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!