Heidiland: love of nature, vineyards and brown grasshoppers

A few days ago we went to Maienfeld to hike near the area that Johanna Spyri used as a setting for her 1881 novel, Heidi. Since I moved to Switzerland I been reminded of Heidi weekly because at work there is a weekly social event whose start gets announced with a broadcast of Heidi’s theme to the whole office. So when I saw that there was a hiking area named after her I talked to Loes and she agreed to go.

Trogen to Appenzell (Alpenpanorama trail)

On Sunday we escaped the intense rain that was falling over most of Switzerland. This time we tried a new national route, stage 2 of Alpenpanorama Trail, as it passes through the smallest canton of Switzerland, Appenzell. The name means “cell (state) of the abbot (of St. Gallen)” and religion had indeed a strong influence in its history: the canton is divided into two parts, the Protestant one and the Catholic one, and the capital.

Staffelegg to Brugg (Jura Crest Trail)

Yesterday we almost hiked from Staffelegg to Hauenstein and we almost saw its five passes. Instead, due to an unjustifiably confidence in my prep skills combined with me field testing a new hiking app, we took the wrong turn after getting off the bus and went in the opposite direction. I recently read about the power of visualizations so for this hike I prepared: I visualized where the sun would be during most of the hike, where we would begin and end.

Einsiedeln to Schwyz (Via Jacobi)

Today’s adventure started in Einsiedeln, in the canton of Schwyz. This time we decided to one stage of the Via Jacobi which is part of “El Camino de Santiago”. The first part of the hike ran through a wide valley outside of Einsiedeln. The weather looked challenging but the forecast promised no rain over the following hours and we are trusting people. View right outside of Eisiedeln. We saw various small Christian chapels and altars along the way as well as a fancy-looking convent for Benedictine nuns.

Hiking from Richterswil to Pfäffikon SZ

Yesterday we decided to go hiking. We are thinking about eventually walking long trails like the Via Alpina, the Appalachian Trial and the Pacific Crest Trail but we need to start somewhere closer to what we can do today so we decided to start with Route 84 stage 4 which is a comfortable 16km hike near Lake Zürich. We started the hike in Richterswil, a short train ride away from home.

Bellinzona

At around the time we visited Konstanz we also went south, to Bellinzona, literally “war zone”. The city is known for its three castles (UNESCO World Heritage) and is located in the valley of the Ticino River. As you can guess by its name it’s recorded history is mostly battles. At several points in the past it has been independent and it also has belonged to Italy, France and Switzerland. When you see the surrounding valley it’s easy to understand how strategically important it must have been as a safe pass through the Alps.

Konstanz, Germany

We recently made a day trip to nearby Konstanz, right on the border with Germany. The city is a well-known shopping destination for Swiss people because of low prices and easy access but the city has more than that. Inhabited since the Stone Age, in the 1400s the town-state asked the Old Swiss Confederacy to become a member but they were weary of large members and they voted against it. It’s also the home of the Council of Constance, where the Church fixed a pesky situation with three people claiming to be the Pope.

Ebenalp

A few weeks ago I went with my team on a company offsite hiking trip to Ebenalp, the northernmost summit of the Alps. I loved the hike so much that as soon as the capricious weather allowed it I went back, this time with Loes and with my camera. After a two hours train ride we reached the entrance at the bottom of the valley. From there we could have taken a cable car up but we all know it’s the journey, not the destination, even when the destination is covered in a thick layer of clouds and you see people coming back with rain coats.

Maui

After we decided to move back to Europe Loes made it clear that she wouldn’t leave the US without doing first the trip to Hawaii that I had promised her. And so, with a healthy desire of preserving domestic stability we went to Hawaii a month before leaving the US. We arrived at Kahului Airport on the northern part of Maui soon after noon. The airport was one of the smallest I’ve been to and its lack of paranoid and unreasonable levels of security measures as well as its wooden food and rental car stalls made it look like what my imagination assumes an airport looked like thirty years ago.

Schaffhausen and the Rheinfall waterfalls

A few weeks ago we visited Schaffhausen, a Swiss canton capital near the German border. Our first stop were the Rheinfall waterfalls, just a couple of train stops away from Schaffhausen. The falls sounded like airplane turbines and the narrow trails leading from the castle on top to the observatory points were packed. Despite all this it was easy to let nature captivate you and keep staring at its sheer power.