Trekking Through the Alps

While our travels in 2020 have not turned out as planned, we decided to go ahead and take a vacation this summer.  While we contemplated several possible scenarios based on the current pandemic situation, we finally settled on a trip that we had planned to take back in June with some modifications.  Thus, we rented an RV and hit the road for two weeks to trek around Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany.

Day 1

Our first day was mainly spent driving through Belgium, Luxembourg and France on our way to Switzerland.  IMG-20200725-WA0000Once in Switzerland, we made our way to Bern.  We saw some nice scenery as we made our way in including some huge and dense fields of sunflowers.  I could not get any decent pictures of those but snapped a few of some less dense fields later.

We had a slight mishap (think small, steep mountain road and an RV with nowhere to turn around and no way to continue up), but some nice folks helped us through it.  However, we got into Bern pretty late due to that, so we only had time to get some dinner.  There was a pizzeria near our campsite so we opted for that but went for a Swiss feel by trying Rivella, a popular soda drink there, and some Swiss beer.

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Day 2

Our day began in the capital city of Bern.  We took the morning to walk along the Aare River (it’s a very fast-moving river and people were floating/swimming down it) into the city.

The city was a sort of old-style that was very attractive even among modern amenities.  We saw the parliament building, cathedral and shop-lined streets with fountains running down the center of the street.

One interesting feature in Bern that I have not seen anywhere else was what appeared to be cellar doors lining the street in front of shops.  Most of the doors were closed, but they are actually entrances to shops, restaurants and clubs that are underneath the street-level shops.

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After walking around for a bit, we climbed above the city to the Rose Garden.  There were some nice views of the city from there.

We headed back down to watch the clock tower which was supposed to have moving figures on the hour.  It did, though they were not too exciting.  We did enjoy some nice pastries while waiting, though, which helped assuage the disappointment.

After a return walk along the river to our campground, we loaded up and drove on to Montreux which is situated on Lake Geneva.

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We drove through the Laveux Vineyard area where we had a lot of great views.

We drove around part of Montreux on our way to Chillon Chateau, a castle situated on the water.

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We walked around the outside of the castle and along a lakeside path to a terrace restaurant for a drink (local wine and beer).

Then, we walked back to the castle area where we had a sausage and cheese plate for dinner along with a little Swiss chocolate.  We decided to leave the area and head on toward Zermatt, our next stop.  There were lots of mountain views and step farming style vineyards on the way as well as a castle on a hill.

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Day 3

Our day began with a drive into the resort-style village of Zermatt.  The village is comprised of tons of chalet-style homes, hotels, restaurants and shops as well as a church with a cemetery.

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It is also home to the famed Matterhorn.

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We stopped for a Swiss specialty on the way to a trail leading toward the Matterhorn, zopf-a soft braided bread.

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It was very good and gave us a little boost for our climb up the trail.  The views on the trail were very nice with lots of wildflowers and, of course, the mountains.

After walking up for a while, we headed down to Gorner Gorge to get a view of the glacial water flow.

We walked back into Zermatt for lunch.  We tried Rosti for the first, but definitely not last, time (it is on every menu in a multitude of variations).  It is basically a plate of hash browns and this particular version had cheese and tomatoes.  We also had some schnitzel and sausage and Zurcher Geschnetzeltes-veal with a mushroom and cream sauce along with some local beers.

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We walked around the village a little and went into the church and cemetery before stopping to buy some nusstorte (nut tort), Zermatt Birnenbrot (basically a pastry stuffed with a dried pear and other fruits spread) and some Swiss chocolate.  The nusstorte was okay, the Birnenbrot was not appreciated at all and the chocolate was delicious!

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After leaving Zermatt, we drove through many mountain roads with waterfalls and little villages at the base of the Alps each filled with little chalets and churches.  We also saw deer, mountain goats and sheep along the way.

At the top of a huge mountain climb, we found a glacial lake and stopped for a few pictures before heading down the other side of the mountain to the Interlaken/Jungfrau area and more specifically, Wilderswil.

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After settling into a campground there, which would be our home for the next 4 days, we walked to a nearby restaurant for a dinner of (you guessed it) Rosti, this time with a fried egg, Schnitzel, Cordon Bleu made of local veal stuffed with mountain cheese (did you know cordon bleu originated in Switzerland) and lamb Emmenschtel (a sort of lamb stew in a cream curry sauce).  We also added some local beer to the meal for a nice end to the day.

Day 4

Today, we decided to check out the towns around the Interlaken area-specifically Unterseen, Thun, Oberhofen and Wilderswil.

We started in Unterseen.  It was a really cute town with lots of chalets and the river running through the city in two places, but there was nothing too exciting to actually do or see there.  We tried a few pastries and walked around for a bit before heading on to Thun.

We intended to walk around Thun, but, after driving for a bit without being able to find anywhere to park the RV, we gave up, drove around the town, saw a castle and a cute bridge over the river studded with flowers and then headed to Oberhofen.

Oberhofen was not originally on our list to see, but it was actually a nice little stop.  It had a really cool looking castle on the lake and we found a nice place to stop for lunch.

Today we had (I’ll give you one guess) Rosti with bacon and onion, Schnitzel, Cordon Bleu (are you sensing a pattern here?) and two new dishes-a sausage and cheese salad and Alplermagronen-essentially macaroni, cubed potatoes and bacon in a white cream sauce served with a small pot of applesauce for putting over the pasta (don’t worry, you’ll see this one again).  Of course, we also had to try some local beer.

We drove back on some fun roads along the lake, before having a little downtime in the afternoon.

In the evening we walked around Wilderswil, the town where our campsite was located.  There were a lot of chalets and flower gardens on the way to the train station.  Behind the train station, there was an old bridge over the river which led to a church and cemetery.

The cemetery was really nicely maintained so we walked around it for a bit before heading back to our RV to have our dinner which consisted of cheese from the cow belonging to the owner of the campground and some lamb sausage from a farm in the town.  We also got some bread baked by the campground owner.  We ended the meal with a couple of liqueur-filled Swiss chocolates (one filled with a pear liqueur and the other with Kirsch)-pretty good!!

Day 5

Today we went to Beatus Cave.  We had to climb up the mountain to the mouth of the cave.

Once inside, you could hear the rushing water that flows through the cave.

The best thing in the cave was a really cool mirror pool which gave the impression that the ceiling was repeated one level below.  It was slightly disorienting.

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After the caves, we ate at a small restaurant near our campground.  We had (say it with me) Rosti and Alplermagronen, some of the best we had, and cheese fondue with forest mushrooms.  The fondue was served with bread, gherkins, pearl onions and little potatoes that came out in a small burlap sack.  We also tried a Riesling from a town 20 minutes away on the lake.  We ended the meal with a meringue dessert.  It was all very good.

After our lunch, we drove to Trummelbach Falls.  It was a really interesting waterfall because it was running in and out of the rocks/cave.  We took an elevator up inside the rock and then walked all through the rock and carved out spaces to view different parts of the falls as it made its way down to the river below.  It was a cool example of erosion.

Day 6

Today, was the day I had been most looking forward to- hiking in the Alps with all of the wildflowers and mountain views.  But instead, it decided to rain.  The flowers and views were not at all what we were hoping for, but we decided to make the best of it and tell ourselves that we were getting to view the trails in a different light with hopes that the day after would be sunny.  So, while we had expected beautiful bright flowers and skies, we got a more eerie, misty looking experience.

We began by walking toward a waterfall on a small trail near the cable car station.

Then we took the cable car up to Mürren.  Even with the cloud cover, we had some nice views going up.

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At Mürren, we started the Bluemental trail where we were treated to pretty scenery comprised of wildflowers, waterfalls, streams and cows with melodious bells.

We hiked up to the flower garden where they had information about the flowers of the region and we saw some Edelweiss.

We had lunch at a terrace near the garden.  We had Raclette, a special Swiss cheese that is melted and eaten on top of potatoes, pearl onions and gherkins, as well as some mountain cheese and sausage and regional beers.  We would have never known that there were amazing views of the mountains at this terrace except for a very brief clearing that revealed part of the mountains.

After lunch, we walked the mountain view trail.  We had no mountain views, but we were treated to a lot of wildflowers and cows.  The cows all had different shaped and sized bells which really made the jangling sound very melodic.  As my husband said, “we were treated to an orchestra of cows.”

We came out of the trail through a forest and onto a hill of tons of sleeping cows.  It was a little eerie with the foggy mist and all the cows just laying around staring at us!

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Finally, we walked through Mürren past some pretty flower gardens before heading back down the mountain in the cable car.

We went to the same restaurant from a few days before where everyone got the same thing they previously ate (yes-Rosti, Schnitzel and Cordon Bleu) except for me-I tried the vegetable cream soup which was very nice.

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Day 7

After 3 days of rain and overcast conditions, today was our last chance to see the scenery of the Alps, so we were hoping for a nice day.  It did not disappoint!  Though it was not completely clear, we had sun and views, so we were very happy.  We took a historic train (it has been running for over 100 years) up the mountain to Schynige Platte.  There, we hiked a trail around the rim of the mountain where we had views of the lake below, snowy peaks and a glacier and lots of wildflowers.  We even saw a badger from a distance!  And, of course, there was the music of cows!

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After the trail, we walked around the Alpine Botanical Garden which had a really nice display including more Edelweiss.

We listened to the Alpenhorn players and sat on the terrace to eat Aplermagronen and Shnitzel with regional beer.  It was freezing, so we ate fast and then walked around the botanical garden some more to warm back up.

Before heading back down the mountain, we sat on another terrace and had some apricot kuchen and wildberry cake.  The apricot was only politely received, but the wildberry cake was delicious.

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After returning to the valley, we walked to Interlaken for dinner.  We had Rosti (again!) with bacon and egg, Zurcher Geshnetzeltes (the veal in mushroom sauce) and some regional bratwurst with Rosti.  It was not our best meal.

Day 8

Today, we moved on to Lucerne for a few hours before entering Liechtenstein.  Before leaving our campground though, we had a breakfast of bread baked by the campground owner and cheese from her cow as we did every day that we were there.

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In Lucerne, we began by walking to the Lion Monument which is situated in a park area.  It commemorates the Swiss guard killed in the French Revolution.

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Then we made our way to Hofkirch and the Jesuit Church.  They were fairly plain on the inside but were large.

We walked along Lake Lucerne which was filled with boats and the fast-moving Reuss River and saw a couple of wooden footbridges including Chapel Bridge.  The bridges had triangular paintings running along the rafters.

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We wandered around several of the streets and strolled the Weinmarkt area.  The buildings were really neat, and many had elaborate drawings or paintings on them.  There were also a number of fountains throughout the city.

Finally, we walked up to the Musegg Wall, the old fortification wall, for a quick look before heading for lunch.

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While we, of course, had Rosti (with tomato, bacon, egg and cheese) and Schnitzel, we also tried a Lucerne specialty, Chogel Lipaschteli, which was a puff pastry stuffed with veal.  We tried a wine from Lucerne as well.

Then, it was on to Liechtenstein where our first stop was Balzers and Burg Gutenburg, an old castle.  We could see the castle on the hill as we drove in.  After parking, we first stopped at a really pretty church with a cemetery.  It was a quaint, stone church and it was probably one of the prettiest small churches we have seen.  To the side of the church, there was a vineyard at the base of the castle that we walked around.

We moved on to the campground where we had dinner of bratwurst with Rosti (nope, food in Liechtenstein is not too different from Swiss food), veal with mushroom sauce and Flammkuchen (the thin-crust pizzas) as well as some local beer and wine.  They also gave us a gazpacho type starter to try.

Day 9

Today, we went to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.  We first walked to the outskirts of the city where there is a wooden bridge spanning the Rhine River which connects Liechtenstein and Switzerland.  We, of course, walked from one country to the other and back again.

Then, with Vaduz Castle where the royal family lives looming over us on the hill, we walked into the center of Vaduz where we saw St. Florin Cathedral.  It was pretty inside and out but mostly was simple.

We walked through the downtown area past several government buildings before finding a spot for lunch.

We had a starter of Vaduzer soup (a white wine cream soup) and then tried a stroganoff pasta, a beef fillet with Ribel (a sort of polenta) and a vegetable ratatouille with Ribel as well as a local and a Swiss beer and some local red and white wine.

After lunch, we walked up the hill to the Red House, a historic landmark, and the vineyards next to it.

We had a light dinner, but as it was our anniversary, we finished the night with a Rosé Spumante from Liechtenstein and some Swiss chocolate that we found in Vaduz.

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Day 10

Today, we hiked the Allspitz/Furstensteig trail.  We started early with an ascent over the valley.  It started to rain on us, but as a result, some animals came out of hiding and we saw marmots, a bunny and some chamois (goat antelopes).  We hiked up a huge mountainside to a foresty area where we reached a summit.

After this, we headed through a rocky area to the Furstensteig (Prince’s Way) trailhead.  The trail itself was very narrow and rocky and kind of fun but for those with a fear of heights, it was less enjoyable.  The trail provided some really nice views of the valley and mountains surrounding the area as well as Switzerland.  Then, it was back down through the forest to the car.

After resting a while, we went to get some dinner.  We had a melon and white wine starter and seafood and vegetable risottos as well as pork medallions.  We decided to try a white wine from the Prince’s vineyards in Vaduz.

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Day 11

We ended our time in Liechtenstein this morning with a hike on the Eschnerberg Trail in Schellenberg.  The trail was not overly exciting, but we did walk to the ruins of a castle from the 1300s and through forested and meadow areas with some nice views.

After the trail, we walked to the ruins of another castle from the 1300s that was a little more intact than the first.

Then, we drove into Germany to Rothenburg.  It is an adorable walled-in city with numerous clock towers, churches, old-style homes with colorful window boxes and fountains which is said to be Walt Disney’s inspiration for the village in Pinnochio.  It does feel like a fairy tale town.  However, while it is cute, it is quite touristy.  It would be amazing at Christmas, though, my friend that lives in Germany tells me that they may cancel all Christmas markets this year.

We had dinner on a terrace where we tried a local cheese platter, some Weizen beers, 3 local sausages with potatoes and sauerkraut and Schnitzel.  It was a nice meal.

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After dinner, we wandered the streets and did some window shopping.

We also stopped in a bakery to get some Scheebollen, kind of like a ball made of fried wontons which is then coated in either sugar or melted chocolate.  It is a Rothenburg specialty.  We tried powdered sugar, chocolate with Nutella filling, vanilla/amaretto with an almond paste filling and a plain chocolate coating.  We didn’t love them, but, spoiler alert, the next day we got a powdered sugar one from a different bakery, and it was very good.

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Day 12

We went back into Rothenburg briefly in the early morning.  It was much quieter then.

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Then we moved on to Otterberg to visit a friend.  They showed us around the town, and we hiked a ravine which was very pretty with a stream, lots of big rocks and trees (including many fallen ones which were perfect for climbing).

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Day 13

On our final day, we went to Cochem in Germany.  There was a lot of nice architecture in the city, but it was much dirtier and dingier looking than Rothenburg, though it was also, obviously, a tourist destination.  There was a cool main square with a fountain and a castle up on the hill that we walked to.  We tried a plum and streusel pastry which was okay, and then we bought some Riesling to take home as Cochem is in wine country.

Finally, we were on the road home.

Now, if you are thinking “this was a long post,” you would be right.  It was a long vacation!  But, I hope reading all of this didn’t wear you out.  Of course, in these uncertain times, this will likely be the last travel post for some time.  So, I hope you enjoyed coming along for the journey, and we’ll see you on the other side when we can explore some more!

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