Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Switzerland – Hiking in the Emmental Region with a Swiss local

Trip Date: May 16, 2008

David is the station manager for Delta at the ZRH airport. I've gotten to know him over the year during my 50+ trips to Switzerland so far. A while back he invited me to contact him before one of my trips and if he was off, we would go hiking together. This would be that trip! I told David I would like to go back to the Emmental region since I had only been there once and it rained hard the day I hiked out of Kemmeriboden. David agreed and we arranged a pickup at the hotel at 11:30, which would allow about a 90 minute nap. On the leg over, I talked of my plans with the Captain – Lee, and other FO [First Officer] – Jeff. They both said they'd like to go and I knew David wouldn't mind.

David picked the 3 of us up promptly at 11:30 and we began our drive toward Eggiwil a town that David's grandmother was from. As we headed towards our destination, we ate the sandwiches he provided and I asked a lot of questions that I had been accumulating during my various trips throughout the country over the years. We covered politics, the non-membership of Switzerland in the EU, taxes, schools and whatever. An hour and a half later we arrived in Eggiwil, did some map study, planned a route of about 20 km and were on our way. The trail had an immediate steep climb

of a couple hundred feet out of Eggiwil and Jeff said "I hope the whole 20 km isn't like this!" I assured him it "probably" wouldn't be.

The area was beautiful and I really enjoyed the company of 3 other hiking partners, though I seemed to always be falling behind because I was busy taking photos. No wonder I never made the estimated times on the Wanderweg's signs!

The hike was great, the weather perfect (except for one small shower) and the scenery outstanding. A perfect Swiss setting of farms sprinkled throughout the hilly countryside with the alps in the background.

Jeff said the houses looked like the ones on the cuckoo clocks.

The cow bells (Jeff said they sounded like wind chimes) were continuous and the smell of freshly spread manure

and fresh cut hay added to the experience. The cows, as Jeff noted, appeared “perfect”, as if they were ready for the county fair. I told him these were probably some of the happiest and most cared for cows on earth. We saw lots of Brown Swiss and Red Holstein.

There were lots of assorted bells on cows and on barns too.

As we walked David told us about the history of the Anabaptists and how they had hidden in this area during the Reformation. The communities were very poor and isolated. One of the high points for me was seeing an old building built in 1789

that was used as the community storage building. It had ornate carvings

telling who made it and how the building and its contents were dedicated to God.

David said if one of these storage buildings ever burned, then the whole community would have been devastated by the loss.

We continued the hike – up and down the hills (more than I thought we'd do – sorry Jeff!) for several more miles. The Wanderweg took us through many farms with many cows,


and goats.

We reached the half way point and were about ready to be done! We pressed on though and passed by apple orchards,

gardens, pigs,

woods and yes, more cows & bulls.

After a total of 7 ½ hours of hiking, totaling about 12 – 13 miles, we finally arrived back in Eggiwil at dusk. We ate a quick sandwich (of Emmentaler Cheese of course) in an old restaurant run a long time ago by one of David's distant relatives. A giant nostalgic photo of her – a Stettler – was hanging in the restaurant. We headed back towards Zurich and the 3 of us could barely keep our eyes open as night fell and the rains started. David dropped us off at the hotel at 11:15pm and we slept well before departing the next morning and flying 10 hours back to Atlanta. Thanks David, Lee & Jeff for a great trip!!


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