Monday, 21 September 2015

EN: A Bicycle Tour Around Lake Lucerne and to Rütli Meadow, Switzerland

More photos at the end of the post and on Instagram. 

Our sons build up more perseverance with each passing year, but there are still things we cannot do with them. Therefore, during the summer vacation this year which the children spent with their grandparents, my wife and I were eager to experience something new, but never could we imagine what was about to come; an adventure which we will remember for the rest of our lives and which made us feel very Swiss and sporty at the same time plus, on top of that, taught us a lot about Switzerland's history.

"Let us make a bicycle tour around Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee in German) over the weekend”, Anna Adevi – one of my best Swedish friends here - said as soon as she heard that our children had left for Sweden. My wife and I, who had never cycled such a long distance, at first thought that it sounded totally crazy, but after having read up a bit, we realized this was exactly the challenge we needed and that Anna and her boyfriend would be perfect travel companions. The decision was made so in the following few days we had to find time for quite intense bicycle maintenance and investments in ridiculously expensive (but cool!) biker shorts and side bags.

Our Bicycle Route: Lucerne - Küssnacht - Weggis - Brunnen - Flüelen - Rütli - Beckenried - Lucerne  

To Lucerne (not surprisingly the biggest city around Lake Lucerne) we went by train and were reminded that you had better arrive early – and, even better, in advance know where in the train the bicycle carriage is located - in order to secure yourself a seat. The weather was the best imaginable: this summer was unusually hot and humid in Switzerland, but we managed to pick the only weekend in July when it was at least slightly cloudy.

From Lucerne we had been recommended to begin our tour heading towards Küssnacht am Rigi and there are many good reasons for that. Firstly, you take on the initial tedious ascent towards Meggen when you are at your fittest. Secondly - and more importantly – when travelling on the road Axenstrasse between Brunnen and Flüelen in this direction, you can take refuge on the pavement when the traffic feels too intense. Finally, during the last part, you have a pleasant descent from Emmetten down to Beckenried and then flat lands through Stans, Stansstad and Hergiswil until you are back at your starting point. However, whichever direction you take, the routes are clearly marked and with few exceptions they go on well-maintained bicycle roads.

Highlights: Countless Stunning Alp Views – Plus Stretching and Waltz Dancing 

A tour around Lake Lucerne offers countless beautiful views of Alps meeting the water. Personally, I especially remember the rolling agrarian landscape around Küssnacht as well as the view of Brunnen and Flüelen from the top of Seelisberg. If we move over to experiences unique to our trip, I want to mention a short waltz to live music on a pier in Weggis and an extensive stretching session in a park in Brunnen, with the Swiss Air Force flying in formation over us.

Rütli Meadow and the Pace of the Oath that Created Switzerland 

A big surprise during this bicycle tour was a visit to Rütli meadow, next to the Place of the Oath (Schwurplats) where the cantons Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden (today: Obwalden and Nidwalden respectively) are said to, in 1291, have entered into the covenant, which became the basis for modern-day Switzerland. However, the price for arriving here was a good one hour walk up to the top of Seelisberg; not particularly fun when you push a bicycle full of luggage!

Taking the Boat from Flüelen 

It should be emphasized that you cannot yet complete a full tour around on Lake Lucerne by bicycle, due to a few kilometres where the mountains steep directly into the water. Extremely experienced athletes can, of course, get from Flüelen to Seelisberg as long as they are willing to repeatedly carry the bicycle on winding paths. Less daring tourists had better take the boat to Treib and from there the cog train up to the peak. By doing so, you will still enjoy the magnificent view from there, including the meadow Rütli (albeit only from above).

Among Swedes Who Like Facebook 

This weekend, exceptionally, I cannot claim having dedicated much time to language learning, in a group where everyone spoke Swedish. Or what is it we speak? According to external observers, when Anna Adevi and I meet each other we have a tendency to turn up her dialect from Scania and mine from Halmstad to a maximum. At a restaurant, a Swiss man at a neighbouring table actually asked us to confirm that we spoke Danish, since he “was absolutely sure that it was not Swedish." Now, whatever language we might speak an added value with Anna is that she is one of the few friends I have of my age who like social media - read Facebook - even more I. Thanks to this our trip was well documented in the form of fun photos.

To sum up, our positive learning point from this weekend is that neither my wife nor I have a problem to complete 100 kilometres on a bicycle. But next time I might bring kneepads, just in case... ;)

- - -

Accommodation and Restaurants 

In Flüelen we spent the night at the hotel Tourist. It certainly has not been renovated for many years, but has a correct price-quality ratio, offers a truly good breakfast and its owners were helpful with cycling tips. Our dinner in the same town we ate at Cantina Apertura, a slightly odd, but nice restaurant down by the lake.

- - - 

Monday, 7 September 2015

EN: Czech Crock-14 at the Country Festival of Klewenalp (Switzerland)

Further videos of Crock-14 at Klewenalp can be found here.

Have I always been a country fan? No, certainly not. Quite frankly, at the time when my Czech cousin began to take interest in this culture, I – having grown up in Sweden – perceived this as an artificial tribute to the United States. But while I myself have switched hobbies innumerable times through life, he has maintained his and keeps specialising in American clogging. Now, thanks to all the performances I have seen with his and his wife's dance group Crock-14, even I have developed.

Alpen Country Open Air Festival 

For this reason, I had a really good time when, in July, they appeared at Alpen Country Open Air - a festival here in Klewenalp (Nidwalden, Switzerland), which this year was held for the 21st time. It has a truly unique atmosphere, even without Crock-14 on the stage. Prior to their performance, the audience was dancing line dance and I believe that my wife and I actually bolt felt that that could be something for us. Later on in life, that is...

Hike from Klewenalp to Stockhütte (while Our Children were in Sweden ...) 

Currently we are too busy with other interests, such as hiking. Between Crock-14's performances we had the time to walk to Stockhütte and back. That hike we possibly would not have been able to complete in two hours, had our children been here. Now, at the time they were with their grandparents in Sweden, something they truly enjoyed, as always. By the way, they hardly noticed that the weather was a lot worse there than here. The only thing they did complain about was that Swiss summer holidays are so short – they have only got five weeks while their Swedish friends have nine.

Crock-14 Celebrating their 20 Anniversary and Touring in Australia 

Let us return to Crock-14: As I am writing this, the Czech dance group has just returned home after a one month long tour in Australia. To follow that journey I had to make do with their social media (Facebook and YouTube). But on 29th November this year, I want to be on site in Prague when the group celebrates its 20th anniversary (!). That I at the same time can expose myself to linguistic immersion and polish my Czech is an added bonus.

- - -
My blog post about Crock-14 in Klewenalp 2014 can be found here.

- - -
More pictures from Klewenalp can be found on Instagram.

- - -
Svensk version

Thursday, 3 September 2015

EN: Hiking with Children near Matterhorn (Zermatt, Switzerland)

Further Matterhorn photos at the end of the blog post.

Matterhorn is said to be the world's most photographed mountain and that is understandable for its unique shape. Since a few weeks back not only my wife, but also our boys and I have had the chance to experience it live - so far down south in Switzerland that you have Italy on the other side of the ridge.

At the time, my wife was in the middle of peak season at her job, but thanks to some re-planning we managed to get away on a weekend trip to a sunny Zermatt and for that we will be grateful for many years. Thirty kilometres of hiking over two days was what we achieved - undoubtedly a new family record. Our sons were walking at such a high pace that we repeatedly passed by groups exclusively made up of adult participants.

Our Hiking Routes 

The mountain restaurant at Sunegga came to serve as both starting-point and goal for us. On the first day we took the steep slope up to Blauherd and then walked back in a long loop via Tufteralp. On day two we went up to Blauherd with the lift and then followed the very varied "Five Lakes Walk" (5-Seenweg).

Our hikes offered some surprises like left-over snow, in which our sons played for a while but, afterwards, when we asked them what they liked best with Zermatt, they both replied: the photo opportunities! Just like my wife and me, they were excited to run around with smart-phones and i-pads in their hands, eager to capture beautiful views and reflections of the Matterhorn. And suddenly there were not any longer only two but four of us who helped out increasing the number of images of this mountain on social media...

Exercise in "Wallis-German"

Zermatt is located in the German-speaking part of the canton of Valais (Wallis in German) and that ought to have given me a unique opportunity for Schwyzerdütsch language practice, because according to the Swiss this is the most complicated of their dialects. Maybe we just happened to meet people who adapted when they spoke to us, but we did not experience that understanding them was a lot more difficult than at home in Zurich.

To wrap up, if our trip revealed something to improve for next time? Yes, we all managed to get burned in the strong sun in the Alps, and that we can certainly do without! ;)

- - -

Further Tips if You Plan to Go to Zermatt

An important tip in case you are not bringing your own food is to plan your hikes with the mountain restaurants in mind, because just a few of them are open in the summer. For our children the lunches were in fact another highlight of the weekend: schnitzel with french fries, two days in a row. 

Go to Zermatt by Train. The journey from Zurich to Zermatt takes just over three hours by train and goes via Bern. We consider this to be the best option since you are not allowed to bring your car into this picturesque little town.

We had our Saturday dinner at the restaurant Chez Gaby and were all very content. Our accommodation was at the Hotel Alpina which is not fancy, but thanks to the familiar staff, comfortable beds and rich breakfast offer, we will gladly return, when the time comes for our next trip to the Matterhorn.

- - -

Together with our children we have previously gone hiking at Engelberg, Flumserberg and Toggenburg.

- - -

Please, check out my account on Instagram.

- - -
Svensk version