All in Exploring Switzerland
Absinthe comes from the French region of Switzerland, in an area called Val-de-Travers, in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. It was produced here from the 18th century until 1910, when it was vilified, banned and bootlegged for nearly a century. Absinthe was re-legalized in Switzerland in 2005, and has slowly been making it’s revival. Today, around twenty microdistilleries produce absinthe throughout Val-de-Travers, and export many different types of the spirit all over Europe.
But every so often, there is a hike that is special (shh, don’t tell the other trails). And this one, the Brisen Peak and Haldigrat ridge, was special enough to merit its own blog post. There are a couple of reasons why. First, I had never even heard of this canton before, so the whole area felt a little bit undiscovered. Second, the whole experience felt “classically Swiss,” from start to finish. And third, this was a hike that challenged me in a new way. Physically demanding, yes. Tough, absolutely. But I wasn’t expecting it to be so mentally taxing.
Raunaq and I have been living in Zurich for over a year. Given that we hike a fair bit (in Switzerland and elsewhere), I thought to put together a “Swiss Hiking 101” guide for anyone interested in exploring this lovely country on foot. Generally, we hike moderately challenging to challenging trails, but if you are not an avid hiker, don’t despair. Every single mountain included in my hiking lists have trails for all abilities and interests, and no matter what you chose, it’s absolutely worth trying at least one hike while in Switzerland. It’s really a hiking paradise.
In the summer, Raunaq and I are focused on high alpine hiking. But in the spring, when all the snow packs are melting, there’s no better time to wander through a Swiss valley - especially if that valley is the land of the 72 waterfalls. Lauterbrunnen might just be the most whimsical place in all of Switzerland. Which, in a land full of storybook towns and rolling green countrysides and aquamarine lakes, is saying something. It’s modern-day Rivendell, and it is spectacular.
It’s a trip through the lowest river gorges and the highest alpine passes, tiny mountainside hamlets and medieval Romansch castles, glaciers and quartz quarries, phantom black tunnels and blinding white landscapes, ski resorts and pristine wilderness, impressive feats of engineering and ingenuity, and Swiss history, culture and geography - all blanketed in pearly snow.
It’s easy to get caught up in Zermatt’s appeal, from the Matterhorn to the world-class skiing to the wintry charm of the village itself.
I can’t stress this enough: there are no bad hikes in Switzerland. Here are some of our favorites from summer 2018.
But then, on the first Thursday night of the year, I came across something that seemed too unique to pass up - ice-skating on Oeschinensee. That is, ice-skating on deep-blue-turned-black-ice frozen lake nestled high up in the Bernese Oberland mountain range. And the closing argument: ice-skating on a frozen lake up in the mountains that’s only possible when weather conditions are exactly right. Cold enough to fully freeze the water, but without snowfall to cover the lake’s surface. It could last a few days, a few weeks, or simply never freeze over for nearly two decades. The magic only lasts as long as the snow doesn’t fall and the ice doesn’t melt. And right now, Lake Oeschinensee was the ultimate natural ice skating rink for just a few more days, until the forecasted big snowfall on the upcoming Sunday. Doubt of winter sports be damned, we were going ice skating.