Via Alpina, Day 7: Engstlenalp – Meiringen

I slept restlessly last night. The lightning bolts of a thunderstorm in the distance made the tent lit up. Fortunately, the bad weather has already blown over in the morning and we can – albeit under a heavy sky – continue our way dry. We thought that Engstlenalp consisted only of two hotels and a wooden hut, but we now see that the spot is dotted with an ocean of ​​smaller huts. It’s apparently in these huts that the soldiers have spent the night, because we see how one of them dresses up neatly in uniform for a day of hard labor in the mountains. Via a winding gravel road we are taken to the bank of a river. We stop for a moment to wash our cooking pot, mugs and cutlery. The water is ice cold. When my hands are just about frozen, Wim takes over from me. I’ve left some caked “Spätzle” for him to clean. He curses silently when he takes over the sponge. I laugh and watch from the side of the path how Wim finishes the dishes.

When the “china” is stored back in the backpack again, we climb up to a ridge.

We end up at the stunning Tannensee, a beautiful reservoir that, unlike many of its colleagues, does not feel artificial or industrial at all. A wooden hut on the shores of the lake offers us protection against the cold and harsh wind that rages across the water. We eat a few cookies for breakfast.

To the west of the lake we continue up a wide path until we reach a cross, marking the 2140 m high peak of a nameless mountain.

The path becomes narrower again and a stunningly beautiful road runs over the mountain ridge. We hop a few kilometers from one ridge to the other and cover quickly a decent distance.

On the way we see an alpine marmot curiously sticking his head out of his front door. The path looks like a big green ball of cheese with holes, because of the innumerable little holes that these little creatures have dug here. It must be a rush in the long corridors underneath our feet.

Just before we arrive at Planplatten‘s ski station we put on our raincoats. We are glad that we can warm ourselves in the restaurant that is located at the end station of the cable car.

We start a conversation with a couple that also ventures the Via Alpina. Their adventure, however, stops here. They don’t feel like walking the long way back to the valley again and have bought themselves a ticket for the cable car. We, on the other hand, ingnore the cable car and go for the real footwork.

However, it doesn’t take us very long to realize why the couple opted for the cable car. The descent is painfully long. But we keep a strong pase and feel highly motivated when after a good hour of hiking our path crosses the route of the cable car. In one of the cabins we see two people enthusiastically waving at us. It appears to be the couple of the ski station on top of the mountain. Given that it’s such a long descent, they had to change to a different cable car several times in order to be able to get down. And although they have indeed been able to spare their knees with their cablewheel option, they haven’t won any time at all.

We increase our pace a bit and half an hour later we meet the couple again in another cable car. We can see from their broad smile that they enjoy it as much as we do.

The path dives back into the civilized world again and takes on broader proportions. We shorten the long zigzag route here and there with the help of small shortcut tracks. On a bench in front of a typical Swiss house, an old man waves at us in the distance. We wave back. We appreciate the cordial welcome in the vast valley of Meiringen. The last kilometers to the center of the village are not very interesting, although some works of art from a local artist along the path are struggling to make us feel differently about it. I take a few seconds to look at one or two works, but I have to admit that it’s not exactly my cup of tea. Neither is the buzz that Meiringen radiates. The village is a lot bigger than I expected.

The “cable car couple” has arrived in the village just before us and uses the fountain on the village square unabashedly to cool down their feet. We keep our shoes on and install ourselves on a terrace next to the same village square. Two half liters of beer later we decide to leave the crowds behind and go look for the local campsite, which is located at the edge of the town. It’s another two kilometers of walking along a busy road. Rushing cars pass us by. I crave the tranquility of the campsite and I feel extremely excited when the campsite, which at first sight looks quite third-rate, seems to offer an oasis of greenery behind the entrance gate. Also the sanitary block gets a big five star rating from me. At the neat showers I notice small wicker baskets with all kinds of body care products. When I let the wonderfully hot water run over my sweaty body, I feel like I’m in a real wellness center. This campsite gives a whole new meaning to “back to basics”. But hey, who’s complaining …

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