Monday, August 18, 2008

Another 2 weekend post...

...as promised. This is the last in the series of weekend adventures; I leave this Switzerland this Sunday morning and already have my last blog planned out (I'll be writing it on the plane). What follows is an itinerary from Appenzell to the Glacier Express (weekend 1) and Oeschinensee to Luzern.

Appenzell
Based on a friend's suggestion to see a small mountain town, I headed to Appenzell. The town and region of course attracts attention as producers of Appenzeller (you've seen the ads! "Depuis 700 ans..." or "Seit 700 Jahren..."). The demonstration cheese dairies unfortunately aren't near the town, but I did get to taste some fresh Appenzeller--much better than what's available at COOP or Migros.
The tourism that the region receives, as well as its pride, strongly encourages it to maintain its character, as seen from its facades. My visit also corresponded with the annual Ländlerfest, a folk music festival, featuring folk music groups in the squares and restaurants. Most groups included accordions and a bass, sometimes also a hammered dulcimer, with all members dressed to match. Older women selling pastries and children selling raffle tickets were dressed traditionally; the dress is very characteristic to the region, colorful, and ornate.
The sound most representative of the region, to me at least, is the cow bells. I walked from Appenzell to Brülisau, then took the funicular up to Hoher-Kasten, and could still hear the bells (somewhat eerie, as the the peak was engulfed in a cloud).


St Gallen
Also a town with architectural character, known for its Abbey District. I enjoyed the Stiftsbibliothek; it's a beautiful room that houses texts more than 1000 yrs old (and also a dead body!). Unlike contemporary texts, these writers were also artists: the text was elegant and usually accompanied by small drawings.
Somehow I've always managed to get to a church every Sunday, but always as a tourist. This Sunday I visited the baroque Cathedral, much different than the gothic style that I'm used to.




St Moritz and the Glacier Express
The trip from Chur to St Moritz on the regional bahn was gorgeous (it's a UNESCO candidate). Even though the peaks aren't frosted with snow, the immensity of these alps is incredible. In the mornings, the lake is a perfect mirror; I enjoyed the walk around the lake, just to stop and see the different reflections. I only spent the night in St Moritz to board the Glacier Express the next morning, but the possibilities for hiking and other excursions are endless.

The train system in Switzerland fascinates me, especially all the finely tuned details. But what makes the ride enjoyable is the view, which is why a panoramic train through the Alps is perfect for me, 7hrs of viewing time. The ride was also culturally informational, explaining the scraffiti on the buildings in St Moritz and the blackened wood buildings near Brig. I was free to move from side to side until my car filled with more tourists at Chur. After that, I was convinced that my seat was on the "wrong" side of the train, as I spent the majority of the time looking out the windows across the aisle.



Oeschinensee
I took Catherine's suggestion to visit Oeschinensee, a mountain lake near Kandersteg. The hike up is steep, but picturesque with the surrounding mountains and waterfalls. The reward after hiking almost straight up after an hour is a view of the lake. The water is a gorgeous blue that perfectly contrasts the green and white on the mountains. It became apparent to me then why all the lakes and rivers in Switzerland are so uniquely blue and clean--most come from melting glaciers. The waterfalls along the lake are small and intricate, what seemed to me like the mountains' veins. Unlike the Alps I saw during the Glacier Express, there were some with snow on top...quite a summer view!

The cloudy weather on Sunday discouraged any excursions to Grindelwald-First, Jungfrau, or Mt. Pilatus. I instead followed the recommended city walk of Luzern, the highlight being the lion monument, and train rides along Lake Thun and Brienz, also beautiful for their blueness.

Everything's coming to an end as I prepare to leave...fewer research experiments, packing, and good-byes. I hope the weather stays sunny for my last few days!

(note: I tried to format this with all the pictures, but who knows what will happen when I click 'publish')

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