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Dec 2nd, 2016, 08:07 AM
  #1  
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We're here!

Nov 30 & Dec 1

Up at 4 m, out the door by 5:10, checked in and sipping lousy airport lattes by 6:30 pm, and we were off on the first leg of our trip to Switzerland/Germany – a 15 minute flight to Denver, and unbeknownst to us at the time, the only smooth and on-time flight we’d have.

Our second flight from Denver to Dulles got off to a bad start – UA had given one of our Economy Plus seats away – yes, the same seats we’d booked four months prior. Evidently million milers with gold status have none. Bill ended up waaay back in a middle seat, offering me the Economy Plus seat up front, bless him. To add insult to injury, the flight was also delayed by about an hour, sending many passengers into near frenzy as they ran to make tight connections upon arrival.

We always leave some wiggle room, so we had sufficient time to grab a bite and a drink in the United Club (including a $15 glass of red wine – evidently only the plonk is complimentary) and still get to our gate with time to…wait. We finally boarded, just to spend the next 90 minutes waiting on the tarmac – bad weather had caused all flights to Europe to be re-routed via a ‘less turbulent route’. Finally in the sky, we spent six of the next eight hours bouncing around, me searching for a barf bag, just in case.

Somehow the crew managed to feed us during the short lulls in turbulence, but my clothing didn’t fare as well, I’m still wearing cheese pasta.

This was our first international flight on United in years…I try to avoid them when possible…we were in Economy Plus, legroom was decent, food surprisingly edible, but the seats were godawful (767-400 new seats). Our backs were rebelling before we even took off. We collectively managed about two hours of sleep.

We finally arrived in foggy Zurich around 9 am, some 90 minutes late, but happy to be out of those horrid seats. We collected our bags, cashed up at the ATM, purchased our 8-day Swiss Travel Passes (726 CHF for two), caffeinated (foggily remembering to round up) sought out train food at the COOP, and were on our way.

Two train changes, three hours, and two mini bottles of red wine later, we finally arrived in Scuol, Switzerland, where we will spend the next week. This is our third December visit to Scuol and our third stay in Apartment Erni, which is located slightly uphill from the train station via a meadow (always fun with luggage) and up a mountain from the rest of town. Seriously, that baby is steep.

With only two hours of sleep in the last 30, and both of us feeling like we were still moving, we were pretty wrecked, but we managed to go downhill to the COOP to load up on breakfast provisions, and then climb back up. We also wandered over to Hotel Belleval near the train station for a very early dinner of soup – tomato for me, barley for Bill (28 CHF with one drink each).

Only 6 pm, but I was done; I went to bed. Bill succumbed about 30 minutes later when it became apparent that he was incapable of holding his Kindle.
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2016, 08:32 AM
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should be fun
bilboburgler is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2016, 08:41 AM
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"UA had given one of our Economy Plus seats away – yes, the same seats we’d booked four months prior. Evidently million milers with gold status have none."

I find that practice so irritating. Airline officials who allow that to happen should be forced to fly to Asia in the middle seat, back row of economy, beside the outhouse, once a week for the rest of their lives.
colduphere is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2016, 09:01 AM
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Welcome to you both! With so much planning in detail nothing should go wrong from now on

Alas, no snow in Scuol - again.
Ingo is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2016, 09:52 AM
  #5  
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colduphere - As I told one of the UA employees, "and you wonder why people hate UA" - she just nodded, probably hears it all the time. At least we weren't flying to Asia

Ingo - We were optimistic about the snow here about 10 days ago, but it's pretty much all gone. No worries, we had a spectacular day for hiking today.
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2016, 11:28 AM
  #6  
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Dec 2 -

We knew we were tired, but who’d have guessed we’d sleep for 14 hours? FOURTEEN!

The sun rises around 8 am this time of year, and on past visits to Switzerland from Australia, we’ve routinely woken up in the wee hours – so wee, that we worried about potentially breaking some obscure Swiss law forbidding pancetta frying before 4 am.

Not today – I was rather shocked to see that the sun had crested the mountains when I opened my eyes. I was also stiff as a board, having conformed to the shape of the bed.

It’s worth noting that we’re off season travelers, always have been, always will be. One major advantage of visiting Switzerland in the off season is price of accommodation. We’re paying 70 CHF per night for the apartment we’re renting, inclusive of Internet, cleaning, etc. It’s a heck of a deal, quite palatable, especially considering we just paid more than that for dinner.

After the inevitable inefficient first morning fry-up, then the hemming and hawing and researching of train and bus schedules, and our unexpected late start, we decided sod it, we’re going to start with something familiar and easy. Ha.

So we walked to the train station, hopped a train to Guarda, detrained and caught the connecting post bus UP to .. Guarda:

http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-ch/g...llenursli.html

I’ve loved Guarda from the first moment I saw it, thanks in no small part to Ingo. We poked through town, took a gazillion photographs, and it dawned on me, that I’d never seen the village in full sun before – primarily due to our previous early winter morning starts. So, all was not lost after all.

From Guarda we worked our way to Ardez, via a convoluted route of paved road, bergwegs and sheep trails. Don’t ask – I’m not sure. What I do know is that we never seem to do things the easy way. It was a spectacular snowless day, the trails completely dry, the views gobsmacking.

Some six miles later we lumbered into Ardez, another lovely Lower Engadine village, where we poked around, hoping to find an open establishment, but not having any luck. So, we cooled our heels at the train station, eventually catching a train back to Scuol.

We were warmly welcomed back to the Hotel Bellaval tonight, the same lovely multilingual gentleman greeting us as if we were regulars and leading us to ‘our’ table. He switched from one language to the next with barely a thought and was gracious enough to not burst out laughing at our feeble attempts to pronounce Capuns “Mangoldwickel“ mit geröstetem Speck und Rahmsauce (Swiss chard roulade with fried bacon and cream sauce (and as decadent as it sounds – thanks again Ingo) and Pizokel-Pfanne mit Engadiner Hauswurst vom Hatecke mit Zwiebeln und Rahm, überbacken mit Bündner Bergkäse ( small dumplings Engadine style - with Engadin sausage, onions, cream and baked with alpine cheese).

This was some seriously rich stick to your ribs food - we could easily have shared one dish, and next time that’s what we’ll do. As I type this, Bill has been whining about how full he is (although it’s not stopped him from nibbling on a Cailler chocolate bar) - dinner with 5dl of Silvaner Riesling – 76 CHF.

Photos:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...57677240444756
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2016, 11:49 AM
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Just checking in.

Good pics!
margo_oz is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2016, 12:09 PM
  #8  
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Hi margo - hope you're not burning up over there!
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2016, 01:13 PM
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You are SO lucky! Love your pics.
Sigh of envy. ;-)
mokka4 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2016, 02:06 PM
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Lovely photos, as always, good to hear that the off season accommodation prices can help offset those restaurant prices! And you got your pizokels
I like the look of that region, but I can't imagine trudging through boggy, cold trails, was surprised you found them dry.
(We are enjoying 30C today and 34C tomorrow, cool nights though, so very pleasant in Adelaide.)
Happy travels.
Adelaidean is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2016, 06:45 PM
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Glad you survived the less-than-pleasant flights and are taking in the beauty of Switzerland. We had similar turbulence coming back from London last Sunday. Your dinner on the second night has my mouth watering.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2016, 11:33 PM
  #12  
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Appreciate the comments!

Adelaidean -

No snow on the ground here in Scuol, not boggy at all, just dirt. I'd prefer packed snow, but hey, I'll take what I can get. At least we have sunshine - if last year is any indication, we expect gloom and more gloom in Germany.

Temps have been in the 20's (F), which is perfect hiking weather as far as I'm concerned. We've turned down the heat as low as it will go in our apartment, but still woke up hot in the night.

Looks like we've got another beautiful sunny day ahead.
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2016, 12:07 AM
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Fantastic pictures, Mel. You hardly ever get these brilliant, crystal clear blue sky in summer. It's a late fall/winter thing.

The meal sounds excellent. LOL - I thought you already knew that these local Swiss mountain dishes are big loads of calories! ;-) I am green of envy, of course.

(Tried posting yesterday but the site was down.)
Ingo is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2016, 02:00 AM
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Love the cat photos! They look plump, sleek and satisfied, clearly well-prepped for the winter. Either there are lots of mice in the Engadine or they have generous owners.
WeisserTee is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2016, 05:07 AM
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Where in Germany are you going? I leave for Austria/Germany on Monday with my best girls. Loved your photos.
washington2418 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2016, 05:17 AM
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Wonderful TR and photos, Melnq8. Horrible about the way UA treated you.
TDudette is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2016, 05:46 AM
  #17  
 
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IMO, the worst part of seat giveaways is the, "We do not know how this happened" reply you get when you have the absolute temerity to even ASK.

Of course, even if they did know there rarely seems to be any sort of "fix" that is acceptable.

As to oh-so-"cheap"-but-how-can-you-stay-away? Switzerland: the place is compulsive for some of us, or perhaps a fixation and we never seem to get tired of it.

Looking forward to hearing MORE!!!
Dukey1 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2016, 06:14 AM
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Melnq8, your travel days sounded grueling! But glad you're finally into the enjoyment of the Engadin. I wish you some white covering on those beautiful mountains and days of blue skies and sunshine.
tomarkot is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2016, 02:12 PM
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Hi Mel - glad that you have arrived safe and sound despite all that UA could throw at you.

love the pics and the food descriptions - don't you just love it when it takes longer to say the name of the dish than it does to eat it!

waiting eagerly for more...
annhig is offline  
Dec 4th, 2016, 10:02 AM
  #20  
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As I sit here and type, the church bells of Scuol are going nuts on this Sunday morning. Love that sound!

Dec 3 -

This morning’s dilemma was how to dress and load our backpacks for the day – we didn’t want to overheat while walking, yet we wanted to be warm when the sun dipped behind the mountains. We’d come up with a plan yesterday to leave Scuol in the morning and not return until after 10 pm, so we knew we’d have a mix of temperatures – warm sunshine on the mountainside, dark and chilly in the valley after around 2 pm, and downright cold after dark.

We settled on silk thermals, hiking pants, and an assortment of top layers, plus fleece hats, gloves, Yak Trax, sun hats and sunglasses in our backpacks, along with the usual water and snacks just in case we got caught out. I was a Girl Scout, what can I say?

One just never knows what one might need on a Swiss hiking trail in December, but I threw caution to the wind and went with my regular hiking boots instead of my waterproofs, although I did double up on my socks.

We boarded the 10:41 train from Scuol to Klosters – my pre-trip research had uncovered a Christmas Market in Davos from 10-6 pm and a Romanian Youth Choir concert at St Jakob’s Church in Klosters at 8 pm, so we wanted to incorporate both. Bill had also discovered that the Schatzalp funicular had opened on Dec 1 and there were some open hiking trails, so we wanted to explore those as well.

The train to Klosters (about 45 min from Scuol) took us back though the 19 km long Vereina Tunnel for the second time, the longest tunnel on the Rhaetian Railway and the world’s longest narrow gauge railway tunnel.

In Klosters we changed to a train to Davos (about 30 minutes) – a pretty ride overlooking the valley. Davos was a bit of a shocker – we had no idea it was so big.

We detrained at Davos Dorf and caught a bus to Schatzalp, where we then purchased tickets for the funicular (16 CHF each round trip – I hope there wasn’t a discount for Swiss Travel Pass holders, as we completely forgot to ask!). The trip to the top took about three minutes, and hindsight being 20/20, we probably should have purchased a one way ticket and walked back down, but so it goes.

Once at the top, we embarked on the 4.5 km Wasserfallrudgang – there were quite a few people up here, enjoying the beautiful December sunshine and dining on the Schatzalp Restaurant’s sun terrace. We walked for some time looking for the waterfalls – the track was dry and sunny for the most part, but we did encounter a bit of snow and a section of seriously nasty ice, which should have convinced us to turn around. But no, like fools, we forged on, crawling around the skating rink by climbing the adjacent hillside, clinging on to trees and everything we could grasp. I’m getting too old for this stuff.

We hadn’t seen a waterfall sign for some time, so we threw in the towel and backtracked, only to find that we had bypassed the waterfalls waaay back. We just couldn’t see them from the direction we had come, and couldn’t hear them because they were frozen. Duh.

The day was pleasant, the views beautiful, so we continued walking, following the Sonneweg, and eventually returning to the Schatzalp restaurant. The sun was beginning to dip, making the sun terrace less appealing, so we settled in at a table inside. The staff were flat out – it took some time to get service, but when we did, we thoroughly enjoyed our Tomatensuppe, Gertensuppe and Fendant (40 CHF).

We backtracked on the funicular, caught a bus back to Davos Dorf, and then caught a train to Davos Platz, which…returned us to where we had just been. Oops.

Thus began our search for the Christmas Market, which we finally found after two requests for help. It wasn’t quite what we expected – a small area of kiosks selling a variety of goods, sausages and gluhwein – in styrofoam cups! The Horror! We had a cup of gluhwein while people (and dog) watching (one of them wearing a down coat with hood!).

A quick trip to the COOP for last minute breakfast provisions (realizing shops would be closed tomorrow - Sunday), then it was on to a very sleepy and dark Klosters, where we followed the church bells, hoping they would lead us to St Jakob’s – they did!

With loads of time before the concert, we ambled into the closest restaurant– Gasthaus Sonne - the owner came upstairs to greet us and I’d swear he was American. The food was good, but not outstanding - Tomatensalat mit Mozzarella for me, Beefsteak Tatare handgeschnitten Mit Büürlitoast, Butter und reichlich garniert for the carnivore.

The waitress brought up a spoonful for Bill to sample – he thought it a very discreet way of ensuring he knew he’d ordered raw meat. I figured it was just to check the spice level. Either way, it was a nice gesture - 76 CHF with one drink each.

The concert was brilliant - the choir sang in at least four languages – really impressive. It ran much longer than we expected - we had a train to catch.

We tried to discreetly exit from the balcony during a round of applause…me slamming into the corner of a pew and procuring a hematoma the size of Western Australia in the process.

To add insult to injury, we'd underestimated the noise of hiking boots on wooden church steps – we must have sounded like a herd of elephants; every head in the church turned in our direction as we made our donation and slunk off into the night.

Photos:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...h/30596173644/
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