Leading the way: Hiking in snowy Switzerland
Blogger Amanda was never a hiker till she moved to Switzerland. Now, with the help of the Wanderweg signs, there’s no keeping her off those mountains!
Eighteen months ago if you would have told me that I'd be spending my Sunday afternoons wandering around a snowy wilderness in Switzerland, I probably would have gone off on a rant about how you don't know me at all – I'm not exactly the outdoorsy type.
Yes, I was born and raised in San Diego, so it's not like opportunities for outdoor adventures were out of my reach. I do like being outdoors, but my idea of a good time is window shopping in one of the open-air shopping malls, swimming in the ocean, or sunbathing on the beach. When it comes to hiking, camping, and mountains, I'm just plain inexperienced.
Since moving to Switzerland, however, I have certainly had a change of heart. Isaiah, no doubt, has had a very positive influence on my newfound appreciation for lakes, trees, and hikes. He's bought me new hiking boots and is my personal cheerleader during our treks: "C'mon baby, you can do it. You're doing really well." It's too cute and I love him for it. Plus, he's no dummy. Unless he wants to start doing solo hikes, he knows it's best to keep me happy and hydrated.
Another positive influence on my newfound appreciation for hiking is the yellow Wanderweg sign. I like the feeling of knowing where I'm going. (I know, I know, where's my sense of adventure?) With these signs we don't need a map. We just take a look at the destinations available to us, and head in the direction of the place that sounds the most interesting (a.k.a the destination that has a small glass of wine icon to denote a restaurant; read ‘rest stop’).
I also like to know how long it's going to take to get there. At more popular trails, you are sure to find estimated travel times printed next to the various destinations. Midway through a hike, it's encouraging to consult the Wanderweg sign and see that you have approximately fifty more minutes until you can sit with a cup of hot chocolate and a plate of french fries.
This tool is also useful for days when you get a late start and want to make it back to the car before dark. If you only have a couple of hours before sunset, it's best to head in the direction of the nearest destination – one that takes, say, half an hour rather than three hours. Leave it to the Swiss to make even hiking comfortable, convenient and efficient.
It's almost impossible to be a trailblazer. Not that I'd want to be one; I'm just saying, because everywhere you go people have already hiked it and marked it. Even if you step off the beaten path a bit, you are sure to eventually run into one of these signs. I never feel like I'm lost. Have I ever felt like I was going a round about way to get to my final destination? Yes, but never lost.
Even in the backwoods of a village, just when you feel like you could use a little affirmation about going in the right direction – wham! You bump into a Wanderweg sign buried in the snow. Or better yet, instead of disturbing nature with an eye-sore of a sign, why not just paint a yellow diamond directly on a tree? Well, yes, that works too. It's a bright little reminder that I haven't wandered too far away from civilisation.
Here's another type of signage we recently encountered. On a leisure hike in the outskirts of Berneck, the trail took us along a dormant vineyard. All along the path, you can read (well, if you can read German) what I assume is information about the local wine-making process.
Text and photos by Amanda Freerksen of Queso Suizo, where she blogs about living in Switzerland and her penchant for cheese (mostly), as well as her travels and other things she finds amusing. Queso Suizo won the Expat Blog of the Month award in December 2009; congratulations, Amanda!
Photo credit: Sondrekv (snow hike).