Monthly Archives: June 2013

10 Jun: Einsiedeln (Recovery Day)

Today was for recovery. Not so much me, myself, mind you – as much as to retrace my steps a few days by train to recover a personal article left behind a few nights ago. The train connections here in Switzerland, especially the Zurich region, are truly excellent.

And so I got an all-day pass and headed back to Fischenthal, where I completed my errand and had a nice lunch at the Gasthaus Blume, where we had stayed earlier in the week. Then, for the return trip, I headed in a loop north through Zurich before turning south again to Rapperswil. This routing let me see some different valleys as well as the north end of the Zurichsee. It was a lovely, mostly sunny day.

I can see, with the trains, that people commute from fairly far out. That is how all these lovely small towns are surviving – someone has a day job in a bigger town. Still, I marvel at the major investment in the heavy rail transport system. There are spur lines everywhere! And the rolling equipment is different too – I see much steeper grades on these lines than in the US, and we’re not even really in the mountains here.

Having had a nice restaurant lunch, I went with a picnic for dinner. There is a small but well-supplied grocery near my B&B in Einsiedeln, and they have nice produce, prepared sandwiches and salads, even fresh fruit tarts. It’s a nice option where a salad, a plate of pasta and meatballs, and dessert runs $26.

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9 Jun: Einsiedeln

Distance: 16.8 km
Elev: 630 m up, 188 m down, net + 450 m
Time: 8 hours total (quoted at 4.5 hrs)

Starting on the Jakobsweg again in the morning, we pass by a bakery-cafe only a block from the Herberge; it would certainly be possible to have breakfast there, in addition to picking up lunch supplies. The tourist office and an ATM face this same plaza.


It is cool and cloudy, with a promise of showers later, as we start walking across the lake. It’s not what you think! There are several islands scattered along the middle of the lake, with a pedestrian boardwalk connecting them.


These islands and their surrounding marshes make wonderful waterfowl habitat, and the boardwalk provides a unique observation point.

At the train station in Pfäffikon (another supply point), we turn inland and start climbing. For a short while the clouds lift, so we have spectacular views of the Zurichsee lake, as well as warming sun. The way is steep, often fitted with steps that are uncomfortably tall, and very little shade.


We stopped at Luetegen for a park bench lunch, and marveled at the cyclists and the cars, snaking up and down this slope with no collisions.

The next section still continued steeply, the trees now providing shade from their canopies and footholds from their roots. It was just as steep going downhill of course, and we were frequently dodging mountain bikes headed down.

At last we reached the day’s highest elevation at Etzelpass. St Meinrad, the Benedictine monk who founded the abbey at Einsiedeln, started as a hermit here. There is a chapel shrine to his memory, and the old Pilgerherberge is still operating as a Gasthof. Their terrace has lovely views all around and we sorely needed our cold drink! Then we descend to the Devils Bridge, build of stone as the quarry and the abbey are on opposite sides of the river.


And back up again, as the rain clouds finally get serious with a shower before we reach Einsiedeln. The guidebook and the waymarking indicate this trip is 4.5 hours of walking. With probably 2 hours of breaks, all told, it has taken me 8 hours.


Dining. The Restaurant Sihlsee (named for the local lake) has schnitzel 30 ways! And the salad was quite good too.

Lodging. In Rapperswil we saw an advert for a bed-and-breakfast in Einsiedeln with private rooms at pilgrim rates, less expensive than the dormitory at the Kloster. This Gasthaus Zum Webstuhl is a few blocks off the main street, about 10 minutes from the Kloster and 5 minutes from the train station. So, in a residential area with restaurants a few minutes’ walk away – not terribly convenient but acceptable. Host is mainly a German-speaker, with a bit of French and very little English. Breakfast was nice but not exceptional.

8 Jun: Rapperswil

Distance: 17.5 km
Elev: 18 m up, 356 m down, net – 338 m

It’s Saturday morning, and the Swiss are up and about. Some are working the hay fields (an ongoing project every day). Some are cycling (we were nearly mowed down by the peloton several times). With all these hills for training, I don’t think I would ever bet against a Swiss cyclist.
We followed the valley for a while, seeing mountain vistas ahead, and spotted some ski jumps.


Then the route turned uphill, and we had gorgeous views of the Zurichsee valley and the mountains to the south. Just jaw-droppingly spectacular scenery. We had lunch under a shady tree with a million-dollar view.


Then it was the long slog downhill. On the outskirts of Rütli, which the route detours around, there was an old women selling coffee and cake on her porch. So we enjoyed a cool drink and some rhubarb tart – just the best break from the hot afternoon. We also picked up bread for tomorrow.

Rapperswil is a good-sized town, and would warrant a day for exploration on its own.

Dining. The Cafe Rossini is very near the Herberge and had outdoor seating. I had the daily special, linguine with squid and shrimp in a light tomato sauce. Tasty!


Lodging. We are at the Pilgerherberge only a block from the lake, behind the Rathaus. It is possible to make advance reservations online, but we were successful by telephone. Friendly host, modern and comfortable facilities. Very highly recommended.

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7 Jun: Fischenthal

Distance: 10.4 km to Steg plus 3 km by train
Elev: 520m up, 438m down, net +82m

The abbey here has been renovated and re-opened by the Benedictines, after it was closed and put to secular use in the 1860’s. The restoration in the church and chapel was just beautiful.


One of the lovely, pilgrim-esque benefits of staying in the abbeys that were (and still are) pilgrim shelters, is to be able to attend Mass, and to receive pilgrim blessings, as thousands have done before us, for centuries. And so we began our day with a pilgrim blessing.

Then it was steadily uphill all morning, past lunch, with spectacular views looking east.


We passed the three-canton junction point, leaving Thurgau with its light-blue waymarking and entering Zurich with its brown marks with white letters. (Really! Who thought this up? Brown marks on brown trees? The darned things are hard enough to spot without the camouflage paint.)

We kept climbing, getting some very welcome shade occasionally, until Hörnli, at 1133m the highest point on the Swiss Jakobsweg until Einsiedeln.


Then it is steeply downhill, sometimes on sunny farm roads and sometimes on graveled forest tracks. The westerly views are breath-taking, but gravel and steep slopes are not a good combination.


And so we arrive at Steg, our planned destination for the day. But there was no room at the inn. So we took a 3-km hop by S-Bahn train to the next town. It is along the Jakobsweg and so certainly walkable. But the views are suburban and tomorrow would be a very long day, so this works well for us.

Dining. The Gasthaus dining room includes a terrace, which we took advantage of on thus warm summer evening. Rösti is one of the Swiss national dishes – this is a gussied-up hash brown. So I had the local version, which included chicken and raclette cheese. Tasty and rib-sticking!

Lodging. We are at the Gasthaus Blume, which is two blocks south of the train station on the main street. Good location and clean, modern rooms. My WC and shower are down the hall but it works out ok.

7 Jun: Fischenthal

Distance: 10.4 km to Steg plus 3 km by train
Elev: 520m up, 438m down, net +82m

The abbey here has been renovated and re-opened by the Benedictines, after it was closed and put to secular use in the 1860’s. The restoration in the church and chapel was just beautiful.


One of the lovely, pilgrim-esque benefits of staying in the abbeys that were (and still are) pilgrim shelters, is to be able to attend Mass, and to receive pilgrim blessings, as thousands have done before us, for centuries. And so we began our day with a pilgrim blessing.

Then it was steadily uphill all morning, past lunch, with spectacular views looking east.


We passed the three-canton junction point, leaving Thurgau with its light-blue waymarking and entering Zurich with its brown marks with white letters. (Really! Who thought this up? Brown marks on brown trees? The darned things are hard enough to spot without the camouflage paint.)

We kept climbing, getting some very welcome shade occasionally, until Hörnli, at 1133m the highest point on the Swiss Jakobsweg until Einsiedeln.


Then it is steeply downhill, sometimes on sunny farm roads and sometimes on graveled forest tracks. The westerly views are breath-taking, but gravel and steep slopes are not a good combination.


And so we arrive at Steg, our planned destination for the day. But there was no room at the inn. So we took a 3-km hop by S-Bahn train to the next town. It is along the Jakobsweg and so certainly walkable. But the views are suburban and tomorrow would be a very long day, so this works well for us.

Dining. The Gasthaus dining room includes a terrace, which we took advantage of on thus warm summer evening. Rösti is one of the Swiss national dishes – this is a gussied-up hash brown. So I had the local version, which included chicken and raclette cheese. Tasty and rib-sticking!

Lodging. We are at the Gasthaus Blume, which is two blocks south of the train station on the main street. Good location and clean, modern rooms. My WC and shower are down the hall but it works out ok.

6 Jun: Fischingen

Distance: 15.5 km
Elev: 106 m up, 5 m down, net +101m

After Frau Feuz told us her secret to making wonderful muesli for breakfast, we set out on another “Chamber of Commerce” day.

There was an interesting chapel to St Margareten in the town of the same name, where we stopped for lunch. The chapel has a pilgrim stamp in the style we are seeing often in Switzerland: a pre-printed address label. I guess the rubber stamp was too much trouble to maintain! Lunch was at a pub on the corner directly opposite he chapel; they have a Tagesmenu and made a terrific salad plate.


We have enjoyed interacting with the livestock as we pass the farms. Today we saw freshly-shorn alpacas (the head is not clipped, so they look like they’re wearing toupees). And the Swiss cows wear these enormous bells so they can be found.

It is the warmest day of the trip so far in the mid-70’s. We are all in shorts and sun-protection shirts and sunscreen. But it is still a long, scorching day, with little shade until the end, where we encounter some gratuitous hills.


Dining. The Kloster guesthouse had a simple single menu meal, with a nice salad, grilled wurst with potatoes and vegetables for 16CHF, beer additional.


Lodging. The Benedictine Kloster has a guesthouse with private rooms (90 CHF single, 150 CHF double) and also a bunkbed dormitory (Mehrbettenraum) at 38CHF with WC down the hall and showers upstairs. Towels provided but not sheets. Breakfast is included.

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5 Jun: Tobel

Distance: 13 km (plus 6 km detour to Loomis)
Elev: 115m up, 89m down, net + 26m

A beautiful morning with a cloudless sky and my Swiss friends and things are just lovely. We passed interesting old houses and an old mill, as well interesting new houses.


We climbed a meadowed ridge with spectacular views of the Alps foothills to the south.


The chapel at Kaltenbrunnen , where we ate lunch, has a St Jakob window and a pilgrim stamp.


From there we detoured along the bikeway to Loomis, where there was a noteworthy Gothic church with a lovely baroque altarpiece.


Also the interior has been painted – a very worthwhile detour.


But it was a warm and sunny afternoon, with the roadway offering no shade, so we wandered through some forest paths that were trending in the right direction and eventually arrived at Tobel.


Dining. Restaurant Löwen, two blocks down the hill from Frau Feuz’ place, is the nearest and very neighborly. We had cool drinks there in the shade during the afternoon, while waiting on the clock. Dinner was a terrific vegetable soup, nice salad, very tender veal cutlets pan-fried with rice and gravy.

Lodging. We had booked private rooms with Frau Feuz; there is a lot of this in Switzerland – which makes having local language speakers in the party very helpful. The peculiar practice with these lodgings is, you cannot gain entry until 5 pm. No sense arriving early, one can’t get in. So we had elected the Loomis detour as a way to kill time. I forgot to mention that the Herberge yesterday had a pocket-sized list of accommodations (I meant to pick up a copy). The German guidebook only lists a few for each town.

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