Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Switzerland: Ilanz, Surselva Region

You may recall Heidi and Ursin as our cabin mates on the Navimag boat in Patagonia or as the couple that kept appearing along our travels at the most bizarre moments. This time however, our meeting was no accident. Given that we were already travelling along the Rhine in Germany, we couldn't help but pole vault over the border and exchange sauerkraut for Swiss cheese, Kolsch for Kluge and Audis for Mercedes...we wish! We still had to make do with public transport...and when that failed us, we had other means. More on that later.

On our first day Heidi was at work. Much to our disappointment, it appears not everyone can be on holidays at the same time as us. Luckily though Ursin had taken time off and had great plans for the JeTZ. A hike up the Cassons.

Being an experienced hiker, Ursin packed all sorts of snacks and drinks, but unfortunately he neglected to mention that at 2700m above sea level, it would be a chilly 5°C on top of the mountain.
We began our trek post haste and were quickly rewarded by the appearance of the sun.
Ursin led the way across the mountain top, to where the spring flowers gave way to the unmelted snow falls of late winter.
Jez was wearing the same shoes that he had worn to the super posh casino in Baden-Baden. All of a sudden he started to feel that leaving his hiking boots in South America hadn't been such a great idea. The path that TZ is following below was made by Ursin. The the wider path in the lower right of the photo was made by Jez's tush when he slipped and slid down the snow. Jez began to wish he had renewed his travel insurance for the European leg of the grand adventure.
It wasn't all hard work though. When we reached this picturesque valley, we whiled away our lunch break marveling at the scenery and tucking into our picnic.

The "quick touch" test, bravely performed by Ursin, revealed that this electric fence was switched off.
We were a little concerned about what would have happened had the "quick touch" test failed. Ursin reassured us by demonstrating a strange Swiss remedy for electrical shock which involves licking a particular type of tree that only grows in the Surselva region...

Here TZ faces bravely faces her fear of walking through a cow paddock. Loyal readers will recall how she was attacked by a cow in Cambridge more than a year earlier rendering her completely fearful of charging bovines. But she proves gallant remembering the important lesson of not discussing Hungry Jacks in front of them.

Later that afternoon Ursin brought us to this spectacular lake. Unlike the tepid waters we were used to swimming in, Swiss lakes are somewhat colder. 

Ok, that's an outrageous understatement. These lakes are so cold even Jez refused to go in naked opting instead to wear his boardies. How did he cope in water? In his words; "you think you are going to die...and so you forget about the water".

That evening Heidi came up to see us. She came bearing gifts of the most exquisite kind called Luxenburgi...or something to that affect.

Whatever they were called though, they sure were yummy. However, the JeTZ follow a strict balanced diet. So the next day we went hiking again to work those sweet things off. Three train stops from Ilanz and we were once again in a pristine wilderness...
...full of flowers and insects...
...and shameless displays of public affection!

Inspired by carion eating birds feasting on some sort of Swiss chipmunk, we began to hunt for a place to retire for lunch.
In Switzerland camping provides no excuse to get messy. Fresh water is provided to wash, wood can be found neatly stacked...
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...and the fireplace looks like it comes from Ikea!
For dessert we picked wild strawberries from the forest.
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We thought the Swiss gorge was a geological feature. Ursin demonstrated that it is in fact a technique for devouring wild strawberries.
As was now becoming typical, the hike ended with a swim in an icy Swiss lake. Jez threw himself at the mercy of the cold water whilst Ursin took a more measured approach. Either way, the boys were a lot braver than the girls. They had won that round...

Later in the day though, we went to a fine Swiss pub enjoying what Jez now calls the 'holy trinity': Beer, pretzels and mustard.

We were having such a good time that by the time we left, there was no public transport - including taxis - to take us home. It was up to the girls to flex their muscles...or their thumbs.

The plan was as follows: The girls would hitch a ride home whilst the boys hid behind the bushes. With the boys out of sight, a pick-up was almost guaranteed. We thought we were safe when the car that finally stopped for us showcased a baby seat in the back. However it turned out the driver was a divorcee and was sorely disappointed when he found out neither of us were available. Meanwhile, Ursin took a photo of the car's number plate as it drove off...just in case.

This would be the last time the Swiss and Aussies would cross paths on our travels.
As we said our goodbyes, we promised that if they visited us in Australia we'd match their gracious hospitality. The offer still stands!

Coming up, the JeTZ sneak back into Germany to visit the castle that inspired Walt Disney and turned TZ into a spoilt brat....

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