First country outside the European Union of our thru-hike in Europe, Switzerland welcomed our journey on foot for 460 kilometers and a little more than 3 weeks.
Download our GPX itinerary in Switzerland
What welcome has been reserved for us? Was life really expensive in Switzerland? Are there still wild spaces or did the well-mown grass have replaced everything? What language did we speak? What was the state of the trails? Essential question, did we eat well?
4 official languages, really?!
In Switzerland, we had a glimpse of what life would be like in the next few months, in countries where language is totally foreign to us. So far with Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian, we were doing pretty well. But German and even more Romansh have left us a little helpless. However, we have to get ready for it, we will soon be in Slovenia and then in Croatia, Bosnia... where linguistic reference points will be more and more rare. Luckily, Switzerland is culturally multilingual. With its 4 official languages, it appears to us as the most European of European countries! Do not tell them, they do not like being told about Europe...
In general, we managed with Italian, English and sometimes French.
A first meeting
When we crossed the border at the Monte Moro, our 9th guest was waiting for us. Matthieu crossed the Alps last summer, on the trails of the Via Alpina, he even made a film: Via Alpina - Beyond the Trail. Despite his experience, Matthieu undoubtedly discovered another Swiss with us and also another approach to hiking.
Connected to nature
We often hear people oppose nature and modernity and we could not agree less! Willing to isolate oneself, disconnect from a stressful life, ultra connected, sometimes futile, it is quite conceivable, surely very healthy. But to reject technology on the pretext that it takes us away from nature, no! Progress, whether in terms of hiking equipment, electronic equipment or communication technology, has allowed and still allows humans to go further in the exploration of the world and nature in particular.
Without our ultralight hiking equipment, without the GPS, without our all-in-one camera (Olympus, OMD EM-1 MKII) and without the development of the internet, we would never have been able to undertake this journey, we could never have became hikers and digital nomads at once.
Social networks are a potluck, you can find what you bring. Rather than closing the door because their content is distressing, let's try to elevate the debate and put what we would like to find there.
460 KM HIKING IN SWITZERLAND - Breathtaking mountains
Yes, we have been told many times and we have read a lot on the internet too, that Switzerland no longer has anything wild. On this side, we have sometimes been tempted to give them reason: telecabins everywhere, balustrades, concrete trails, electricity on all floors, grass perfectly mown even in the pastures, refuges more like luxury mountain hotels... This is all true!
But there is more.
On the advice of Angelo met during our first Swiss evening, we decided to join the Glishorn, a mountain overlooking the Rhone Valley and offering "the most beautiful view of Switzerland... or at least of the Valais". We reached the Glishorn after two and a half days walking on footpaths, overhanging the valleys, crossing more sheeps than humans, stuffing ourselves with blueberries that were obviously not picked up. In two words, it was rather wild!
The sheeps, not just any: the Black Nose of the Valais, these adorable hairballs from the canton of Valais have black heads and hooves, white wool and horns shaped spirals.
We also spent two chilly nights under the tent, our first nights below 0° since Spain! The fall of the temperatures and the arrival of the colors of autumn are signs that we can not neglect... Winter is approaching and we do not really want to see it too closely as long as we are in the Alps!
For us, Switzerland has also been an opportunity to renew the experience of the high mountains and to experience the wonders of nature as well as to measure their fragile and ephemeral nature.
Overhanging the Rhone Valley, lies a tongue of ice of 23km long which, from 4,000 meters of altitude, goes down to 2,500 meters. At least for now. Aletsch, the largest glacier in the Alps, steps back by around 50 meters each year. Discovering such a giant was a unique experience. Forget everything you thought you knew about time and space, it does not apply there. Distances have never been so misleading and moving in the same direction, seeing our destination without ever seeming to get closer has had a strange effect! The glacier is 1.5 km wide, yet it seemed that its sides were never more than 200 meters from us. Our main point of reference were the countless helicopters loaded with tourists to make them discover the glacier with less effort. We heard them as if they flew over us and realized by seeing them so tiny that they were actually very far away.
More helicopters than humans then since we did not meet anybody that day.
Hellooo, is there anyone?
Switzerland will not have been the country of encounters for us. Not that the Swiss were not open or welcoming, but especially that the opportunities to meet them were rare. After Portugal, Spain, the south of France and Italy where people are used to living outside and to socialize at the local café, we had to admit that village life followed another rhythm in Switzerland. The harsher and more mountainous climate, and perhaps a more Saxon than Latin culture, is pushing people to spend more time at home. Casual and spontaneous meetings were therefore more rare and to find people, we had to look hard for them!
We think about our first night in Switzerland where Angelo and his friends made a few phone calls to find us a roof, Daniela that same day who finally prepared a room in her hotel, about Anna and Tiziano who welcomed us warmly in their Bed&Breakfast, about Massimo and also Roberto who offered us a lot of things in their restaurant and we obviously think of Kristian, François and Christoph who made our arrival in Ticino unforgettable.
In Switzerland we stayed most of the time in mountain refuges, a quarter of the time in the tent, another quarter at the hotel (twice invited) and only once at the inhabitant (thank you Kim !!).
Our 10th guest!
Switzerland was the place where we met with a second guest: Marie. The arrival of Marie has extended the list of nationalities who have joined, although she now lives in Zurich, she is German. For 4 days, Marie has been a walking companion, a yoga teacher, a wealth of information on mushrooms and flora in general.
In long-distance hikes, to be able to feed oneself thanks to what we find in the nature is a real plus. By spending the summer in the Alps, we had not really thought about the fact that we were going to miss the season for most fruit trees. Pity. But we did not let down. We are far from being specialists in wild plants but we know how to recognize a blueberry when we see one and on that side, we did not get private!
For mushrooms, we are rather cautious (and we recommend you to be too!) But there are some on which there is not much doubt anyway. The parasol mushrooms and the chestnut mushrooms for example that evening, gave another dimension to our usual pasta!
Nature and culture
In terms of culture, we discovered a little more the life on the mountain pastures, had the pleasure of listening to a concert of horn of the Alps and participated in the annual gathering of the Saurer Club of Ticino. The Swiss brand stopped producing civilian trucks in 1983 but enthusiasts and collectors continue to honor it.
We spent our last night in Ticino in a fabulous place. At an altitude of 2,200m and spreading on one kilometer over six, the Greina Plain is a unique alpine tundra landscape. Streams pass through it, lakes and high marshes characterize its landscape. We felt lucky to discover this place when we learned that it almost disappeared under a reservoir in the 1980s. It was saved thanks to the mobilization of the local population and is now classified at the Federal Inventory of Landscapes, Natural Sites and Monuments of National Importance.
We left this 4th country (counting that Italy will be the 5th) in beauty. From the Roseg valley, we climbed to the Diavolezza hut to spend the next day on the Bernina Glacier, around the Piz Palü. A wonderful day of exploration of a rare, fragile and grandiose territory. Before leaving, neither of us had ever experienced anything close to mountaineering. So we make our arms this summer in the Alps, little by little, by documenting a lot, taking advice and starting with summits reputed not very difficult.
In Switzerland, our budget of 10 € per day and per person has been seriously jeopardized. There are two reasons for this: in the mountains, life is more expensive, we have already seen it in Italy and... in Switzerland life is more expensive! It has been twice as difficult for us to stick to our budget. We spent an average of 25 € a day each, we stay positive thinking we will catch up in the Balkans :) Of course, our diet got impacted, fortunately it did not last too long!
We return to Italy where we will cross 4 regions before reaching Slovenia, hoping to get there before the first signs of winter show up.
All the best
Marie & Nil
- Read the previous article: Discover France on foot
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