It’s my last day here in the Alps. I fly home tomorrow. I spent another day walking on prepared snowy paths in Central Switzerland. I joined my friend Kathrin on the train from Meiringen and we travelled just over the Brünig Pass to the village of Lungern where I worked in the hotel for the summer of 1975. The family I worked for at the Hotel Rössli became great friends of ours and the niece and her family that visited me on Sunday. The hotel is long gone and has been replaced, sadly, by a bank branch. The train journey took just over twenty minutes and we soon arrived at Lungern station. After a twenty minute walk we were at the totally new cable car station, only opened last year.
A walk along the Hasliberger Dorfweg (Hasliberg village trail) is like a 1960s geography lesson brought to life. Just as I did yesterday, I took the crowded cable car from Meiringen/Alpbach to Reuti at one end of the trail. In school we learnt how to draw a Swiss chalet and the practicality of the design. We learned about transhumance and how self-sufficient each farm needed to be and about diversification. In physical geography we studied glaciers and valley shapes and the importance of communication routes. The evidence is all to be found on this walk.
Hooray! This morning the rain had stopped and the sun came out and it was time to head up, up, up to the nearest peak and make my way back down quite a bit of it on foot.
Yesterday one of my teeth broke whilst eating lunch with my friend Barbara in Bern. She made an appointment for me to visit a dentist in Lucerne this afternoon. It’s a lovely journey from Meiringen on a train with picture windows which winds its way up and over the Brünig Pass out of the Bernese Alps region and into Central Switzerland.
There are probably other places in the world that have a claim to fame not from being the birthplace of a famous author but from being the location of the death of a character of fiction. But the ‘Borough’ of Meiringen in the Bernese Alps, as well as being the birthplace of the meringue, is also well-known throughout the world as the location of the dramatic ‘death’ of fictional English sleuth Sherlock Holmes, maybe the most famous. The Sherlock Holmes Museum is housed in the former English Church right opposite my hotel.
Another theme that seems to have come out from my photos is that of signs! I was very impressed by the footpath signage, and indeed by the paths themselves, throughout our walk. ATG devise their own distinctive (and copyright) routes but they do cross over with many local, national and even international footpaths. The GR route is one.
“The Grande Randonnée (French), Grote Routepaden or Lange-afstand-wandelpaden (Dutch), Grande Rota (Portuguese) or Gran Recorrido (Spanish) is a network of long-distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.” [source]
Due to a bit of a mix up Miquel had to collect us and drive us to suitable point a short way along the route. The beginning of Monday’s walk was to be along a quiet but tarmac road but he dropped us in the central square of a village on the outskirts of Les Preses. We were soon on a stony track climbing quite steeply through woodland.
Joanetes to Santa Pau: Easy paths enter the Natural Park of Garrotxa passing Romanesque churches in picturesque woodland settings. Continue through beech forest between dormant volcanoes before reaching the medieval village of Santa Pau, an ancient barony with a castle founded in the 11th century (11.8 miles, 6 hours).
Mas la Serra to Joanetes: Enter the heart of the Collsacabra, a high isolated plateau with views across the whole of the Garrotxa. After visiting the hermitage of Sant Miquel de Castelló perched on a rocky outcrop, descend into the valley below to spend the night (5.9 miles, 3 hours). Or, a more challenging route with magnificent views takes you via the delightful village of Hostalets d’en Bas (8 miles, 4 hours).
Often on ATG walks you’re offered a choice of routes to reach the next point on your itinerary. Needless to say we chose the longer walks on this trip.
“Day 2 Rupit to Mas La Serra via La Salut: From Rupit, pass the Salt de Sallent, follow paths along the edge of the Collsacabra with splendid views, then walk through open grassy pastures and woodland to the superbly situated Santuari de Nostra Senyora de la Salut, before continuing on to accommodation in a spectacular setting (10.2 miles, 5 hrs).” [As usual we made some detours and covered more mileage than this … and took longer, of course]
Last week was my annual summer walking trip with my sister. For the sixth consecutive year we chose an ATG Independent Footloose holiday; our first in Spain. I say Spain, but we were very much under the impression that we were in a country called Catalonia with its own language, flag, foods and distinctive geography.