Friday, September 12 – Rellerli to Sparenmoos

Sunny!! Sunny!! And warm!!
Today we wore light cotton pants and short sleeved t-shirts. We needed our polartec sweatshirts by 6pm when we were taking the train home. A perfect hiking day and a perfect hike.

We awoke to brilliant sunshine and clear skies. We headed out and I mailed a few things (luggage tags to people in Europe, a few postcards), then we drove to Schonried and parked at the one gondola in the valley that we had not yet ridden – Rellerli. We parked in the lot beside the gondola station (free). This is a long gondola with beautiful views over the valley. About mid point, it goes over this big tower in a rollercoaster kind of motion in order to change direction slightly. Usually this is done in a middlestation and is far less scary, because the gondola is almost at ground level instead of dangling a few hundred feet in the air. It felt to me like we were coming off the track – but we weren’t.

At the top the views are beautiful. We could see the Eiger and the Jungfrau which tower over Grindelwald. The restaurant is self service and seemed to be open but no one was about, so we gave up – which was good because we barely made the last bus at the end of our hike so we needed the extra hiking time, and was bad because I was hungry for the whole hike having forgotten to pack any food. Last year we always hiked with a few sportsbars, just in case – which is a very good idea and I wish I had done this today!

The day was perfect – we had our rain jackets and polartec pullovers in our packs just in case – but we were comfortable in light pants and short sleeves. The hike was just under three hours, flat for most of it, with some uphill in the middle, then a long downhill for 20 minutes at the end (but a gentle, easy on the knees, downhill).

Of course we had started too late. When we started we figured we could do the hike with 30 minutes to spare. My hiking info from the tourist office said the last bus was 4pm. But I had read it wrong again (really, it was badly written – they gave times of buses from Zweisimmen to Sparenmoos and we were going the other way, so I thought the last bus was 4pm, but it was 4:30). We loved the hike – we could see across to where we had hiked last Saturday – but for the last hour we were hoofing it, worried we would miss the last bus.

You can also trotti down (ride these bicycle-like scooters) from Sparenmoos, but I realized in that last hour that I was way too tired for that. I think that two weeks of hiking in the afternoons, as opposed to two weeks of our usual activty (one hour walk in the morning followed by too many hours sitting at computers), was getting to me. Because about 500 years ago Steve and I both were runners, we always call it “hitting the wall.”

We made the bus on time, but it turned out we were 35 minutes ahead instead of 5 minutes. Sparenmoos consists of one hotel with a restaurant, a bus stop and a bunch of trottis. We took full advantage of our extra time and had glasses of beer and shared a cheese sandwich (that was all they had except for many meat things).

A group of hikers was gathering for the bus. There was no sign for the usual PTT bus stop, but the woman in the restaurant said it would come there. A van pulling a trailer full of trottis pulled up. They unloaded it. We all watched. No bus. Then the guy driving the van stood by the door and one hiker went up and paid him money then climbed in the van. This was the bus!

The van had seats for seven plus the driver. Seven of us climbed in. One couple with a bulldog stayed behind – who knows what they were going to do – and two women who arrived after all of us were pointed to the trottis. As we pulled out, I saw them wheeling out trottis for their ride down. We used our Easy Access pass for the “bus” ride.

Half way down the mountain, an older woman in hiking gear waved down the bus. He stopped and made the guy in front with him move over to the middle part and make room. The two of them shared the front seat.

The bus was supposed to leave at 4:30 and our train in Zweisimmen was at 4:50 with the next one on my (incorrect) schedule at 6pm. Steve wears the watch but has no idea where we are going and never looks at any schedules. I memorize schedules but don’t wear a watch because I don’t own one (my wrist breaks out from the metal on the clasp, so I gave up wearing watches years ago – besides, who needs one in Santa Fe?). I think a better plan is that the person who wears the watch also follows the schedules. So Steve thought the train was at 5pm and we pulled up to the train station at 3 minutes to 5pm. He said “we can make the train” and I assumed the 4:50 train, although it seemed to me like more time had passed and the bus had been late leaving.

Zweisimmen is a good sized train station with 8 platforms. We ran up to the train schedule, I looked for the 16:50 train and found the track. We ran to the track but it wasn’t there. Then we realized that Steve had been thinking 5pm, but the train was 4:50pm. So back to the schedule, where I see a 5pm train listed (that was not on the schedule the tourist office gave me), but that was on track 5, so we ran for that and it was pulling out. If I had just looked up when we first arrived, I would have seen the sign for Gstaad because we were at track 5. So, we ended up on the 6pm train.

I was furious, but Steve and I hardly ever fight and never scream, so I gave him a good glare, he “accepted responsibility” (although I think it was my fault too – I really should carry a watch and I could have looked at a clock) and I made him spend 10 minutes in a store for penance. I bought a Donna Leon detective book in English. We walked around Zweisimmen, then had coffee and pear kuchen at the tea shop we went to last Saturday.

I am going to call this type of thing, which happens all the time to us, the “tourist dance”. That little dance you do, at totally unexpected times, that shows you are not local, that you don’t know how things work. I was furious because I was so tired. Steve mixed up the times because he was so tired. Luckily my fury vanished in about 3 minutes. (We also needed to get home early because Steve had a business phone call to do.)

At home, a simple dinner and a nice long bath. Now shall I put aside Gore Vidal’s “Julien”, which is good, and read the Donna Leon, because I am such a detective novel addict? I still have the new P.D. James to read but I am “saving” it – I like to have it and look at it for a few weeks and anticipate reading it – before I read it. Sick, but true.

I cannot believe we only have two days left. I want to have a drink at the big castle hotel in Gstaad where I think they may have filmed one of the Pink Panther movies, I want to trotti down from Wispile, spend a day in Montreaux, and do two more hikes that I have planned out. We always leave Switzerland wishing we were staying longer – probably because we go to Switzerland at the start of our vacation – but we could easily and happily have spent a month here.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.