Thursday, May 15, 2008

Springtime in Switzerland? Not yet!

At the suggestion of my kids and others, I am attempting to start a Blog. It won’t be anything too profound, just some thoughts and comments about a particular trip I took, along with a few photos of course to help tell the story! So, I’ll just jump right in and start blogging as if you know all the seemingly missing details or explanations. (These will come in time as time and opportunity permits) In an ideal world, I would like to add a blog after every trip, but in reality, I’ll be happy if I can get one out about once every couple weeks. Here’s the first – a trip to Switzerland taken March 25, 2008.

I just returned from a trip to Zurich and their springtime is not quite yet what our springtime is here in Georgia. In fact, it couldn’t be further from it. I hadn’t had a Zurich trip in about 2 months so I was really missing Switzerland and the hiking and photography there. I hadn’t used my snowshoes yet this year so was really excited to see snow in the forecast for all of Switzerland for the entire week. I was not disappointed! As soon as we broke out of the clouds on final approach, I could see snow cover everywhere. It snowed on the way to the hotel and I couldn’t wait to get going. However, as usual, I was a bit tired after flying all night so had to take at least a 2 hour nap. When I got up I took the tram to the Zurich Hauptbahnhof (main train station), renewed my half fare card, and bought a round trip ticket to Wasserauen – the small village at the end of the train line. I already had done the research on the SBB online and knew the times and train connections. After connecting in Gossau I got on the smaller 2 car train that went through Appenzell and continued on towards Wasserauen. I sat in the back part of the train where I could shoot through the windows at any interesting passing sights.

We stopped at a village prior to Wasserauen and everyone got off but me. I didn’t really notice because there were only about 6 people on the train and they had been trickling off along the way at each succeeding village. Soon the conductor came by and motioned me off too. Sometimes in the winter or late at night when there are few travelers, SBB will run a bus rather than a train to the last few stops on the line. This was the case today.

After reaching the last stop, I got off the bus (I was the last one on it) and started hiking. From here on there were just a few houses and the small mountain road had not been cleared beyond this point. It was snowing pretty hard as I started hiking and taking pictures.

About a mile up I saw some Chamois,

which I have seen before only on occasion and only in the winter. About this time there were no more old tracks to follow so I was blazing the trail in new snow, which was getting much deeper with the higher elevation. I put on the snowshoes when I kept sinking past my knees. The drifts got a bit deeper and it was a littler harder to make out the road.

but I finally made to Seealpsee,

which was my destination.

Background: The Swiss make great use of all their land, including the high alpine fields for grazing their dairy cattle in the summer. They live up in these small villages in the summer and early Fall when there is no snow, but must abandon them in the winter because the snow is too deep and besides, they’re nearly impossible to get to. In the summer though, the small communities are quite active with dairy farmers, day hikers and tourists.

I took lots of photos and just enjoyed the quietness, solitude and peacefulness of the place.

The lake there was beautiful

and I even found a small outdoor chapel that was boarded up for the winter.

I saw another Chamois way up on the mountainside and he didn’t even bother running like the other 2 had. It kept snowing harder so I thought I better head back down. There was already about 2 inches of new snow in my old tracks.

When I got to one spot on the road on the way back down, I was really surprised to see that a small avalanche had just covered the trail where I had hiked up a couple hours earlier!

I don’t think it was big enough to have taken me out, had it happened while I was there, but it sure would have given me a scare! It was definitely big enough that I haven’t mentioned it yet to my wife. She gets a little worked up sometimes when I tell her some of the more exciting parts of my adventures.

The hike back down was much easier since I was walking in my same tracks and going down hill instead of up. The snow kept falling heavily and it was a pleasant trip back down.

When I got back to the main road, I saw the bus about a half mile in the distance and noted the time to be 18:11. (Sunset was 18:42 – something I always make a point to find out) I had checked with the driver and determined the departure times to be 18:19 or 18:49. Since I was now cold and tired, I sure did want to make that 18:19 bus. I started jogging towards it, not going too fast because I had my backpack and gear, plus, I was a little tired after the hike up in deep snow! I kept checking my watch, watching the minutes tick by (I always have an accurate time hack – very important in the flying business and any time you’re in Switzerland relying on public transportation.) and when I got about 100 yards away, my watch ticked over to 18:19. To the second, the bus starts driving away!! What’s this?? Surely the driver saw me in his rear view mirror I thought? I started waving and hollering but obviously neither did any good because he just slowly started to disappear in the cold snowy night. (I have to assume he really didn’t see me, because drivers have been pretty good in the past about waiting for someone trying to catch a bus or train) I wasn’t looking forward to waiting the extra half hour, so I decided to start walking to the next village because you never know when you’ll get one more good photo!

After 2 or 3 minutes, here comes an older gentleman in has car from behind. I decided to stick out my thumb because that has worked well in the past and sure enough he stopped immediately. Between my miniscule amount of German and his equivalent amount of English, I made it known that I had just missed the bus. He said he knew that, he was watching me out the window of his home! I think he felt sorry for me and came by just to pick me up. We raced for the bus, but by the time we made it to the next village, the bus had already stopped and discharged it’s passengers to the train, which was now moving out. We raced the train and passed it, only to be thwarted again as the road had to cross the tracks and the barrier came down just as we were arriving. Not to fear though, this gentleman took another side road and headed on towards Appenzell where we made it just before the train arrived. I thanked him profusely, gave him one of my business cards, and caught the train back to Gossau and then on to the Zurich HB.

From the Zurich HB it was on the tram back to the hotel with a stop for a sandwich at the local New Pointe restaurant run by the friendly guys from Iran. As always, I slept well that night and then had an uneventful 10 hour flight back to Atlanta the next day.


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