Browsing "Strolling in Switzerland"

Day 105 Basel

Today has been a day of rest and recuperation. We have lazed about shamelessly and have enjoyed the experience  We have strolled about Basel a bit and now have a reasonable idea of its layout. A city with a stonking great river running through the place helps quite  bit with geography.

Tomorrow we must collect together the bits and pieces we shall need for the rest of July, maps, timetables, accommodation lists and a sharpening stone for my knife. My trusty blade has coped with all sorts of stuff over the last three months and now it needs sharpening. From our bedroom window I can see a knife shop, so an early visit is in order I think to return my Swiss army knife to Switzerland.

It is an oddity that each country in Europe appears to have developed its own type of electrical socket. I have never expected the mighty British three pin plug, capable of carrying the power of an industrial arc welder, to fit its more refined continental  cousins but the plugs we have for Italy seem able to coexist quite comfortably together with the sockets of France. It is here in Switzerland that things seem to have gone awry. The sockets look as though they could accommodate a French or Italian plug, but they won’t, no chance!  So tomorrow we must find something to remedy this unfortunate state of affairs.

We are frantically relearning our German and some of it is beginning to surface again, let’s hope that it comes back quickly.

Day 106 Basel

I won’t include a description, and pictures, of our wanderings about Basel in the guise of tourists today, only the stuff from the perspective of the long distance stroller. Stuff about Basel can be found all over the internet http://www.basel.com/en is a good place to start though.

As the French days and weeks went by we felt increasingly at home in France. Now we are starting the process of learning to be Swiss.We have bought chocolate, cheese and Janet has looked at some watches. Swiss German is a puzzle to those of us who have attempted to learn hochdeutsch, but we will make sense of it I’m sure, just as we are about to leave probably.

This morning we set out to find a shop where I could replace my worn out trainers. I had tried to get a new pair in France but my feet were too big for French shops,. I mean that French shops could not supply shoes in size 12 not that the doors were too narrow to allow entry. I hoped that Swiss feet might be larger than those found on the end of French legs, making the chance of getting a pair in my size in Switzerland more likely. The first shop was a dud but I had success in the second. The old pair, purchased in Charlie’s Stores Welshpool, are now languishing in a Basel skip.

Old Shoes

Last view of the ancient footware as requested by Royce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With me proudly sporting my brand new pair of walking shoes we tried to get hold of some maps. A large book shop invited us in but was found to be wanting. Feeling a little down at this early failure we went to the tourist office just in case the officials there could help. As usual we were not really paying attention and wandered around the old town for a bit before we found the famous “i” sign. Although the tourist officer was keen to be helpful and was able to chat to us in English, we left empty handed and none the wiser. Our tourist officer did advise us to visit Thalia where he thought that maps might be found. If you need anything British when you are in Basel then Thalia is the place for you, digestive biscuits, books and all that sort of stuff. In addition to all that nonsense Thalia has an incredibly knowledgeable map person.  We think that we have bought a good strolling map. The map has trails marked in red and roads in lighter colours, it looks a bit like the long distance walking map we had for the UK, but at 1:60000.

My trusty Swiss Army knife struggled to cut yesterday’s salami even though the salami had softened in the hot sun.  From our hotel window there is the Messer Centre. I went in to the Messer Centre and became really aware of the difference between the UK and Switzerland. There were knives everywhere. There were folding knives of all types but also massive great cleavers of all sorts hanging everywhere. My tepid request for a knife sharpener seemed timid in such a forbidding environment particularly as there were some heavy looking individuals idling outside.

Having had a good look at our new maps we have nearly worked out how we shall stroll to Luzern. It looks as though we might be able to get to Luzern in 4 days, via the footpaths, as the terrain appears to be quite friendly. We can’t see anything above 560 metres in the way  so, with a bit of luck, there won’t be too much up diddly up up and down diddly um down.

Another day off tomorrow and then we will be off to Luzerne.

 

Day 107 Basel

Today is the last lazy day before we head out towards Luzern. I may have already mentioned the difficulties finding British/French to Swiss electrical plugs and today proved to be as fruitless as yesterday. We were advised to visit a particular sell everything shop as this would be where they could be found. As we strolled towards this emporium we stumbled upon the amazing Tinguely Fountain which is in constant motion and would gladden the heart of any Heath Robinson enthusiast. I have added a rather crude video to see if I can get videos to work. Unfortunately, the cement lorry blowing concrete into some new foundations rather spoiled the air of calm contemplation aroused by the fountain. If you watch the video it might be a good idea to turn the sound down.

I could have watched this thing for hours really but business called. We got to the shop and went the electrical department. Our German was up to asking for an adaptor but the device shown was a huge great thing that must have weighed half a kilo and cost an arm and a leg. With this device one could connect anything to anything, with variable voltage switches.  All I wanted was a simple device, light and simple. I asked for a plug so that I could adapt our stuff to fit into Swiss tidiness,    no luck. I shall have to look for a builders’ merchant tomorrow as we stroll.

The ferry, in which we crossed the Rhine, is a fascinatingly simple device. The ferry is tethered to a line, crossing from side to side over the river, by means of a sliding rope. The force of the river pressing against the rudder causing the ferry to cross using no power.

 

A ferry

Ferry ‘cross the Rhine

The market place was filled with flowers today.

 

Flowers

Flowers

After lunch we had the final planning meeting. We have put yellow marker spots on the map where we need to change paths, so that should do it.  We shall see if this scale and type of map is any good tomorrow.

Planning

Planning

Today we bought our Swiss Half Price Passes which will entitle us to half price fares on all Swiss trains, funicular railways, cable cars and the Glacier Express. A couple of years ago we saw a programme on TV about a bloke who had strolled more or less where we are going and he went for a trip on the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz. Having looked up the prices for this thing our Half Price  Passes should pay for themselves with one trip.

 

 

Day 108 Basel to Sissach

The sky looked rather threatening as we set out this morning. In fact the sky dropped  a dollop or two of water onto our unprotected heads as we strolled past some impressive banking premises. We pretended that nothing was happening and chuckled at this feeble attempt at putting us off  our intention of going for a stroll. After a minute or two it looked as though rainwear was once more the order of the day so we struggled into our coats and pressed on towards the Rhine and our path.

The Rhine at Basel

The Rhine at Basel as we left for Sissach

We wondered how we would manage with our new map, hoping that it would have enough detail for our needs. We have become accustomed to a 1:25000 scale and now we were to be using a 1:60000 so this was another potential source of banana skins.  In theory the start of the stroll should have been easy as it followed the Rhine for a few miles. The Rhine is not easy to miss so we thought we would get the hang of things before needing to be clever.

The Asian Long Horned Beetle

The Asian Long Horned Beetle

Initially our stroll took us along a long boulevard and under some trees. It was under the trees that the rain really decided to show us what it could do if it tried. We saw a bloke just in swimming trunks walking along and disappearing into a house. I don’t know if he had been for a swim or was making a statement against the weather. The river side became more and more industrial as we left the pretty bits of Basel behind.

Heavy industry

Heavy industry

The footpaths, wanderwegs, are really well marked and we had no difficulty following them. We both agreed that today was the best way marking we have seen since we had strolled down Offa’s Dyke to Knighton. The only blemish on this otherwise perfect score was around the industrial area. We found ourselves way off beam and without satnav would have  been in a pickle. The change of direction was marked and pointed over a narrow railway bridge, but in a place which was not clearly visible from the path at that point. If we hadn’t made the mistake then we would have missed seeing the huge and fabulous metal sculpture outside a welding factory, so we weren’t really fed up.

Welding factory statue

Welding factory statue

Once back on the right track we made really good progress. The path then took us on a bridge past a great monster of a mechanical shovel

A giant crane

A giant

The Rhine continues on with a few hills to prepare us for what is to come.

Rhine and rain

Rhine and rain

More hills, this time we are a bit higher.

Some hills

Some hills

We have been strolling on the flat for a long time now and it took us a few miles to get used to going up and down.

Hills again

Hills again

More up tiddly up up.

As we approached Altmark the map showed us, very clearly,  that we needed to stay on a particular side of the railway line but the waymarks told us to go over the railway line. Instead of following the waymarkings, reading the map or looking at the satnav we steadfastly stayed on the ‘correct’ side of the railway line. After about fifteen minutes of this I smelled a distinct odour of fish. My satnav suggested that we were in a field and leaving the railway line at right angles and at a great speed. We were in a new housing estate which explained the empty field bit but not the right angles to the railway line bit.

We have noticed that trams are a popular means of mass transport here in Switzerland. We hadn’t realised that trams go out of town and into the countryside. We had been following a perishing tram line not the railway line. About turn and a smartish retreat to our original position was the only option. We resolved to follow the signs from now on, no matter how outlandish they appear to be, well at least until the next time anyway.

More up

Still upwards

Finally, Sissach was in our sights. No more up for today. We had measured the day’s stroll to about 15 miles. In the end I think that it was about 19 miles but it really was fabulous to be in the hills again. It looks as though the stroll to Luzern won’t be too high and it will prepare us for the Luzern to Lugano section, which will be high.

another bird

Perhaps some sort of predator?

On the way into Sissach we spotted a bird on a fence post. It looked like some sort of predatory bird although it seemed fairly relaxed on its perch.

It looks as though the 1:60000 maps will be fine, as long as the waymarking stays as good as today has been. The only problem really is that we can’t estimate distance travelled along the map very easily yet. If it weren’t for the satnav we would have made a few blunders just because of the map scale. We’ll test the map again tomorrow on another stroll in Switzerland

 

Day 109 Sissach to Olten

Before we set out this morning I wondered if we would rise above the 3,000 ft marker. There was a place on the map which, had we gone that way, would have done the trick.

Setting out from Sissach

Setting out from Sissach

 

Perfect strolling weather today, a little sun, a light breeze and a few clouds overhead.

Model railway

A model railway in some lucky bloke’s garden

We passed a garden in which some lucky person had established an ‘o’ gauge train set. I’ve always fancied an open air train set but have never had the gall to spend that sort of money on one.

Uphill strolling

An immediate climb

Leaving Sissach we found ourselves climbing steeply up to the top of the first of several hills. Our days of soft canal strolls are now firmly in the distant past as we look towards Luzern and beyond. At one point today we stood on a view point with a panorama diagram in front of us which told us where Jungfrau and Eiger were to be seen.  I am glad that Switzerland has been gentle with us thus far and is preparing us for what is to come sensibly.

I decided to wear a T Shirt and sleeveless vest today as it looked as though it might be hot. As we climbed up the first hill I removed my T shirt and tied it to my rucksack to air. As a result of removing the T shirt and wearing only a sleeveless vest I felt cool and carefree for quite a long time. After a while Janet told me that I was turning very pink at the top of my arms. I looked for the T shirt in order to put it back on but it had gone. The sun became hotter and hotter and we were walking in a south easterly direction so one shoulder was always exposed to the sun. If each shoulder could have had a go in the shade things might have been OK but In the end I had no option but to put on my pullover as a protector. It is no joke wearing a wool pullover in the sun.

Picnic spot

Picnic spot

People strolling in Switzerland are treated to quite a few delightful picnic areas with barbecues, tables and chairs.

Distant hills

Distant hills

The pattern of today seems to have been a fairly stiff ascent followed by a stroll through a fabulous alpine meadow or finding a stunning view of a valley with hills beyond. Then, as we descend from our newly found alpine meadow or view of distant hills we have the pleasure of anticipation knowing that in a shortish time we will be repeating the experience once again.

Fresh milk

Fresh milk today

I am still surprised that farms are in the middle of villages both here and in France. We saw a large dairy farm today right in the village centre, advertising milk sales 24 hrs everyday from a cooler at the road side.

 

Cars and kids

A farm holiday

As we toil up steep hills, over grassy meadows and through woods it is always a surprise when we arrive at a picnic place and hear the happy sounds of children playing or adults drinking and eating their lunches having driven there in a car.

Olten

Olten

Arriving in Olten we have moved a few miles nearer to the bigger hills we can enjoy later on. We didn’t get to 3,000 ft today, but we weren’t far away.

 

 

Day 111 Olten to Sursee

Before settling down to write this stuff I poured myself a cold beer as a refreshment after 12 or so hours in the hot sun. I managed to pour some of the stuff into my trainers so that will increase the interest flies have for me tomorrow.

After a day of inaction yesterday it felt great to be on the stroll once again. The weather forecast suggested that there could be rain in the afternoon but the morning was glorious.

We have seen delightful covered wooden footbridges over the rivers here. The ‘no smoking’ signs give one a lot of confidence when using these old structures.

 

Olten

Olten

The first task this morning was to find the start of the footpath. In general the markings are very good. They are also clear and frequent. This morning though we struggled to find the path we needed and wandered about quite a lot before we found it. Our breakfast was beginning to lose its effect and we were still roaming around peering at our map and hoping for the best when we saw an Italian wine shop. A bit early for a snorter you might think but we actually wanted an ice cream each. When we went in we were greeted in Italian, it was like being at home. We left the shop clutching our ice creams and feeling much more relaxed.

Italian today

Italian today

After a few false starts we knew that we were on the right track as it went straight up the side of a hill and into a forest.

People we see on the paths are very friendly, but always in Swiss German of  which we know only two words. On the first path of the day an elderly gentleman was feeding a deer bearing a huge set of antlers and this gentleman had a chat, but in Swiss German. He then zoomed off up the path into the distance. He didn’t look particularly fit but had a good turn of speed uphill.

Path at last

Path at last

I think that one could navigate on the paths without a map or compass if very vigilant. The errors of navigation we have made are usually caused by lack of attention or being diverted by chat. The signs are detailed and give distances in time so there is no excuse for errors, particularly as there are yellow diamond shaped markers painted on trees and rocks at regular intervals.

Better than roadsigns

Better than roadsigns

Metal sculture seems to be quite popular here.

 

Metal sculpture

Metal sculpture

As we strolled through the woods today we passed some incredibly tall trees all of which appeared to be devoid of lower branches, they looked quite imposing in an odd sort of way.

 

Tall trees few branches

Tall trees few branches

Much of today’s stroll has been within the shelter of woods. We have not had the sudden emergence into alpine meadows or had stunning panoramas opening out before us today but the shade was wonderful.

Out of the trees and into the sun

Out of the trees and into the sun

 

 

Water at last

Water at last

 

We drank gallons of water today and were very grateful for the regular appearance of delicious cold mountain water.

 

sursee a lake and some big mountains

Sursee, a lake and some big mountains

As Sursee , Lake Lucerne and some rather tall mountains appeared we decided to get stuck into our penultimate item of food, a  delicious, soggy chocolate coloured cake somewhat like a fairly cake in appearance yet larger. Today’s stroll did not get us to 3,000 ft or anywhere near but it got us nearer to Lucerne and nearer to Italy. The weather had stayed fine and sunny all day so all was very well with the world

 

Day 112 Sursee to Luzern

In order to get a good start this morning we set our alarm clocks to trill at 6:30 am (5:30 am GB). Neither of us heard the alarms go off because a gully emptying lorry was hard at work emptying gullies outside our bedroom window. The window was left wide open in order to let in a tepid stream of air to lull us to a swift and dreamless sleep and so we were treated to the full majesty of this fine machine. So although we didn’t hear the alarms, we did get up at the right time.

Sursee sheep by the roadside

Sursee sheep by the roadside

Making our way out of Sursee the sun was already beginning to feel hot. We fell into our new Swiss routine of looking for the yellow wanderweg markers and set off towards Luzern.

The first section of the stroll took us past industrial sites and ran adjacent to the railway line. We were very surprised to see sheep grazing on the steep railway embankment in the industrial landscape. No grazing opportunities appear to be missed here. In the hills the smallest patches are cultivated and hay is made on incredibly steep paddocks.

On and on in the blazing sun

On and on in the blazing sun

We knew that if the sun shone today we would be baked as the map revealed very few shady trees. The sun did shine brightly and the map was quite correct in its prediction of open country.

 

Sempachersee

Sempachersee

Sursee lies at one end of Sempachersee which looks delightful with families having grassy lakeside areas with little huts in which to enjoy the water.

loads of houses like this

We see quite a lot of this house building style. They look as though they will roll over at any time.

I must find out why some of the traditional houses are built with small bottoms and large tops. They look as though they might topple over at any moment.

Heaven

This seat represented heaven today

The sun continued to get hotter and we began to flake a little. The path was mostly flat but it seemed like very hard work as the day wore on. Finding a seat under a tree seemed almost miraculous. We sat on this wonderful shady seat, removed our shoes and thought that we had found our hearts desire.

At last some shade

At last, some shade.

As Luzern was rawing nearer and nearer we couldn’t really believe our luck. A wonderful, shady dell appeared and the path went into it, not around it.

first view of Luzern

Luzern

We were able to walk into Luzern along the River Reuss and the town looked fabulous. We knew that within the hour we should be in the cool with a drink in hand. Rather than describe the touristy stuff I have included a link to the Luzern tourist board http://www.luzern.com/en/

I asked Janet if she wanted to go to the tourist office to see about getting some maps. I knew that she must be exhausted as she wasn’t interested at all. Once in the hotel we just flaked out and slept for over an hour.After this restorative nap Janet was able to go map shopping once again.

We finished the day with a fabulous supper with Jean and Nick and ate a delicious Swiss dish which has a long name which I have forgotten. Apart from great conversation we learned a lot about what it like is to live in Switzerland and got a lot of info’ about walking routes. Thanks again for a lovely evening,

We are still not sure of tomorrow’s stroll but it will probably take us along the south side of the lake. How far we get is anyone’s guess.

 

Day 113 Luzern to Buochs

Despite a lateish night last night we set the alarms for 6:30 am again this morning. Our slumbers were undisturbed and we arose refreshed. The lake at Luzern needed to be overcome in some way, north or south. The route to the north is quite long and involved. The route to the south is  shorter and more interesting. So this morning we set off in a southerly direction towards Buochs in the sun. We ate no breakfast but bought some croissants on our way. Luzern was looking magnificent and the many cyclists and pedestrians give a really vibrant feeling. Pedestrians and cyclists are obviously very welcome in Luzern.

Luzern in the morning sun

Luzern in the morning sun

Getting out of Luzern was quite easy. The footpath signs began quite near to the town centre and were very frequent. The early start meant that , although the sun was warm, walking was very pleasant. The views of Luzern and its lake were slightly obscured by haze but not enough to spoil our enjoyment.

Into the hills

The hills are very close and we were soon out of the city

We did a big loop around Luzern in order to avoid the noise of rush hour but retuned to a suburb so that we could cross the valley and go up the other side.  We went slightly astray here as the path was closed due to road works. By going astray we passed the start of the cable car which goes up to the top of Mount Pilatus. We thought about the need to get to Buochs and all that practical stuff for about a minute and went for the cable car ride.

 

To the cable car

The sign to the cable car was irresistable

The steps in the picture actually go to a church but this is where the path to the cable car goes until the works are completed. The initial ride is in two sections by means of little gondolas for four people. We shared our gondola with a local lady who was going for a stroll. Having just enough German for a chat passed the time very nicely as we looked at the toboggan runs and other stuff laid out for us to see below.

Higher yet

We arrived at, what we thought was the top and had a look around before deciding to return to continue strolling. At that moment a bloke turned and looked upwards and we could see two large cable cars going up and up and up, from below it looked like the cars were climbing a vertical face. This looked to good to miss and this last bit was a terrific ride as it passed over narrow a ridge with a huge drop and a view of a chapel perched on the side. At the top we found a stunning view an hotel, bars and some chaps playing alpen horns dressed in traditional costume. We also spotted the steepest rack and pinion railway in the world, paradise.

Steepest rack and pinion railway

Steepest rack and pinion railway in the world

From above the cable car journey didn’t look quite so steep although an Australian bloke asked me if we had to make the return journey.

 

To the top

Cable car on the way up Mt Pilatus

We were dressed in just tee shirts, shorts or skirt and it felt very warm. I tried to imagine how warm it would be at the top of a 7,000 ft mountain in the UK, even in July.

 

The hills are alive

The hills were a;live to the sound of alpen horns

After a fabulous few hours, including a short climb up to one of the peaks, we had to return to earth in order to carry on strolling to Buochs.

Back to earth again

Back to earth again and onward to Buochs

The stroll was much as before, lovely scenery, plants and on one occasion we passed a couple practising duets on the alpen horn. The sound of the horns carried for miles, as it is supposed to do, and sounded wonderfully warm and mellow.

 

Which way net

Which way do we go now?

We knew that we would arrive in Buochs at a later time than we had planned but hoped that we would be able to get some accommodation organised. We didn’t need the accommodation for that night as we intended to return to Luzern.

We arrived at the bottom of a hill with steps leading upwards to a sharp bend, then to another bend, then to another, then to, then …………..

When we got to the top we agreed that it was the longest continuous up tiddly up up we had ever encountered. We were very glad that there was no one about at the top and that we were in a wood as we needed desperately to cool off.

Steps going up and up and up

Steps going up and up and up

As we approached Buochs the valley is quite narrow and holds a river, a footpath, a cycleway, an ordinary road and a motorway. On the motorway signs we could see our next targets. It is sometimes very hard to believe that we have walked every step of the way and that we are well over halfway now to the end.

Next targets

Next targets

The next, and last, boat back to Luzern was due at 8:25 pm so we ate a delicious supper at a lake side kiosk and sat and waited.

 

Buochs paddle wheeler

Buochs, paddle wheeler back to Luzern

The journey back to Luzern was a magical experience as the sun gradually started to set over the hills, only to return again as we rounded a massive mountain and turned west.

So instead of strolling on day 114 we shall take the train to the start of the steepest rack and pinion railway in the world and go up Mount Pilatus again and climb a few more pinnacles.

The map looks a little odd today as I forgot to turn off the GPS in the cable car. The distances include the straight up and down cableway.

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