Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 21 Hike in Canton Vaud

I planned on hiking in Vaud last week, but the predictability with the unpredictable rain came for yet another visit. So, I put it off for another week, this week.

The weather for the hike was amazing, close to 30,even at 1900 meters... But, before I go into the details, I must say, the driving is wearing on me a bit. The freedom of hiking location it gives me far outweighs having to deal with the driving, but, I can honestly say, when Geneva and Valais are complete, I will be a lot happier that the long drives for hiking are done. Today was roughly 230 kilometers each way,and I think (at least for the drive home) I should have had the top up and air con on as the sun (which was 32 on the drive) beat me up a bit.... Yes, I forgot a hat!

For this hike, I will talk about the Hike, the canton, Montreux, and the balloon festival at Château-d'Œx. There are so many beautiful places in Vaud, one just has to reach out to find them. I will also say, I am just touching the surface.. Lutry is beautiful long with Vevey. Two more places I can say are worth the visit.. Not to mention Lausanne.

Part I: On to hiking

The hike was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. But, like all good hikes, there are ups and downs. This time, the hike took a roughly 300 meter decline before it went up again. Which was fine. It was an easy hike and really, enjoyable all the time. Parts of the hike I had to go on the road which was also exciting as it is an 8.5 kilometer climb from the town of Ollon, which zigzags back and forth and there were many cyclists climbing. I am so amazed at how great of shape the Swiss are in.. old, and young, men and women, all climbing on their bikes and not stopping until they got to the top, Col de la Croix.

The hike was not terribly long, somewhere between 7.5 and 8 k. It took about 2 1/2 hours to complete the loop, but I suspect the long climb had a lot to do with it, which was about 4k all the way to the end.

With all hikes, I love the farm animals. Today, I saw lots of cows while in the car, but none on the hike. But, I did get to pass some pigs maybe 15 minutes into the hike. They were awesome, and it was great seeing two of them curled up next to each other sleeping.

It is old hat by now, but the views were amazing. Really, everywhere I looked was a photograph. It gets very hard to choose where to click and not click because I want to capture it all, but at the same time, I would then fill this blog with hundreds of photos.

The wanderweg's were out in full force today. The trails were very clearly marked even if my map was not.

I hope you do not mind too much, but I took a couple of panoramic photos as well. The amount of beauty would either have to come in the form of multiple photos or in the form of panos. I like panos so these are how you get to see the area as I was going down to the bottom of the hiking area.

Just another beautiful photograph. This was about 60% into the hike after maybe an hour of climbing and a break along the way.

Yes, there was a lot of snow around, and I was lucky enough to get to walk in some as it blocked the wanderwegs.

Along the hike I met an elderly couple, I am guessing close to 80 years old each, who were from Belgium and hiking for a bit of time in Switzerland. I am not sure I was too happy seeing how great of shape they were in when my belly kept bumping into them every time I turned (ok, I am kidding about that, but.....).

I highly recommend this hike to anyone who wants to see Vaud. The small village of Ollon is beautiful, really beautiful. It looks like it is a ski resort town (though I didn't see the slopes). Small streets at times and old buildings.

Part II: On to Canton Vaud

I was really putting off this canton for a while because it is far away. But, the weather was absolutely perfect for a Fathers Day hike.

Vaud is the 21st Canton to join Switzerland. It is located in the southwest part of Switzerland in 1803. It is a French speaking canton, which is a nice change from German (no offense to German, just saying its a nice change :)). You know you are there, or close when you start seeing "Sortie" instead of "Ausfahrt".

Some of the things that are interesting about Vaud that you might find interesting, include the following:
  • On the south western side of Vaud you can find Roman columns in Nyon. Here is an interesting 360 view that you can see them. I didn't go there I should mention.
  • There are roughly 725,944 people who live in Vaud and 28% of those are foreigners.
  • Something I did not know until I did the research, but the Union Cycliste Internationale is located in Vaud. This is the world governing body for sports cycling
  • The highest point in Vaud is Diablerets, which is 3,210 meters and the lowest point is Lake Geneva, which is 372 meters above sea level.

Oddly enough, when I started the canton hikes last year, there were lots of demographics regarding single women. I think someone has been keeping tabs on me as I have noticed this information has not been showing up for a while now... Therefore, I am just going to make up numbers which are not true, but to my favour. 88% of the population in Vaud are women, and of that 88%, 75% of them are single.

Part III: On to Montreux

If you have not had the pleasure of going to Montreux, I highly recommend it as it really is one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. But, the ambiance is also just as amazing. Many famous people have lived there and spent lots of time there. Why? Well, I think the answer is simple. The views are stunning, the lake is beautiful, the people, the food, the numerous cultures, and of course, the statue which I have been so excited to see for a very long time is there.

 Here it is....

Oh wait, it is not this one, though, how cool is it to see a giant fork sticking up out of the water like that? It is that of Freddie Mercury, who lived in Montreux. Having always been a fan of the band Queen (the very first concert I ever went to was Queen)... Nothing made me happier than to see this the first time I visited Montreux.

Here are some more photos of this beautiful town. Really, it is a must visit.

 Part IV: On to Château-d'Œx.

I put Château-d'Œx on the list because it is a place I found in Vaud in February when I went to the Château-d'Œx Hot Air Balloon Festival. My goal was to take some timelapse photos of the balloons taking off and landing. I admit, I got a bit lazy and didn't complete the work, but I did manage to put together a sample.

A sample from the shoot..

Some raw footage put together

And here are a few pictures from that day as well...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 20 Hike in Canton Ticino

Hiking in Ticino is a hike I have been looking forward to for a long time. Unfortunately, it didn't turn into the hike I wanted, nor did I get to go where I wanted. There are multiple reasons for that, but, the biggest was the weather. For the hike, it poured the entire time, so I hiked in an area that was not on dirt paths, and I kept the distance to about 8k.

Part I: On to hiking

There is something about being in Ticino and enjoying the amazing views, the Italian culture, and the fun hiking. On this hike, none of that happened.

I picked a small town called Maggia to hike in based on knowing the weather would be really bad, and I would be limited in my options. But, what I did manage was take a few nice photos even though the rain was steady and heavy.

The Maggia Valley and Maggia River are part of the alpine region. So, the views are spectacular. Every time I am headed south to Italy, or even Lugano, I can see these mountains off to the right and have always wanted to visit them.

I was not sure the best place to park, so I picked a spot just on the side of the town. This gave me what seemed to be the best options because I could hike on in the valley, and then circle around to the town of Maggia, which I did.

This was right next to where I parked. A beautiful start on a beautiful rainy day!!!

As I crossed the river, there was an elderly couple walking up the road. The man was holding an umbrella for the two of them, and they were completely engaged in a conversation as they almost didn't notice me as I walked by.

Just as they passed, I noticed some cows. I was having a difficult time keeping my camera dry, and so I took this shot without even looking in the view finder to see if it was lined up. I love the cows!!!

Outside of the main town of Maggia is Valle Maggia, a small village up on the side of the mountain. The population of this town is about 200 people and the town is just beautiful. But, instead of me telling you, take a look and see.....

Higher up on the side of the mountain are some wanderweg signs, and a beautiful driveway with vines that grow over the top. Because of the weather, I could not get a much better picture than this, but, it is still good enough to see.

A little further away is a beautiful church and cemetery  I looked at a few of the stones and they are not that old, but it is very well maintained, and I suspect, because of how small the village is, it is more than enough for them.

Below is one last image of Valle Maggia. It isn't very clear to see in this picture, but all of the roads are made up of stones. But, these are not big stones one may expect to see, they are small, about half the size of an adult hand. But, what else is interesting is they are all placed in the ground upright, as I presume it gives them more stability.  I cannot even imagine the amount of work and time it took to collect all of these stones and then place them in such a fine order.... Simply amazing!!

So, before I went back into the main town of Maggia, I had to cross the river. I had a choice of crossing where I first crossed (a nice, car driven bridge), or, go up the river further to hopefully find another bridge. Well... I found one.. but, it was not a bridge I am fond of. It may have been 30-40 feet above the water, and it may have looked perfectly fine, but trust me.. it shook, it wobbled, it was really slippery because of the rain, and it had room for NO ONE but me. So, if by chance someone wanted to cross (though no one was out) they would have had to wait as I was holding on for dear life. one arm on the left cable, one on the right. As I said, it wasn't all that wide.

and a view of the river looking the other way, just before I went up, on, and over

Part II: Canton Ticino

Before I go into some generic details of Ticino, here are a couple of more pictures from Maggia. Even with the rain, (though it looks like it isn't raining in the second picture, but it is), the views were spectacular.

I have not decided which canton I like the most, but I know I am quite fond of Ticino. It is the only canton that is solely an Italian speaking canton. No German, no Swiss German, no Romansh.

Like Thurgau, Ticino joined Switzerland in 1803. There is a third canton that also joined this same year, but you will have to wait for my next hike to find out which one that is... what WILL it be????

The highest point in Ticino is Adula, at 11,161 feet (3,402 meters) and the lowest point is Lake Maggiore which is at 640 feet (195 meters). The total population of Ticino is 336,943 and it covers 2,812 kms.

Something I did not know until researching but Lugano is the third largest financial center in Switzerland. Only Zurich and Geneva are larger.

Locarno is also the home of the Locarno International Film Festival which has existed since 1946.

I cannot say for sure, but it appears (only by a hair) that Ticino is the southern most canton in Switzerland.

I highly recommend hiking in Ticino but also, spending some time there. Once you cross over the mountains to the south side, the weather changes, the culture changes, the language changes, and the people, well, they are fantastic.

Day 19 Hike in Canton Thurgau

Hiking in Thurgau (listen) was a lot of fun. As usual, I got lost and went a completely different way, but as fate would have it, I made a little friend.

Part I: On to hiking

The weather and views were perfect for hiking in Canton Thurgau. I hiked in a little area called Mammern. It was supposed to be about a 6 k hike, but, as it turned out, with my not understanding the map, nor Swiss German when I spoke with a nice lady along the way, I wound up going a bit off track. Ok, I completely missed the route, and at one point, when I thought I had made a lot of distance, I did a giant circle and ended up where I thought was the direction home :)

The hike started out with a very nice flat walk and then a drop of about 30 feet down a hill, which is where I got this nice quick shot of a stream.

Shortly after the stream the hill went up, and up, and up. It was at this point, right away, I made a wrong turn, or so it seemed and just followed the wanderweg. It was ok, because as I was hiking up (what turned out to be someone's yard) I took a look back and had this view.

As you can see, the weather was perfect, the view was perfect... it was... perfect. Below is a view of Lake Constance.

Once I got into the woods I came across a little snail. This photo is a bit blurry, but, I like the snails so I am happy to share it anyway.

From looking at the photo of the path I was climbing, it is really hard to tell that it was steep. Maybe 10% and this climb took about 45 minutes to an hour. It was long, or at least felt that way. I stopped 2 or 3 times to catch some air along the way. Once I cleared the woods I came to a very small village (maybe 4 or 5 houses) and spoke to a woman there in my broken (all 12 words of it) German and in the end, discovered she spoke a bit of English. But, the view back to her farm was very nice. Don't you agree?

While I did not know I was on the wrong path and the map I brought with me was seemingly ok at this point, I pushed forward. I came to another open field that went into a small village. As I was walking down the wanderweg, I saw a black cat in the distance. He or she saw me too and came right over. So, I pet him a bit and he followed me for about 1/2 of a kilometer, running in and out of my legs the entire time. If that cat was homeless I would have loved to have brought him home with me.. he was sooooooo friendly and purring like there was no tomorrow. I clearly interrupted his dinner as he was in the field looking for something to munch on.

As with all hikes (well, almost all), I had the chance to come across some cows again. I find them so peaceful and relaxing that I just do not get enough of them. This particular farm had an elderly lady tending to them just before I got there. I am guessing that she was at least 80 years old, and friendly too. I did not take her picture, but I wanted to.

I took this next photo because it reminded me of the Windows default background image. No, they are not the same, but the big open field just made me think of it I suppose.

These next few images are of the wanderweg signs. It was at this point that I clearly had no idea what I was doing in terms of going in the right direction. I knew I was not completely lost because there was a stream (see top picture) which ran all the way up so I knew if I just found that I would be fine. Turns out, while I didn't go the way I was supposed to, it was all well marked and I did a big lollipop kind of hike.

I should also mention, I really liked the wooden signs. This is the first time I came across wooden wanderweg signs.

There was a really well kept vineyard that I came across as I was finishing the last part of the hike.

And finally, just outside of town, there was this building that looked like a castle. Sure enough, it is a castle and it is called Schloss LIebenfels which is translated to Love Castle Rock or, Rock Castle of Love.. .Quite romantic :)

Some hiking details
Distance: 10k
Start 415 meters to 645 meters which happens in the first 2k of the hike (hence it being a long steady climb).
Total hiking time, I do not remember exactly, but my best guess is 2.5 hours.

Part II: About the Canton

Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures that I took of the canton. This area I was in was not near Frauenfeld, the capital of Thurgau. It was also very late in the day after the hike was complete so I needed to get home since it was a long drive.

But, what I can tell you is that Thurgau joined Switzerland in 1803 and is a German speaking canton. At the end of 2012, the total population of Thurgau was 254,528, which I believe to be smaller in size for population, though it is a larger canton in square meters than many others.

What I liked reading on the Wiki site is the following:
"The canton of Thurgau is known for its fine agricultural produce. Particularly, apples, pears, fruits and vegetables are well-known. The many orchards in the canton are mainly used for the production of cider. Wine is produced in the Thur valley.

There is also industry in the canton of Thurgau. The main industries are printing, textiles and handicrafts. Small and middle-sized businesses are important for the cantonal economy. Many of these are concentrated around the capital"

I like that the local handicraft is a contributor to the local businesses. This should encourage people to go and buy such things, as its clearly supporting families, and not just a supplemental income.

Thurgau is located in the upper right corner of Switzerland