Team Building Hiking Trip and the Alp Aufzug

A month or so ago (I’m late as usual to posting events) my husband went on a Team Building hiking trip thing. His team took a train to bus to a cable car up a mountain, and then hiked back down the mountain, going down on scooters partway, and stopping for the occasional beer. The day ended with dinner together. It was an all-day thing, and even though he was pretty tired at the end, my husband had a blast.

On their way up the mountain, though, Heath encountered a really special parade – one I’d hoped to see during my time in Switzerland, but have thus far missed: the parade of cows from the high pasture to the low pasture in the fall (and vice-versa in the spring), called Alp Aufzug. This is a very integral part of Swiss rural culture. Lots of tourists and Swiss citizens flock to small alpine towns to view the parades. There’s often a specific traditional order and custom to the parades. The one that Heath saw started with children leading goats, and then the adult men in their bright vests leading cows wearing huge bells. And at the end was a man in brown. I’ve seen photographs of other parades where women wear traditional costumes including a fantastic headdress that looks like it belongs in the movie Dune and men blowing those huge Alpine horns at the end of the day. I missed it this year, but I’m determined to go to one of these parades next year.

My husband got some absolutely fantastic photos of the event:

children in traditional Swiss costume leading the Alp Aufzug

Cheese cart at the end of the parade.

Heath’s coworkers were a little boggled by his eagerness to scramble out of the bus (which had to pull to the side of the road) to take pictures of cows (twice! there were two parades that day!). But they just teased him over beers later. Here’s a few shots of his hike. Continue reading

Walk in the Woods

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.

Heath and Eddie relaxing in the small park called the Baumli overlooking Winterthur

Heath and Eddie relaxing in the small park called the Baumli overlooking Winterthur

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. Continue reading

“I want to see mountains again, Gandalf!”

We went here today. Säntis is utterly gorgeous. I’ve never been around mountains like that in my life before, and it was incredible – jaw-droppingly amazing and beautiful.

We got up and moving fairly early, and with the baby, that’s quite an effort. We had to change trains just a few times. By the time we got to the last train-leg of the trip, we were able to see Säntis. Our last mode of transportation was a bus that zig-zagged up the tightest turns I’ve ever seen. I took a brief video from the front seat of the bus. Click here to see it unless you are easily car-sick.

The bus dumped us at the back of the main hotel in the area. It seems that Säntis is a very popular place to bike to (motorcycles more than bicycles). There were hundreds of bikes in the parking lot. We tried to find some sort of tourist information area, but there was none, so after briefly consulting a map posted at the head of one of the trails, we headed off, baby and all.

The trail had gravel, but our poor Graco stroller is apparently not made to handle much other than the occasional walk. Between the beating it got on our hike, and the fact that I walk over cobblestone streets with it nearly every day, and that it is a pain to get in and out of the bus, train, etc… it is no wonder it seems like it is about to fall apart. Plus, I can’t imagine how rattled Eddie feels in the Graco. We desperately need an off-road stroller. Most of the good ones are 500-1000 francs, and I’m having difficulty locating a used one locally. We’ll probably just have to bite the bullet sometime soon. I’ve already found several that I think will work for us – lightweight, sturdy, with shocks and air-filled wheels. Most have three wheels instead of four, further increasing stability. Continue reading