Our city of Winterthur spreads out like a six-fingered hand into the valleys between wooded hilltops. The city and its people own all the wooded areas, and protect them from being developed. To maintain them, they periodically do selective cut logging of the woods, and sell the firewood. It is a really good system, and they are careful not to over-cull the trees. Each section of the forest has clearly marked trails and the occasional bench or fountain.
In these trails there are three vitaparcours, which are trails that have little stops along the way containing tools for exercising, and a sign explaining how to do the particular exercise. I remember seeing a similar trail in the suburbs of Dallas, too, so I know it isn’t all that uncommon in the US. The one nearest us is the Winterthur Lindberg. I’ve not had the chance yet to try all of it, but we generally try the exercise if we come across one. There are over 500 of these types of trails in Switzerland.
In addition to the vitaparcours, there are trails marked for jogging, bike-riding, and horseback-riding. Most trails are only for jogging, though.
We’ve mainly explored the Lindberg, which is the large area north of the city. The trails are really popular. On weekends we see lots of people on the ones that are an easy jog from the parking lot or the trails that are closest to the line where the city meets the forest. Even during the week day you’ll see lots of folks on their lunch, taking a break. Sundays brings families and slow walkers drifting down the wider trails, especially along a scenic route that takes you to a gorgeous overlook of the whole city. The name of the park where the overlook is located is the Bäumli.
Near the Bäumli, there is a restaurant, which we’ve yet to visit. And there’s also a pretty large vineyard on one side of the hill, with lots of trails zig-zagging through the steep slope. There’s also apple orchards, and private gardens that you can skip around. Basically, the rules are, if there isn’t a gate across it, you can go up, down, or through it.
Quite a bit further, on the other side of the park from where we live is a pond and some really great fire pits for grilling. I’ve only made it that far once, as it is over four miles round trip.
In the larger forested area to the south of the city, called the Eschenberg, there is a wildlife park, the Breuderhaus. We can get to the area easily by bus, and it, too, is surrounded by tons of varied walking trails. We’ve only been once, but it was a lot of fun.
So those are the basic facts about hiking around our city. I absolutely love being able to hike here. As a nearly native Texan (didn’t move there until I was 9), I didn’t spend much time outdoors, especially in the summer. If the heat and humidity doesn’t knock you down, the insect life will. With very few exceptions, Switzerland has nearly perfect weather in the spring, summer, and fall, and far fewer attacks of stinging and biting insects. Since we don’t have a car here in Switzerland, I walk to the grocery store and recycling areas two or three times a week, and we walk our dog several times a day. But I also try to get out of the city and into the wooded hills that surround it at least once a week.
Sometimes I just take our dog with us, and on less busy trails, let her off the leash. Sometimes I go during the day with the baby, pushing him up the steel hillside, and gasping for air by the time I reach the top. On weekends, we all go, and usually let Eddie walk along side for short sections of the trail.
On my walks, I’ve walked through orchards, vineyards, and seen amazing houses. I see some of the coolest snails as they creep across a walkway. I’ve found all kinds of hand-carved art in stumps such as in the picture above. We’ve eaten blackberries, rasperries, and elderberries. I’ve even gotten lost a few times, but now can generally navigate myself without the help of a map. And the view from the overlook trail on the Lindberg of the city of Winterthur – MY hometown, is breathtaking. Every time I walk this particular trail, I’m wowed and overwhelmed, and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Most days, beyond the city, and beyond the Eschenberg on the other side you can see the snow-capped Alps rising up sharply. They often seem so close – like you could just walk over the Eschenberg and be there, yet they are over two hours away by train.
From the door of our flat, it takes only about 10 minutes on foot to walk through a neighborhood and reach the Lindberg. Because the city of Winterthur stretches out between the forested areas, instead of taking on a more spherical shape, you can access pretty much any hiking trail within a half hour or less. I don’t know many cities that have such gorgeous nature areas right next to them in the US. In Switzerland, it is practically a vital part of a town or city. People spend a lot of time hiking, jogging, nordic-walking, skiing, and any other outdoor activity that you can think of. Even the largest cities such as Zurich have areas along the lake, and a forested area on the outskirts.
I wish I could spend as much time outdoors on such beautiful trails back home in Texas as I do here in Switzerland. I’d have to drive quite a bit from our house (even though we live in a semi-rural area), and then risk the inevitable attack of nature – poisonous spiders and snakes, mosquitoes from hell, and the terrible heat and humidity. I do miss a lot of things about our home, but I’d swap hiking in Switzerland over hiking in Texas any day!
Of course the best benefit is all the weight we’ve lost by being so active. The picture below I took of us while balancing the camera on top of Eddie’s stroller. It’s of us on our very first hike on our very first day of living in Winterthur. If you’ve seen us lately, you know how different we look now.