I’m back from our 2-week summer break, which we spent this year in Switzerland and Germany.
The majority of the first week was spent up in the Bernese Oberland, a region we enjoy immensely. We were there all together – I was with my wife and our three kids – but in the mornings the “grown ups” left the kids to sleep in while we walked up to the centre of Adelboden.
This was partly to give our puppy, Daisy, a bit of exercise…
… but also because we love having a quiet breakfast at Haueter, considered one of the best bakeries in Switzerland.
Aside from our walks into town, we spent a couple of afternoons at Engstligenalp. The first day we just walked to the Engtsligen Falls…
… while the second day was spent on top, where we could introduce Daisy to some different kinds of animal.
There were goats:
In fact lots of goats!
And she also got to meet her first cow.
Engstligenalp is really a special place, both in summer and winter. We love going up there.
After coming home for the weekend, I went with Zephyr, our second son (and a middle child, like me) for a few days of hiking in Valais (a higher part of the Alps). The main goal of this second week – for me at least – was to have some special time with Zephyr. (Our eldest is going on a diving holiday with his Mum once the others are back in school, and our youngest has her puppy to look after.)
We took trains to Lausanne, then Martigny and Riddes, and then the bus up to Ovronnaz.
Our plan was to hike from Ovronnaz – which is at about 1,200m of altitude – to la Cabane Rambert at nearly 2,600m.
It was a pretty steady uphill slog which took us around 4 hours. This particular hike had been recommended by my old friend and colleague John Goodman, who had done it a few months before. Thanks, John!
The views were spectacular, but one of the best was the one of the cabin itself. By this point I felt I could not have walked any further!
Here’s the hike details in the Swisstopo app:
As you can see, I was a lot less fresh than my son on our arrival.
Once I’d dried out I could enjoy the views from the top a little more.
And they were absolutely amazing. Here’s a panorama with Zephyr and the cabin.
Here’s another that highlights la Pointe de Chemo, a significant local landmark.
It was also very visible in the common eating area.
Here’s a photo that was on the wall showing a previous incarnation of this cabin.
Here’s a page from a book (in French) that describes the renovations that have been made to this historic building over the years.
This was our first time staying over in a mountain cabin, so a lot of things were new. For dinner we were seated with people who were assigned to the same room as us.
It was a great way to break the ice, I found. We ate with a family of 4 and a couple of young women who all live in the Lausanne area. They were all very nice.
Our room, which slept 8 people, was named after la Pointe de Chemo itself.
The beds were comfortable: my son nabbed a single bed while I was on the bottom of a triple bunk. Between these were two bunk-beds placed next to each other, which works well for families. All in all very cosy. I was happy to have ear plugs.
The buffet breakfast was served in the morning between 6:30 and 7:30am. Once we’d eaten we started back down the same trail as we’d taken on the way up.
If anything the views were even more spectacular, this way.
It wasn’t easy going, to be honest: by the time we reached Ovronnaz I was in quite a bit of pain. But the pay-off was a 3-hour dip in the thermal baths, which felt amazing.
We were back home on Tuesday night, where we could pack – and relax for the full day on Wednesday – before Zephyr and I headed across on Thursday morning to Munich for a city break to complement our mountain one.
We took the train to Zurich and the 4-hour FlixBus from there to downtown Munich. We stayed with an old friend of ours who lives very close to the city centre.
To stretch our legs on arrival, we wandered around the local neighbourhood. Munich has some lovely green areas which really help with the summer heat.
During the summer people flock to the bank of the Isar river.
Our plan for the evening was to see the Munich Symphony at Olympiapark. This was an event for the European Championships that had opened the day before.
Part of the city’s goal of hosting some European Championship events was apparently to highlight the value of hosting an event such as the Olympics: it seems very little (or no) additional infrastructure was required from when Munich hosted the Olympic Games back in 1972!
Here’s the Olympic stadium with its amazing roof.
We sat on the grass and enjoyed the concert with a number of friends (mostly former Autodeskers who lived in Neuchatel, back in the day). It was really nice.
As the sun went down the lights of the various installations really shone.
One such installation was an LED-based light tunnel that people could walk through.
Heading home afterwards we took the U-bahn from the stop right next to BMW Welt. I would have liked to have visited the museum during this trip, but we ended up doing other things instead. I’m sure we’ll get the chance on another trip.
One of the friends we’d met for the concert used to be an avid climber, so suggested meeting up again for the qualifiers of the climbing event at Königsplatz the following day.
I’m pretty far from being a climber – I have a solid fear of heights (or rather, as Terry Pratchett once wrote, depths) – but the event was absolutely fascinating. We were right by the foot of the climbing wall for the men’s lead event, standing next to competitors scoping it out and planning their routes up. Amazing!
At one point we stopped for lunch. I wasn’t specifically looking for Swiss food while in Munich, but as I don’t eat meat I did find the Gruyere sandwich to be a very good option.
After lunch we headed back to the wall, but stood this time with a more direct view: by this point the women’s boulder qualifiers had started, and this spot meant we could watch both.
It was so much fun that we decided to meet back again the following day towards the end of the afternoon to watch the finals of the women’s lead and the men’s boulder events.
Beforehand, though, Zephyr and I visited the city a little, mainly to visit a few shops. We passed by Marienplatz, where we could appreciate the New Town Hall.
We visited an interesting “pay by weight” secondhand shop, which was colourful if not exactly full of bargains.
During the afternoon on Saturday we headed back to Königsplatz.
What we hadn’t realised was – unlike the day before – for the semis and finals you had to buy tickets, and these were sold out.
When we first arrived – during the women’s lead finals – there was no way to see any very much, so we sat in the adjacent biergarten and caught the odd glimpse of the better competitors reaching the top of the wall.
The crowds thinned out for the men’s boulder final, so we did get to peer through security and watch some of that, which was fun.
It was lovely catching up with old friends during the weekend. Here’s a dinner we shared with Petra and Marion at Fugazi – a favourite spot of Peter Schlipf’s.
On Sunday we headed home after a very enjoyable time in Munich. I hadn’t spent much energy planning the weekend, but it ended up being a great experience anyway.
I often visit Munich for work, and it was really enjoyable to get to see it from a different perspective. It’s truly a lovely city.
On arriving home, we were met halfway between our place and the station by my daughter and her new puppy. And yes, my son did remove his new trainers to avoid getting them covered in “happy pee” (which turned out to be rather smart of him).
Anyway, I’m back in the saddle, fully recharged, and we’re now ramping our efforts to execute on a new research direction into high gear. More on that in an upcoming post!