Thursday, March 26, 2009

Melting snow prompts border change between Switzerland and Italy


Ryder-Walker Guide and Office Guru, Mike Thurk, forwarded me a wonderful photo yesterday. The object in the foreground is called a grolla, and it's an object that's unique to the Val d'Aosta region of northern Italy. The grolla is a drinking cup filled with espresso, grappa and secret Italian love. Friends come together and pass this thing around while drinking from one of the multiple wooden spouts.

You find these "friendship cups" in Courmayeur, but you also find them in the stores around Cervinia, directly opposite of Zermatt, which got me thinking about the recent article below. Will there a be a day when the grolla becomes a popular tradition in Zermatt? What about rösti and weizen bier in Cervinia? Check out the following article to see what I'm talking about. The affected area includes the region around the Matterhorn.

From the Independent:

Global warming is dissolving the Alpine glaciers so rapidly that Italy and Switzerland have decided they must re-draw their national borders to take account of the new realities.

The border has been fixed since 1861, when Italy became a unified state. But for the past century the surface area of the “cryosphere”, the zone of glaciers, permanent snow cover and permafrost, has been shrinking steadily, with dramatic acceleration in the past five years. This is the area over which the national frontier passes and the two countries have now agreed...read more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Get in the mood.


Dim the lights. Set a pot of fondue on the stove. Pour yourself a glass of sparkling fendant, and then click the following link.

I like Männliflueh-Jutz from the Lötschberg region, but Fila-Fila from the Ticino is also nice.

Tschüss!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Do you know the difference?

…between a petroglyph and a pictograph? Here’s a hint, one is pecked, ground, incised, abraded, or scratched on the rock surface, and one is painted on the rock surface using mineral pigments and plant dyes.

Therefore, the following photo taken by Ken Fuhrer during last year’s Red Rock tour, is a fine example of a petroglyph.




Researchers estimate that some of the rock art found in this region dates to a few hundred years ago, while other examples go back 5,000 years.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Out There

Out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as a sea and sky surround and sustain a ship.

-Edward Abbey-


Image of adobe cliff dwelling by Chris P.
-In a forgotten corner of the
canyon country.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I would stand in line for this.


The First Flyer, a new zip line in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland, allows four people to simultaneously, yet independently, zip across Swiss alpine meadows at over 50 miles per hour and nearly 150 feet up in the air. Even better, this little contraption offers an adventurous reward for our hikers coming off the Schynige Platte, (Day 1 of the Jungfrau Loop), above Grindelwald. The ride takes about 45 seconds and covers a distance of around one-half mile between the lift stations of First and Schreckfeld. Riders disembark at Shreckfeld and may continue their descent to Grindelwald by foot or public transport.

I would certainly stand in line for this.

For more info visit: http://www.jungfraubahn.ch

Friday, March 06, 2009

Airlines Slash Fares to Fill Seats


The current economic situation can be depressing, but it doesn’t have to be because there’s always a silver lining.

This week’s silver lining appears to be airfare. I recently Twittered about Lufthansa’s early bird specials to Europe. I found round trip tickets from New York to Milan during mid May for $545. Even better, this morning’s news reads, "Airlines Slash Fares to Fill Seats.” One key sentence in the article caught my eye; “Some round-trip tickets between New York City and Amsterdam, Madrid or Frankfurt have fallen below $400 on Continental Airlines. “

This is good news for travelers, but I’m always skeptical of these promotions, so I did a bit of searching myself. To my delight, I found round-trip tickets from New York to Milan between May 15 and May 30 starting at $413. Once again, if you can steal way for our self-guided Italian Lakes District Tour, then this is the time to do it.

What if Europe is still out of your budget? Well, I searched for round-trip airline tickets to our Red Rock Country hiking tour running May 4-12, and I found that a person from New York could join us for just $293 in airfare. Likewise, a person could escape the rain and grey of Seattle, WA and join us in the sun-soaked Desert Southwest for a mere $246.

Imagine ditching the snowboots for sandals and joining us for white water rafting, hiking, and exploration in the American Southwest. How about relaxing on sun-drenched patios, and then sipping wine while admiring the sunset on a warm spring night? Just because the economy is down doesn’t mean that our spirits have to be. If you’ve been fortunate enough to squirrel something away for a vacation, then this might be the perfect year travel. We can always find a silver lining.

Photo by Ken Fuhrer-Red Rock Country 2008

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Basel's Hidden Gem



If you follow our updates on Twitter then you might have seen yesterday’s tweet concerning Basel’s Fasnacht celebration. This ancient three-day masked carnival takes place in Basel, Switzerland, on the Monday following Mardi Gras. It’s a unique celebration for many reasons including the fact that Basel isn’t typically recognized for letting it all hang out. In fact, the normal stereotype among many Swiss people that I’ve met is that people from Basel represent a very reserved and serious crowd. Likewise, some tourist itineraries don’t even mention Basel for much of anything except pharmaceutical manufacturing and commerce.

While it’s true that Basel’s architecture might not compare with a UNESCO World Heritage Site such as Bern, nor would its industrialized Rhine River appear as charming as the bubbling streams that tumble down from the high Alps, Basel does possess a few hidden gems for the traveler willing to seek them out. These treasures include great museums, a fine art collection, and some delicious food.

One of my favorite stops for eating is the GASTHOF Zum Goldenen STERNEN, a delightful little restaurant situated in a quiet, medieval corner of Basel called St. Alban. Saint Alban served as the heart of printing and paper manufacture during the fifteenth century, and a huge water powered press still makes paper today the way it did almost 600 years ago.

The GASTHOF Zum Goldenen STERNEN represents Basel’s oldest surviving inn and began serving food and drink to weary travelers back in 1412. While the restaurant predates the birth of Christopher Columbus, its menu offers inspired contemporary cuisine. They feature traditional items and Mediterranean dishes, but their strong point, in my opinion, is their commitment to cooking seasonally and as locally as possible. The number of local fruits, vegetables, and meats on offer impressed me during a recent visit. I’ll admit, that I didn’t eat entirely locally; I had the rack of Valasian lamb with rosemary sauce on a bed of green lentils, potato gratin and seasonal vegetables, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the pumpkin soup. The valrhona chocolate mousse, perfumed with tonka bean and garnished with compote of citrus fruit, also offered a nice finish to the meal.

The restaurant also offers a number of desirable seating arrangements. I recommend the terrace overlooking the river on a sunny day, but the guild rooms offer a nice place to settle in during a rainy afternoon.

For added pleasure, take a walk through historic St. Alban following lunch or dinner, and then grab a ride across the river on the Wilde Maa cable ferry. This ferry services St. Alban, and it’s one of the many non-motorized ferries that continue to carry passengers across the river the way they did centuries ago.

A number of our guests pass through Basel on their way into France and Germany because the city’s position on the border with both countries offers a convenient staging point. Travelers can hop the TGV to Paris, or jump into the Black Forest of Germany, home of the infamous cuckoo clock. For those with enough time to eat in Basel, the GASTHOF Zum Goldenen STERNEN offers a great place to grab a good meal.

Their website:
www.sternen-basel.ch

Bottom photo: A typical alley way in Basel, Switzerland-Chris P.