A little over a year ago, we packed up all our worldly possessions (again) and headed off to Switzerland before moving back to America. We said goodbye to our friends and rolled our suitcases down the street to the bus stop on an early morning in Tübingen.
And then we rode buses and trains to Engelberg, Switzerland, a familiar place we all love dearly.
It was pouring down rain when we arrived, and so we made our way up the hill to our friend’s house, where we took off wet clothes and breathed big sighs of relief.
Ben and Simon had just finished an entire year of German school. We would be headed back to the US in a couple of weeks to try and pick up where we left off in the summer of 2013, but for now, we would rest.
Everything else was far, far way except for this one thing:
Tomorrow there would be mountains to climb.
The next day was all blue sky and beautiful views.
We got up and wandered a few of our favorite nearby trails.
We returned to the abbey to buy the cheese that is made there.
We hiked high above the town on the little switchback trails that run behind the Swiss chalets.
We watched clouds roll across the sky.
For a week we rambled around Engelberg.
We went on long hikes in the morning and shorter wanders in the afternoon.
We sat around the house in the sunshine nursing our sore feet in the pool.
We found new trails and hiked old familiar ones.
We missed those who had been with us the last time we were in Engelberg.
And we enjoyed being together.
Just the other day, Simon said to me, “I miss walking in the forest.”
“Yes!” I said, “I miss it too.”
In the last year, we haven’t spent nearly the amount of time in the forest as we did in Europe.
So I dug out these pictures to remember our epic hikes in Switzerland.
I remembered how I love trailing behind my boys while they are running down a mountain.
I can feel their glee as they bound down a trail.
And I remembered how I love tea and treats after a long hike.
At the end of our first week in Switzerland, we did a large group hike up Mt. Titlis.
They had stations set up all along the way where we could fill up our water bottles with hot soup or tea, because it was super cold.
It was by far our hardest hike of the week, pushing me for sure to my limits.
The weather played chicken with us all day, and I was frequently ready to give in to it.
But then the sky would clear in places and the most amazing views would appear.
Sometimes the views below were just over the edge of some pretty harrowing clifftops.
But it was gorgeous.
The other hikers snaked above and below us. It was amazing to me that so many folks had come out for such a hard hike.
It was by far the highest I have hiked in Switzerland.
As part of the hike, we got to ride the gondola back down the mountain, saving my knees from the descent.
For our second week in Switzerland, we had friends from Scotland join us.
It’s always fun to share a favorite place with friends. Our boys had especially looked forward to the arrival of the Fitches, a family with three boys!
We took them first to maybe our favorite valley in all of Switzerland.
We hiked to a small hut for drinks and cake.
We had gorgeous weather for most of our time, with full views of all the mountains.
The next day we hiked up to the alpine lake above Engelberg.
Then we came down another gorgeous valley, a hike we did with all four of our kids in 2014.
On another day we took a gondola up to a mountaintop restaurant.
Just above the restaurant is the perfect spot for family photos!
Then we hiked back down to Engelberg after lunch.
We did one cloudy day hike in the lower hills of Engelberg.
This trail led us to a lower part of the river that runs out of Engelberg.
And then there’s a trail along the river that leads back up the valley, over a suspension bridge and back into town.
Taido and three of the boys managed to squeeze in a via ferrata one day that looked particularly harrowing.
For our final few days in Switzerland, we took the train to a different part of the country.
We stayed in a hostel for just a couple of nights, so we could get in an epic hike before heading home to the US.
We started early in the morning. The boys are all pointing to the sign telling us how long it will take us to reach our destination, Kleine Scheidegg.
Higher and higher above Lauterbrunnen we climbed.
After a while, we started to get views between the clouds of Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger.
No matter how high you hike in Switzerland, there are little villages and huts.
And we crossed several times over where the trains climb up.
We constantly marvel at Swiss engineering while we hike around the country.
The temperatures dropped as we got closer to the tops of these mountains.
Finally we could see our destination, as well as the helicopters bringing tourists in and out. After lunch, we hiked down a different (and longer) way to another town (Grindelwald) before taking the train back to Lauterbrunnen. All in all we hiked well over 20 miles on our last day in Switzerland.
The next day we took the train to the airport and headed back to America with sore legs and loads of memories!
Goodbye Switzerland. And goodbye Europe!