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Part 1: Arrival and On to Switzerland!

Week one of a two month trip is coming to an end. It took 3 travel days to get to where we wanted to start our trip. One departing US flying PDX-SEA-FRA,; Second day arrival mid-afternoon at our Frankfurt hotel; Third day 7 hours to transit from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof to Saas-Grund. If our total trip length wasn’t many weeks long, we’d not have the patience to do this, but we have time and it is nice to not feel rushed.

Our Condor flight from Seattle was, perhaps, 20% full. As this flight has been going daily, clearly it is supported by a lot of cargo or they wouldn’t be able to justify it. Very nice flight in business class courtesy of hoarded Alaska Air miles. Our Condor business class experience has been consistently good. The food is some of the best we’ve had in the air.

At Frankfurt Immigration they scoffed at the Einreiseanmeldung forms we flashed with our passports. “You don’t need those. The US is not a high risk country,” he said. Not to be argumentative with an immigration official, I joked that indeed the US was very dangerous and Germany has required these since August 15. One of his colleagues backed me up. After our passports were scanned and the officer was contemplating giving me the stamp while her cohort scanned Ric’s, I tried out my ancient and rusty university German, querying “All ist gut?” The immigration official who had scoffed at our forms replied, “All ist gut. You are not the criminals we are looking for.” Who knew German immigration had a sense of humor?

I seem to encounter Italian speakers almost everywhere when we travel. At a Frankfurt Italian restaurant, the owner helped me loosen my rusty Italian tongue as we conversed a bit throughout the service. Good to know I can still fumble along. This happened again two days later when I asked a fellow hiker a question and he indicated he spoke no German, only English and Italian. How convenient! Had a nice chat.

Saas-Grund in the Saas Valley — more famous is Saas-Fee up the hill a bit — one valley east of Zermatt and the Matterhorn. The valley is only accessible by bus, no train, and Saas-Fee itself is car-free, like Zermatt or Mürren. We found a lovely modern apartment in a complex in Saas-Grund and I am glad we are staying down on the valley floor as Saas-Fee is larger and more touristed. Plus you have to take a bus crowded with day tourists to come and go from Saas-Fee. The trains we rode — Frankfurt/Bern and Bern/Visp — were not very full.

It seems we are encountering mostly Swiss seeing their own country and some Germans. We met one Canadian, one Ghanan, and the aforementioned Italian on the trail. Otherwise it’s all “Grüezi” or “Grüß Gott!”

I had hoped to scope out some good easy hikes to add to our Swiss hiking book (notes in my profile) but we’ve only found one that truly qualifies. The first hike we took, at Spielboden, was advertised as suitable for children, featuring tame marmots, and overall “easy.” We even asked at the TI about the trail. Was it too steep? Difficult? “No, it is not hard,” she replied. Ha! It was 2200 feet of ascent, many switchbacks, lots of rocks, and the marmots are in the last 5 minutes before the top. The supposed 2-hour hike took us 3 hours. We were exhausted but proud to finish. Not bad for flatlanders of a certain age… Turning back was not feasible because going down the rough terrain would be tricky and the descent hard on the knees. On our easy-hiker scale of 1 to 3, this was a 6!

The Riverside Trail between Saas-Balen and Saas-Almagell is nice and level with sections suitable for prams. It is about 8km/5 mi long and took us 2H30M. Very pretty and served by the valley buses at each end so no need to walk both ways.

No one in Switzerland has asked to see out COVID health pass QR code. We’ve eaten outdoors only so maybe that is why. Mask wearing is pretty good but there are “maskholes” in every country from what we’ve seen. More to Come!

Posted by
5035 posts

Thanks. Your Trip Report keeps us motivated and stay committed to our [hopefully] upcoming trip!
We learned awhile back not to trust those Swiss estimates of hikes- double whatever the signs indicate.
Safe travels!

Posted by
14167 posts

"The immigration official who had scoffed at our forms replied, “All ist gut. You are not the criminals we are looking for.” Who knew German immigration had a sense of humor?"

Thanks for the laugh! Your trip sounds just great and it must be wonderful to get back to the mountains!

Looking forward to your follow-ups!

Posted by
6364 posts

Enjoying this! Thank you, and keep 'em coming!

Posted by
15999 posts

It was 2200 feet of ascent, many switchbacks, lots of rocks...

You GO, Girl! I am seriously impressed! Just don't burn out your knees in the first week, hear?
Looking forward to the next report! :O)

Posted by
885 posts

Thank you! So good to hear from someone IN Switzerland! I guess the code you are talking about that no one in Switzerland has asked to see is the Swiss Health Declaration Form or the Contact Tracing Card….have not completed mine yet as we don not leave until 9/16…..keep the reports coming!

Posted by
4252 posts

Thanks for referencing your blog. While reading your TR I was wishing this forum allowed photos. Will be following your blog as well.

Posted by
585 posts

Excellent report and following your blog too. Lucky people to have such a nice long visit.

Posted by
2780 posts

Glad you made it!! Thanks for the report. Have a great trip!!! I hope to be in Switzerland myself next week. Keeping my fingers crossed for no entry changes.

Posted by
733 posts

Thanks for your report. I have your book and hope to use it if we are able make the trip to the Berner Oberland we had originally planned for 2020.

Posted by
6364 posts

Threadwear, negative term for people who don't wear masks. Modeled on a$$holes, I believe.

Posted by
198 posts

Thank you for posting and have a wonderful trip! Can't wait to hear about some of the hikes you'll be taking. And I'm still chuckling at the term "maskholes".

Posted by
311 posts

My husband and I also had an experience with the German sense of humor! Apparently when we were given back our passports,after a cruise, we didn't realize my husband's was stamped a month ahead.Think they used those roller stamps. When the immigration man saw this he asked if my husband was Michael J Fox with a very stern face. I stupidly said,oh no.My husband is taller! I didn't realize German Immigration had a sense of humor either!

Posted by
9784 posts

Laurel, I am so glad that you and Ric are well into your trip now! Thank you for the excellent report, it's fun following along.

Your story about the easy hike is perfect.

On our easy-hiker scale of 1 to 3, this was a 6!

I have to say that reading through your posts on the Forum (and your blog), you have me really wanting to go to Ortisei. That may be what I plan for next summer!

Anyway, hope the weather is with you, and may you continue to have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
11453 posts

Jane, We did not fly in so did not have to do a contact tracing form. We entered by train from Germany. I did their online questionnaire and as a result, All we had to do was conform to applicable entry requirements. We have a QR code on the Covid Certificate issued by the Valais Cantonal authorities based on the vaccination status I submitted. It is my understanding that this is what engine wants to see if they want to know you are vaccinated. We have not had to show it anywhere, yet. In Frankfurt, we had to show our CDC cards when we checked into the hotel. That is all. We have had to check-in to a restaurant in Saas-Fee by scanning their contact tracing QR code which took us to some site that registered where we had been. We have eaten in two other restaurants that did not require this. I think everyone is still confused.

Chriss, great story!

Kim, When you go you will see why we go back every year. Planning a month there in 2022 to make up for a shorter visit this year.

Posted by
3312 posts

Enjoy your trip Laurel and I look forward to reading more and doing the happy dance since trip reports are coming back to this forum.

Posted by
10337 posts

Maskholes, my new favorite phrase! Have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
16726 posts

Looking forward to more reports on your Switzerland travels and hikes, Laurel!

Posted by
6364 posts

Jane from TN and I seldom post on the same page. I was wondering why Laurel was telling me about contact tracing. I was worried she was going to tell me I was wrong about "maskholes" :-)

Posted by
105 posts

your trip sounds fantastic. 1 quick question. Do you need to have a form stamped (or ensure a physical passport stamp) when entering to ensure you can fly home without issue? I was trying to make sure following schengen country rules when flying into 1 and flying home from another. thanks! My mom thought she read this somewhere and I cannot find this rule online anywhere.

Posted by
2252 posts

Laurel! Sounds like a great trip and your travel reports are a lot of fun to read. I feel like I’m right there with you! I would love to read your blog. If it’s for public consumption, did I miss a link you posted? Andi

Posted by
1056 posts

Laurel, great to see that you and Ric are back in Europe and are hiking. I had planned a three-week stay in Ortisei for fall 2020, but we all know how that ended up. I won’t be going in 2022, but it’s on my list for early summer 2023. In the meanwhile I am reading your posts with envy, rereading your hiking book and recommending it to folks traveling to the Dolomites in 2022.

Posted by
11453 posts

Hahaha Jane from OK. You got the definition right!

Traveling girl I always make sure we get stamped. Usually only a problem in Italy where they want to wave you through, but I always stop and insist somI have proof.

Andi, it is for public consumption and the name is in my profile. Just click on my name.

Thanks for all of your good wishes!

Posted by
11453 posts

Hi Patricia! Maybe we can hook up at a local meeting this winter, if in-person gatherings are feasible once again.

Posted by
5258 posts

Hi Laurel,

Brava!
Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventures!
I always enjoy reading your trip reports!

Wishing you a safe and joyous trip!

Posted by
755 posts

Hi Laurel,
Loved reading your trip report! Keep them coming!
Happy travels,
Christine

Posted by
450 posts

I enjoyed your trip report, Laurel! We just returned from Switzerland last week and hiking was a highlight for us. We are interested in the Dolomites someday so I’ll have to check out your blog and book. Cheers and happy travels!