Out and About

Out and About is about travel in Switzerland. Zurich is a great starting point from which to explore all the various parts of Switzerland as well as nearby France, Germany and Austria. In this section we will be covering places to go for day trips, weekends and longer. So far the articles covered are:

  • Weekend Trip to Pizol, Surava and Bergün
  • Classic Swiss Mountain trail from Schynige Platte to Grindelwald
  • Canyoning in Interlaken
  • Sundary brunch by Train Travelling through Switzerland
  • A Summer Visit to Champery

If you have an artlcle on travelling in Switzerland that you would like to share with us please email it to us at newinzurich@gmail.com

Pizol, Berguen, Bad Ragaz, toboganing, www.newinzurich.com
 
If the recent snow has whet your appetite for a trip to the mountains, then do check out this post by Carrie and Alex, busy parents of three girls, who describe what seems like a perfect weekend tobogganing in Bergün:                                
                                                                                                                             
On a bright and blue-skied day in March we filled the car with three children, a large range of ski-wear and equipment and headed off early in the morning towards Bad Ragaz.  We arrived ahead of most and made our way up to the top of the Pizol ski resort.  Much to our pleasure we found a fantastic new and very cool restaurant within a few metres of the top of the lift, run by a very friendly Dutch couple.  We breakfasted on bircher-muesli, gipferli and hot chocolate and then spent the day skiing in near pristine conditions.  Lunch was spent basking in the sunshine on wooden benches and large sheepskin rugs.  An outdoor barbecue provided everything we could want. Beware the glass of beer – it held a litre and did nothing to improve our skiing!
In the late afternoon we packed up and headed off towards Surava.  Our destination was a small hotel called Bellaluna.  Truly, in the middle of nowhere, you first spot the Bellaluna’s windows twinkling to the side of the road.  As you open the front door, you are greeted by a warm welcome from both the staff and guests and a wonderful waft of good cooking.  The meal was truly brilliant and suited the parents as well as the children.
                      
Pizol, Berguen, Bad Ragaz, toboganing, www.newinzurich.com
                                                                                                                                             The accommodation is very basic, for which they make no apology.  After a good day’s skiing that was never going to be a problem and one of their family rooms fitted us all in.  There are communal showers and bathrooms, but ones which you would be pleased to find in a 5* hotel!  The only problem we encountered was a spontaneous teenage party that kicked off in the evening and lasted well into the early hours.  Sadly with no hotel staff on hand and unwillingly to test our German on this potentially unforgiving audience, we suffered somewhat in reduced sleep!  The owners assured us that this was entirely unplanned!  It is worth checking with the hotel before you go as they do also hold small concerts for local artists and bands – you can see this is an opportunity or risk!
The next morning we awoke to another spectacular day and an ample breakfast.  The teenagers seemed to be much quieter!
Just ten minutes drive up the road we found Bergün, at the foot of the Albula pass.  The rush began!  We hired four traditional toboggans.  I was assigned our 2 year old daughter as a passenger, lucky her!  We then jumped on the train to Preda (part of the Rhaetian Bahn, recently incorporated into the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites) and headed for 15 minutes high up into the mountain, passing over very narrow viaducts and through winding tunnels.
                                                                                 
Pizol, Berguen, Bad Ragaz, toboganing, www.newinzurich.com
We finally emerged in Preda to watch a stream of passengers leaving the train all dragging their toboggans back towards the main valley.  The Albula pass is closed in the winter for sledging and provides the most brilliant track for all to follow.  Our girls played true to form … our 6 year old approached the run as a test of her speed and courage and our 8 year old as a test of skill and safety consciousness.  Our youngest just squealed with joy at every turn as heels sent snow and ice flying as her parents tried to master turning without collisions!  It is a wonderful ride down the mountain.  A second, steeper sledging run from Darlux to Bergün we are told is tremendous fun, especially for bold sledgers!  With young children we opted for the easier one!
After 20 or 30 minutes, the run brings you back into Bergün where a charity-box, self-service hut allows you to feast on bockwurst, bread and home-made yoghurts. We jumped back on the train and did it all again, though this time our youngest managed to pass out on the toboggan – how she achieved this was beyond us all.
By 6 o’clock we were home, having had one of our most memorable weekends in Switzerland. 10 out of 10!
Pizol, Berguen, Bad Ragaz, toboganing, www.newinzurich.com

A classic Swiss mountain trail from Schnyige Platter to Grindelwald. 

This extract from the article by Rosie Thomas is from the Telegraph “Travel” section.

Two English women scuttle down a rocky path towards a wooden lavatory hut perched on the edge of a cliff. In their wake gallops a large man on a mission to bar access to this essential facility to all but the entitled. The man’s badge indicates that he is the guardian, the keeper of the mountain refuge to which the sought-after hut belongs. In my experience the refuge guardians of the Swiss Alps are either fabulously genial and welcoming hosts – or they are not. Clearly this one belongs to the second category. He doesn’t want us to use the lavatory until we have bought and paid for some food. He tries to bar the way but we take our turn in the hut regardless, figuring that he can hardly hurl us over the cliff. Our host stands outside throughout, shouting that he is running a business here.

Afterwards we take a table on the sunny terrace and order drinks and soup, and sausages. The guardian’s wife is charming, and by now the spectacle of her husband pursuing successive parties and his own obsession down the path to the loo is merely adding to the pleasurable quirkiness of the scene. We’re lunching on a high ridge that rises to the clouds above turquoise Lake Brienz, we’re midway through the exhilarating Swiss mountain walk that runs all the way along it from Schynige Platte to First, the top station of the Grindelwald lift system, and we’re going strong. Post the crucial pit-stop, that is. We settle up (yes, it’s expensive, but look where we are) and stride onwards.

It’s a long day, but this classic hike is well within reach of good walkers with decent boots. We met one family completing it with girls aged seven and nine, and there were plenty of sun-tanned, shorts-clad oldsters too, with their trekking poles and khaki hats and nodded “Grüss Gott”. We were staying in Mürren, the car-free village canted on a ledge over the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and we had taken a tram along from the village to the cable car, ridden down to the station at Lauterbrunnen, and then taken another train down to Wilderswil outside Interlaken to make the connection for Schynige Platte. To read the full article click here.

Canyoning in Interlaken Vortex of pure thrill in Switzerland BY SHAUN PHILLIPS     

The following article is reproduced courtesy of “The Australian” from their “Travel and Indulgence” Section.

Canyoning switzerland escape

Thrilling: A high rope section on one of the more extreme canyoning expeditions above Interlaken offered by Skywings Adventures. Picture: Supplied Source: National Features

Canyoning switzerland escape

Canyoning involves scrambling, sliding, slipping, scaling, rappelling and, in this case, leaping down river gorges. Picture: Supplied Source: National Features

I’M LYING on my back in a fast-flowing stream deep in a Swiss gorge, my head dangling over the edge of a 3m fall. I’m wearing a yellow, oversized PVC nappy. A new Kiwi acquaintance is urging me to let go of the limestone that I’m gripping either side of a gleaming silver chute that drops to … well, I don’t know where. That’s the problem.”C’mon fella, let go,” the Kiwi cajoles. I give it some thought. OK. There’s no way I’m letting go. After a few seconds, my friend takes matters into his own hands; my grip is loosened and I’m flying down the waterfall and it is fun.

I’m canyoning in Saxetenbach, or Saxeten stream, just above adventure mecca Interlaken in the foothills of the Swiss Alps.The moss-covered walls of the gorge tower 15m-20m above the mostly shallow, brilliantly clear (and freezing) stream. Giant trees bend to provide a canopy along much of its length.

It’s precisely here that 21 young tourists and guides, including 14 Australian travellers, were smashed to their deaths in 1999 after floodwater tore through the ravine. The operators of that disastrous tour are no longer in business, and executives faced charges for failing to heed warnings from authorities that day about the likelihood of inundation from above. Adventure companies in the region say safety is the priority on any outing but the fact remains that there is a degree of risk when you pay up to slide, slip, jump and rappel down a river gorge.

It’s why I find myself being asked by the Kiwi, Darryn, to sign my life away at the headquarters of Skywings Adventures in Interlaken. An eight-strong party of mostly twenty-something Americans, Japanese and English men and women are doing the gorge this day. The exception is a 44-year-old Australian man. You have to be 16 to get on the dusty truck to the mountains, but Skywings doesn’t place an upper age limit, saying it’s up to the individual to decide if he or she has the fitness and agility to go the distance. As a relatively fit person in his fifth decade, the 3 1/2-hour outing was challenging but well within my capabilities. Six and seven-hour versions were also on offer, promising “very high rappels (50m), extreme waterslides and huge jumps”.

At Skywings HQ, Darryn gives us the drill and sends us into the rather agricultural changing sheds to don our canyoning gear. There’s quite a bit of it wetsuit, life jacket, helmet, the PVC “nappy” for extra bum protection and thick booties. Harnesses and clips are rigged, for use later on when clambering down rock faces, and we’re on our way. There’s a second instructor, another Kiwi, Clayton, an outdoors type with 18 summers under his belt at Interlaken (he’s back for No.19 this year along with seven-year veteran Darryn) and Mexican photographer Gricela.

The drive to the drop-off isn’t far, about 15 minutes, but it’s steep, rising to 1100m above sea level, twice as high as Interlaken. It’s crisp as we jump from the truck and head into the forest. We hear the gush of the Saxetenbach and then we see it, only a metre or two wide but running fast over a rocky bed and then falling sharply left and out of sight into the canyon. The water is very cold as we walk purposefully down the middle of the stream to our first challenge, a curving, 2m waterfall that thunders into a round pool. To view the article click here:

Sunday Breakfast by Train Anyone?

Frühstücken wie ein Staatsgast.

The SBB are running special themed breakfasts on their Double Red Arrow Chruchill trains on the last Sunday of the month, departing from and returning to Zurich Hauptbahnhof. The next one is a “Swedish Breakfast” on 30th September, followed by the “English Breakfast” on the 28th October and the “Winter Breakfast” on the 25th November.  For more information click here:

Photo: SBB

Champery

This article is about a Summer visit just 3 and a half hours away from Zurich, to the French speaking part of Switzerland and the beautiful village of Champery,

 

If you ever feel you need to get away from it all and fancy heading out of Zurich for a holiday in the mountains, then Champery could be just the tonic you’re looking for. A picturesque little village in the French part of Switzerland, Champery is situated about 3 and a half hours away from Zurich, a little beyond Montreux and nestled below the mountains called the Dents Blanches and the Dents-du-Midi. The village offers genuine Swiss charm and something for everyone. As you ascend the winding road to the altitude of 1050m, the views get better with every corner you turn.

Champery is part of the “Portes du Soleil” skiing region and for those who know the area from Wintertime, you may wonder what it could offer “out of season”. In fact, more than you would think! As well as being a hiking paradise with over 800 km of walking paths, it also offers over 300 km of mountains biking trails (which extends to around 1,000km of  biking trails if you include the whole f the Portes du Soleil) and for those looking for something more relaxing the resort also has the “Val d’Illiez” thermal spa,  with it’s mountain mineral water offerring thermal baths, indoor and outdoor pools, all in a beautiful setting.

The Palladium  is a leisure and sports complex situated right in the centre of the village, next to the cable care. It caters for sport enthusiasts of all inclinations with a huge variety of activities on offer: ice skating, curling, tennis, fitness, climbing on an artifical wall, basketball, volleyball, beach volleyball and physiotherapy too.

The high plateau in the area of Barme at 1500m enables mixed ability outdoor climbing for young and old alike, whilst the area around Via Ferrata down in the village near the river, offers a cross between hiking and mountaineering for the more skilled – a fun activity for both adults and children.

We went for a hike taking the cable car up above Champery and discovered great walking and biking trails, well sign posted, fabulous views and beautiful alpine flowers. The highlight was lunch at a working farm “La Traverses” with homemade breads, cheeses and cold meats followed by a delighful cinammon and apple pie. The farm is open for visit by appointment and had wonderful views of the valley below.

Along the Rue du Village you find most of the hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants. Many of them are in the traditional “chalet style” with beautiful carved balconies, offering a wide variety of fare to suit all palates. We were staying as guest of the Hotel Beau Sejour which was situated in Rue du Village 114 in Champery, with wonderful views from our balconies straight across to the mountains. The hotel was clean and cosy with a great communal family room open to all guests and an abundance of light wood in a lovely Swiss mountain style. Situated a short walk from the cable car and very close to the hiking trails it was in an ideal location with a beautiful outdoor terrace. Breakfast was a buffet which catered for all tastes and the service was friendly and attentive.

Whilst we were there the Pass’PortesMTB mountain biking event was taking place attracting mountain bikers and fans from near and far.

All Champery Photos: NewInZurich

The entire Portes du Soleil mountain biking area is open till September 2nd 2012. For information on the Pass’Portes du Soleil event which took place on the 29th June, 30th June and 1st July see here.

Next year the 10th year of the Pass’Portes du Soleil will take place on 28th, 29th and 30th June 2013.

Click here to watch a 2 minute video of the Val d”Illiez thermal spa.

For more information on Champery click here.

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