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Engadine/ Zurich OR Can a Love of Switzerland & Fear of Heights Coexist?

Engadine/ Zurich OR Can a Love of Switzerland & Fear of Heights Coexist?

Sep 21st, 2010, 04:01 PM
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Engadine/ Zurich OR Can a Love of Switzerland & Fear of Heights Coexist?

So better late than never!
Memorial Day, I'm on my way back to Switz...first time since 2004.
Met up with high school friend in Phila and on to Zuerich.
We are travelling this time with a Half Fare Card. Worked out every conceivable way for the best train prices in advance, and this won (99 CHF for a month).
Breezed through customs and withdrew local currency at ATM, then on to Brienz.
Bought a 20 CHF international calling card (now just a slip with a PIN number to use "FLASH" is the brand name).
It lasted the whole 11 day trip and then some!
I had stayed for ten days in a Fewo in this small lakeside town with weathered wooden chalets climbing the steep hillside many years ago and remember it fondly.
Mostly, chose it as my friend, whose father passed away some years ago, and was a HUGE Sherlock Holmes fan, wanted to visit Reichenbach Falls. Meiringen was no where near as scenic for a two night home-base. But ,it did take close to 3 hours to get to Brienz, via Luzern-Sarnen -Lungern. We were SUPER-Tired when we arrived!
VERY limited B&B options in Brienz. Several overpriced hotels. Tons of Fewos who won't book for less than 5 nights. Had reserved Garni-Hotel Walz on Hauptstrasse in advance, attached to a Konditorei for modest sum.
Took a quick nap in a cozy, bright corner room with a super bank of windows overlooking Lake Brienz.
Windows wide open, a cool breeze wafting in the scent of some sweet bakery item being made below! An unidentified bird (?s) warbled beautifully and I could hear rushing or lapping waters either of the lake or the mountain snow run-off which is channeled through a fume in town. I was too excited to sleep more than 30 minutes!
We hurried back to the ship station to catch the 2:45 boat to Interlaken (first stopping at the Coop for a beer and a pastry to eat on board). Sunny, lightly cool.
The boat FILLED with an asian tourist group! My friend and I got the last two inside seats with an older Swiss woman, but thankfully, almost everyone got off at the first stop-Giessbach Falls. We then claimed two seats outside in the sun and worked on our tans.
In Interlaken, we disembarked in Ost and walked to West for dinner. Window shopped a tiny bit. I had never thought much of Interlaken before beyond a busy college-kids-on their-first-solo-adventure-type of town (witness Hooters, and all the rafting, paragliding dealers and crass consumerism on the sidewalks). BUT, when you wander down side alley-lanes, there are many quaint shops and cafes. We settled on an Italian cafe where I had a large salad plate with sheep's cheese and black olives and a tall wheat beer...mmmm!
Called home and assured all that I was well. Train home and to bed by 9:30--it was still light at 9 pm!
Meiringen and Reichenbachfaelle tomorrow!
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 21st, 2010, 04:33 PM
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Day #2, woke early to a "white-out" of fog at 6 am!
Rain began during breakfast of hot chocolate, croissants and rolls with butter/jam/ meats and cheeses + orange juice.
Caught the 10;24 to Meiringen. Funicular RT+Sherlock museum ticket combo cost 11 CHF. We walked about 10-15 minutes to the 'suburb' of Willingen to begin the trip up. Falls and a Hotel in a distance. We were the only passengers going up! Fine spray, damper as we rose higher. Impressive, thundering falls. Schnecke ueberall (snails everywhere)!
We saw some type of deer from the funicular...
My brand-new, first time digital camera which I had bought at Christmas, but never took out of the box until 2 days before we left (hey, I had a 4 hour layover in Phila by myself... I thought I could learn all the functions by reading the manual then), was malfunctioning at the most scenic points of the uphill hike. It would not focus properly! (A recurring theme on this trip, schade). Though anyone who has done this 'hike' will surely scoff, here is where this trip's "just keep going up and don't look down" theme first reared its ugly head!
It was rocky with 'open' views at turns (AND, no railings AND in the rain, so my knees quaked a bit as I imagined my body tumbling downwards into the torrential falls, not unlike Sherlock's tumble at the hands of his nemesis.) But 20 minutes later, we proudly emerged at Hotel Zwirgi ABOVE the falls. I had a panache (my rediscovered REFRESHING drink of half beer/half Sprite--try it ladies, guaranteed that more than 80% of you will like it) and a hungarian goulash inside at the windows (too bad for the relentless drizzle).
Lilac bushes in full bloom in the back of the hotel (and chickens too). At home, the lilacs have been 'done' for several weeks now.
On the trip back down, the rain stopped and MANY more sensible tourists began the uphill climb.
Back in Meiringen, it was time for Konditorei and Schoko with Sachertorte, battered apple rings with vanilla sauce for my friend. Then on to the Holmes Museum. Small with a nice audioguide and lots of artifacts about Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarity and how Meiringen cashed in on the fictional connection in the last century.
Only about ten people fit at a time in the downstairs set-up.
Many photos for my friend with the brass Holmes statue out front.
Back to Brienz in time for a quick shop at the large wood-carving shop Jobins, where my friend bought a lovely wooden music box embellished with metal Edelweiss.
Still time for Migros market where we bought a picnic dinner and walked up to a church high above the west end of town, where we sat on a bench with lake and mountain views, and ate.
Leaving tomorrow for Chur.
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 21st, 2010, 04:50 PM
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Day #3:
Had breakfast a little earlier today-Milchkaffee, mmm! Enroute to Chur, changes in Luzern and Thalwil. Bigger station here. Stopped at the TI and for a 50 CHF deposit + fee of 9 CHF we rented IPOD Audioguides for touring the city later. Warmer here, and no rain!
Found Drei Koenige Hotel on Reichsgasse, a cobbled narrow lane, and checked in (registration desk up a short flight of carpeted steps off of street level).
This was our one budget accomodation--sink in room, WC and Shower on the floor.
Freshened up and used free internet in the lobby to send and check email.
Then we went back out to begin our 2 hour walking audiguide tour. Unfortunately, St, Martins church interior was closed the full two days that we were there for confirmation practice/preparations.
More to follow, its getting late....
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 21st, 2010, 07:40 PM
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This sounds wonderful. I never had thought of going to Reichenbach Falls, though I've read all the Sherlock Holmes stories. In fact, I didn't know it was in Switzerland. I assumed it was in Germany. I think I really need to visit that area.

I like your report. Good details in a lively style.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2010, 11:43 AM
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Thanks Peg!
Back to our walking tour of Chur...
We passsed the Kunstmusem (Art) and Raetischesmuseum (local culture), saw a portion of the city wall incorporated into existing housing and Arcasplatz.
St Martins square was especially picturesque with an old stone fountain, whose ?knight bore the city's coat of arms.
The base revealed the 12 astrological signs. A large number of people sat 'chillin' in the sun and people watching. We saw Zschaler house-an elavorately painted tall, thin merchants house and the Zollhaus (old customs house on the river), now a restaurant. We returned our Ipods and got our deposits back.
The main street was hopping with stores, cafes and business people, including a McDonalds.
Next we headed back to the old toll house for dinner.
I had the fixed price menu of fancy salad, fancier asparagus/bacon/gorgonzola pizza and a vanilla ice cream scoop over fresh berries for dessert....and TWO Panaches! (On my friend's tab, as a thank you for doing most of the pre-trip planning)! I later cursed the fact that we had no private WC as I walked through the lighted-by-motion-detectors hallway at 1 am and 4 am...!!
Wandered a few more quaint alleyways (cobblestone and pedestrian only), which we hadn't seen before.
We decided to visit Arosa tomorrow for a half day, then splitting up upon return to Chur to visit different museums of interest. Better camera functioning today, though I am having to change the batteries every 48 hours as the lens will not fully close at times.
To be cont'd.
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2010, 12:18 PM
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Day #4:
Buffet breakfast in a large panelled dining room. They have a steam machine for making Schoko, or Latte in addition to tea and coffee! And a better brand of hot chocolate! Give me a buttery croissant, and I'm in heaven! Muesli, ham, cheese, Nutella and eggs which one cooked to order, too.
We caught the 9:08 train to Arosa (RT 13.80 with 1/2 Fare card).
This trip was my friend's suggestion (give credit where due!)-I hadn't really thought too much of it in advance. It was a dramatic and breathtaking trip of one hours' duration. Many switchbacks going higher and higher above the rushing Plessur river. And then.. the snow-capped mountains appeared! At first in a distance, then closer, and closer. The tiny train station discharges you out on Untersee (lake) with mountains and spectacular reflections in the water! It was a GOOD decision to come here. We ambled about the small town with high rise apartments on the rim. Many shops and businesses were still closed for the season until either June 12 or 19th (schade!)
We did find a home accesories store and I bought a black apron with "Switzerland" in german, english, french, italian and romansch on it. Of course, my camera malfunctioned during this trip as well.... Luckily, my friend, who is a photojournalism editor, was kind enough to replicate most of my shots and send me her CD later...
We picked up a few picnic items at Coop (iced tea, a hard roll, a bit of soft Italian cheese, and a chocolate yogurt) and stopped at picnic benches to dine al fresco with a breathtaking view. Meanwhile, the more posh hotel guests were collected from the train station by a horse carriage!
Caught the 12:48 back to Chur, freshened up, than split up to visit-the Rhaetisches museum(me) with a special exhibit on the role of the spud-yes, potato, in the development of Swiss history (kid, you not, but pretty interesting, or as my sister emailed- "spud-tacular!" The themes were rather oddly arranged, but they had a few compelling pieces, related to swiss life from birth to death. (And follow-along guides in multiple languages was nice).
My friend thoroughly enjoyed the art museum.
Back at the hotel, I contacted our landlady in Pontresina, where we will be heading tomorrow afternoon for a 5-night stay in a Fewo. We plan to stay in Chur for the Saturday morning fresh produce/meats and cheeses open-air market + Flea market.
We decided to have tonight's dinner at our Hotel which boasted a traditional swiss cuisine menu with regional specialities PLUS the hotel gave each of us a coupon for a free drink!
Of course, we both started off with the locally produced Calanda beer (no watered down panaches tonight!)I really liked this beer's flavor--too bad I came to find out that it is not exported to Pennsylvania.
I had Gerstensuppe (barley soup)-yum! abd Pizokelpfanne- a fried dish of ?potato flour noodles, onions and cheese (delish). Okay, I ended with a large panache suess (again, forgetting the lack of WC in room). The Stube was wood-panelled with animal trophies and old painted walls.
I liked Chur. It was a small city with good connections.
Tomorrow, on to Pontresina in the Engadine.
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2010, 01:20 PM
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Next installment:
Day #5
Nice breakfast again in the self-service dining room. We went out to the markets next. Initially disappointed as it seemed to be a very large and crowded flea market with junk lining the picturesque old streets.
But the further that we got on Obergasse, the stands turned to fresh veges, homemade cheeses and sausages, honey, jam and baked goods. We bought some items to picnic on during our train trip. Very warm with forecast high of 82. Checked out of hotel after market and chilled at Rathaus park, big shade trees. Caught the 1 pm for Pontresina. Increasingly beautiful scenery as we went-more mountainous as the minutes ticked by. Arrived close to 4pm. Sunny, but cooler air. Began our LOOONNGG trek uphill to Chesa Nadig, stopping to ask for directions many times, as we rolled our luggage. This would prove to be an excellent cardio workout each night! We had been warned in advance that the town sits UPHILL from the train station.
Stone building with sgrafito etchings, oriel window with view over town and mountains on horizon. Quick unpack--we have our own bathroom! With a tub! Oh joy! Two bedrooms, dining room/ sitting room combo and kitchen (all wood panelled of course).
For roughly 100 CHF per night! Fewos are the way to go!
Quick grocery shop for staples in the apartment, then ISO early dinner.
Sat out on terrace of Cafe Puntschella under an umbrella with, can I say it again? fabulous views of the nearby mountains.I chose a big crusty sandwich (MTO mind you) with chicken , brie, curry sauce and pickles--yum! Talk about ambience (again).Wandered the town, then back to fewo for a bit'o'laundry.
Satellite Tv watching (trying to better my swiss-german comprehension).
Late dinner in the apt of sausage and yogurt.
So quiet up here above the village. Federdecke, so left window open to cool breezy mountain air.
Plan Scuol tomorrow and hike Motta Naluns (this is where I face my fear of heights).
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2010, 11:07 AM
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I feel like I'm in a vaccum?
Well, I enjoy the re-living by writing, so here I go!
Day #6- A day of missteps and underfulfillment.
Had breakfast at "home" of raisin roll and hot chocolate ( a few packets of the good Schoko from the 3 Kings Hotel in Chur somehow found their way into my backpack! Imagine that!)
Hurried downhill(aahh yes!) to the RR to catch 9:02 to Scuol Tarasp = 13 CHF one-way. VERY warm 28-30 C. Sweating on our way DOWN into Scuol, so an Italian Gelateria beckoned. Two scoops of chocolate and pistachio under an umbrella.
Town was a jumble of mostly new and a few old houses (maybe we weren't oriented right, but the hostess looked blank when we asked for directions to the Altstadt). Anyway, we did only a short exploration, as we intended to take the 8 seat gondola up to Motta Naluns and (perhaps) hike from there to Ftan, then Ardez and Guarda. The gondola stopped for Mittagspause from 12;30 till 1:30 PM, and we wanted to be sure to get above before then.
On the hike back UP and out of town, we saw a small parade of musicians from various surrounding towns. And again, lilac bushes were abloom everywhere, from the deepest magenta to lavender to white. And the intoxicating scent!! These were my dad's favorite flower, and he had died earlier this year.
I felt my dad's presence every time we happened upon the lilacs!
Got to the gondola station by 12:15. Studying the hiking map. What? Our 'intended' hike to Guarda was posted as 6 hours!
I had posted numerous questions on this board in advance to plan 'height-appropriate hikes' for myself. We knew that the hike from Motta Bergstation to Ftan was steep and downhill,
but did not know that just this portion was timed at 3.5 hours!
Now to review, I have a peculiar 'fear' of 'certain' heights.
Hard to describe, but it has dogged me for decades. Usually, the person that I travel with is even LESS inclined to climb the heights than I am, so I have not been PUSHED to do more. I am usually the instigator in order to see more/experience more from above (how can one go to Switzerland and NOT hike?).
Give me a tower and I will climb it for the incredible views.
Hike on a WIDE path (at least a meter wide) with me hugging the inside wall, I can do it. Rolling hills stretching just below me, okay. NO OPEN HEIGHTS, NO NARROW PATHS, No JAGGED FALL-OFFS, and I am okay. Hard to choose hikes when this much info is needed, and I feel like a wimp for admitting it.
And a Chairlift over icy peaks? No Way!
Sooo, we purchased a ROUNDTRIP gonola ticket. Neither of us wanted to make the commitment of HAVING to hike to the next village if the path became too 'iffy.'
Views from the top were incredible, with tree-bare, snowy peaks in every direction (sorry, but the Berner Oberland has NOTHING on this area). The fields were carpeted with spring wildflowers. Small animal burrows littered the meadows.
I walked several minutes uphill (on a wide path with a very gentle fall off mind you) to banks of snow and collected a few hand-fuls to return to my waiting friend.
Then, what else, we sat outside on the terrace under a large umbrella (to block the blazing sun) and ate! Panache and crispy pommes frites.There was a playground attached and little ones enjoying it.
Walked a little further in the opposite direction (still blazed red'n'white --a warning sign to me)--but it actually looked like I MAY have been able to do it. Friend resisted, and we went back down to Scuol. This is where things went wrong.
To be continued.
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2010, 04:33 PM
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I thought we would 'just' train to Ftan and pick up the hike at a gentler, more level path. However the ticket dispenser listed 2 stops for Ftan: Baraiglia or Commuen. We bought the former for 2.20CHF. Little did we know that it ws an unmanned, on demand stop! Got off and saw a red'n'white trail marker to Ftan (clue #1). We began the climb--it can't be THAT far or THAT steep. The path disappeared into woods and became a steep and rocky Bergweg. Surely around the next bend it would level out a bit. We continued on the narrow path with steep drop-offs and swith-backs, stopping numerous times to catch our breath (not used to exertion at this altitude). After a while it became 'one foot in front of the other', keep looking down.
There were curious jumping spiders on the rocky path!
It becam necessary to find sturdy tree branches for use as walking sticks!
But the path kept going up and up. There was brief consideration of going back down, but it would have been a foolhardy choice given the decline.
Finally we saw blue sky in the distance!
Keep going--- a ROAD in the distance and... A POSTBUS travelling it! If we could make it as far as the distant cluster of buildings on the horizon (was THAT Ftan?), surely we could get back to somewhere by postbus!
As we neared the road, we saw that the final approach was of loose shale and gravel..at about a 45 degree incline... Um swallow hard and try not to cry!) With desperation behind me and my friend's helping hand before me, we clambored over the side rail and onto the glorious road!
Now, began the series of switchbacks (easily more than a mile), oh, how I wish that I were a crow (as they fly...you get it). We were not even entirely sure that it was Ftan ahead.
We passed clusters of sheep and lambs, and groups of dark brown cattle, scenic, now that the hard part was over! This being a Sunday, the information and ticket office was closed, but a posted schedule revealed that we were now at Ftan Commun and the next bus back down to...Scuol (from whence the day had begun) was due in about 25 minutes...JOY! We skipped a town visit. (Note to self: Ftan Commun is accessible only by bus...Yoi!)
Knowing that Guarda was "an uphill hike of 30 minutes from the train station", and no longer desiring another uphill hike today, we decided to visit Ardez.
Talk about a sleeper of a town! Described as a Master of Engadiner Architecture, and 350 years old. We walked up into town (only ten minutes), stopping often for photos of the sgraffito. I think we saw one other person. Beautifully decorated arched doorways, colorful and unique. A fresco of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden on the side of a house, open to the elements, being faithfully restored. More like a museum village, than a vibrant, living home to the folk.
At the very end of the village, found a hotel-garni with a tiny terrace, fully occupied by what could only have been local inhabitants. We went inside and had....panaches all around. This town is definitely not courting the tourist (and that is great!)
Back at the station, we flagged down a train by pusshing the 'on-demand' button. Chilly again back in Pontresina.
After a light supper in, we planned for the next day's activities. Opted for Poschiavo, no Diavolezza cable car as cloudy weather was forecast. Will stop at Alp Gruem on the way for wonderful views of the glacier.
It was a long, tiring and sweaty day!
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 24th, 2010, 12:40 AM
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Excellent report. You've caught the Engadiner spirit. Those tiny lower Engadin villages are right out of a fairy tale, aren't they? We've made Sent our base many times and have enjoyed not only the architecture, but have met the locals and taken part of a few traditions.

I love the lower Engadine, not so much for it's scenic beauty but for it's way of life.

Thanks for posting.
kleeblatt is offline  
Sep 24th, 2010, 02:51 AM
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Thanks for this interesting trip report. I am very glad you liked Chur - often overlooked, but I love to wander around in the old town and visit the churches (btw, had more luck with St. Martin church), especially love the hidden treasures like the stunning crypt of St. Luzi above the cathedral.

I am a bit confused about your trip to Scuol, though. Only a few old houses? Huh? I bet you walked along the busy main street which is exactly *between* both historic parts of town - of which one is above this street and the other is below this street. Quite funny to me that you were able to miss the older parts of Scuol.

I had a look at that old thread where you asked about the hike Motta Naluns to Ardez (you didn't ask about Guarda). I said "Prui to Ftan is one hour, not too steep" and I'd say it again. The time of 3.5 hours that you saw posted for the hike Motta Naluns to Ftan was certainly not the direct route or via Prui - it was most likely the (very popular) hike via Alp Clünas (or even P. Clünas) from where you have gorgeous views.

And then to take the train to Ftan station and thinking Ftan is right there ... oh my God, I am really sorry to hear *that*. I would not want to hike up to Ftan from there ;-)

Looking forward to the next installment.

Ingo is offline  
Sep 24th, 2010, 06:19 AM
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Hello Ingo...Yes, I had copied all of your pre-trip tips and taken them with me. But when we saw the hike times listed on the board, we presumed that you must be an accomplished superhiker (with no fear!) and maybe the board would define our actual capabilities better, so we backed off.
I, too, was disappointed that we never found the quaint Scuol that everyone describes! But I think we did just that - followed the busy main street. We did curve right and downhill, but there was only an occasional old fixer-upper!
Anyway, we got our cardio workout and visited Ardez the gem.

DAY #7:
To Poschiavo, RT 18.20 CHF. A Bernina Express train with technical malfalfuntion sat on OUR track for over 40 minutes, so we were delayed. Once we were underway, my camera battery again decided to die, and since I had no spare, we decided to go straight to Poschiavo instead of alighting at Alp Grum for photos.
The ride was spectacular! I have never been so close to such a wide expanse of snow and glacier. Passengers were running right to left to snap photos! Arrived in Poschiavo, about 15 kms from the Italian border, around noon. Direct path to purchase expensive camera batteries.
Stores were closed for Mittagspause, so what to do but lunch?
Found the quintessential cobbled town square (Plaza Cumun) and sat outside at Hotel Albrici's. Had Allegra stilles Mineralwaser for a change (and kept the bottle for a souvenir of course). Ordered Pizzocheri (20CHF), as described to me- chestnut flour noodles,vegetables and cheese YUM! It was beautifully presented with a thin, dried twist of black something arranged on top. Waiter explained dried aubergine or eggplant. No real taste to it though?
We both opted for dessert. I had torta del giorno- a rustic fruit torte, again, beautifully presented with fine pistachio crumbs and a bery sauce. A most excellent decision!
We sat on the square for well over an our just soaking up he italian ambience....and hot sun.
After lunch, we found the nearby ossuary. Outside covered 'porch' with stacked skulls of persons deceased through the years. Would be interesting to hear more about local burial customs, do the skulls change after so many years, etc.
Did not realize that the attached chapel was still functional, but when we peeked (ever so respectfully) inside, there was a sheeted body and some type of funeral service was being readied, so we unobtrusively removed ourselves from the area.
We visited a nearby church, but instead of candles to light, they offered battery-operated candles for use (a first for me).
Wandered the scenic lanes. Flowering gardens and window boxes everywhere. Not a cloud in the sky. Sat in a little parklet with a water-spewing frog fountain. On to Alp Gruem 15:33.
Armed with fresh batteries, I was able to point and shoot once again. Walked aound a bit for various views of lake, snow, then sat outside on terrace for Schoko (it was chilly!)
Quite pretty.
Called for the next train (stop on demand button), and arrived back in Pontresina by 6 pm. Walked UPHILL as usual.
Our lungs are getting better with the trek! Stopped at Coop to buy dinner provisions-Buendner Salsiz dried sausage for me and cheese. Back at the apartment, we continued to work on the previously purchased, and perfectly chilled, Weissbier.
Showers are predicted in 48 hours, so we better try Soglio tomorrow. Have hope of hiking Castasegna-Bondo-Promontogno, but this will be weather-dependent and look-of-trail dependent.
Watched Grey's Anatomy in German on TV.
To Be Continued.
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 26th, 2010, 12:37 PM
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Hello..hello...hello... is there anybody out there?.(paraphrasing Pink Floyd). I feel like I'm writing in my very private diary!
Day #8:
At the station they made us a Fahrplan to Soglio so I wouldn't make any mistakes-25.40 CHF RT. There is a 56 minute layover in St . Moritz! Clouds all around, threatening. We had just enough time to walk through a large indoor park lot to the lake promenade in St. Moritz. Beautiful distant mountain views with the lake in the foreground. Expensive high rise hotels for the chi-chi clientele.
When we got back to the bus station, there was no waiting bus #7 to Promontogno...hmmm? Just a parked bus, no driver, marked 'Dienstwagen'. With the help of a kindly older swiss woman (who was as surprised as us), we learned that this was the correct bus. Bus traveled along narrow sepentine curves, the experienced driver just rolling along, and sounding his horn at appropriate blind bends, as we climbed higher. The clouds increased and drizzle began!
Prommontogno bus stop was a a small shaded square with the Post being closed-odd? Bus #9 left ten minutes later for Soglio. The final stop was just below town at the carpark--no way a vehicle could have fit through the narrow stone lanes.
Six passengers disembarked into the thickening fog. What views of chestnut groves? We wandered up to Palaizzo Salis, a historic hotel-restaurant with a beautiful vaulted foyer an original stone floors, and decide to lunch there.
Had risotto with gorgonzola and tiny matchstick slivers of Buendnerfleisch in a creamy sauce and Chestnut Bier!
We ate slowly and savored every last bite of our meals.
Following lunch we meandered the close stone lanes looking for an open shop (1:40 PM). NOTHING was open except the
"honor system' tiny store across from Palaizzo. Just leave the money in a wooden cashbox (no clerk) and write down what was purchased on a tablet. I bought a small creme da castagna with vanilla and a bar of locally produced soap with Johanisbeere. Moderate rain persisted, and given the socked-in fog, there would be no Panorama Sentierico today
Still many of the photos taken that day were quite dramatic with the penetrating fog (which DID later lift as we waited for the bus back home!) After wandering from beginning to end of town,and making friends with a local cat and dog, we sat at Hotel La Soglina for a Nusstorte and Schoko...
The bus driver going home was far more inexperienced with senior driver getting out at Sils to help him navigate an especially tight lane. (Sils looked quite inviting for a return visit.)
Just as well that we didn't hike today--maybe 80+% of the trails were blazed red'n'white- the potential for knee-quaking. Maybe I will just have to accept that some trips will not include 'real hikes!'But still, I was wistful.
Back at the apt, had fried wurst on Pumpernickle with a peach and a panache. Tomorrow, we plan to stay local and visit Samedan and more of Pontresina.
To be cont
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 26th, 2010, 01:30 PM
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We're here and we're reading.

So sorry to hear about the fog and no views from Soglio. ;-( But I bet the Nusstorte was yummy.

You're right on regarding Sils. Definitely a reason to go back.

Ingo is offline  
Sep 27th, 2010, 02:50 PM
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You know it Ingo! Pecan pie is my favorite back in the US, so Nusstorte hit the rich and sweet spot!
Day #9:
Settled with the landlady last night as she lives now in Zuerich and was leaving in the morning. Long conversation with her in german about myself and family, her son, and how she has been to Philadelphia several times. Cool that I could understand, but of course, she spoke Hochdeutsch...
Took the 10 am train to Samedan---all of about 7 minutes for 5 CHF Rountrip day ticket.
Nice sunny weather and great town! Cobblestone streets leading, where else? uphill! More townspeople bustling about their daily tasks. Came to a church at the first square-locked-but stated that the key could be obtained from the florist across the way, so we did! Small parish church,some parts original to the 1700s, others rebuilt due to fire. Some original glass windows-nice atmospheric photo to the outside.
We continued the upward amble (I believe Rick Steves had the most info on this little 'off the beaten track' town.)
Came to a neo-Romanesque church, built 1910, only the bell was from 1505. Continuing uphill, passed the ski lift. Nice yellow benches to cool off from the exertion. Sweater OFF.
Could see the landing strip for the highest altitude airport in Europe (per Rick). Finally, we reached the protestant church of St. Peter and its very interesting cemetary. Spent saw time with the poignant, aged monuments covered with lichen and moss. Famous swiss family names. Not able to enter the church as now mainly used for burials. Noted the terraced hillside, attributed to the early Celtics.
Coming back down into town we found House #12 from 1656 with its X-shaped roof beams, a popular way to bless homes here in the past.
Found a quaint little Stuebli on a side street for lunch.
I had Engadinerwurst mit Roesti and Calanda beer in the wood-panelled foreroom as many oldermen were smoking up a haze in the inner tavern. My friend had risotto with mushrooms in brown sauce (yes, vegetarians can fare well in Switzerland too). Most shops had closed for lunch, so we found a nice bench next to a rustic fountain. Nearby Imbiss was also on Pause, but they advertised Birnbrot (pear bread)--salivate-- and I hadn't yet tasted this specialty...too bad, the owner didn't reopen before we had to stroll back down to the rail station.
Back in Pontresina, we decided to do the Alpguard Sessellift(22 CHF RT), which had just started running for the season four days prior.
ME IN AN OPEN CHAIRLIFT! Get this on film Laurie!
Clearly, I do not ski! A tiny little metal bar to hold us in, and a tiny footrest big enough for one foot each! Run and jump in.
OMG! I'm doing it! The first part was no big deal, but when snowy peaks appeared to the right-- I had to look left! Snowy peaks? We're HIGH UP. I'm proud to say that my eyes remained open for > 85 % of the trip! (Don't ask about the chairlift on another visit to Oeschinensee.)
Jump off at the top. Small cafe, but since we had such a big lunch, we opted to walk around and explore. Camera battery reading "exhausted" once again 10 batteries in 9 days...
I was able to squeeze out a few pics to prove I WAS HIKING ON A BERGWEG! Lovely views in all directions (and, I do believe I could have done some more proper hiking as the paths were wide!)
Don't know if I could have made it all the way from Muottas Muragl, but a moot point as that lift only opened the next week (maybe, a blessing in disguise).
Back to the chairlift and down. Only one slightly unnerving point when the chairlift changes direction and a wheel sort of whips you around, leaving the chair swaying in the open, windy heights . Back in Pontresina, we explored the Church of St. Mary with faded 13th century byzantine-inspired frescoes on the west wall (no photos), with the other walls and ceiling dating to an Italian workshop of 1497.
Ambled next door to the 5-sided Spaniola tower (no entrance).
Back out to dinner at Station 1980 Restaurant- a sort of hip and trendy spot. I had Pizza of mozzarella, asparagus. cottage cheese and Buendnerfleisch (I believe that all food groups except chocolate were represented. And yes, chocolate IS a food group unto itself.). Strolled uphill to our Fewo for the last time, our lungs now much better acclimated.
Tomorrow, we leave for Zuerich and a two night stay.
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 27th, 2010, 03:19 PM
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Left the windows open last night--cool and breezy-so comfy under the feather quilt!.
Packed and on our way by 9:20 am. Same morning birdsong through the open kitchen window~~~sounds like a reverse cuckoo~~any thoughts? Auf wiedersehen Engadin!
Reserved two spots (by phone) for the 3 pm Zuerich city tour.
Had the remainder of my pumpernickel, cheese and salsiz for train picnic. A group of college boys got on the final train and set up in the train "hallway", drinking beer, singing and blowing the airhorn for an hour. Seems they were on their way somewhere to watch the opening of the world soccer games.
It was HOT and HUMID in Zuerich! What a switch. Quick walk to Hotel Alexander in the Altstadt. We had booked the less-expensive "Gasthaus" on the next street over, but due to an error on their part, we 'had' to stay in the 3 star Hotel proper, in a quiet and air-conditioned room no less)!
City tour just touched the highlights- no insides except the ?police station, with extensive paintings by...? whom.
Did see St. Peter's and Lindenhof, elevated original Celtic-Roman fort-foundation where the town built up around. Many trees and cooler for pausing. Got oriented to the locations of Grossmunster and Fraumunster. Learned that ALL the fountains offer clean drinking water (just bring your empty bottle to quench your thirst). After the slightly underwhelming tour (guide gave much more info in deutsch than she did in english)+difficult to hear given city noises,
we had just 30 minutes to view the Chagall windows in the Fraumunster (best, the landlady had said, in the morning sun--we'll return). Was exciting to see unearthed ancient roman bath remains under a city sidewalk!
Eventually, dinner called me (friend became ill from too much heat and exertion).
Found a beer hall on Niedergasse and sat outside at a communal bench. Laurie had peppermint tea, that was all she could tolerate, then left to recup in the cool hotel room.
I had Rhytaler Spaetzli with Vorderschinken, Kaese und Zwiebeln with a Krug of Feldschloesschen for 22 CHF!
A man to my left got his bill and the waiter spoke to him in english. Turned out he was from Lugano, on business at the Uni, and couldn't speak German! We struck up a conversation. After dinner, I walked to the Coop opposite the train station and bought breakfast fixins to store in our room fridge.
We plan to split up tomorrow to visit respective museums of interest. Thank goodness for the AC!
mokka4 is offline  
Sep 27th, 2010, 05:36 PM
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marking for later reference - looks likes a good read as they say.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 27th, 2010, 09:25 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Great report; I'm enjoying reading it!

I'm another one who is dreaming about a long trip to Sils after viewing in on-the-fly, so to speak. I spend four nights in Scuol in August and saw some of these things. So loving my vicarious trip back!

Thanks for writing!

swandav2000 is online now  
Sep 28th, 2010, 03:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,288
Reading and enjoying, mokka! Just returned two days ago from a trip that included some of the same stops in the Engadine and it's fun to remember some of the same sights you describe.
HappyCheesehead is offline  
Sep 28th, 2010, 04:20 AM
Join Date: May 2005
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Thanks for posting! Weather has turned bad with snow in the mountains. Five passes are closed. However, this is all not unusual and I'm quite sure we'll have an indian summer in two weeks' time.
kleeblatt is offline  

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