exchanging our stories of the past months. The next day, it was time for some sightseeing in Berne which is the capital in Switzerland. But it still feels like a village sometimes. Nevertheless, the old town is really beautiful and it is a great way to get to know the real swiss way of life. Unforutnately it was a rainy day and the views to the mountains were really bad. But Minji had a great day and in the evening we had invited some friends for a traditional swiss raclette. You put kind of a special oven on the table with which you melt some cheese. This is accompanied by some potatoes. We also had some meat and veggies to grill on top and lots of red wine. It was a great and fun evening and in the end we had a Schnaps-tasting for Minji: she tried a strong apricotine. Well, it was not her favourite drink - you will see it on the pic ;-).
A hike from Kandersteg to Oeschinensee and a well deserved after-hike-beer in Thun
Next day the weather was supposed to be better - in fact it was really warm. Time to head to the mountains. Our first stop was Kandersteg, a beautiful mountain village about 1 hour drive by car from Berne. It is often overseen by international tourists. But the scenery is stunning and we both love the village. There is a very nice via ferrata there, some great walls for rock climbing and amazing glaciers. Overall, the village is very relaxed. We did a nice 2 hours hike up the mountain to the beautiful Oeschinensee, a nice lake with stunning views. We have done it a lot of times already, but it is always really nice and being in the mountains never is the same. We had a little picnic at the lake before walking backto the village. On our way back to Berne we stopped in the beautiful town of Thun. We had a well deserved after-hike-beer at the lake side. Afterwards it was a quick walk through this gorgous town before it was getting dark. We always wonder why all the tourists head straight to Interlaken. Interlaken as a town simply is not nice at all and it is crowded with tourists mainly from Asia and the US. Thun, on the other side has only few tourists, a beautiful old town, a much better view of the mountains (well, on a clear day), great little cafes and restaurants and cheaper accomodation. In the evening we stayed at home with a home cooked meal and just a little bit of red wine. We had too prepare a long walk for the next day.
One of the top hikes in Europe: from Schynigge Platte to First
We had decided to take Minji on our favourite hike from Schynigge Platte to First. We had some pics in one of our last blogs. But now, it is time to describe this hike a bit closer as it is one of the really great hikes in Europe. By car ist is a 40 minutes drive to Wilderswil, the start of the trail. You can reach this village also easily by train. In Wilderswil you can by a hiking ticket for this special route. First you take a train up the mountain on Schynigge Platte. Minji was really excited as it was her first trainjourney up a mountain. And it is a fantastic one with amazing views over the Lake Thun and the Lake Brienz. After 50 minutes on the train you reach Schynigge Platte and Minji was simply speechless. She just said that she had never seen something so impressive and beautiful in her live. Indeed, the views are breathtaking: famous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau are just waiting for you - snowcapped and surrounded by more beautiful peaks. Even for us (and we have been up there a lot of times) this is always amazing. We were really lucky because that day there were some musicians playing the alphorn. And they invited us to play it. Well, it was easy to make some noise - but playing it is sooooo difficult. And then, the hard work started: 5 to 6 hours hiking to First. The first part ist easy to hike - going up and down a little bit. Well, and the views - they are just out of this world. Then it is a first climb up for half an hour. We had a short lunch before a long climb started. After 3 hours in total we reached a little hut (you can also eat something there but we preferred our picnic - swiss huts are incredably pricey...). Then, it is another hour of really steep climbing till you reach the highest point of the trail. From there you can walk another 30 minutes up to the summit of Faulhorn (on top, there is the oldest mountain hotel in Switzerland). But the views are not different up there from what
we have seen and us we were a bit late and had to hurry up to get the last gondola back to Grindelwald, we decided to give the Faulhorn a miss. We had to hurry down to the Bachalpsee. We were really sorry for Minji, but we could not spend much time at our most favourite lake as we were really running out of time. And missing the gondola would have meant another 3 hours of walking down a steep path. All 3 of us did not want that. Therefore, I, Nina, decided to run to the gondola. Markus and Minji were enjoying the lake at least a little bit and following me. I reached the gondola station about 5 minutes before closure. I talked to the guy up there and he was very kind. He waited for Markus and Minji and we had a private ride down after closure (they arrived at the station 20 minutes too late). We thanked this guy a lot and Markus and Minji thanked me. Well, I have to admit I was really tired after running down all the way. Happily we reached Grindelwald with the gondola. There are lots of restaurants in Grindelwald. Although it is a busy and touristy mountains village, Markus and I both love it. We had a nice dinner there till we catched a train back to Wilderswil. It is another 20 minutes by train. We were really tired but very happy when we drove back home. Another great day in the mountains. We were sad when Minji left us the following day - it was a wonderful time together and we hope to see her and her husband soon in Canada.
The story of the bed bugs
We have met theses awful creatures sometimes on our travels. But having them at home is something different, we have to say. When we come home we normally unpack our backpack on the balcony and wash all stuff - just in case..... Well, when Minji visited us, we did not even think of her having troubles with bed bugs. She did not either. But the first morning of her stay, she was covered with bed bug bites. Markus and I were kind of shocked. Well, poor Minji was really suffering and had very itchy bites (and lots of!). But with some cream and antihistamines it quickly turned better. But where did these blood suckers come from? We have never had problems at home and just moved into the new flat. After some research it turned out that the hostel where Minji stayed in Nice/France had severe problems with bed bugs and they travelled in her backpack to our home. Well, we immmediately washed all of Minjis clothes, desinfected her backpack and washed everything possible in her room and desinfected the rest. Normally, this helps to kill the living bed bugs but not the eggs. So we had to call a company that checked everything. They arrived with a dog who could smell them. We were really lucky, as the washing and desinfection really had killed all bed bugs. We were really relieved because it would cost around 2000 US$ to get rid of them professionally (they treat them with cold). Well, on the road we are really relaxed with bed bugs - but at home, this really was something else. And we were very happy that Minji was better soon!
Last hike of the season "of the beaten track"
Well, after Minji left it was not the end of the hiking season for us. By the end of october it really got hot in Switzerland again. The leafs and trees had wonderful coulours. And no chance that we would stay at home. We had to get out to the mountains again for another nice hike. Right from our home we took a bus up to Gantrisch, a pre-alpine region where I normally go cross-country-skiing in winter. From there it is a wonderful hike of 4-5 hours to reach the Stockhorn. The summit of Stockhorn is at an altitude of 2.100 metres and it really is of the beaten track. We did this hike on a wonderfully sunny friday. And we just met around 6 people before reaching the top (there were some more coming up with the cablecar). Even though the scenery is not stunning like on the other hike (simply because it is pre-alpine and not in the middle of the high mountains) it was a wonderful relaxing hike. First it is a nice "warm-up" to Leiterenpass from where we had the first wonderful views of the mountain range of the Berner Oberland (how the region of the mountains in this area is called). Then it is a nice path along the mountain range going up and down a little bit and passing some abandoned hamlets. Just in the end it is 1 hour of steep climbing up the summit. It is hard work but the views are rewarding. The path is well marked and really worth it. As it was warm and sunny, we enjoyed some time relaxing in the sun on the summit before we walked down to the middle station of the cable car. This cable car is really expensive. And the walk down to the middle station is very scenic and saved us a lot of cash. We passed some wonderful lakes - and nearly no-one around. Down in the valley of Erlenbach we had to wait for the train which brought us back to Berne. We really can recommend this hike, especially when you want to get away from the crowds. But never do it when it is foggy or raining. The hike is easy but can get slippery and dangerous when wet!
Now we are waiting for the first snow to fall and then it is time for cross-country skiing again. In the meantime we are busily checking some flight tarifs - it is time to go for our next adventure. The only thing we can say so far: it will be longer than a 6 hours flight and it will be a new region in this world for us.....