Insider’s tip: Wonderful snow shoe hike in Central Switzerland

Roland Schneeschuhe EggbergeThis is an insider’s tip. Not for people who live in central Switzerland but for all the others. Or do you know Eggberge near Flüelen at Lake Lucerne? If yes, you are a outdoor fan and love not only to discover the Swiss mountains, but you also love to spot little unpretentious regions. Eggberge is one of them. It has conserved an oldish kind of Swissness with all the simple mountain restaurants and only a few ski lifts and most importantly with basic cable cars. Most of them fit only six to eight people and they are the opposite of modern but don’t be worried: they are safe.

Aussicht Natur Eggberge SchneeschuheAn absolutely fantastic snow show hike leads from Eggberge mountain station (the valley station is easiely reachable by public transport in one hour from Zurich) to Hüenderegg which is a wonderful lookout. From there you reach in about 30 minutes Alp Selez, which is a simple restaurant with simple food and small prices. A steak with bread costs only 14 Swiss Francs which is very cheap in Switzerland. About 10 to 15 minutes later you reach the Ruogig cable car, which brings you down the mountains and to a public bus. On weekends avoid going to Biel/Kinzig. Especially on sunny days you have to wait maybe for 3 hours to get down the mountain! I’m not making it up: the cable car is so small and all the skiers want to go down too.

Alp Selez Eggberge im WinterPs. Whenever you go on a snow shoe hike be aware of the avalanche warning!!! The described tour is extremely safe but you are never 100% safe in the mountains. So check the avalanche bulletin.

Switzerland is a sharing culture

public washing machine in Sonjas houseSharing is pretty ingrained in Switzerland

By Ben

There seems rather more of a culture of sharing things in Switzerland than in Britain. I first noticed it when Sonja would regularly borrow friends’ cars for the day. In Britain you’d never dream of asking someone if you could borrow their car except in exceptional circumstances. What if you damaged it, or what if they needed it themself that day after all?

It’s certainly a greener approach: sharing cars means less cars on the road, and that can only be good.

But lots of other things are shared also. For example, it’s normal for Sonja to be borrowing and lending out anything from bicycles to party shoes and snow shoes. There’s even a shop in Zurich, Kleihd, that allows you to borrow clothes for a small fee, and of course commercial car sharing schemes are all over the streets too.

In Britain, 97% of households own a washing machine. In Switzerland, few people own one. Most people live in blocks of flats with one communal laundry room – which causes minor crisis each time you come back soaking wet from a muddy walk and it’s not your day for using the washing machine.

Hugo Loetscher der WaschküchenschlüsselThere’s even a book on the subject, Der Waschkuchenschlussel, by  Hugo Loetscher, which is such a key text in Switzerland, pupils are required to read it at school. And you can read more about the shared laundry room phenomenon on the excellent Newly Swissed website.

There’s an increasing belief by those of a green persuasion that privately-owned washing machines should be heading for the scrap heap, so perhaps shared laundry rooms will increasingly come to Britain also. The average washing machine contains around 40kg of steel and when scrapped a proportion of the steel – 40% – 70%  – is lost to landfill, a big cost in energy and emissions. A third of private domestic machines in Britain don’t last even five years, while the heavier-duty machines used in public launderettes and Swiss laundry rooms last far longer.

Wonderful winter hike just one hour away from Zurich: Atzmännig

Atzmännig Bergstation mit LeutenRecently on a Saturday morning: I saw some sunbeams and was immediately excited. After one week in the office without sun I felt the need to catch some fresh air in the country side and to enjoy nature. But we got up late, needed our sleep. So, what now? It’s too late to sit in a train and travel to one of our lovely skiing resorts like Davos, Engelberg or Wildhaus. But it’s never too late to reach one of our famous Zurich “house mountains”. We call all the small mountains and high hills this because they are reachable by public transport in about one hour from Zurich downtown, and from there you have a fantastic view to the alps.

One of these fantastic getaways is Atzmännig. A lot of  people turn up their noses mentioning Atzmännig because they think with all their slides and other attractions it’s more a childrens’ playground then a lovely hiking area. But it is. Even in winter. Not only do they have ski lifts there, but they also support guests with two wonderful snowshoe trails.

View snow shoe trail AtzmännigUnfortunately most of the snow melted away when we were there which meant we started to walk just with our ski sticks and as we ran out of time we decided to take the shorter trail which only takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours from the mountain station to Altschwand and from there to the lower terminus. The outlook of the alps is at the begining just outstanding and makes this trip absolutely worth it. On a sunny day you can sit on a bench admiring the view and reading a book.

When you start get hungry or thirsty you move on to Restaurant Altschwand. A simple but very charming little mountain restaurant which provides lovely mountain food. We had a mountain rösti for about 15 Swiss Francs and were absolutely blissed with it. After a 15-minute walk we were back at the bus station and an hour later back in Zurich. It was around 5 pm and we were ready for a vibrant Saturday evening in the big city – not having missed our nature experience during the day!

Älplerröschti Restaurant Altschwand Atzmännig

I just can’t believe how trusting the Swiss are

The Swiss seem to act like there are no thieves about

By Ben

I’ve been extremely surprised before at how relaxed the Swiss are over their possessions. I’ve often seen unlocked bikes propped against a wall in cities, and passengers leave high value items like laptops on train seats while they amble to the restaurant car.

Dollars receiving from Migros bankI was surprised again when Sonja was opening the post the other day and one of the envelopes contained $100 from her bank. She’d ordered some dollars for a forthcoming trip and they’d arrived in a plain envelope by normal post, with no signature required.

She said that they’ve sent her up to $3500 in the post this way in the past. $3500 with no security safeguards? Doesn’t the bank  worry about the possibility of a dodgy postman, or someone intercepting the mail, or the recipient claiming that they have never received the money?

Sounds incredibly relaxed to me. In Britain, all but the smallest sums of money would be protected by safeguards when sent by post.

Savour the time of Belle Epoque in Davos

Youth Hostel Davos roomsI can sleep everywhere and I absolutely love the variety of the places I normally stay: In 5-star hotels, in 2-star hotels, in mountain huts, in tents, in a sleeping bag on the beach, and not forgetting Swiss Youth Hostels. Some of them are amazing. I’ve written about it before and lately I’ve found a new special Youth Hostel. The one in Davos in the Swiss alps was at around 1913 a sanatorium. Built in the golden age of Belle Epoque.

View over Davos from the Youth Hostel

The view of the village of Davos is fantastic from the balconies. By the way: a lot of rooms include a balcony. This is great especially on sunny, nice days. In normal hotels you have to pay a big extra amount of money to get this kind of room. Not in the Youth Hostel Davos – the surcharge is only around 3 to 5 Francs – which is called Palace because of its grandeur. Small are not only the prices for an overnight stay (single room with balcony and shower for example is 110.50 Swiss Francs) but you can also eat dinner for little money in the Youth Palace. A three course meal costs 17.50 Francs, which for Switzerland is an absolute bargain.