Thursday, April 26, 2012

June 11 - Day 4 - Engelberg to Meiringen, Switzerland

June 11 - Day 4 - Engelberg to Meiringen, Switzerland

At this point we had spent 2 days in Switzerland and visited Zurich and Lucerne. We were now heading farther south to the small towns of Engelberg and Meiringen. Both towns were very different than the big city of Zurich and the stunning architecture and history of Lucerne.

Our agenda for the day included waking up early to take the train to Engelberg. Due to our Swiss Train Pass we were able to jump on and off as much as we needed for a one month period, which was a good thing because we were planning to see a lot of the country.

We arrived in Engelberg pretty early, but it was raining. We wanted to find a campsite, but once again had no clue where to go. We asked a man that worked for the local tourist office. He said we had to go across the street, cross the river, and walk about 20 minutes or so along the river until we saw the campsite. We were hoping for a bus, but no buses went that route. If we would have had a car this would have been much easier because we had to walk this same route a number of times. It was on the exact opposite side of town where everything we wanted to do was located. So walking there and back became time consuming. But the scenery along the way was great.

We found the campsite, Engelberg Campground, and sat up our tent. It seemed more like a legitimate campground, but the sites still weren’t marked very well. Most of the people staying there had campervans. It had shower facilities, laundry, a small grocery store, and a hotel of some kind. Since it was raining a lot it was a good place to go to recharge our batteries, get a shower, and get out of the rain.

Once we had our tent set up we made the long walk back to town to do some sightseeing. Our plan was to see Mt. Titlis, but due to the bad weather we decided to put it on hold and either do it later in the day or wait until the next day when it would hopefully be more clear.

Luckily we had planned to visit Meiringin while we were in the area, so we boarded the train and headed that direction. Our purpose for going there was to see Aareschluct Gorge. When doing research about this trip I kept finding more and more things that seemed to neat to me. The pictures looked really cool so now we were going to get to see it in person. This town is also the setting for one of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

As usual when we arrived we had no clue where we were going. We asked directions from somebody and wondered around through town until we were able to find our way to Meiringen Falls. Along the route we saw a few small churches and a small statue of Sherlock Holmes with a museum nearby. The museum was closed so we just continued onto the falls.

We could see the falls from below, but we wanted to have a closer view so we hiked up a muddy trail for a few minutes until we reached a good stopping point. There was some construction taking place around the falls and I remember that kept us from going too much further. There were actually two falls that flowed into each other. It was actually very pretty and green. The rains had made the falls run a little stronger, plus  snow from higher elevations was melting.

We spent a few minutes at the top and then began our hike to Aare Gorge. We didn’t know if there was any local transportation, either way we didn’t want to spend the money, so we decided to walk. It seemed like a long distance at the time, but it may just have been because we weren’t eating very much and had no energy.

It took us some time to get there, but I'm not sure how long. Maybe 30 minutes or so. There was a visitor center with a restaurant and gift shop. We purchased tickets to enter. Everyting in Europe costs money. At the time it cost $7.50 to do the one-way hike.

The Aare River cuts through the middle of the gorge. The water was rushing through very fast and had a greenish tint to it.

The trail winds its way along the cliff wall on boardwalks connected to the rock face. It also goes into man made tunnels with views of the gorge as well. The scenery reminded me of something you would see in Colorado or California.

On some parts the planks were very slippery and I thought it was possible for people to fall in. I think before we got there someone had done just that a few weeks before. There were also parts where the gorge was very narrow. It is amazing that they were able to make the boardwalk at all.

It was a really spectacular hike. It had been rainy so it created a fog over the water and all through the canyon. At times you could barely see anything, but if you just waited a few minutes it would clear up.

This history of the place was interesting too. Even though Switzerland was a neutral country during the war German soldiers hid here during World War II.

We walked to the end of the trail in about an hour and a half. There was a large parking lot and some great views into a valley. We took some pictures and then hiked back, much faster of course because we still had more to do and didn’t need to take as many pictures.

We got back to the visitor center and once again failed to find any transportation so we walked back to town looking for Reichenbach Falls. For fans of Sherlock Holmes you will recognize the name Reichenbach Falls as the site where Holmes died in the stories.

When we arrived at the base of the falls there was a funicular that you could take to the top; however, there was also a trail. We decided we would take the trail not really knowing if it would lead to the falls and how close we’d actually be able to get. I didn’t think we were going to have that great of a view, but we took the chance anyway. Like all the other trails in Switzerland it was straight up. Unlike American and Canadian trails that zig-zag up the side of mountains, the Swiss prefer straight lines. Even if that means going straight up.

The other interesting thing we encountered was that their signs aren’t marked with distances, but with time. That seemed strange to me since people walk at different paces. I read that the times were based on the average speed of a 50 year old, so of course I thought if it said it would take an hour, then I could do it in 30 minutes. Wrong. I quickly realized that if it said an hour, it would take an hour. I don’t know if it was because Swiss people have longer legs, are used to the altitude, or are in amazing shape, but the times were very accurate for my hiking speed.

The trail to the waterfall was very steep and slippery from all the rain. It was very scenic, mostly bright green grass, flowers in bloom, mountains all around, and views of the town below. This gave me an excuse to rest and take pictures.

Part of the trail followed the funicular tracks, and as we walked up a few funicular’s passed us by. I remembered thinking that I would have preferred to take it up then hike. I was hoping we would take it down to rest, but we later decided it would be better just to walk back down. It would save money.

Once we got to the waterfall we had a good view. I think if we had taken the funicular we could have seen it looking down or on the opposite side, but that wasn’t an option unless we crossed the tracks and climbed a barbed wire fence. We didn’t end up doing that. We probably could have, nobody was around, but I didn’t know the laws in Switzerland and didn’t feel like being arrested or getting hurt so early in the trip.

We got some really good pictures and then continued along the trail back down to the bottom. We made it back to the train station and got back to Engelberg. We made the short hike back to our campsite and stopped at the campground restaurant to eat. I wanted some American type food so I ordered a hamburger and fries. It wasn’t very good. It tasted more like Salisbury steak on a bun. It cost 12.50 Swiss Francs.

After dinner we recharged our camera batteries at the laundry mat. It was really late at night by this time and I was tired and ready to go to bed. We could only charge one battery at a time because we only had one outlet converter. Switzerland is very safe and I doubt our stuff would have been taken anyway, but didn’t want to leave my camera equipment unattended. Also, since it was raining I didn’t feel like going back to the campsite anyway.

"Nexte Halte, Engelberg to Grindelwald..."

No comments:

Post a Comment