31. Scuol

The next day we got up and traversed over to Scuol, up the Inn Valley but lower in elevation than Sent. 

This is a powerplant below Scuol. Note the large holding pond. At night, when less power is needed, they use the excess energy to pump the water in the pond back up the valley, so it can run through the turbins again the next day.

In the village of Scuol.  Remember, there are four official languages in Switzerland. We happened to be in the far east of the country, where the Romansch language is still hanging on among less than 1% of the Swiss population. Our host, Johnny, was born here, but left when he was young to the German speaking region. Our other host was Johnny’s wife, Sophie, a South African/Dutch who could speak Romansch, fluent English and just about everything else. Johnny said his son, an aspiring hockey star or future carpenter, was more fluent in Romansch than he, and he (the son) was very patriotic and sympathetic to the cause of the Romansch people, and always spoke Romansch to his girlfriend a couple valleys over.

Sorry, no Romansch option on google translate, but they did have this explanatory sign up, in German and Romansch, which served as a Rosetta Stone for our Romansch studies later that evening.

 The German text reads (straight from Google),PREPARES it once joy, to remember MAYBE m 1696 were Tomas Hainrich and his sons Joan and Gallus build this house.  The coat of arms and the inscription bear witness to this.  It is a plant of rare consistency and with more original facades.  The facilities Interior is unique and has undergone a few changes.  The beautiful outstanding oven corresponds to the former construction.  Thus saving space in the kitchen, the fire was lower.  Such ovens were common in the Engadine.

Allegra! is the word you use to greet people. It seemed a bit all-purpose, like “servus” in Tyrol, or “aloha” in Hawaii. Bogn means bath and this was the local spa.

Here Keenan gets a drink from the local fount. One spigot is regular mountain water and the other is gaseous spring water with high mineral content, warmer and not so tasty but healthier we presumed.

I can almost understand this. Any ideas?

Today, lunch on the riverside. Our standard fare by now- cheese on chips, fruit, drink, and in this case, chocolate. Today’s cheese, a nice, swiss Gruyere.

Another picture where you set the camera to color saturation. They are a bit phony with the over-colorization, but I really like ’em. The feature gives the pictures a 1960s postcard look to them.

Often on this trip the thought in my mind was, “Hmm. Shouldn’t have tried to hit so many towns and just settle in one spot for longer, so we could do some high-alpine hiking.”

After a day walking/hiking around Scuol, we took the bus back up to Sent.

Here was the local Irish pub. Run by a local woman who some claim doesn’t much like outsiders, least of all the Irish.

There was still plenty of light to have a rest out on the patio and enjoy the view.   

Goofing around after dinner in the living room.

Next: We leave the Engadin Valley and travel into German Switzerland.

30. To Switzerland

 The next morning we took a little walk around town in Nauders.  Then we got our lunch at the supermarket and grabbed the bus into Switzerland.  Little hotel with a rock-climbing wall    

 Bus schedule from Landeck to Swiss towns.

 

 Goodbye, Austria.

 

 The bus went up the hill out of Nauders and then down a steep hill into the Engadin valley.

 When we arrived in Switzerland we had to change buses.  There were only one or two buses per day to the little village of Sent so we had to go Scuol and backtrack on another bus.

Sent is a beautiful, old town on a hillside up from the Inn River.  The Swiss like to let you know how old the houses are, especially these big mountain houses and ours had a sign that said 1550 or thereabouts.

 

 All three of our homestays in Switzerland will be at Friends of the Bicycle homes. Here’s Johnny, our great host in Sent, who gave us a tour of the town right after we arrived. 

 Swiss fire hydrant.   

Italian woodchopping machine.

Johnny told us a little about the history of Sent and the Lower Engadin Valley. This was once a poor region, with farming being the only means of making a living. The land could only provide so many jobs, so local boys with bigger dreams left for other parts of Europe, like Italy, Germany, and the the Low Countries. Being Swiss, they worked their tails off and returned wealthy. Then these nouveau-riche dandies built great houses, strutted around in thier tailored suits, had their pick of the local girls and raised big families with all that foreign-earned loot. Often the houses they built resembled the styles of their adopted countries. 

 German style turrets.

 

 Johnny said this was the epitome of the “Local boy makes good” house. The family here are descendents of a guy who studied law and had a succesful practice in Italy. You’ll want to avoid misunderstandings with these folks. 

 

 above Sent

 

After our tour, we took it easy for a while back home. These were the coolest lodgings yet on our trip. Keenan and I had the whole downstairs to ourselves, with three bedrooms, two toilets, a nice kitchen and a big living room, it was an area that could accomodate a dozen people easily.  The best part was the patio out back.

 

The cats loved hiding in the bushes.     This guy sneaked inside and hid under the blankets.      In Sent, we cooked our own meals.    This beer was only 85 cents (about $0.90 US) a pint. 

 

After dinner we played with the cats a while and then turned in.  

next: Wanderin around Scuol

 

 

 

29. Follow the Inn

Our route from Verona, current position, and intended destination in Switzerland. 

We said goodbye to Walter and Klaus and took our time leaving Alpbach. The weather was great so we decided to take a dip in the Brixlegg public pool before getting on the train. I was stung by a bee in this pool!

 

The train followed th Inn river. This is the mountain that overlooks the site of the Bilderberg, 2015 meeting. Here is it from another angle one year ago.

 

At Landeck you get off the train and grab a bus to continue following the Inn, up another valley to the South.   Last stop in Austria is the skiing village of Nauders. Another high alpine town I would have loved to explore.

We hadn’t arranged lodging. I figured we’d just walk around town and look for the zimmer frei (room available) signs on the side of the private homes that used to be ubiquitous around Austria. I didn’t see any at the beginning of my search around town and asked a lady who ran a pension what was up. “Oh, nobody uses that system anymore.”

I figured with smart phones, people everywhere make arrangements before they arrive in town now.

Luckily there was a tourist office, closed but with a room finding system that showed you a map. The second place I called had a good setup. 

We found our place and took a walk around town. Actually our pension and lots of other places still had the green and red “room available/room full” signs.

Good peaks for hiking and the Impreis supermarket in Nauders. Stock up here before you head into $witzerland!

“We do what we’re.”  

The high off the hog living was over. Our bon vivant German friends were no longer with us so it was back to bargain eating!  

Next: Lower Engadine Valley in Switzerland

28. Alpbach 2

The next morning we set out to scale the peak on the other side of the valley (the one I mentioned to K. while eating lunch at the top of the gondola life on the other side.)

The early going was through thick forest.

The trail had lots of panel paintings with iconic Catholic imagery.    I think they employed the same woman who did the touch-ups in Spain a couple years ago.     

 

   

This may look like the summit but it’s only the first peak in a series of three. You got up to a high point after a scramble and then had to descend down again into a ravine, before ascending to the next peak.

Here was a French family at the summit, which overlooks the Inn valley. The father walks up to me and asks in German if I would take their picture. I answered back in German and then he switched to English. They were a nice bunch and I spent a good ten minutes talking to them. They asked if I’d been to France and I mentioned our days in Nice, and then I said, “I’ve also been to the coast on the Pacific side. I was once in Biarritz and Hossegor.” -Eh, I think you mean the Atlantic side. -Yeah. Right. Did I say ‘Pacific’? Pierre was thinking, “Typical American level of geographical knowledge.”

 

This is looking the other direction toward the Inn valley, via Lover’s leap. I took one zoom shot of the couple on the bench, but deleted it for propriety.

This lightning rod keeps the wood cross from being zapped to a crisp.

I got Pierre to take our picture too.

Not a bad zoom on the little Canon.

 

Can you see the ducks and the chicken?

Notice the trough with fresh, cold mountain water. I’d been wondering if these water spouts all over the place were taking water straight from the streams, or underground springs, and how safe it was to drink. “Aren’t the Austrians susceptible to giardia?” I wondered. Turns out, you could poke around upstream of the spigot and usually find a filtering system at work. So the water was clean.

 

These trees were all planted in honor of long time guests to Alpbach. If you’d been visiting the town regularly over the course of 40 years, you got your name on the tree. The great majority of the names were from Germany and the UK.

 

     Keenan in the Alpbach meditation chapel.          

There was a reading room, with books from all the major religions and philosophies.    

 

Here are some of the earliest attendees of the Alpbach forum, which was founded just after WWII. 

 

I took this boring picture because on the way back to our hotel this crazy guy in a white VW Golf was driving wildly up the hill. He was slamming on the brakes and then gunning the engine again all the way up the hill, making a great screech each time.  I was a good 80 yards or so in front of Keenan. Drunken Hoerst, the driver of the VW, pulled up in front of me and said, “Hey baby, Yeah baby, Rock and Roll let’s roll it, a yeah baby!” He and a guy in the back seat (the passenger seat in front was ripped out) had a great laugh as they pulled into our hotel lot and walked across the street. K looked a little shook when he got up to the hotel. Hoerst had pulled the brake slamming trick on him.

 

Another open-air dinner with Walter and Klaus.    

 

Performance art in the street after dinner.

Next: On to Switzerland!  

27. Alpbach

What can I say about our experience in Alpbach? The next two days we woke up, had a big breakfast downstairs, went on a long hike, ate a store-bought lunch on the mountain, came home and rendezvoused with Walter and Klaus for dinner.

funeral in town

 

 

 Alpbach bakery. It’s great to wake up in an Austrian inn and know you have a hearty breakfast waiting for you downstairs. The downside is that after all those rolls with cheese and wurst, local jams, yogurt with muesli, fruit, egg, coffee, there is no more room, so you have to pass on the bakeries, with all the fresh bread, rolls, and strudel.

 

 

 hay bales      

 

     back on the gondola. we waited for a few to pass so keech could ride the blue one

 

 

 just as Keenan started up this steep part, a guy passing us going the other way said, in German, “You don’t have to take the steep route. Go to the left and there is an easier trail.”

I told Keenan that but he was already halfway up, and would have chosen the scramble anyway.

 

 

There wasn’t much wind this day, so when Keenan reached this peak, rather than taking in the view he spent the time swatting flies.

 

 Still swatting flies

 

 

 Horsepoo Ridge

 

 

The hills are alive…with the sound of thunder. 

 

 

The rumble of thunder was everywhere but directly above us. One quick photo and then we’d better get off the ridge.

 

 

 

 No retouching here

 

 Cue angel voices

 

 

 

 

One of Alpbach’s claim to fame is being home to the world’s longest cow.

 

 

 

 

This is The Path of Reflection, which ran parallel to a little stream just down from our hotel.

 

Of course I had to pose like this and mock the new-ageyness of it all. But later that night, at dinner, Walter frowned on my mockery and said, “The path is a good thing. We need to stop and meditate and reflect in this modern industrial world.”

Fair enough.

 

 

   K. feeling the vibe.

    Must take photo of all hotels and inns named Edelweiss, as per my Austria rules.

 

That night, dinner again with Walt and Klaus, who had a nice round of golf at the Achensee.

next: another good climb

 

25. Idyllic Tyrol

We took an 11 o’clock train out of Innsbruck, and headed East, down the Inn Valley, to Brixlegg, where we’d catch a bus up to Alpbach, “Austria’s prettiest town”, according to the travel brochures produced by the Alpbach Chamber of Commerce.

 on the way to Brixlegg

We found our hotel, dumped off our stuff, bought lunch at the supermarket, and walked down to the gondola.

 The lift was free for all overnight guests in the area.  at top of lift

lunch with view, the opposite peak looks like a good scramble. “Hey Keenan, why don’t we climb that one tomorrow?”

K: “Mehhh.”

After lunch we went back down the gondola and caught the bus down to the town of Reith. The busses were also free for local guests.

We went for a dip at the little lake in Reith. 

 

Tyrolean villages are such an eyesore. What a dump is this town of Reith.

 

After swimming we caught the bus back up to Alpbach. This is the view out our room: 

 

We only had to wait about ten minutes until my German buddies Klaus and Walter pulled up in Klaus’ Audi, and we gave each other a hearty greeting.

Soon we were all walking the streets of Alpbach, looking for a good restaurant. We found an outdoor terrace with a friendly waiter and settled in for a hearty Austrian dinner. Keenan had Wienerschnitzel for the first time, and was quite pleased.

 

Next: Around Alpbach