1695. The Viamala Gorge

Zillis-Reischen Travel Blog

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The Traveler meanders through Andeer, pausing at the ubiquitous map and sign pointing at trails in all directions. He could explore all the villages of this valley, some perched higher up on the slopes.... but he decides to take the most direct route... stopping only in the villages of Zillis-Reischen, two village merged into one, for the sake of efficiency. Switzerland does have perhaps the highest number of villages in the world in ratio to its population and area, and it seems steps are being made to reduce this number to reduce the amount spent on redundant bureaucracy.

This means the Traveler can only count Zillis-Reischen as "one" town now...

On the way he passes a a beautiful waterfall... a charming covered bridge.

.. and a couple men hard at work maintaining the trail to keep it in tip top shape.

And then, just like that, his tour of the Andeer Valley Shangri-La comes to an end...

The Viamala Gorge

When the valley narrows in to a gorge, it really narrows this time. The Hinterrhein River slices through the mountains, creating a feast for the eyes with the combination of cliffs, trees and rushing water. And the Traveler is not alone. He passes a large group of senior citizens, out on a hike together. One thing you notice about the Swiss, is that they really appreciate the beauty of their country. People are out hiking, jogging, cycling, kayaking... out enjoying the nature and the network of trails made for everyone's enjoyment. Many trails are designed for cross country skiing, a sign that enjoying the outdoors is a year round thing.

Down on the river, there are some tall towers of 10 to 20 rocks, carefully balanced on top of each other. Even when the Swiss are bored and just killing time—they still create things that are amazing!

And just when it seems that the scenery can't get any more spectacular... it does.

The gorge narrows and narrows... until the two sides are so close that in places the river below simply disappears from view. You look down and see a curved mysterious slit, but can't see what's down there. In places the cliffs bulge and contract, creating an absolute masterpiece of geological beauty.

The trail now follows an ancient road... tunnels into the cliff.. and then, across one of two stone bridges that connect the two sides of this amazing gorge: called the "Viamala"

The Traveler stands atop the bridge, stunned at what he is seeing.

Despite the hundreds of canyons and gorges he has passed through on his Journey, this one still manages to completely amaze him. And it was completely unexpected.

The Andeer Valley suddenly seems so much more like an isolated Shangri-La.

It turns out, way back in Roman times, people were chiseling out paths and building bridges to travel through this gorge. This region has been a alternative passageway for thousands of years—the only other option for many when the mountain passes were closed in the winter. Yet no amount of human activity has been able to tarnish the natural grandeur of this place.

The Traveler knows he should cough up a couple of Swiss francs to visit the bottom of the gorge. This place needs to be experienced from different angles. One angle he wishes he could experience would be to kayak the river at the bottom and gaze at it from below, but that isn't an option right now.

There are steps that take him to the bottom, and tunnel you can follow to look up and see the gorge in different places. It looks like someone explored this gorge in a more Swiss way... scaled the walls and attached a Swiss flag high up the cliff.

A fellow strikes up a conversation with the Traveler—something that doesn't happen very often here in Switzerland. "Where are you going?" he asks

"I'm hiking to Liechtenstein" the Traveler responds.

He half expects the man to get wide eyed with admiration and disbelief, but no. He just looks down and quickly says, "Those aren't the right kind of shoes for walking to Liechtenstein."

Swiss are quite accustomed to people going on major hikes, bike rides, mountain climbs, etc etc.

But for each of these adventures, there's a clear "uniform" You wear certain clothes, and carry certain specific gear designed for the challenge you are undertaking. Each type of activity has a certain protocol to follow.

The Traveler knows that he stands out here like a sore thumb. He doesn't not fit into any of the acceptable categories. Nobody hikes and carries a guitar. Nobody hikes long distances wearing ordinary clothes and cheap shoes bought in a Chinese shop in Italy...

Yet despite this, everyone he passes is friendly, and no one seems to notice his unusual appearance.

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photo by: nathanphil