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Archive for December 18th, 2009

Today’s prompt for Holidailies is “Post a personal photo and tell us a story about it.”

Looking back at some of my photos, I am reminded of a couple of things.  1) I like food.  2) I never finished all the travelogues I was going to write about my Europe trip.  I managed to blog about the wonderful day Sweetie and I spent with my family hiking in Biel.  It was a near-perfect day.  But there was another day.  Another day on a mountain.  And it was grand……..

Morning came and Sweetie and I knew what our destination for this day was.  Our Switzerland portion of our Europe trip had been left completely in the hands of my family.  I told Sweetie that everyone wanted as least a day with us – Mom’s oldest sister, her middle sister, her cousin and his wife who live in Zurich.  I rarely knew what was planned for the day.  Sweetie, the improvisational wiz, loved it. 

But today was the Rigi.  One can hardly stay in the vicinity of Luzern and not go up the Rigi.  She is sometimes known as “The Queen of the Mountains.”  What better way to pay our respects to the queen than to put on our hiking boots and tromp on top of her?

After our customary breakfast of fresh bread and preserves, we gathered our backpacks and piled into my uncle’s car.  My uncle drove.  A good thing since my aunt never learned to drive.  I have two aunts who never drive.  Don’t need to in Switzerland.  Between the buses and the trains which run constantly (and famously on schedule), many families have no need for more than one vehicle.  I’m not even sure if three of my four cousins own cars. I think they do not. 

So off we drove halfway around the lake to the cable car station to wait for two more friends to join us.  While waiting, my uncle presented Sweetie and me with our very own “Rigi” caps which we fit snugly onto our heads.  Pia and Seppi arrived and up we went, through the tree canopy with its splashes of fall colors and away from the tiny houses beside the lake.  We disembarked and my family swept us past the trail markers:  Chanzeli, 15 min.; Greppen, 2 Std. (hour) 25 min.; Weggis 2 Std. 10 min.  We were on the trail with no idea where we going, how far we were hiking, or where this particular trail would take us.  It was glorious. 

We started the hike on a  wide paved trail in a forested area, with park benches and trash cans, and a log fence beside us.  Sweetie and my uncle talked, as my uncle has the best English skills.  My aunt, Pia and Seppi don’t speak much english.  When I can, I translate their Swiss German (Schweizerdeutsch) for Sweetie, cobbling together what I remember from childhood talking to my grandparents and the little I remember from high school and college German classes.  The family always seems surprised and amused when I laugh at something they say or try and translate for Sweetie. 

We walked and talked and took many pictures.  Sweetie snapped a shot of a gargantuan log carved in the shape of an alphorn.  We transitioned to a more narrow dirt trail with barbed wire and wood fencing.  There was a universal sign – the silhouette of a biker with a large red “X” through it.  This portion was for the hikers alone.  We walked beside the greenest of grass while crispy fall leaves disintegrated under our feet.  We had views of the lake.  The landscape took a dramatic turn and suddenly we had sheer rock walls to the left and a steep drop-off to our right on the other side of fence that was now metal posts and cable.  From this spot, we stopped at another park bench and looked down at the beauty and wild jabbing points of Lake Lucerne. 

Lake Lucerne was all I had ever called this lake.  In college, my German teacher turned to me when got around to talking about Switzerland and asked me the name of this lake.  I said: “Lake Lucerne.”  No.  She wanted its proper name.  I had no idea.  It is Vierwaldstättersee.  Four.  Forest.  Lake.  That’s about as far as my German gets me.  Vierwaldstattersee is “Lake of the Four Forested Cantons.”  The cantons are somewhat equivalent to states in the US.  Wikipedia describes it as “The lake is a complicated shape, with bends and arms reaching from the city of Lucerne into the mountains.”  That sounds about right.  Looking at it from above, it reaches in all directions, dividing little bits and pieces of land around its meandering shores. 

We came out from behind the rocks and walked through grassy fields.  And then, up ahead was a little train station.  We sat down on more benches for a short wait for the stout little electric cable to chug us up to the top of the Rigi.  We trekked up to the summit: Rigi-Kulm, 1,800 m./6,000 ft. 

And then, of course, it was time for a snack.  I’ve blogged before about how much the Swiss like to eat and drink.  And drink.  I don’t think I’ve ever been out sightseeing, or hiking, or shopping, or anything with my family without stopping at least every two hours for something to drink (with the possible exception of mom’s middle sister who rivals my mom for lack of patience).  Just wait until I get to the blog about our day in Zurich with mom’s cousin.  It was  taxing day for the bladder.

Anyway, a snack on the Rigi.  Not just any snack, mind you.  No, there was no pulling granola bars and plastic-bottled water out of the backpack.  We sat at a bench and my uncle and Seppi proceed to pull out small metal cups (their group hiking cups, we were told), a couple tupperware-type containers of breadsticks and nuts, and (of course) a bottle of wine.  They laid six little cups out on the bench and six little cups were filled with wine.  We toasted together and leisurely sipped wine while enjoying the views.  The skies were a little overcast but we could see for miles in all directions.  To our good health indeed!

We made our way back down to the tram station and there we split up.  My aunt, uncle, Sweetie and I were to take a slow ambling hike to our next stop.  Pia and Seppi were taking a “short cut” to get their quicker.  Why?  Well, to start setting  up lunch for us all, of course!  We parted ways, with my jolly happy rarely-drinking husband waving wildly as the wine worked its way through his veins. 

We walked downhill and the gray skies were replaced with bright blue, warm sun, and white clouds.  We kept walking until we saw, on a slight hill above us, a covered picnic area.  Supposedly, they are called Gruebinen.  According to one site:   For the construction of these shelters, the builders have used trunks, that have fallen at a recent major thunderstorm. The locals call such covered dwelling places which protect you from sun, heat and rain “Gruebinen”. Of course, they are all well equipped with campfire-site, wood for burning, comfortable benches and tables. It’s all ready for you – enjoy your picnic or barbeque!

By the time we arrived, our friends were hard at work preparing a feast for all.  Indeed, the Gruebinen was well equipped.  But not nearly as well equipped as Pia and Seppi!  They had packed in fresh bratwurst, bags of carrot slices and small tomatoes, a loaf of bread, seasonings, and beauty of all beauty! – raclette cheese!!  Oh joy!  Oh happiness!  Of course, raclette cheese must be served warm and melty over potatoes.  These dishes came pre-packaged in tin foil containers with potatoes included.  Seppi had six little packs of cheese warming over the open fire along with the bratwurst. Six little bundles of cheesy goodness to pry open and devour with a fresh bottle of wine and all the other food already spread around the picnic table.  Can you possibly imagine being more spoiled than that?  I cannot.  It was heaven. 

We sat and vegged by the picnic table as our systems started to digest the food.  My uncle pulled out one of his ubiquitous skinny cigars, put his feet up on a stump and puffed away.  My relaxed hubby sat in the shade with his back against the fat pale logs and just stared out at the green hills.  Or maybe he slept behind his sunglasses, I’m not sure. 

More hikers came along and added more wood to the fire for their own lunch.  We abdicated the picnic table and made our way down to a final lookout spot before catching the cable car back down the mountain.  We slowly made our way back down the Rigi.  Sweetie and I marveled at the beautiful fall colors and at (once again) our amazing luck in vacationing in October in perfect weather.  The possibility of rain exists year-round in Switzerland, but they had just come through some cold and stormy weather.  Yet we had sun every day.  Most of our time with the family was spent outdoors and there would have been no way we could have hiked all day along the Rigi in rain.  As Sweetie and I just celebrated a third October hiking outside in surprisingly gorgeous weather (the first was in Yellowstone, this third was in Yosemite), I told him I think both our fathers are looking out for us around our anniversary.  Someday, maybe someday soon, our streak may end and we’ll spend a stormy cold October together.  But for us, that day on the Rigi with family and friends is probably one of our top five days together ever.  It was certainly the best day of a fantastic trip. 

And that, is the story behind that one little photo.  I smile just looking at it.

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