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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chateau D’Oex – July 31-Aug 3, 2012


(Featuring The Day of the Effusive French-Swiss)

  

Switzerland is a great hiking spot for people traveling without their own transportation:  The trains, although expensive, run frequently and on schedule to even the most remote locations, often dropping you within walking distance of a gondola.  The gondolas make it easy to enjoy the mountain peaks without a lot of effort and are, therefore, quite crowded this time of year.  This is not our idea of hiking.

Having our own transportation and knowing that we enjoy our hikes more when we are in the less populated areas, we have spent numerous hours pouring over hiking maps trying to find destinations that you can only reach by foot—not gondola or car.  Ideally, we would drive Pepper to the jumping off point with no bus or train station in sight as we often did in France.

We thought we had discovered one, a hike to Lac Liosin via a short drive up from Les Mosses.  We parked and began the hike with optimism, only seeing one other car in the area.   After an hour of uphill climbing, we came to the bright, clear lake so crowded with fish they swam by in groups, alas the same could be said about the people.  It turns out there was a road right up to the lake, obviously not depicted on our map.  We stayed for a brief lunch and I tried some fishing before we headed up the other side to continue our roundabout hike.

Having climbed over the pass and down the steep, rocky terrain to the valley on the other side, we were ready to stop for a coke at the tiny snack shack.  Run by a small man with an abundance of energy and eyes that sparkled with a knowing answer to the mystery of life, we were first greeted with a hand shake and then promptly served.  I glanced into the shack then did a quick double-take as I was sure I saw a baby grand piano inside.  I asked if he played and he replied, “Bien sur!” and, assuming we were British, offered to play the British National Anthem; I quickly requested something American which promptly garnered us the ability to see everyone else’s faces, albeit with mouths open.

He invited us all into the shack for the performance and expertly launched into some ragtime.  Ragtime at 6500’, on a baby-grand piano in a wooden shack, smack in the middle of the Swiss Alps; it was incredible and, I thought at the time, would be seared into my mind as my favorite Swiss memory. 

Since the remaining people were all Swiss, he continued into the Swiss National Anthem (it also happened to be Swiss National Day – celebrating the signing of the Federal Charter in 1291 bringing together three cantons to form the country) and the small crowd proudly belted out the words. That little shack was rocking!  I wish I had Bloggie going at that point.  I didn’t want to interrupt the singing by taking their picture, but I did snap one of a baby being held up for a view through the window, whose joy-filled face mirrored those of the people around her.

Back at Salt we had just settled in for some TV when the fireworks started so we rushed outside.  The campground had a bonfire going (open pyre just flaming away like we saw in Ax Les Thermes) and the small village of Chateau D’Oex was putting on quite a show!  Rarely have we seen such varied fireworks back home, they were gorgeous.  Two French (or French Swiss) children adopted us, a boy of about 5 who sat as close to us as he dared and a girl of about 7 who stood next to me, wrapping her long arms completely around my middle, hugging me tight with every burst.  They made the night complete with an awe-inspired whispered, “Ooo La La!” from the boy and, on another rally a, “Mon Dieu!” from the girl.  Now tied at first for my favorite Swiss memory.

Then Mother Nature stepped up the show with amazing lightening and the longest peals of thunder I have ever heard.  When the rain started coming down, we headed in.  (Incidentally, this was the second time a young French-speaking person has tried to talk to me and, when I eventually run out of my meager phrases, replies with, “Ce n’est pas grave” in a voice very much grave indeed.)

This post was written while at our next stop, Fiesch in the famous Wallis Valley.  We have managed to play tennis twice in-between tumultuous rain storms but haven’t seen any of the peaks.   Trying to outrun the crowds at the gondolas, one day we attempted to drive up to a lake for some hiking and fishing, but between the incredibly windy, one-lane two-way traffic roads and the low fog we gave up on touring ourselves around.  The next hiking attempt will start at a gondola station.  

-K

PS:  The link to Lac Lioson information indicates that the lake is only accessible via foot or bike.  But we saw numerous cars at the restaurant and could see the road when we were hiking out.