Monday, August 20, 2012

Swan Song

20 August 2012

Depth of friendship does not depend on length of acquaintance. ~ Rapindranath Tagore

Last weekend, Greg and I continued our long goodbye to Switzerland with a swan song. We drove with our friends Dottie and Laurie to Graubunden and had a wonderful adventure together.

It started with a trip over the Fluelpass (2383 meters) and ended up surmounting the Julierpass (2284).  I love the rocky austerity of the high mountain passes.


No Ibix - but a few sheep and a guard llama!


Glider high above peak.

What the hell ...?

We stayed at the Hotel Crusch Alba, in the lovely little town of Zernez, gateway to the Swiss National Forest, our first destination. We checked into our hotel and then checked out the Park Information Center. A very nice woman there recommended a loop trail that would be a very easy half hour wander and suitable for all of us. We decided to first drive all the way through the park (there's only one road). We stopped just outside the park for a lovely picnic lunch (especially Dottie and Laurie's exotic curry tuna sandwiches) and then continued to the Italian border. On the way back, we stopped at parking lot 3 to embark on our easy walk to parking lot 2. Dottie, with a knowing look, insisted that she would wait for us in the car. 

Italian Border

Intensive irrigation in hay fields.

"easy" walk. Ended up being straight up and then straight down. Nothing particularly easy about it - especially on a blistering hot day at high altitudes. Later, Greg read in the hiking guide that it was a walk recommended for children. Oh, those Swiss!

That day and the next were hotter than hell and of course there was no A/C in the hotel (A/C is rare in all but deluxe hotels in Switzerland). We made do with cold showers and cold wine on the terrace. Dinner wasn't memorable but the conversation was.

Before our "easy half hour" walk which took us an hour and ten minutes (it's number 9 in this link - the half hour was supposed to be the bit we did), Greg and I had visions of completing hike number 17, an easy 2 - 4 hour walk. Dottie and Laurie graciously (or was that snidely?) offered to go off and see the six lakes around St Moritz which the same Swiss park employee had recommended and pick us up when we were done. Having had a taste of Swiss easy, Greg and I quickly assured them that we wouldn't think of having them go out of their way for us and insisted we would go with them to see the lakes. We really insisted! Those were definitely smirks as Laurie and Dottie went through their well, are you sures and their well, only if you really want to's.

On the way to the lakes, we stopped in Zuoz, which our Lonely Planet guide book claimed to be the prettiest town in Graubunden. Not having seen them all, I can't say for sure but, as Greg just commented, this is one time the guide book appears to be right. Engadin, this part of Graubunden, is noted for its sgraffiti, designs etched into plaster.

The lakes were wonderful! At the last lake, we parked the car and walked along the lake for a while on what was truly an easy walk, North American style. We stopped for a healthy snack of wurst and french fries and strolled back to the parking lot.

As we approached the Lake Silvaplana, where we would turn for the Julierpass, we saw an amazing sight: hundreds of parasailers swarmed the lake. They were so thick, we couldn't figure out why all the lines weren't tangled into a huge string ball. There were also sailboats and windsurfers. It seemed as if competions were being held for the three sports simultaneously.

And, just to squeeze the maximum of sport activities into one day, there was also some sort of biking event going on. Forget the adrenalin rush for the bikers. There's nothing quite like sharing the road - especially the switchback bits - with bikers while suicidal motorcyclists and moron Audi drivers (Greg claims they're the worst) insist on passing on blind corners.

Thanks to Greg and Laurie's exemplary driving skills, we managed to arrive back at our apartment before 7 PM. Laurie and Dottie are moving from a furnished to an unfurnished apartment and, since we have amassed an amazing amount of excess baggage over two years (amazing when you think how we've been extolling the virtues of simplifying one's life), we loaded up Laurie's car with stuff and she and Greg delivered it to their apartment. By this time, we were all as limp as dish rags. Laurie suggested dinner at a place with air conditioning but, as there is nothing like that in walking distance, Greg suggested we end our wonderful weekend with dinner at our local tavern. No air but we sat on the terrace with cold beers and just a hint of a breeze and marveled at the amazing circumstances which had brought us together.

We won't be staying - at least for now - but that was a return ticket we just bought.

Adieu but not goodbye.

"Stay" is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary. ~ Louisa May Alcott

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