Switzerland is criss-crossed with hundreds of miles of "Wanderweg"... hiking paths. Today I had a chance to do some hiking in the Alps and also to experience some authentic Swiss culture.
On summer weekends in Switzerland there are many celebrations of mountain traditions. Peter heard about one from a friend, Gerhardt, who also plays the "alphorn". They decided to go there today and perform.
Peter, my cousin Brigitta and I left this morning a little after nine. We drove towards the Alps, and after about an hour we were on a narrow, twisting mountain road. However, this event was not accessible by car. We came to a spot along the road where a number of cars were parked. Gerhardt and his wife Rita were waiting for us there. We now had to hike along a "Wanderweg" to reach the venue. The hike was mostly up-hill, and Peter and Gerhardt were carrying their cumbersome "alphorns".
We took a detour from the trail because Rita knew a spot where the forest floor was full of wild blueberry bushes. We paused to pick and eat some berries.
The view as we took our blueberry break..
After about an hour of hiking we reached a high Alpine meadow. A rustic restaurant crowned the hill, and a tent had been set up next to it for the event.
There were already quite a few people here, drinking beer and eating typical Swiss food (lots of "wurst" and potato salad). By the time we left, all the tables were full. Remember that all of these people had to hike uphill to reach this place, and many of them were senior citizens.
An instrumental group was playing Swiss music.
They were followed by two different all-male vocal groups who gave new meaning to the art of yodeling.
I always thought of yodeling as a kitschy, knee-slapping stereotype of Alpine culture. However, the music performed by these two groups was truly beautiful. Brigitta told me that I was very fortunate to hear genuine yodeling as it is rarely heard.
Next up were Gerhardt and Peter who played their "alphorns".
Just as wonderful as the music within the tent, was the scenery outside.
While we were outside a small herd of goats passed through unattended. They apparently were perfectly capable of finding their pasture on their own. One of the goats very much enjoyed having its head scratched.
We didn't eat in the tent. Brigitta had packed a light lunch of fruit, and we picnicked in the meadow. (Brigitta and Peter are, for the most part, vegetarians; the sausage-heavy menu did not appeal to them.) Peter sliced the fruit, of course, with his Swiss Army Knife.
We went back inside to rejoin Gerhardt and Rita and to listen to more music. Gerhardt recommended a local dessert called "Schlorziflade". After quite a bit of practice, I ordered the dessert for us in halting German. The waitress was very charming and complimented me on being able to say that tongue-twisting word. Later she wrote it down for me on a piece of paper... otherwise, "Schlorziflade" would have escaped my brain long before writing about it here.
So, what is "Schlorziflade"? It's a type of tart made with a puree of pears and spices. It's really quite good.
It was now time to make the hike back to the car. Since it was downhill, it was considerably easier.
We bid farewell to Gerhardt and Rita, and we drove back through picturesque countryside to Brigritta and Peter's home.
Another delightful, unique and memorable day in Switzerland!