"Find life experiences and swallow them whole. travel. meet many people. go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. try everything. exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Jakobsweg: part one

So its been five days since my dad and I departed Salzburg and took several trains to Rorscach, Switzerland, on the shore of lake Constance.  On our first day, we didnt arrive in Rorscach until 2:30.  We hiked for 8.8 miles to St. Gallen.  We quickly were introduced to Switzerlands hilly terrain, ascending constantly up.  We passed by old women raking hay into lines to dry in the sun and walked through farms and villages.  When we finally arrived in St. Gallen, we were exhausted.
The next morning we had a traditional Swiss feast of good bread, cheese, and a soft boiled egg.After some delightful conversation, we began our trip to Herisau.  This was a fairly flat day weaving in and out of forest trails up to the town.  our host famiky, the Hausers welcomed us to join them at a local music event, which turned out to be several bands including a highschool pep band! We were surprised to hear them start to play Gangnam style, which was very intetesting. 
After another wonderful breakfast the next morning, we began our trio to Wattwill.  We didn't know what we were getting ourselves into.  That day we climbed and climbed, reaching 1094m at Sitz, a ski lift followed our path.  Only then did we go down and then back up and down again and up.  Everywhere we looked was an amazing panorama of rolling green hills covered in yellow and purple flowers.  Houses dotted the open stretches of hillside and cow bells were ringing in the air. We made a wrong turn at one pt, adding 1.5mi to our trip.  Once back on the trail, we walked through the small town of St.Peterzell and up a crossing to descend a steep slope into Wattwill.  After 18 mi, we were ready for bed.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find where we were staying and ended up being turned around by poor directions for an hour until finally someone offered to drive us there.  When we get to the house, however, the family wasn't there!  After much help from a friendly neighbor, we found a place to sleep in another house.  The women greeted us with a homemade flower extract drink made from the elder bush that was absolutely amazing.  She said it was her first opportunity to speak English because she had only read it before.  While the day was exhausting, it ended on a highnote.
Our trip to Rapperswill was another18 mi day, but a little more manageable.  There was a steep climb to get out if the city, but after that it was "flat"(at least for the Swiss).  We came into the city with a beautiful sweeping view overlooking Lake Zurich. 
Today we made our way to Einsiendeln ( about ten miles).  We had a very steep climb out of the city (I think there is a trend forming here), followed by sloping meadows and a "plateau" which brought us to Lake Sihl.  From there we made our descent into Eisiendeln, with the large kloster (abbey) looming on the side of a hill.
After only five days on the trail, I've picked up a few things: dehydration can make you do funny things, no matter how much moleskin you wear you will get blisters, I never want to rake hay along the hills these people have (absolutely crazy), its perfectly normal to walk into someones house to ask for water, and there is a littl old lady somewhere between herisau and wattwill who is the nicest woman ever ( she just kept chatting away in German, just happy to talk to someone even if we had no idea what she was saying).
In the next few days we will sleep in straw in Brunnen, then make our way to Stans and Flueli Ranft.  It has been quite the experience so far!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Von Trapp Style

The hills are definitely alive with the sound of music in  Salzburg! I don't have too much time so ill give a brief update on my Austrian adventures.  The first two days were rainy and cloudy, but still turned out quite well! My dad and I walked along the cliff of Monchsberg to the fortress of Salzburg.  We finished our first night at a beer hall, stuffing our faces with a smorgasboard of Austrian cuisine.  We spent the next few days walking along the river, up kapuzinerberg, into a modern museum of art, eating sachertorte, watching the sunset from a roof bar and enjoying the city of Salzburg.  Tomorrow we head to Switzerland via train!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

50 shades of green

I had a great time in Ireland, the land of fifty shades of green as my friend called it.  I explored the city of Dublin: up and down the side of the river, past Molly Malone, through numerous parks, and into the Temple bar.  I spent an evening at the merry ploughboy "having a crack" and "bantering" as well as listening to some good ol' Irish music.  I spent a day exploring Malahide castle, deciding of course that one day I am going to have a great party in an Irish castle.  I also ventured into the Wicklow mountains to see Glendalough.  There is a lake centered in the valley of the mountans, covered in green, a beautiful spot!  Now I am off to the city of Salzburg, Austria!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How to get a pilgrim passport for The Way of St. James

Along the The Way of St. James, there are some hostels or other accommodations that require that you are carrying a pilgrim passport or credential.  You can also get stamps from all the different places you have been along the way.  Not only does it get you discounts on your pilgrimage, but it is a cool souvenir to keep.  If you are an American, you can pre-order your credentials for free(or with a small donation) from American Pilgrims on the Camino.  Be sure to order at least two weeks before your departure.  If you would rather get one on route, there on many places along the way in Spain.  In Switzerland, however, I struggled to find where I could obtain a pilgrim passport.  Finally, I found a place in St. Gallen that has credentials for purchase (Pilgrims Sankt Gallen).  So with pilgrim passport in hand, I am ready to start my pilgrimage!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Don't be afraid to walk alone and don't be afraid to like it"-John Mayer

     Once again I find myself on the precipice of a new chapter in my life.  With several months before I head out for medical school, I decided what better to do than walk across a country?  In one week, I will set out for my journey that begins in Rorschach, Switzerland, ending in Geneva.  I will travel an ancient pilgrimage route called The Way of St. James or Jakobsweg.  This route is roughly 430km long and will take me about 25 days to complete.  While I'll have a tent on my back, I am also planning on sleeping in some of the popular "sleep in straw" (schlaf im stroh) locations.  You literally sleep in these families' barns!
      So why did I choose to spend an entire month of my short summer trekking across a country?  People do pilgrimages for many reasons now-a-days.  While in medieval times, this route was steeped in religious tradition, today it is walked by people searching for a challenge, calling upon faith, who appreciate the beautiful scenery, or who just need an escape from their mundane life.  Of course, the religious history is still present with many churches and landmarks scattered along the route (such as shrines to St. Niklaus or the abbey in Einsiendeln).  I chose to do a pilgrimage because I had the time and I wanted to spend it challenging my mind and body.  What better way to do that than a long walk by myself!  The other reason, of course, is due to my itch to travel again. For once the travel bug bites, there is no known antidote and I will be happily infected for the rest of my life.