Left: the 12 hour
train ride from Amsterdam to Scuol - via Basel, Zurich and
|OK so everyone needs a
vacation every now and then eh? I think just about everyone except for my boss
will agree with me on that one. However, what one considers a "vacation" takes
on its own meaning when my father comes into play. While most of us vacation to
get away from their family I find myself using my weeks off to meet up with my
folks who live half the world away.
While my mother and bro Dusty
visited me in for a relaxing week in San Francisco last summer, my father chose
hiking in the alps of Switzerland his destination and I enthusiastically met up
with him there. Now this is where a little problem becomes apparent. You see,
my father is an adventuress, a great taker of risks. The problem is he doesn't
always see eye to eye with my lazy, slacking on the beach vacation type ideals.
Instead, grueling 12 hour train journeys and exhausting two day hikes into the
alpine wilderness are his idea of fun. Nevertheless, he is my father so I
resolved to lay down the gauntlet and join him on one of his lunatic
|There were other factors
however that made me want to do this trip. We would be staying with Tommy Beck,
an old friend from Oman whom I hadn't seen in some 5
years or so. Also this was a rather unique opportunity to see Switzerland, the
land of Heidi and the Sound of Music. Also, unfortunately, one of the most
expensive countries in the world to visit.
Despite being such a tiny
country, there are 4 languages spoken in Switzerland; French, Italian, German
and Romansh. Switzerland has become a major banking and insurance center and
has a history for its neutrality. Switzerland's ability to stay neutral during
both of the World Wars, the Cold War and the fall of communism in Eastern
Europe has attributed to their high standards of living.
Above: the train ride, as
long and tedious as it was did posses some excellent scenery
Above: Johnny Marr (or at least
the equivalent of...), Anika, Tommy, Laiq (the dog), Alice and a Japanese
tourist outside the Back's house
|I met up with my dad at Amsterdam's Schipol
Airport with no difficulty. I arrived on a plane from San Francisco while my
dad was coming from Houston. We immediately caught the train into the city and
then onto Basel, Switzerland. The long, wearisome 12 hour ride was torture for
me. I will admit it that the German countryside we passed through was beautiful
and picturesque but despite my father's constant reminder of this, I still
complained incessantly that we hadn't opted for a plane instead. Sitting down
in one place for hours is not something I find easy.... It's a bit like seeing
Kate Winslett in Titanic. I love seeing Kate Winslett but weather or not I want
to sit through 3 1/2 hours of her silly movie is another matter......
| We had to take 3 more trains once arriving
in Switzerland, switching trains in Basel, Zurich and Landquart. We finally
strolled into Scuol close to midnight and were met by Tommy Back, his wife
Alice and daughter Anika. It was also a pleasure to see their charismatic dog
Laiq was still an essential part of the family. We stayed with the Back's in
Scuol for a good 4 nights and they turned out to be paramount hosts; allowing
my father and I to feel at home while Alice kept us well fed and Anika provided
Scuol is a tiny, embellished, typical city in the
Swiss Alps. It is located in the providence of Graubünden, in the south
east of Switzerland bordering Italy. Graubünden is the largest yet least
populous providence in Switzerland. Dominated by its mountainous landscape of
the Swiss Alps, Graubünden lacks any major city to give its population a
boost. St Moritz Mtn. and the Egandine Valley attract thousands of tourists
each year as skiing and mountain climbing are of the finest quality here.
Scuol is also one of the only places in the world where you'll find the
arcane language of Romansch spoken. Romansch, a combination of roman Latin and
the Rhaetian Tuscan dialect has eluded some of the greatest anthropologists as
to how it came about to be spoken in this part of Switzerland. Nevertheless,
only 1% of the whole Swiss population speaks Romansch yet it is quite widely
spoken in this part Graubünden.
A Californian in Switzerland... ahhhh...... now
this is what I call a vacation.
||After a nice sleep at Tommy's we awoke early the
next morning and set off on our first hike. We chose to take it easy the first
day, taking a gondola, used as a ski lift in the winter season, up to one of
the nearby peaks, Motta Naluns. We walked an extra 200 meters up to reach about
2316 m (according to my father's GPS) in order to assess the two day journey we
were going to make the next day. The walk down was a little tougher and a
prelude of things to come the next day as we detoured down to the nearby
village of Sent and then back to Scuol.
Left: My dad
gets a kick out of spitting down on rafters from bridgetops
|The next day we set out on a two day journey
which would take us up the larger Alpine Mts. surrounding Scuol, over 3,000 m
above sea level to Piz Lischana and close to the Italian border then down
through the Engadine Valley and back via Uina Danaint and Sur En.
spent the first day walking up Mt Lischana. Close to the peak there lies a hut
called Chammana Lischana. The hut is used as a guest hostel for backpackers and
we spent the night in the dining room there (the beds were all taken). Spending
the night here is ridiculously expensive (about $40/ person for a cramped bed)
but then again this is Switzerland.....
We awoke early the next morning,
at around 7:15 am and made our way up to the peak of Piz Lischana. The view
from there was spectacular as was the walk down through the Valley through
snowy mountains, grass plains and a rather threatening gorge walk through the
mountains onto Sur En. Oh yeah and did I mention the glacier lake I decided to
take a little swim in.
Taking a little dip into this glacier lake
probably wasn't the smartest decision I've ever made. Nevertheless, after a
slight stint with hypothermia, I managed to come out unscathed.
Above: The fool on the hill ...... and
then there's me on the right ...... the Swiss Alps in the near background and
the Italian Alps in the far back.
|We spent our final day in Scuol in their
wonderful outdoor spa at the Scuol recreational baths. Now these are
very impressive. Indoor swimming facilities are quite common in Swiss
villages however Scuol's outdoor Jacuzzi's are quite spectacular.
then thanked Tommy and his family for their hospitality and generosity before
heading back to Amsterdam by train. Fortunately this time, the train was
overnight so we slept most of the way.
Switzerland certainly is one of
the most peaceful, pleasant and scenic places on earth and strongly suggest a
trip there - that's if you can afford it. I said good-bye to my dad in
Amsterdam the next day after a nice night out in the city before heading back
to San Francisco.
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