1692. Reaching Switzerland

Splugen Travel Blog

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This may not be his first entry into Switzerland, but this time he's doing it the right way: Across a Alpine pass.

Excitement builds as he approaches the final ridge. He's spent days of uphill hiking. Days of feeling the weather get colder, and seeing the flora change, from low altitude vineyards... to pine forests... to nothing but grass and patches of summer snow high above the tree line. He's gazed back to some of the most stunning panoramic views of his entire Journey—so inspiring he had to sit down and write a song on the spot... He's swum in a freezing cold lake with patches of snow around it, just because...

And now... the grand moment... he is about to cross the border from Italy to Switzerland.

Suddenly, there it is. Yes, an absolutely spectacular view.

The mountainside abruptly plunges down in front of him into a beautiful valley that turns back into pine forest, and a river running west to east, with a charming Swiss town at the bottom. On the other side, Mt Teurihorn can be seen in all it's majesty, wearing pants of pine, a shirt of grass slopes, and a head of jagged cliffs. Standing behind it is an army of mountains of equal or greater grandeur.

Yes, this is the romantic Switzerland of the storybooks. A land where people live—and thrive--in cozy little valleys with mountains all around. The Traveler suddenly feels like a great discoverer who has been on a lifelong quest to discover a mountain Shangri-La. And now... here it is in front of him.

But first he must navigate the border crossing. What kind of border will this be?

He actually burst out laughing at what he sees: its a turnstile!

Yep, in order to enter the country famous for its isolationist stance and determination to not be invaded by the empires that surround it.

.. you have to walk through a turnstile. And not one of those fancy ones you find in a subway station. No, just a waist height metal pole with two crossing poles on top of it. That's it. Hold up your bag up and walk through. Or you could just go under the one strand fence to the side if you prefer...

Obviously this turnstile is not intended to keep people out. It's to keep cows from illegally immigrating to Switzerland, in search of greener pastures.

And so the Traveler ceremoniously walks through the turnstile, and into Switzerland.

And what does he find on the other side? A park bench! Just sitting there on top of this mountain pass! It's almost as if they knew that the Global Parkbench Concert Tour was coming this way, and they wanted to make sure the Traveler felt welcome!

And he does.

.. He pulls out his guitar and sings his new song "I'm a Believer" once again..

I don't know what is my life's mission...

All I know is it's supposed to be an adventure...

Certainly his mission for today has been achieved.

But he cannot rest on his Laurels. He knows that he is at way to high an altitude to spend the night outside with the gear he has. He needs to get to a much lower altitude before nightfall.

Southern vs. High Alps Switzerland

The downhill hike doesn't have the same isolated feel as the climb up the other side. Not far from the trail is a road, zigzagging its way down the mountain, buzzing with motorcycles.

None of this can spoil the magic of this moment, though.

Nor are there picturesque Alpine chalets. In fact, the first house he passes, has a rundown feel to it—you might call it a redneck house if you were in America—but of course, with a Swiss flag waving outside. Only the Swiss are more obsessed than Americans in displaying their patriotism by displaying their national flag.

Finally he reaches the forest and a rushing river... and then, the town of Splugen. Here the Traveler immediately notices some distinctions between this region and the previous region of Switzerland he explored, Italian speaking Ticino Canton.

In Ticino, typically in the villages, house are packed tightly together, with narrow alleyways squeezing and sometime tunneling under the houses.

Similar to a typical Italian mountain village. Here, houses are very large, and independent of each other. Sometimes you can see how a house was expanded to be made larger and larger.

The Traveler wonders what the reason for the difference might be. After a bit of thought he comes up with an idea: perhaps in Ticino, being at a lower altitude and somewhat exposed to potential enemies from the south, people had more of a fortress mentality. You build your village like a castle, packed tightly together to be easy to defend.

Here in the High Alpine valleys, there doesn't seem to be that same fear. Could it be, because these valleys are so isolated and off the beaten track, no one would think of invading them? People just didn't worry about being attacked any more? It's an interesting thought.

Enough pondering, it's time to get to business.

First: buy some food at the store. Fortunately, there is a chain store here in Splugen with poetic name: "Volg"

Ah... I miss Italian already... the Traveler sighs.

He knows that food—along with everything else—will be more expensive here, so he needs to figure out ways to economize. Well, it turns out, that when buying canned food, the "family size" can be the same price, if not cheaper than the smaller cans! This is an opportunity he can't pass up—even if it means he'll be lugging a big family size can of ravioli, which is going to be his supper and tomorrow's breakfast...

Not having learned his lesson from his last time in Switzerland, he enters the country once again unarmed: no can opener. And all cans here require a can opener. Not of those easy open cans here. That's not the Swiss way.

Swiss all carry Swiss Army Knives, I guess. Easy open cans are for unprepared foreigners, like the Traveler...

As he heads out of town, he notices an older couple with a dog—the also hiked across the Splugenpass, as they and the Traveler passed each other several times.

The Traveler greets them and they seem eager for a chat, having shared a similar adventure. "We took the bus across, and hiked back," the tell the Traveler. Apparently, hiking across mountains is just a casual thing you do on your day off here in Switzerland—no matter what your age is.

"The dog got tired, so we had to carry him much of the way". Yep, you heard that right. Swiss senior citizens hike across mountains... carrying their dog...

When the Traveler tells them his is hiking towards Liechtenstein, they tell him.

"We live right near the border. When you get there, give us a call, and you can stay with us." It's heartwarming to get an unexpected offer of hospitality—not something you can take for granted in an everyone-should-take-care-of-himself country like Switzerland.  

Paulovic says:
Congrats on your blog being featured!
Posted on: Feb 09, 2018
Africancrab says:
Congratulations on the feature. Great blog
Posted on: Feb 06, 2018
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Splugen
photo by: nathanphil