A weekend hike

With fall rapidly turning into winter, we decided to head up to Rochers-de-Naye for a hike before the snow started to fall.

To get to the trails, you take a cog-wheel train 45 minutes into the mountains. On the ride up, the sky was blue with just one cloud in the sky. As we approached the station, the sun began to fade and we realized that the one cloud had settled exactly where we'd hoped to hike.

After a quick confirmation that it was, in fact, gray in every direction, we decided to hike down the mountain, figuring that we'd get through the fog that way.

It's not unusual to see paragliders out in droves when the sky is clear.

There were even more than usual floating about and as we rounded a corner we soon learned why. 

It seemed to be a takeoff point for people well acquainted with the art of slowly falling. We stood for awhile, watching the gliders pop earbuds in, queue up some good music and then run off the side of the mountain. 

Dent de Vaulion

We had a nice, long fall this year and used it to soak up as many views and (since the animals had all come down from their summer alpine grazing spas)  domesticated livestock as we could.

A favorite hike of ours is near the Vallée de Joux and is a short, 45 minute trek up to some spectacular views.

Hobbit hole or doomsday bunker? You decide.

This is the same lake that we walked on, frozen, what seems like five minutes ago but was actually almost two years ago. (WHAT?).

Swine love.

Gliders were out in full force.

The hike may have been short but I still find rewards very motivating.

Cows, scenery and chocolate. All in all, a great way to spend Saturday afternoon.

A Birthday Adventure Part 3

On our last full day in the mountains, we decided to take the Bernina Express that runs through the Bernina Pass into Tirano Italy. 

This railway is the highest in the alps and the section that we rode is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. With good reason as we were soon to find out.

The station is positioned on Lago Bianco a watershed of melted glacial water that runs both south into the Adriatic Sea and east into the Black Sea. I've seen these opaque, stunningly blue-green lakes a few other times on our various road trips but they never stop being breathtaking.

Set between the lake and mountains, the train station looked like a lunar outpost. Given the massive and long-lasting snowfall common to this area, the time and labor needed to build it must have been immense.

By the time the water winds its way down to Poschiavo, it's clearer but retains a beautiful mineral blue color.

Poschiavo in the distance from a much higher vantage point.

The last descent before arriving in Tirano is the Brusio Circular Viaduct- a massive, slow spiral into the town. Serious wow-factor.

The journey took about 1.5 hours, every inch of it beautiful. However by the time we reached the station in Tirano, we realized that we only had about 15 minutes to look around before we had to head back. Luckily this experience was entirely about the journey.

A Birthday Adventure Part 2

On the second day of our stay, we got up early and headed into town to meet the farmer and get a little introductory lesson to cheesemaking. Luca Compagnonis, the third generation to run this farm and cheesemaking operation, met us at the door to his facility with what we now know is the standard "I'm so sorry, my English is terrible" greeting. He then very kindly proceeded to show and explain to us how to make two types of goat cheeses in pretty excellent English. The few language impasses we encountered were navigated with a mix of French, German and Italian and we came away with a pretty clear understanding of the process. The primary product the Compagnonis are known for is called Tomme- an aged goat cheese made in a French style and holy cow is it amazing.

After a lunch of 4 different kinds of goat cheese and goat sausage (circle of life) it was time to meet the goats so we drove over to the farm. 

Many of the animals were very curious about the two-legged goats that were looking at them over the fence so they jumped up to investigate. After nibbling our coats, shirts, jeans and hands, they decided that we offered nothing tasty and went about their business.

Later, we helped do an evening feeding and milking. While the milking system is automated, we got to hand milk three of the goats which, once we got the hang of it was a lot of fun. Luca told us that one evening the machine wasn't working and he and his father had to milk all 300 goats by hand- a process that took 5 hours. My hands ached just hearing him tell the story.

While we had the luxury of getting to dabble in goat farming for a weekend, I don't mean to imply that this life is anything resembling easy. The summer here was cold and rainy which affects every aspect of the farm, most importantly the output of the animals. Here in the mountains, the winter comes early making the warmer months that much more important to the success of the farm. As Luca's father explained to us- farming is truly a labor of love but so much harder than most people realize.

After our time at the farm ended, we explored the town of Poschiavo. While we've lived in Switzerland for almost three years, the drastic differences in architecture and food from one part of the country to another still amaze me. Poschiavo is very Swiss. But the Italian influence is definitely visible. 

Outside many of the restaurants, sign for the "Wild Menu" were starting to appear. Fall is traditionally a celebration of the hunt (La Chasse) throughout much of Switzerland and because of this, many restaurants offer a traditional selection of boar and venison served with glazed chestnuts, spätzle, cabbage and poached pear. It's one of the best combinations of flavors on the planet and I will even venture to say in the galaxy. Luckily for us, our meal that night turned out to be our first La Chasse of the season.