Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Hike!

I promised that I would tell you about our hiking trip up into the German-speaking part of Switzerland with Small Son and New Girlfriend.  First, let me just say that New Girlfriend is quite the little trouper and I’m not just saying that because she sent me a beautiful floral arrangement soon after she got back home.  Really.

Let’s begin by reiterating that these are typical American twenty-somethings.  The most physical exercise they get on a routine basis is raising the beer mug from table to mouth.  On a really active day they may walk from the bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen to the TV room any number of times.  Just recently, when Small Son had an Unfortunate Vehicular Experience and lost his license for six months, he didn’t leave the house.  For six months.  Being seen on foot or on a bicycle carries a certain stigma in the US.  It either means A) I am too poor ass broke to afford a car, B)  I have had my license taken away, C) I am a major nerd and choose to do this or D) I am European and I don’t give a shit what you think.  Small Son had not evolved to the level necessary to carry off option “D”, hence, he became a hermit for six months.

I had pre-warned the two of them (or so I thought) that we would be hiking in the Alps on this vacation and told them what attire to bring, i.e. good hiking boots, waterproof outerwear, etc.   I did not think to tell them that they needed to go into semi-serious athletic training prior to the outing.  My bad.

Can we make one thing perfectly clear?  Alpine hiking is not a stroll in the park.  Even on the easiest, peasiest little kiddie trail, you will wish for an oxygen mask and a downhill portion. BECAUSE YOU ARE GOING UPHILL FOR WHAT SEEMS LIKE 83 MILES.  Any downhill portion will do, even if it is only 3 steps.  BUT THEN, when you finally attain the peak and start going downhill, you will start wishing for flat.  A plateau.  A mesa.  Anything to stop the tops of your thighs from burning and your too-long-toenails from spearing into the toe of your boot.  On this particular trip, Mr. Big actually sat up at the summit at the café, drinking a beer AND CLIPPED HIS TOENAILS at the table.  I kid you not.  Mr. Big has done this before.  He knew what was coming.

Unfortunately for Small Son, he of the long toenails and slightly too-big hiking boots, did not.  Halfway down the mountain, he started hiking backwards.  Mom!  Yes, Small Son?  My feet hurt!  I’m sorry.  What do you want me to do about it?  Carry you?  You are 6’ 2” and outweigh me by a significant number of pounds.  Once he figured out that there was nowhere to go but down and that the Swiss Alpine Team was not coming to rescue him, that is when he got creative and started walking backwards.  Soon, New Girlfriend was walking backwards as well.  Mr. Big and I just spoke French to each other and pretended that we did not know who the hell those two weirdos were.

Onto the awesome stuff.  The Bed and Breakfast that we stayed in was fabulous.  Now, as you know,  Mr. Big hates B & B’s.  True to form, this one did not have the internet.  But, in my defense, neither did anyplace else in town.  It was an internet black hole, this area.  It is what it is.  I thought I would get away with this particular B & B because the owner is a woodworker.  He has renovated this entire 3-story building by hand.  Each of the nine bedrooms is completely paneled in a different native wood. 

He handmade each and every piece of furniture in the joint, from the tables and chairs in the breakfast room to the toothbrush holders in the bathrooms.  It was stunning.  His wife runs the B & B while he works in his workshop up the road.  She speaks 5 or 6 languages, including English.  Her breakfasts were delicious.  The fee was 70 CHF per night per person including breakfast.  She dries the linens, i.e. towels and sheets, out in the sunshine every day.  Mr. Big broke a floor lamp in our room AND SHE DID NOT EVEN CHARGE US FOR IT, (a very big deal here in La Suisse).  Here is her link:

http://www.baumhausfiesch.ch/  Truly, if you want to go hiking along the Aletsch Glacier, stay here in a town called Fiesch.  Spectacular.

There’s no room on this blog for all of my pictures, but I will post a handful.  Eggishorn, the Aletsch Glacier, Riederalp, Bettmeralp; every peak was just breathtaking and the views were forever.  Keep in mind that you need to do this on a clear day. 

On the day we went up to Eggishorn, we saw the Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau, Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn just by doing a 360 degree spin.  We saw at least four, and maybe five countries from up there.  (If my geography was better, I could pinpoint 4 or 5 exactly, but I still suck at this mountain-geography thing.)

On our hikes we saw marmottes, goats, sheep, cows, waterfalls, a school trip of middle schoolers who gave us a standing ovation with whoops and hollers when we passed them on the trail (don’t know why),  a 6-year-old in full rock-climbing gear who scared the shit out of me, a million parapenters jumping off the mountain into space, a wooden gnome sculpture with a wooden gun (still don’t know why), 70-year-old Swiss hikers passing us because we were too slow, mountain villages with no feasible roads in or out  in which the only source of water appeared to be a pump in the middle of the cluster of chalets (these are some hearty folk, round here!), children riding unicycles instead of bicycles on the mountain village roads.  Just too many things to talk about.

Please, if I can say one thing to the Ex-Pats out there, just go do it.  You don’t know how long you are going to be in your adopted country.  Yes, you will have HUGELY awkward moments with the language and the customs, etc.  But the experiences you will have will make up for it.  WHO CARES if you don’t know exactly what to expect or exactly what you might be eating or exactly what you have just said wrong.  WHO CARES?  Just go do it.  Even if it means that you have to walk backwards and make a total arse of yourself.

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