Hiking in Engleberg

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One area we enjoy visiting, in the German part of Switzerland, is Engleberg.  Hiking trails are scattered throughout Engleberg, but one of our favorites is the Kitzeltrail.  You can access the trail by taking the Brunni chairlift to the top of the mountain where you find Lake Härzlisee.

If you are ambitious, you can also hike up from the valley.  With younger children, I recommend taking the chairlift.  The half-fare and junior cards are accepted, so it makes it a reasonably priced mountain to go up as a family.

The Kitzeltrail is also know as the “tickle path”.  The “tickle path” surrounds Lake Härzlisee.  The path does not cost and is free to go around as many times as you’d like.   You get to experience textures barefoot; from rocks, mud, cold and warm water.

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The views from the top are incredible. Mount Titlis is just across the way offering stunning views.  There are picnic tables and fire pits making picnicking easy.  The trail is open June through October.

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There are other fun activities on the mountain including, a play area for the children and a  personal favorite, the toboggan (rodelbahn) run.

The hiking season in Engleberg usually is about mid-May through October.

Once hiking season is over you have the winter activities.  In the winter you have endless ski options. You can enjoy downhill skiing, snow-shoeing, cross country skiing and even  a horse-drawn carriage ride through the mountains.

Have you been to Engleberg? What was your favorite area?

Alpabzug

 

We finally got to see a Swiss tradition that we have been wanting to experience for years.   In the springtime the cows are taken up the mountains to graze for the summer. Then, at the end of summer, the Swiss farmers bring their cows back down from mountains. It is called the Alpabzug.  Not every Swiss town participates,  you can check out the Swiss tourism site  for participation towns. Usually the Alpabzug takes place in the month of September.

 

 


Just near the north entrance of the San Gottardo tunnel, which separates the German from the Italian speaking regions of the country, is a little village called Wassen. We have driven past this village many times but have never stopped.  Wassen is such a quaint Swiss Village.

 

 

 

 

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The Alphorns are very traditional and actually used by the farmers to call the cows into the barns at milking time.

 

Alpabzug celebrations are a big deal in these villages. Typically there is a town market where you can get all the local goodies, including raclette and bratwurst for lunch.

 

Each cow is adorned with a head piece and giant bell. It really is quite the sight to see.

 

 

Switzerland has different cantons, which are like states, each canton has their own flag. Wassen is in Canton Uri, which is represented on the yellow flag.

 

The blue shirt, worn by this farmer, is a traditional Swiss costume. Each Canton has their own type of costume.  Between the 26 Cantons in Switzerland there are over 700 types of tradition Swiss costumes.

 

The local farmers and their family walk their own herd of cows down the mountain.

We really enjoyed our first experience at the Alpabzug and would highly recommend seeking out one if you are in Switzerland during the month of September.

 

Climbing Monte Generoso in Switzerland

 

We have a view of Monte Generoso from our bedroom window and have wanted to hike it for years.  Finally, this last weekend we made the climb. Mount Generoso offers breathtaking views of both Switzerland and Italy.

We did a bit of research before climbing the mountain. There are a few options to get you to the top.  You can take a train from Riva San Vitale to the top.  Four a Family of Four it will cost you 108 Chf.  to ride the train up and back.

Monte Generoso has a Swiss and Italian side. There are many different hikes leading you to the top, which you can find here.  We decided to hike with our kids and opted for a shorter (4 hour) hike from the Bella Vista parking lot. 

You have a few options to arrive at the Bella Vista Station. You can take the train from Riva San Vitale, hike from Mendriso, or drive to the Bella Vista station. We decided to drive to the station as we knew a 4 hour hike would be long enough for our family. Fair warning, the drive up is a bit narrow and windy and parts.

From the station you can park in the parking lot and begin the hike. It is about 2 hours to the top. Part of the path follows along the train tracks,  so if you were to get tired you could always hop on the train.

The last few kilometers to the top of the mountain are fairly steep but offer beautiful views of the Swiss and Italian valleys below.

Once you arrive to the top you can see Lake Lugano below. On top there is a famous building designed by Mario Botta “Fiore di pietra” (Stone Flower). You can enjoy a self serve restaurant or a sit down restaurant with 360 degree views below. The building is quite fascinating in itself.  You can also access the roof for even more incredible views.

A climb to the top of Monte Generoso will not disappoint. We throughly enjoyed this hike and the views it had to offer. The hike down takes about half the time, which makes it a little under a 4 hour hike roundtrip from the Bella Vista parking lot.

Hiking up Monte San Salvatore in Lugano

 

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If you want a workout with breathtaking views this is the hike for you. We hesitated to do this hike, as our youngest is only 7, but we gave it a go and it was well worth it.

 

 

 

To begin the hike, you can park in the Funicolare parking lot at:

Via delle Scuole 7
CH-6902 Lugano-Paradiso

For Parking, you will need the right change to get out. Make sure you have 1, 2 or 5 CHF on you. Parking is 4 CHF for those who took the Funicular and 10 CHF if you hiked up.

From there, walk out of the parking lot in the direction towards the lake & Lugano Paradiso train station.  Once you start up the road Via Corona there will be signs directing you to the top. The signs estimate it to take about 2 hours and 40 minutes.  It took us about 3 hours with a few breaks along the way.

The trail is marked with trail markers the whole way up.  In the beginning, you take a short trail through the forest passing some houses along the way.

Eventually, you will see the Funicular and follow the stairs along the tracks. This part was a little discouraging for my kids when they could see how much further they had to climb, but they were troopers.

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The halfway point seemed to be a bit after you reach the end of the trail following the tracks.

Along the trail, there are a number of panoramic viewpoints. The trail winds around the Lugano side of the mountain so you are able to see many beautiful views of the city and the lake below. On a clear day, you can see Monte Rosa and other snow-capped Alps in the distance.

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When you finally reach the top you will come out by the Funicular.  There is a restaurant where you can sit and admire your accomplishment. We enjoyed some refreshing drinks and snacks while soaking in the views.

There is also a section with picnic tables. So, if you decide to hike up with a picnic you have somewhere to sit and enjoy it.

 

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Just past the restaurant, you can take the trail about 5 minutes more to the very top. On the top, there is a little church and the most amazing panoramic views over Lugano. You can see parts of Italy, the Swiss Alps, and the winding Lugano Lake below. (Pictured above is the first look out, you have to climb a little higher for the best view of all. )

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There is also a church by the viewpoint. It is open to the public and you can go inside to see the little chapel. If you go around the backside of the church you will see a small door with stairs leading to the roof. Take the stairs up to the top, the views will not disappoint.

From the top, you can get a good idea of how Lake Lugano winds through the beautiful mountains.  Once you’re done enjoying the views, decide if you are going to hike or ride down on the Funicolare. The hike down is about an hour.

If you’re going to take the Funicolare down, it departs every half hour. During spring and fall, the last train down is at 5 pm. In summer the last train down is at 11 pm! If you miss the tram you have no choice but to hike down.

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The Funicolare ride is only a 10-minute ride to the top versus the 2 1/2 hour hike, although you miss out on some fantastic views.

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 Funicolare Lugano-Paradiso – Monte San Salvatore 

Adult return fares are 30 CHF and children 13 CHF. If you decide to hike in one direction they have a reduced rate of 23 CHF /10 CHF. Opening hours change depending on the season. 

 

 

The Matterhorn

Many are familiar with the Matterhorn because of the Disneyland ride, but a visit to the real Matterhorn will not disappoint. The Matterhorn is located in Southern Switzerland on the border of Italy and Switzerland.  It actually is not the tallest Mountain in Switzerland, standing at 14,690 ft. Monte Rosa, located in the same Alp range stands at 15,203 ft.  Although,  for me, the Matterhorn is more of an impressive site.

Getting to the Matterhorn?

Yes, it is true.  No cars are allowed in Zermatt.  But no fear, a horse and buggy can pull you along. Or just hop on one of the small electric cars provided by the hotels and merchants.  Because cars are not allowed, your only option in is a train.  If you do decide to drive you will have to park your car in Taesch and take the train from there.

 

 

Once you arrive in Zermatt. I highly recommend taking the Gornergrat Bahn up to Gornergrat for the best views of the Matterhorn. It’s not cheap, 80 francs RT, but if you make it all the way to Zermatt, you have to go to the top.  Check out the Swiss tourism site for offers.
And while on top of the world (or Swiss Alps), why not enjoy a Swiss lunch on their patio.

 

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Zermatt for a few days, skiing is a must.  But most of all, just pray for blue skies, and your views will be spectacular.

Castles, Palaces, Walled Cities

Traveling with kids can be daunting, especially if you fail to keep them entertained. Thankfully, there are thousands of castles in Europe. Seems like everywhere we go there is a castle to explore. The kids are fascinated with castles (think…dungeons, dragons, swords). We have explored our fair share of castles and I thought I would highlight a few of our favorites.
The Neuschwanstein Castle Hohenschwangau, Germany
One of the most famous castles in Europe
 
We have visited here a  few times, as the kids like to call it their castle. Neuenswander is a family name, so the kids feel they have a claim to it….. wouldn’t that be nice.
The castle is in Bavaria, Germany.  Since it is famous,  I recommend buying your tickets online.  We have waited hours in peak season for a tour.  A tour is included with the purchase of a ticket .
You have the option to tour both castles. The other, smaller castle, was King Ludwig II fathers’ castle.  If you want to get an idea of the time period furniture and decor, I recommend also touring the Hohenschwangau Castle.
Once you buy your ticket you have to walk up to the castle. The walk is beautiful in the summer but freezing in the winter. I recommend, especially with kids, taking the bus or hiring a carriage to the top. The horse drawn carriage was a favorite for our kids.
 
The Prague Castle – Prague, Czech Republic
The Prague castle is noted to be the biggest castle in the world.  To me, it seemed like a little city in itself. There are many churches and palaces all built within the walls.

There are different types of tickets you can purchase to tour the castle.  Decide which works best for you. A “long visit ticket” may prove too long for little kids.
* A note to the reader, the castle may appear closer than it really is. You may find that your mid afternoon stroll turns into a walk filled with tears and ice cream bribes.  It’s recommended, by me, a fellow “let’s walk – it looks close” person, to just take the tram.

 

The Sanssouci Palace – Potsdam, Germany
Palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia 
 

The grounds of the Sanssouci Palace reminded me of the Palace of Versailles, seemingly going on forever.  Potsdam is just outside Berlin and home to many summer Palaces. The above picture does not do justice. The grounds are immaculate with multiple Palaces scattered throughout.
You can buy tickets for a guided tour upon arrival.  The area is crawling with tourists during the summer, but we found  the lines were manageable.  If find yourself in Berlin and need a break from the city touring, I can highly recommend taking a break in Potsdam.

 

 

Palace of Versailles – Paris, France

It’s only fair if I make a comparison to the Palace of Versailles, I also review it.    Home to Louise XIV The Palace of Versailles is fascinating.  For our kids it was also a great history lesson regarding the French Revolution.  The grounds are just as amazing as the inside. I found this castle to be so ornate in detail, unlike the inside of the Neuschwanstein castle.
Buying your ticket ahead is highly recommended. This is a definite must see while in Paris.

 Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg – Orschwiller, France

 

Overlooking the Alsace valley of France, this Chateau has a breathtaking view.   The few time we have visited, spring and summer season, we have had no problems with the lines. You can purchase your tickets upon arrival and go on a self guided tour.The castle has some impressive furniture inside its apartments.  Our kids were kept entertained with the drawbridges and cannons along the tour.

 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber – walled city in 
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
 This little city is, by far, the most darling medieval town we have visited. The town is completely surrounded by a wall. A walk around the city wall is a must. Guided walks through the town are offered to fill you in on the history.  I’d recommend the night tour with a medieval guide carrying a torch to light your way. You can visit the tourist center inside the wall to purchase your tickets. The town is also famous for the shop Wohlfahrt, another must see. 
Château de Chillon – Montreux, Switzerland
This Castle sits on Lake Leman, in the French speaking part of Switzerland. You might ask- what’s so cool about his castle? You can hire out the castle for birthday parties (weddings too). How cool is that?  Besides being able to party in the castle, you can also tour it.  You can purchase a guided tour and get an in depth history lesson.
Carcassonne – More than just a board game, 
a walled city in Carcassonne, France
Our boys asked for years to visit Carcassonne. The only knowledge they had of this city was from a beloved family game we play, Carcassonne. So, when we informed them we would take a road trip there, they were ecstatic.
The fortified city has it’s own drawbridge and 53 towers to watch out for the enemy (in the past, of course).  I could best describe the city as imagination-gone-wild for the kids.  No tickets are needed.  It’s free to explore the grounds.  You can walk through the walled city anytime but many of the restaurants and shops are closed  in the off season (winter months).
Civita di Bagnoregio – Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy
 
And in the spirit of walled cities I figured this city needed to be mentioned. The city itself, perched up on a hill, is a site to see.  No cars are allowed in the city,  you must park before crossing the bridge. There are a few spots of metered parking close to the bridge. From there you can walk across the bridge to the beautiful town of Civita di Bagnoregio.  No tickets are required to tour. The town is pretty secluded but it’s a great little town to explore. Not to mention, a breathtaking picture.

Our Move Abroad

A few years back I was bitten by a travel bug and this is how it came about.
Our first trip to Europe was over 9 years ago
We traveled to Italy with my parents and  Fell.in.love.
Then 6 months later we found ourselves living in Europe.

I know we sound crazy and looking back I think we were crazy but wouldn’t change it.

A time-line of how our move abroad came to be……..
 

March 2007 – We took our first trip to Europe and loved it but my husband wasn’t quite sure he wanted to move.  We lived by family & friends, had a great job and home and loved where we lived. But it couldn’t hurt to send out a few emails, right?  I started to send out emails all over Europe, focusing mainly on The Netherlands. I spent a lot of time on IT Job board.  I must have sent out a 100 emails.  We started hearing back, most with a response like below sent in April of 2007.
 
Do you have a work permit to work in Europe? That was the million dollar question. And of course, our response was no, we needed someone to sponsor us.
April 2007 We received emails from 3 companies in Germany and Switzerland, all wanting to set up phone interviews.  We had never considered Switzerland and knew nothing about it besides the Matterhorn was there. Screenings went well, followed by more phone interviews. They wanted to meet face to face.
 
May 2007 My husband made his journey out to Switzerland to interview with the companies.  He called me after the interview and I asked him, “So what do you think of Switzerland?” His response, “It’s ok, it’s kind of cold” but by this part I was sold. I wanted to go.
June 2007
Offers were made. We weighed our options between Germany and Switzerland.  Besides the 2 day interviewing we had never been to either country, neither of us spoke German, we knew nothing.  No company at this point could guarantee a working permit either.
July 2007
We submit all passports and documents to start the process to see if we could get a working permit. We still had no idea if this would be a reality. I spent a lot of time on the English Forum, a forum for expats in Switzerland.  I read all about the permit approval process and people’s stories of getting denied, the quota of permits they give out, etc.
 
August 31, 2007
After 8 weeks of waiting we woke up to this email……
 
And just like that, we were moving to Europe! We were on a permanent local hire, so that meant we were moving ourselves.  That also meant, no relocation package, no car, no shipment,nothing.  Most people who move abroad, transfer with companies and get relocation packages. I became our own personal relocation specialist, we spoke no German, making the whole process a 100% harder.  But hey, it was the adventure we signed up for and the reason we decided to move to Europe in the first place, to give our family the experience of living abroad.
September 2007
We sold almost everything we owned, kind of a liberating feeling. We purchased our one way tickets to Switzerland. We said our goodbyes and flew out the last week of September. This is our story of our move abroad in a nutshell.
   Yes, that is all of the luggage we took to move abroad, 8 bags

Fasnacht

Fasnacht is like Carnival, held every February. The Swiss tradition is everyone dresses up. But these are not batman costumes, they are usually amazing, unique costumes, many homemade.

They hold a kids Fasnacht party every year in Zürich. It includes a cart of confetti being paraded around old town with kids and music. We also have a similar parade in our small town.

Bellinzona

 It rains a lot in Switzerland and that may be an understatement.  But most of the time it only takes driving to the Italian speaking part of Switzerland to get sunshine. There are 3 UNESCO castles in Bellinzona, which we frequently pass driving to Italy, but have never stopped.
 You mention castle, and this self proclaimed princess, yells “YEAH, CASTLE!”
 Stairway up the castle wall.
 Such a great big brother.
For safety reasons, or lack of, I took this picture for my mom. No railings, a straight fall down. 🙂
 Taking a little break
 Hiking down the castle wall. All covered in grass?
And yes, I am like my mom, I was nervous about the unprotected sheer edges, for that reason the little one was carried and boys cautioned 🙂
 At least we got one child to smile.
 I LOVE my boys,  but LOVE having a daughter too!
 The castle is pretty much right in the center of town.
Hiking back up the wall with daddy. And best part about our trip…. we enjoyed the sunshine while it was pouring rain in Zürich .

Weihnachtsmarkt

Wow, somehow time has escaped me. Don’t ask me where, I wouldn’t be able to say. But now it’s   time for low-quality-blog-catch-up.  Mainly for the sake of my family, it may only prove to be entertaining to the grandparents. So all others be warned or stop reading now.

Back in December before the cold insanely freezing weather hit, we made our way up to Freiburg Germany for a Christmas market.  Christmastime is magical in Europe. I love the markets.  They all seem to sell the same junk but sometimes great finds are found. (pictured above- don’t you want a family set?)

Now onto the food.  Not pictured was the 1 foot sausages downed by the boys. For dessert he settled for a chocolate covered apple.

He was a little more adventurous eating a dough fried surprise.  Nothing a little sugar and applesauce can’t make delicious.

Hmm, I think we will have to order another one of those dough surprises, yum!  And now for a few random shots.  This is where the low-quality blogging comes in. I could narrate them all but not today…..

 

 

Fröhliche Weihnachten!