Travel site finished
I finished my short report of the hiking weekend. I posted it below. If you click on the picture, you'll be lead to the same report including some photos.
In the afternoon I went to Europcar to pick up my rental car. I had ordered a Volkswagen Lupo some days ago, for the cheap price of 63 Euro (Friday-to-Monday-rate) including all mileage and insurance. If this is not cheap enough already I got a free upgrade to a Volkswagen Golf and therefore left the station smiling. Back at home I packed some things and started off to Enzvaihingen near Stuttgart where an old schoolmate of mine, Katrin, is living in a shared flat at the moment.
In the evening we made a short trip to the ruin Blankenhorn in the nature reserve Stromberg-Heuchelberg. It got dark before we reached it. We almost missed it walking through the forest in complete darkness. The ruin is situated on the slope of a mountain and you probably have a nice view from here, if it would be daytime. So we rested for a while and started the adventure of descending the mountain. I had to use my camera flash light to look for the path from time to time. Otherwise we wouldn't have found back.
Saturday: Stuttgart > Lake Constance > Appenzeller Country
We had to start early cause of the long way to Switzerland. So we hit the road shortly after 7am reaching lake Constance, the biggest lake in Germany, around 10am. In Constance we also crossed the border to Switzerland and refilled our car with fuel, which is one of the very few things that are cheaper here in Switzerland compared to Germany.
In Muensterlingen we rested for a while to eat breakfast at the lake, then started again with the destination Appenzell, a small city famous for its cheese. The sun was gleaming and we drove through a land of hills so green that it can hardly be imagined. It looks like an artificial creation for a model train scenery. Passing St. Gallen we reached the countryside around Appenzell. Here we are, just on the verge of the higher reaches of the Alps.
Our final destination was Bruelisau, a small village at the foot of the "Hohen Kasten", a 1795 m high peak of the Alpstein range. We took the funicular to the top where a 360° view awaits the visitor. To the north-western side you could see the outskirts of the Alps with Appenzell, to the East the Rhine-valley. The rhine is completely straightened in this area which makes it a bit less attractive to the nature lover. But you completely forget this when you shift your eyes to the south-west. I tell you: this is one of the best views I've ever seen in the Alps. You look into a smaller valley including two beautiful lakes. You can see this one on the picture on the left.
And the best is that our route followed along the rim of that valley, passing the Stauberen and the Saxer gap. Cause the path mainly went along the western side, we had this view for most of our walk. Just sometimes, when it went on top of the rim, we could additionally see the Rhine valley.
It was very hot, no shadow and quite steep for a rim walk. But luckily the more we walked, the less crowded it was. Every one who came across greeted with a friendly "Gruetzi mitanand", the typical local greeting. The Swiss German is a quite funny accent coming directly after the Swabian on my list of favorite German accents. It sounds really funny, a bit like a coughing German. It's hard to take them seriously when they speak that way. I like it!
At the Saxer gap (1649 m high) we bend off to the right, descending from the rim to a lake called Faelensee where we took another rest before following down the valley we have seen so much today. Before it got steep again on the way down to Bruelisau we were passing the Saemtiser lake. It is quite an exhausting descent, because the tour follows a road with a continous and steep incline, not offering any recovering for your feet in between.
As soon as we arrived Bruelisau we drove towards the Schwaegalp pass, where a cable car runs to the top of the Saentis. On the way we luckily found a hotel for just 28 Swiss Franc per person including breakfast. It was the first hotel we asked for a room and it was definitely the best bargain in the region, especially if you take into mind that there was a big traditional sport event going on the next day.
Before checking we continued to the pass and went on top of the Saentis with the funicular around 8 pm. With 2506 m it is the highest peak in the Appenzeller region and therefore definitely a sight, even its beauty can be denied. If you like the Saentis or not definitely depends on what you are expecting to see there. In my case, I read about it before, so I did know what's going on above the Swiss clouds. The view was phantastic even though the clouds couldn't resist to conceal parts of the mountains. But if you're a freak who likes undistorted nature, this is not the place to go. Swiss Telecom set a mark on top and there is almost no space left to built something more. At least it's not the typical Telco style but looking like a big spaceship paired with a oversized lunchbox.
There are always two sides of the story. As the sun set down the clouds were colouring in every tone between red and blue compensating for the earlier lack of view. It was a mystic feeling.
Sunday: Vaduz (Liechtenstein)
As the first thing in the morning we went up again to the Schwaegalp pass where this traditional festival was already on full run. You could not see the wood for the trees, that means the mountain for the cars. It really seemed to be popular here. I forgot the name of the strange sport, but the next similar thing would be Japanese sumo wrestling, I guess. Just the ringers were a bit less well proportioned. We didn't spent too much time there, gazing more at the vintage cars than at the event, and started towards our next destination Liechtenstein (Official Homepage of Liechtenstein ).
a small independent principality between Switzerland and Austria. This little place in the Rhine valley houses the huge mass of 33,000 people on an area of 160 square kilometers. Even an American might mock that Liechtenstein is no bigger than a fair-sized Texan ranch, I wouldn't dare to name this is a crowded place. Moreover you can return that joke by betting a month' salary that they won't find Liechtenstein on the map in less than 60 seconds. :)
The capital Vaduz has a stunning 5,000 inhabitants, almost. This suggests that it is not more than a small mountain village. But it isn't. It has everything of a city, luxury stores, restaurants, cafes, a theatre, a 14th century castle, a multistory Palmers store… All right. I'll stop here. If you didn't get it until now, that this is a nice place, you won't get it at all.
Liechtenstein's secret to wealth and success is its tax heaven status. Almost every big financial company, trusts and lots of multinational corporations have an affiliate company here. So if you walk through the streets it's normal to see ten or so company signs at a normal family house.
Being quite a bit impressed we walked towards the 14th century castle where the principal family is still living. That's also the reason why it is completely closed to public. Anyway, you can have a nice view over the city, pardon village, from there. By the way, guess what agriculture means in Liechtenstein? It seems to be equal to growing wine in your extensive garden. Yeah, they know what life is about.
And surprisingly, I found here was the accumulation of people with the family name Beck. There is a Beck taxi company, a Beck bakery, a Beck architect and so on. Even some street are containing my family name. Stefanie told me beck means baker in Swiss German. So this may be the origin of that name. Anyway, it's a bit strange that so many of them flocked together here.
In the afternoon we went back, not beck (what a hilarious joke), to Constance, driving again through wonderful Switzerland which still looks like a model train scenery.