Photo: So laid back - Lucerne
After my urban experiences in Zurich, I enjoyed a few adventures in Engelberg-Titlis in the Swiss Alps. A lovely train ride with SBB, the Swiss railway, from Zurich via Lucerne, where I take advantage of a stopover to have a short walk in this charming city on a lake called Vierwaldstättersee. I will put this picturesque place on my bucket list. But first – Engelberg!
Photo: Switzerland in all its glory
From Engelberg station, I make my way to the gondola which takes me to the Fürenalp. A clear blue sky and the majestic mountains of over 3,000 m, simply wow. Before my hike, I enjoy lunch on the terrace of the Fürenalp restaurant at 1,850 m. “You have to taste the “Älplermagronen” (Swiss pasta with lots of cheese…)”, says Nadia, Marketing Manager at Engelberg Tourism. I follow her advice and cannot get enough of this calorie bomb. On top, the mountains are a real feast for the eyes, simply wonderful. “When I am stressed out, I simply watch the mountains,” says Josefa, the charming restaurant owner. Before continuing my way, she insists to taste her homemade raspberry liquor. Maybe this makes the upcoming walk a bit easier.
Photo: Ain´t no mountain high enough...
Off I go. My luggage has been taken care of, so I just hike with a light backpack. After half an hour I realize that I have left the location plan in the restaurant – and there is hardly any mobile connection in the wilderness. Ok, I hope I can remember the explanations by Nadia and find my way to the mountain cabin where I will spend the night.
Photo: View from the Fürenalp restaurant
I am thinking of Josefa – the mountains calm you down, you totally switch off and just be one with nature. And watch the many cows that are peacefully grazing here and keep feeding themselves all day long. No wonder, these animals have four stomachs! One of them blocks my way. All my efforts to get the animal out of the way are useless, it stands there like a rock. OK, so I have to make a little detour and simply take care not to slip on one of the many cow droppings. What a challenge!
Photo: Get out of my way!
Here and there a few hikers cross my way. However, quite often I am just by myself. Too bad I am missing the way where I should have turned right. I scramble instead through the mountains for half an hour before wondering if I am still on the right way. People had told me to go down to the cabin but I am just doing the opposite, walking up the mountains. I have no choice but to return to find the right way down to a valley – still far away from civilization. Nothing else but nature around me.
Photo: Sit down, relax and just watch the scenery
Bloodcurdling whistles interrupt the silence. What on earth was that? I discover an upright standing groundhog on a rock! Before I can even touch my camera, the cute little thing has disappeared – what a pity! So much easier to take photos of the cattle.
Photo: Taking a pic of a waterfall to make up for the lost groundhog
I keep on hiking, my feet are slowly getting tired – and not only my feet. Am I still on the right way? Luckily two mountain bikers cross my way. “Stäfelialp – yes, that´s the little place down there”, says one of them, pointing out to the spot in the valley. Thanks, guys! I keep on walking and reach the Stäfelialp with its five guest rooms, located at 1,393 m. A few people are enjoying a glass of wine on the deck, with the impressive Großer Spannort (almost 3,200 m) in the background. Heaven on earth! Cowbells are ringing, Switzerland at its best.
Photo: Stäfelialp - ideal for a hike break
My room consists just of a bed and a few shelves. No shower, just a few common washing facilities with cold water (isn´t that healthy?). No electricity. What a change compared to the comfy hotels in Zurich but hey, I am finally as close to nature as one can get. No TV needed since you have the impressive mountains right in front of you. Digital detox, at least for one day.
Photo: In Switzerland, it´s all about cheese ("Käse")
Dinner is served in a little restaurant. To my surprise, the wine selection is rather good. The sun submerges the mountains in a golden, almost magic light. Shortly after that, it is completely dark. I have never seen a sky with so many stars. Just too bad that they do not lighten up my little room. A pocket lamp would be great now. Anyways, I go to bed early and ask myself why I took my laptop with me all the time. During the night, the inevitable is happening – I have to go for a pee and have to make my way to the bathroom in complete darkness. Thank God I am finding the right door and the moon is of great help. I slowly make my way back to my room before sleeping like a baby.
Photo: Golden sunset over the Spannort mountain
At 8 am, the little restaurant at the Stäfelialp is empty. “They have all left for hiking,” says Edith, the innkeeper. I am late again but who cares. Time to enjoy a hearty breakfast with bread, cheese, marmalade and coffee which has been cooked on an open fire. Time to find out how to find my way back to the village.
The Stäfelialp is open from May to October. “We have to close down in winter, due to the danger of avalanches,” says Richard “Richi” Arnold, who has been managing the cabin for the past 23 years. In winter he works as a patrol on the ski runs. After all, Engelberg is also a fantastic ski resort. The restaurant is illuminated with solar power. “My brother is a farmer, he supplies salads and veggies according to our needs,” says “Richi”. Life up here is very special, far from civilization. However, there is a crushed rock path that leads up the cabin so that you can go there by car. Time to say goodbye to the Stäfelialp. It has been a very special experience – but frankly speaking, one night without a shower is enough for a city slicker. In any case, I truly enjoyed my short stay.
Photo: So picturesque - the guest cabin Stäfeli
“Just follow the way down an turn right at the “Alpenrösli” restaurant, then cross the little bridge and walk through the forest,” says Edith before my departure. I will do so! Again, incredible views. Sometimes I just stop to take a deep breath and to simply enjoy nature. It´s almost like meditation. A few hikers cross my way and say hello. People here are just so relaxed. And it looks like I am the only one walking in sneakers. I promise myself – next time I will be better prepared and come in hiking boots!
Photo: Constant change of views in the Swiss Alps - just epic!
I finally make it to the valley station of the Fürenalp gondola. Surprise, surprise – they have kept my envelope with my travel details which I had forgotten yesterday. Now I know where to go. I take the bus (free of charge, by the way) to the Brunni valley station where my next little mountain adventure is waiting for me. The gondola takes me to the first station on the mountain, from there I move on to new heights by chairlift.
Photo: I usually do not like selfies but could not resist to take this one on the chairlift...
What a gorgeous day! High mountains no matter which direction. Pure happiness. It cannot be said often enough, nature does so well. Maybe Swiss people are so relaxed because of this?
The Brunni cabin is located on 1,860 m. Where to start? Maybe the best is to begin at Härzlisee, a little lake with a so-called “tickle path”. Take off your shoes and walk around the lake on a path of 220 m that will pamper and torture your feet at the same time. Hang on, it will be good for you! After all, you can relax your feet in the “tickle jar” with a pleasant massage in warm water. After that experience, awesome hiking trails are waiting. You can select from hikes between one and eight hours. I go for the smaller option after all the hikes in sneakers in the morning. A good excuse, right? I am watching paragliders above me, would love to do this as well but not today. I rather enjoy a light lunch on the deck of the Brunni cabin and cannot get enough of the breathtaking vistas. Oh boy, can I stay here?
Photo: The picturesque Härzlisee
Photo: What an adventure - paragliding in Engelberg!
However, I am also looking forward to a shower, after all. I have a quick look at the summer toboggan run before taking the chairlift down to the valley, high above peacefully grazing cows and the sound of cowbells. From the valley station, I walk to the village of Engelberg-Titlis (15 minutes) to reach my home for tonight, the Alpenclub Hotel. The owner Andrea Kapp is already waiting for me, offers me a little schnapps and takes me to my room. I immediately spot an espresso machine … and the shower, of course. Oh yes, those little things can make you happy, can´t they? From my window, I can see the ski jump which is the stage for World Cup competitions in winter. Body cleaning, coffee break and off to the little center of Engelberg. A nice pedestrian area, elegant residences on green hills and the majestic mountains as a backdrop. The monastery with its pretentious church, well-maintained gardens, and a little show cheese dairy is certainly the major site.
Photo: The Alpenclub Restaurant just next to the hotel
Photo: The Engelberg monastery with the Hahnen mountain in the background
What a glorious day! My dinner at the Alpenclub restaurant is a wonderful closure. Elegant and rustic at the same time, with an excellent service, great food, and a good wine selection. Time for some sleep!
The next morning a hearty breakfast is waiting in the cozy, Swiss-style hotel restaurant. Frau Kapp is always on the go and pampers you with breakfast goodies. I love this cozy little place. “We already have great winter bookings,” says Frau Kapp. No wonder since Engelberg is among the best ski resorts in Switzerland. However, this little village is also worth a visit in summer, excellent for hikers and bikers of all levels.
Photo: Swiss ambiance for breakfast at the Alpenclub Hotel
I go for a lost stroll through the village and enjoy a tarte flambée and an espresso in the chic Tea-Room (where lots of cakes are waiting…) for my farewell. Time to go back to Zurich. It begins to rain which makes the goodbye much easier. On the train, I remember the wonderful few days spent in Engelberg while watching the stunning landscapes. See you again soon!
Photo: Swiss goodies with an English touch - ©Tea Room Engelberg
My Engelberg summary:
- Charming village within easy reach by train h from Zurich or Lucerne
- Ideal for hikers and bikers of all levels
- Paragliding, summer toboggan run, climbing, rowing, kayaking
- Many events, also for families
Photo: "Downtown" Engelberg
Photo: Gorgeous vistas wherever you look!
How to get there
Zurichis easy to reach from many European by the Swiss Railway or with one of the many direct flights of SWISS, one of my favorite airlines. From downtown Zurich or the airport, it is great to travel to Engelberg by train with the Swiss Travel Pass in the First Class, you can obtain it from the Swiss Travel System (STS). With this pass, you can enjoy eight days of free trips within Switzerland - by train, postal bus and boat. Also, public service in 90 cities is likewise included. Apart from that, you have free entrance to over 500 Swiss museums. What are you waiting for?
Photo: One of Europe´s best airlines! - ©SWISS
Photo: Swiss wildlife
Where to sleep
HOTEL RESTAURANT ALPENCLUB
Family Richi and Edith Arnold Stäfeli, CH-6390 Engelberg
(Postal address: Hinterstocklistr. 5)
Tel. Summer: +41 41 637 45 11
Tel. Winter: +41 41 637 16 02
Where to eat
HOTEL RESTAURANT ALPENCLUB
THE TEA ROOM
You will find more about Engelberg-Titlis here.
Further information about Switzerland.
Tip from a Local:
Nadia Sommer has been living in Engelberg for some years and is a real outdoor freak.
"My ultimate recommendation is the Alpine Cheese Trail. You can walk this trail by foot or (e)bike or just take a part of it. It is also great with families, the awesome „Buirebähnli“ (a little sightseeing train) is great to shorten the way by enjoying nature at the same time. Visit a typical cheese dairy or go to an alp to enjoy „Älplerznüni“ to learn more about Swiss cheese."
Photo: Say cheeeese! - ©Tourism Engelberg
Here´s a short video clip of my hike:
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