The Travelogue

During my trip, I sought out Internet cafés twice a week (which sometimes took a fair amount of effort) to record my observations in my blog and let people know what I was up to. Now these posts are fun to see as a record of my day-to-day activity there and to compare to the report I wrote later. I have reproduced them here for the sake of making this site a central source for all material having to do with the trip. You may notice a preponderance of punny titles and capital-letter signoffs. This is normal.

Note: As with the report, please do not reproduce any of this material without first emailing me (jbdowse at gmail) for permission, and then please link to this page.

#1: June 2, 2005 – The Hofstetten Files

All right here I am in the local city of Brienz, Switzerland, trying to adjust to this different keyboard layout. The trip over was very long (about 18h of transit time) but I made all the connections, thank goodness. I had to spend a fair amount of time running errands upon arrival while absolutely exhausted. However, since then I've gotten about 12 hours of sleep (including naps) per day, so I think I've somewhat made up for that. I've been spending all my time so far in the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum which has about 100 houses and farm buildings that were deconstructed and then rebuilt onsite, coming from all parts of Switzerland. It's hard to believe they've been able to do that. There are lots and lots of simply awesome buildings there, and I've taken about 500 pix of them already (512MB memory card, don't worry...) and I'm about 2/3 of the way through. Mm-hmm. It'll be quite something sorting thru 'em all. Anyway, in other news, yesterday morning it looked as if my pinkeye had reappeared, but now it's gone again, luckily. As of this afternoon I finally feel pretty much socially acclimated here. It was fun to get out on a run yesterday at 7 PM. (My schedule, being entirely self-directed, is a bit odd at the moment.) Oh, weather? Quite hazy, yet pretty mild; low 70s today, hotter in the sun, and it was cooler before today. Very pleasant. All right, that's ABOUT ALL FOR NOW, FOLKS, so stay tuned!

#2: June 4, 2005 – mountains and stuff

Let's see, it's only been 2 days (probably will be a while till the next one after this) but I've been doing a bunch. I ran up a large mountain, which was fun, although it made me really exhausted the next day. I tried to make fondue. Yup. I tried. Anyway... another day at Ballenberg, and it was lucky I finished up then, because three days there kind of tends to burn you out. Also it was too hot yesterday, but nicely, there were T-storms last nite which meant today has been cool and cloudy, i.e. ideal. I forayed out to a series of towns further up the valley; they are known as Hasliberg, collectively. There's a route thru all four towns that shows you a bunch of historically relevant houses, which is of course very germane to what I'm doing. As well as cool houses, there were some gorgeous views, and it was great to be up on high meadows in the breeze. Anyway with all the photos I took in the past two days, I definitely have over 1000 pix by now. Ima hafta buy another big memory card at this rate! That's it for now because I'm rapidly running out of time, so toodles.

#3: June 7, 2005 – Oey oey oey

So I made my first intrahelvetic transfer just fine, except get this: the hotel here that I had ostensibly made a reservation at had its Ruhetag ("rest day") yesterday, which meant that its restaurant wasn't serving all day, which is a kind of thing I knew about already, but also THE ROOMS WERE NOT OPEN THAT NIGHT. So I had no accommodation. So I spent one night at a different hotel (CONTINGENCY PLAN!!!), very close by luckily (and both are close to the train station; overall this is a very convenient setup for me, except this Internet café, and even that is within walking distance), and one advantage is that it had TV. I watched it for quite a while. I had forgotten how great the ads are (the cinematography and the people are gorgeous) and it was fun to listen to a lot of Schwyzerdüütsch and watch Desperate Housewives dubbed into German. (There's a character in it named Carlos Solis! That was the only time I've ever seen the show, so I didn't know that. Maybe it's old news.) It was also nice to have a prepared breakfast, complete with vitamin C, a rarity for me these days. Today, after transferring to my other hotel, I went on a walk that showed me a bunch of different cool houses, similar to the Hasliberg route, and the best part was actually when I went off the route to the top of the bluff (and when I say bluff, I mean more like mountain) that is a height of land between the two valleys that come together at Oey, the Diemtigtal and the Simmental. I could see the opposite sides of both valleys to some extent and the weather was awesome - low 60s, sunny, and significant breeze. I ate lunch there (after 2:30; and yet I was already hungry just 3 hours later) and drew a sketch of the view, which I'll show you at some point. It was my ideal of Switzerland. And now it's time to get some ready-made dinner before the store closes.

#4: June 10, 2005 – Simme down now

Heh heh, that's a joke cuz I just got back from walking along the Simme River, which the Simmental is the watershed of. For four days straight I've been hiking around like crazy, seeing multiple Hauswege. Three different routes in the Diemtigtal and then a large part of a fourth one in the Simmental, which took six hours. I discovered that the Simmental has lots of nettles and the Diemtigtal doesn't. Nettles are like the poison ivy of Europe, except they sting rather than itch. But luckily I only saw not touched them today.

I'm pretty much getting used to just walking miles to get somewhere I need to go. Like running, it really helps me get a feel for the lay of the land. Pacing is assisted by having the beat (oh wait, that's the whole song) from Aphex Twin's "Bbydhyonchord" playing in my head, or often I actually beatbox it using the sounds p', t', and !. It goes

p' ! t' - p' ! p' t' p' ! t' - p' ! t' ! !

(That double ! at the end of the phrase is totally what makes it cool. Give it a listen.) I've also taken so many pictures by now that if they were on prints I'd fill up a toxic waste dump with them all, or something. But no, they're digital and all fit on one compactflash card! The Sternen has allowed me to stay there since Tuesday, luckily, no more surprises; and I've been eating quite well, thanks to one night eating at the Sternen (which I plan to do again tonight) in addition to some fresh tomatoes (sometimes I just bite into them like the fruit they are aren't you all secretly jealous!), bananas, bags of green beans, au gratin potatoes (or Rösti, as they're called — a Swiss specialty — they're sposta be fried but they're good even without that, as I've found). Also I got a big cheap bag of a mixed variety of yummy cookies. I guess this is a lot on food, but it does take up a good deal of my daily thinkage at this point.

In addition to, of course, the project itself, which is coming along well but I still feel somewhat unfocused — what I really need is a written guide to Swiss farm architecture. I feel like I'm gathering data for a report that has no hypothesis. OH WAIT, I AM! So maybe I'll try to find, like, a book.

The weather has continued to be excellent, mostly clear, LOW 50s at high elevations often, 60s in town. It would be awesome if it continued to be even nearly this good for the next few weeks. All right, the dinner train is leaving and I gotta hop on cuz the next stop is Hotel Sternen, so SEEYA!

#5: June 14, 2005 – Ready the Trubs

Note: the word Trub, the name of the town I'm now in, is pronounced "troop," just with a rolled r. OK now what's been going on? Well, I'm in the Emmental region of central-western Switzerland, which is yes where Emmentaler cheese comes from. (Actually this netcafe is in a big bookstore in Bern, the capital city, because the Emmental has no internet cafes or books on rural Swiss architecture. The latter, apparently, has Bern also not.) (Sorry about the grammar there.) I've been continuing to walk and photograph loads. The architecture here is quite interesting, lots of hipped roofs and Ründis, which I'll show you all later. The Emmental has more gentle, rolling topography (almost wrote topology) than the other places I've been, which makes hiking all over somewhat easier. The weather's been not bad till today; it's rained quite a bit today. But that's OK, that's why I'm submerged in a city mall right now. Running has been intermittent but good when it's happened. You know one thing I wonder about: why are the dogs so mean here, when the people are so nice? I've had a few close calls, including today when I was walking along a road and a dog at a farmhouse about 100m away from the road ran straight at me barking ferociously and I had to bark back at it (thru traffic) till I was well away from its territory. Oh well at least the people don't do that, they just say Grüessech or Grüssewohl and go on their way. Which is good. I'm almost out of time now so over & out.

#6: June 17, 2005 – Who Let The Dogs Out

My frustrations with the dog situation over here crescendoed on Wednesday when I was threatened by no less than THREE DOGS within ONE HOUR of hiking. Today I was at least barked at by SIX, but by today I had learned that ignoring a dog entirely is often the best way to get it not to pursue you. But seriously. It's almost enough to make me a cat person (or a dove-only person) and that's pretty drastic. I haven't started carrying a hiking/whompem stick like Dad suggested to combat the problem, but if the doggage is as bad in the Engadin as it has been in the Emmental, I may indeed do so. But then I meet some friendly dogs, such as two huge docile fluffy ones on a trail today, and they remind me how much I like dogs in general. The only issue with the two big dogs is that I had to go into a patch of nettles to maneuver past them on the super-narrow trail. But the fact that that's my first nettletation in two and a half weeks is pretty sweet.

Yesterday, I went on a hike, just like any other day; and then I returned to Trub and WENT RUNNING and then did a SHORT CIRCUIT (har) of pushups and crunches and such. I actually got one done! I'll be attempting to do that about twice a week from now on, maybe synchronized with the updating of the LJ. Also I ran almost 10 miles on Wednesday and I intend to do some speed work this afternoon. Finally getting on top of the training. Mayhaps.

Tomorrow will be the longest and most schlepptastic intrahelvetation of my whole trip, but it may be the most interesting too. I'm traveling from here in the Midwest, where I've been the whole time so far, to the far Southeast, to Switzerland's largest and, to me at this point, most mysterious canton, Graubünden. I'm looking forward to a drastic change in the built environment as well as seeing how the Schwyzerdütsch dialect is different - and to hearing Romantsch, a language confined entirely to Graubünden.

Romantsch is to Schwyzerdütsch is to Hochdeutsch as Scots Gaelic is to Scots is to RP. And I leave you with that food for thought (I can explain it in more detail later) as, with luck, I catch the train from this rather swish netcafé in the rather nice city of Burgdorf back to Langnau. Tschau!

#7: June 21, 2005 – Hairnets in Zernez

Good times, bad rhymes. I have so much to talk about in this post that I kept notes for it in my pocket notebook for the past few days. I filled up almost a page of it with tiny writing. So here goes. Well, I did indeed miss my train out of Burgdorf because of the last post. LJ must be a fairly original way of missing a train in Switzerland. I hurried out of the cafe and saw the train and it started pulling away as I got closer. So I hung out in Burgdorf for another hour, got back to the hotel at 7:30, finished my run at 9:00, and ate dindin at about 10:00. Ausgezeichnet.

As expected, the Engadin was rather shocking after the Emmental. It's best imagined, I believe, as a chain of Italian villages in the Rocky Mountains. The buildings are very Mediterranean-looking, mostly plaster, lots of classical details (in fairly simple form), lots of sgraffito (don't know what that is? I have pictures LOTS of pictures...), very pleasing geometric features. Really cool. Zernez, where I'm staying and where, conveniently, this computer is right in the tourist center near my hotel and right across from the grocery store, burned in the early 20th century and so it's newer than some of the other towns of the Engiadina Bassa — I visited some others yesterday with absolutely unbelievable ancient, crooked, intricately painted/sgraffito'd buildings on wavy cobblestone streets. I've never been in Italy or the like, so this is as close as I've come and it's quite something, especially after all the wooden architecture I've been looking at before this. The closest I've come is Bermuda, I guess, which is rather weird.

The hotel is NICE, a bit of a walk from the train station but conveniently close to errand-type places. My room is wood-paneled and has slightly sloping floor, walls, and ceiling and has a TV! The only annoying thing is the ubiquitous houseflies, which have been waking up at 5:30, landing on my face, and losing me about 2 hours of sleep per night. SUK. Not much can be done about that tho. Anyway, breakfast is buffet-style and excellent; one thing, they have Caotina Noir, a dark chocolate drink powder for milk. It's like drinking melted chocolate ice cream. I had an excellent meal at the hotel's restaurant - the prices are overall QUITE expensive there but I got off OK, though so far I've lost CHF 7.90 by not remembering how to say tap water.

Rumantsch sounds like an admixture of Italian and Portuguese, or perhaps how French would sound if you front-trilled the r's and pronounced all the silent letters. It's really cool to be in an area where the primary language is one that's only spoken there. One night I had pizza which was a lot cheaper than the meal I had at my hotel, and I heard Rumantsch on one side and Schwyzerdüütsch on the other, awesome. "Allegra," often muttered "lgra" or so, is the Rumantsch greeting and the well-known Grüzi is in fact used by the Düütschsprecher here. I asked for water without minerals there and got mineral water without carbonation. Yay! At least I am getting a bunch of Deutsch practice, even if not always successful, and I've gotten a bunch of compliments on how well I speak it.

As for the natural landscape, it's also pretty Mediterranean, very sunny and dry (sprinklers EVERYWHERE, watering meadows, which looks kind of funny) but there's also very much forest just a little higher than the valley/village elevation — mostly larches (softest forest EVER!), with spruces higher up, and grass underneath the larches, rather than bare ground or brush. The sun (happy solstice everyone! gotta go do my neo-pagan thing after this) has been unrestricted by cloudage, except for some lovely moments (in the shade the temperature is very nice), and is extremely strong. Yesterday, the most intense day yet, it felt like a close campfire. Luckily, I wore my hiking hat yesterday for the first time. I've been wearing my shades all the time, but hadn't needed the hat, but good thing I wore it yesterday or I'd no longer have ears today. Thank goodness, there are fountains with potable water everywhere in the villages, esp. in the town of Lavin where every person has over two fountains. Not really. Speaking of solstice, the sun is as far north as it gets, right now, and the moon IS FULL which is awesome because that means it's antipodally across the sky from the sun and is thus as far SOUTH as it can get — it barely made it over the mountains last nite and I got some great pix of it when it did.

There is a common species of bush here with yellow flowers and the flowers have the same strange aroma as the sausage I just finished up yesterday. I'm rather curious what the bush is. One place where there are a bunch of them is a great outlook spot between two churches that look over Zernez and out up the valley. I have many great evening pictures from there. I discovered there that overhead is a MAJOR east-west airline corridor — one evening I saw about 8 jets on the same westward course within an hour. Lots of swallows flying around in flocks catching bugs or something and making the scene even prettier.

Running is good, sore for days after that first circuit but now I'm better; the Via Engiadina is a valley trail that goes all along the Engadin and is great for running, luckily — the only long roads are the highways. And the railroads. All right, Ima get off so this poor guy waiting for the pute can finally use it, SEEYA.

#8: June 24, 2005 – En(gadin)telechy

Not nearly as long an update to be had today — I've been continuing to see lots of incredible sgraffito houses — I think I'm gonna have to put up a gallery of the coolest buildings I've seen on this trip on WSO PhotoShare. Also, my report is going to be ginormous with all the pix I'll want to include. Let's see... yesterday I went to the high town of Ftan (isn't that an awesome name?) — I had to pretty much rock-climb up a sandbank to get there, it was very manly — and took a bunch of photos as usual and then had to run, literally (having already done my planned run for the day earlier on), down to the town of Ardez to be on time for a guided tour of the old buildings there, with my backpack with all its stuff. Luckily, a biology student from Zürich came by in his car and drove me partway there. He's studying parasites in ibex and chamois and whether they are communicable to/from domestic sheep. Pretty cool. Right after I got out of the car a woman asked me what the river was that we were right next to and I didn't know but I looked it up on my trusty Unterengadin map. So I've been getting surprisingly diverse types of personal contact. A miss on that front, though, was the house tour in Ardez — a guy from the tourist bureau was spostu lead it but after hunting around for the tour group (having arrived a bit late) to no avail, discovered that on Thursdays the tourist bureau's hours are only 8:30–10:30. So I think what happened is he had actually told me "halb elf" (10:30) and I heard it as "halb fünf" (4:30). Oh well. So instead I took part of the tour, self-guided by a pamphlet he'd written, and got a pastry and some ice cream. Yum yum. So that was still fun.

Today I am going to explore the nearby Nationalpark, the only wilderness area in all of Switzerland, pretty much. I was planning to go to yet another town but think I probably won't bother. I've basically covered all the towns from Zernez to Scuol by now and that's a bunch. Lemme tell you.

Phonetics Fans! In Swiss German, "ä" is normally pronounced as a low front vowel (rather than just about like "e") and "a" as a low back vowel, making standard German "a" closer to Swiss "ä" than to Swiss "a." I've been getting more and more versed in Schwyzerdüütsch by listening to Swiss TV programs. Meanwhile you may know that word-initially, in standard German, "sp-" and "st-" are pronounced shp- and sht-. In Swiss German they're pronounced like that everywhere. The same holds true in Rumantsch, and it is also true there for "sc" and "s-ch" which are pronounced shk and shch, respectively. The s-ch makes placenames that have it sound quite Slavic.

Also I've stayed up too late watching weird movies in German, often dubbed or subtitled therein. Such as Cube. Anyone seen that? Yup. I had to go to sleep after that.

On a totally unrelated topic, I hope Dan and I get paired for the XC roast again this year because what with living with each other AND with Joe and Colin (on a floor with a disturbingly high proportion of bloggers, namely at least 5 out of 12) AND (relatedly) reading each other's LJs, we should have enough material by then to really humiliate each other. Unlike last year, when Dan wasn't insulting at all and I didn't really have anything to go on either.

All right I think that's about it; tomorrow I'm going to join my parents in the northeastern and particularly distinctive canton of Appenzell. So that's exciting. They might be there already, having probably not slept much in the past 48 hours. Unlike me — somehow there have been no bothersome flies in my room the past couple mornings, which is suh-weet. So until next Tuesday, auf wiederluägä (or wiederläsä as the case may be...)

#9: June 28, 2005 – Appenzellers Anonymous

Well here I am in the public library in the town of Appenzell on a computer with a really cheap rate and fast connection. My parents arrived fine and the trip from Zernez to Appenzell (WHERE IS THE Z ON THIS KEYBOARD ARGH) went fine for me too, and it was cool because I saw the Bodensee, otherwise known as Lake Constance, for the first time ever (probably), and I also saw the whole of Liechtenstein at once, plus a bunch of Austria. The biggest adventure was when I got caught in a thunderstorm on a high meadow in the National Park the day of the previous post. I had done a quick, fairly strenuous hike — about 5 miles, and I was about 3/4 of the way through, wonderful wilderness & wildlife, including multiple ibex — and then the cloudy day became rather darker and more lightningy. I was on my way up to a ridge and for a while kept forging ahead, but the thunderstorm seemed to be getting closer and eventually I lay down for a while to try to make myself less of a lightning target. I got fairly cold and wet and pissed off before I figured out that, while the thunderstorm had been staying safely far south, above the valley, it now did seem to be getting closer for real, according to the wind direction, so I decided that if I were to get out of there at any reasonable time it'd have to be by high-tailing it back the way I came, down into the valley and then back along a lower mountain trail. Which I did, and it worked out fine, and I got 10+ miles of FAST hiking (and some running) in. That substituted for the long run I was supposed to do afterwards. I'm going to try to avoid getting myself into similar situations too many more times here. I had a very delicious and well-appreciated meal at the hotel restaurant when I got back. Oh, one cool thing before that whole episode was that in the National Park visitors center in Zernez, one of the features is an amazing virtual 3D flyover of the Engadin/Park region, complete with a 3D-control joystick. It was great to be able to fly around the places I'd been to IRL, as they say around here (here being LJia, not Appenzell).

Appenzell is great (tho too hot) (but the breeze often helps), much as I remembered it from two years ago. The architecture is really interesting and different, I'll just have to show you all when I see you. I'll sell CD-ROMs of all my pictures from the trip, I think, and buy drugs or something with the profits. Speaking of which, not really, this morning my dad and I rode on a great alpine slide and then ran 10K down a mile-high mountain back to Appenzell, which was great for me, tho my dad's quads were shot by it. I think I do have a fair mountain-running advantage at the moment.

That IS IT for now because I must away back to the Ferienwohnung, because we may be going up in a cablecar to have a high-altitude dinner. Tschau.

#10: July 1, 2005 – i gang go lärne schwyzertüütsch

1. My parents thought they'd lost their rail passes but refound them just as we were about to leave for the city of St. Gallen to get new ones to the tune of $600.

2. We still went to St. Gallen and I picked up A SWISS-GERMAN TEXTBOOK AND CD so now I can learn Schwyzertüütsch systematically and, with luck, be able to use it next time I'm here. Very très exciting, believe me.

3. Up on a cablecar to Hoher Kasten (translation: High Box), a mountain that you can see from just about everywhere in northeast Switzerland and from which, conversely, you can see everything. The weather took a turn for the cooler the past few days and it was positively cold on the summit, low 40s with a Very Strong Wind. Really dramatic, fast-moving scud. Of course I neglected to bring my camera.

4. I accidentally ran 14.5 miles today
I accidentally ran 14.5
I only meant to run 11 or so
But I accidentally ran 14.5

...and I've been getting the miles in real well in general. I sure hope I stay uninjured because I'm feeling great right now.

5. Oh, architecture? I've been doing that too. The days are just packed. Taken a bunch of pictures (I also took about 100 pictures of a recent excellent sunset which I've been meaning to edit down a little), gonna take some more RIGHT NOW SO BYE.

#11: July 4, 2005 – Sturm und Drang am See

I braved a rollicking storm on the high seas to get to this computer. Actually, they're high lakes, but in German the name for sea and lake is the same. But there was a large thunderstorm happening while I got here. Yes, I am on The Lake itself, the Vierwaldstättersee, aka the Lake of Lucerne, yea, verily in the heart of the country. In fact we took an easy hike today from the top of a funicular train down to the Rütli, the particular meadow above the lake at which the original three Swiss cantons originally confederated in 1291. Those three cantons, yes you do care thank you very much, are Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden. From Schwyz comes the name of the whole country, and indeed the Deutschschweizer call the nation Schwyz as well. Could be confusing, but it's usually clear from context. I am in the town of Brunnen right now, but the place we're staying is Gersau, a town that was originally its own canton, I believe, and still has an independent personality. You know how Texas is still "the Republic of Texas"? Well, Gersau is the Experience Republic. But in fact, Gersau and Brunnen are both in Canton Schwyz now, just like Texas is really part of the US. That's right, Texas. Gersau is actually surprisingly different from Texas, though; more Catholic, for one thing, and more Swiss, and more mountainous, and a fair amount smaller. We're staying in the Hotel Tübli (Little Dove), which we've been at a couple times before. They are also a restaurant and their food is aweXomE to the eXtremE! Yesterday we hiked up into Uri, which extends south from the Lake up into the high Alps. We finished at Andermatt, a high crossroads between north, south, east, and west. It was a totally clear, classic alpine day. Besides that I've been running - I did 6x800 yesterday and I think the whole rain was sub-7 pace, which is real fast relatively speaking, given the altitude here. And I've been watching music videos, as is my wont in Gersau. Best song heard so far is "Geboren" by none other than die Fantastischen Vier. Funkiest intro I've heard in a long time. I hope I can get it on iTunes. Tomorrow is already another travel day; we'll be heading up into the high Alps to a remote valley that's our favorite place in Switzerland, the Lötschental. And where I will resume taking lots of pictures of buildings. I haven't so much here yet, maybe I'll get to it after this, BUT I do have many many pictures of owl sculptures. So get excited for those. Also I've been talking a little about career options with my parents, since I'll be getting into that sometime soon, and they opined that maybe I should go into linguistics after all and be an academic. Maybe I should. It's certainly one of the prominent options. All I need to do to get into a graduate linguistics program is to submit wso/~jdowse/ipa.html, so that's a plus. We'll see. Time to catch a steamship now though, so wiederluägä.

#12: July 8, 2005 – dunnit, by Gemmi

Now I'm in Kandersteg, back in the Berner Oberland, but we're staying in the Lötschental, an isolated valley in Canton Valais that is the place I'm most familiar with in the whole country, having been there 3 times before for a week each time. It's a real rugged landscape with peaks above 3000m, glaciers (including a signature one at the top of the valley) and recent widespread landslide damage. In fact I would say it's the most rugged inhabited landscape I've seen on this whole trip, even more so than the Engadin. It's been great staying in the good old vacation apartment we've always used, it's just really well set up and has really comfy furniture — not so great is the new building in construction next to it, which blocks a significant part of the once-excellent view (the view still is pretty sweet). As the town we're at, Blatten, is at 1500m, higher than Zernez even, the running there is strenuous, but good. Today — I haven't showered yet (yup, still not, XCers) — I took a cablecar up from Kandersteg to a high plateau starting at 1900 meters above sea level (6000 ft) and ran 5 miles over the plateau, going thru gorgeous, mostly wild alpine territory with lots of sheer rock faces and slides of sediment off them, and a couple of lakes even. Gorgeous views down the next valley (you can see a mile almost straight down) at the far end, the Gemmipass. The climbing parts were exhausting, and I was in oxygen debt the whole time, but then I came back the same way, and that was excitingly fast. Felt that way, anyway, altho it prolly wasn't much faster than 8s. The clear parts of the sky were very dark blue at the high elevation. Gotta run if Ima catch the train so that's it for now.

#13: July 12, 2005 – Lötschenpass & wrapup

The main thing to say is that my parents and I, in the course of a 10-hour hike on Sunday, hiked across a sloping, sometimes icy glacier. IN THE FOG. THICK FOG. IT WAS FOGGY WHEN WE WENT ACROSS THE GLACIER AND WE OFTEN COULDN'T SEE THE FLUORESCENT POSTS SHOWING US THE TRAIL. IN THE FOG. But we got through it! No big deal.

The hike took us from Lauchernalp (1900m above sea level), a higher-up dorf in the Lötschental that you can take a cablecar up to, over a high mountain pass, the Lötschenpass (2700m), way down into the next valley, the Gasteretal, which hangs over the Kandertal, wherein Kandersteg. Our end destination, Selde, is 1500m. We started early cuz it was a much longer route than we'd done. It was a gorgeous morning in the Lötschental. We got to a junction that was about halfway to the pass in seemingly no time at all. We got up to the pass about 11:45. I got to a sign and REALIZED THAT IT WASN'T THE PASS; IT WAS THE JUNCTION I THOUGHT WE'D PASSED BY OVER AN HOUR EARLIER. I was a bit ahead, so I was the first to discover this choice fact and to respond to it with choice words. So we continued on over the much rockier terrain. Looking at the map it really all made better sense this way. Luckily we'd gained almost all our elevation by the junction and only had to contend with some rockiness, a sharp breeze (it was cool, 50ish or less, all day), and sheep in the trail. I was quite pleased when I came in sight of the hut at the pass, and I got to it at 1:20. It was cool and cloudy there so we got some excellent (excellent!) homemade soup and bread at the hut, and hot Ovo (like Ovaltine without sugar), and had that with the food we'd brought ourselves. It was a neat place. Incredible views of two nearby massive mountains, the Ferdenrothorn and the Balmhorn, which I shall have to show you. After an hour of lunching we started down into the Gasteretal. The trail went down a cliff of small-cut rocks for a while, then flattened out as we got onto the rock-covered beginning of the glacier. THEN THE FOG CAME IN. THAT WAS BEFORE WE GOT TO THE SLIPPERY PART OF THE GLACIER. I have pictures and even the camera made it across. Anyway, basically there were two and a half more hours of steep (steep!) downhill climbing after we left the glacier. Luckily it was mostly less technical, on the earthen trails that I'm more used to. At the valley floor we crossed over a Himalayan-style bridge and the mountain hotel we were to stay at that night, I recognized it from the brochure, was almost right there. Overall I give the hike a rating of RIDICULOUS + 1/2. 8:45 departure, 19:00 arrival. We all wondered who in their right mind would do this route, knowing what it's like. Yet there were other people on the trail. SWISS people who could have known better. It's a mystery.

I ate about 3 times as much food at dinner as I can usually fit. I was the perfect human carbo-loader. My calves were tired but I was fine besides that. The next day my dad and I went for a good run; I did 400s. The past several days (almost a week I think) my throat glands were oddly painful and hard, but thankfully that seems to be over now. No additional cold-like symptoms or anything, just some little virus I guess. I like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin.

I guess thother thing of note that we did, besides some great runs that I've had and cool music television, is visit a visitors' center (appropriately) about the new Lötschberg Base Tunnel that's in construction and should be online by 2007. It's a north-south rail tunnel connecting the Bern area to the Valais and it will speed transit times up enormously. The even longer Gotthard Base Tunnel, another north-south rail tunnel to the east, will do similar things. The visitors' center was extremely interesting and cool.

The weather's been nice here since we got back from the Gasteretal yesterday, it's approximately PERFECT at 60 and partly cloudy right now. Tomorrow we are heading home, via Züri, Frankfurt, and Boston. My parents expect to wake up at 5:30 AM, just cuz that's what happens, and we should get home about 11:30 PM EST. That is, 5:30 AM Swiss time. Yay! I on the other hand will make sure to have only a 22-hour day rather than a 24. If I feel like it, I'll post sometime after that.

Oh yeah, as this is the final Switzerland post, I'll wrap up and say, wow what an experience! This is by far the longest time I've been in a foreign country and I really feel like I know Switzerland like the back of my hand these days, which is really cool. I've amassed a huge photographic record, to be further added to in just a few minutes, and I have with luck learned (at least osmotically) a large amount about Swiss building. We'll see how the report turns out. I'll miss Switzerland quite a bit but am also very much looking forward to getting home and seeing friends and, well, I admit, reading a wonderful six-week backlog of webcomics. And seeing if Borne has any feathers left at all, of course. All right that's it, wiederluägä!