After our layover in Como, we headed towards the land of the Alps, Switzerland! Our drive from Como took us to the little village of Tinizong, tucked in Eastern Switzerland, near Park Ela, the largest National Park in Switzerland, and only 30 minutes from the glamor of St Moritz. We’ve had some pretty amazing drives on our journey; the vineyards & villages of France, Tuscany, Como, but the drive through Switzerland takes the gold. Breathtaking views of the Alps at every twist & turn, green pastures and mountain villages. We were kind of mesmerized by the entire car ride that we didn’t even snap a photo. Rick and I just sat there, windows down, kids napping, soaking in this stunning scenery. We were told by our host the drive from Como was one we’d remember, it lived up to its billing. It’ll definitely stick with us forever.
Tinizong - Our house in Switzerland
After about a 3 hour ride, we arrived in Tinizong. After our 100+ degree days in Italy, the weather was drastically cooler, temps didn’t even make it to 60 our first couple of days. It was a welcome relief for us, and we enjoyed every bit of it. Our first adventure in this green mountain paradise was hiking The Albula Trail. A UNESCO Heritage site, the trail follows the Albula Pass train line, one of the first railroads ever built in the mountains, an engineering marvel of track build right in the heart of the Alps. We drove to a small town called Preda in Park Ela, parked our car and started the trek. Our end point was a town called Burgun, about 7 km from Preda. The trek was listed as kid friendly and in this case, the information was right.
Our trek started at an elevation of 1900m and the entire journey to Burgun was downhill, ending at about 1500m. I don't even know how to describe the beauty of this region. Everything is so green and picture perfect. The powerful mountains surround you from each side of the valley and at times looking at them can seriously cause a shortness of breath. What made this trek so enjoyable was every 20-25 minutes you’d spot a Swiss train racing along the Pass through this majestic scenery. I have never seen Leo or Mila more excited to see a train. They were running, jumping, and screaming each time they saw one - super happy and full of joy, cherishing the simple and non tangible things - that is seriously our parenting goal. It totally kept them engaged throughout the entire hike, they could not wait to see the next train go by. Rick & I actually enjoyed the thrill too of seeing the next train, hey train spotting is for big kids too!
We passed unbelievable waterfalls and streams, perfectly manicured green valleys, amazing bridges connecting these crazy mountains, I am still in a state of shock by the beauty of this country. Once again, Leo did a superb job while hiking and finished it like a pro, never complaining or whining of being tired. We finished our 7 km hike in 3 hours, taking several stops to admire this unreal scenery and once for a quick lunch. Once we reached the village of Preda, we purchased two train tickets (kids are free) back to our starting point. Leo and Mila sat by the window and you could see the spark in their eyes, they were about to go on the train journey through one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. There are no words or pictures to explain what we experienced today. My head is a mixture of so many positive emotions that I really do not know how to begin to describe it. I feel like my body could explode out of the joy, happiness and gratefulness. For the first time in a very long time, I could feel my eyes tearing up because of what I saw. The Swiss Alps will forever have my heart and I am seriously contemplating living here long term.
The next morning we woke up to cold weather - 48 degrees and grey skies. We looked at the forecast and they predicted heavy rain by 2pm so we decided to take advantage of the earlier hours and do another hike. We chose to finish the Albula Trail, starting at our end point yesterday, Burgun, and finishing in a town called Filisur. We planned on doing the exact same thing as the day before - hike one way and then take the train back through the Swiss Alps. This hike was much longer about 13 km but we were determined to do it. Once we arrived in Burgun and got out of the car, burrrr we were freezing! The weather showed 47 degrees, cold wind a little mist, and right smack in the middle of the clouds! We were already there so going back was not an option. We bundled up, put Mila in the Poco and headed towards the path. The first part of the hike was mostly uphill, not very difficult but the weather started to affect us. First of all, we were very cold, secondly, the clouds were hanging very low preventing us from seeing any kind of views. It felt as we were inside of the clouds, trying to find a way out. Leo started to complain about his legs being tired and I did not blame him - just yesterday we hiked for 4 miles and he is only 4 years old.
Let's face it - we were a bit crazy for trying to hike two days in the row with two little kids. After a mile or so, the temps got even cooler. We picked up a faster pace to keep warm but it started to feel like trekking a highway to hell! I was getting mad at ourselves, who in a healthy mind does something like that and drags two little children along - only us, seriously, we did not pass anyone. We are not quitters and there was only one thing left to do. . .finish!!! So we pushed through. For most of the hike, I carried Mila on my back ( who slept for half of it) while Rick was taking care of Leo, helping him and carrying him on his shoulders. Without a view, there was nothing to keep you distracted and motivated, no spectacular scenery just walking in the clouds. It was really a mental game. Nevertheless, we finished it! After very long and tiring 7 miles we reached the train station in Filisur. Our legs were exhausted, hands frozen, and feet were tired. The only thing that felt alive was our spirit and determination that got us through this crazy day. As soon as we got on the train, it started to pour. I guess, after all, Mother Nature was rooting for us to finish! Once we got home, we made delicious Swiss hot coco and cuddled up on the couch under a warm blanket. Another day, another Herman Family accomplishment!
The next day, after 12 hours of heavy rains, the clouds started to part towards mid afternoon. As they did, we got a true glimpse of Switzerland, snow capped mountains in August! It was such a cool sight to see as the sun gleam off of white stuff at 14,000 feet! The valley rains turned the mountains into a Winter wonderland! While not nearly enough to ski, it was awesome to see in the middle of August. Something the locals tell us only happens about once every 10 years.
Later, we visited the local tourist office to gather more information about the region and activities for the families. A super nice Swiss lady explained to us everything very throughly, gave us a few maps and lots of recommendations. We decide to take the kids to a near by playground. It was only 10 minutes away from our apartment and once we got there we were in shock! This beautiful and very interactive playground was sitting on the side of the mountain overlooking the Alps on the other side! Are you serious! You are telling me that these Swiss kids get to play in the middle of these gorgeous partially snowcap mountains!? Unreal! Without any hesitations Leo and Mila ran straight to the slides, swings, and other activities. Rick and I sat on the bench and truly enjoyed this heavenly paradise - since we were closer to the sky it really felt like heaven! At one point , as we were zip lining with the kids, a young man came up to us and started a conversation. He was from Lucerne and was visiting his family. They were all sitting at a picnic table and having a barbecue ( 4 adults and 4 kids). He politely asked if we would like to join then at the table and of course, we could not say no :-) I'm sure you are getting tired of me writing about the generosity of all the people we meet, but how could I not mention it. Yet again, strangers inviting us and offering us food and drinks ( either they are friendly or we start to look very homeless haha).
We stayed there for several hours, talking, eating, drinking and laughing, while all of the kids kept running around and playing together. We learned more about Switzerland, the culture, food, work ethic and of course, we had to mention the amazing Roger Federer (they simply love him). It's interesting because I mentioned to one of the ladies - Anna, to be exact about the cleanliness of Switzerland and she agreed that they call it a perfect wood shop. Later on, we set up a fire and enjoyed toasted marshmallows. We shared plenty of laughs over a few drinks. It was a lovely evening and another fantastic encounter with the locals - with everything that is going on right now around the world, it's good to know that there are genuine and nice people...
I always have been a huge fan of beach and the ocean, but there is something about the mountains that makes you wanna fly. I think mountains make you realize how tiny you are, you become more humble and modest. It's funny, because they say that getting married ties you down, having children ties you down, but here I am, 3 days into my time in Switzerland, in the middle of the Swiss Alps, married with two children and I have never felt more free or alive as I do now. I said that mountains make you modest but I start to become greedy because I want all of them. I want to hike every possible trek there is and I have a feeling that it still would not be enough to calm my forever hungry adventures soul.