Thursday, May 16, 2013

Zurich's Postcard Perfect Urban Wilderness

Ah, a snowy Sunday in Zurich. With so many shops closed, what's a Type A person, like myself, to do? Head to the wilderness, of course. And that couldn't be easier in Zurich where Mount Uetliberg, really a set of hills rather than one mountain, rises almost 3,000 feet above sea level. In the winter, it's a playground for sledding, walking, hiking, jogging and mountain biking. In the summer, take sledding  out of the mix and add picnicking.

Taking a train from Zurich's main station to Uetliberg, I shared my car with families and kids toting sleds. The wide open slopes as well as steeper terrain attracts everyone from young kids taking their first gentle sled run to thrill seeking teens.

My plan was a two- to three-hour afternoon hike. One family I met on the train left me with a warning, though: "Every year people get lost because they left the path. Don't leave the trail." Give the expansiveness of this urban wilderness and the vast network of trails snaking through forestland, I had no intention of leaving the path. 

Sticking with the wide paths, I found myself immersed in a true winter wonderland with snow clinging to tree limbs, needles and bushes, and coating rocks and grassy fields. Picnic tables clustered among evergreens, and benches were strategically positioned to provide postcard perfect viewpoints of Lake Zurich and the Alps beyond. Dense woodland alternates with wide open, undulating landscape that's sliced with sled tracks.

Though I didn't bring food for my trek, I found plenty of places to sample Swiss cuisine: whether the cafeteria at the train station where I disembark or other restaurants in the hills, including the glassed-in and uber scenic restaurant of the Uto Kulm Hotel set beside the observation tower (closed in winter) with panoramic views of the city and, on a clear day, Germany. The restaurant's outdoor deck is also where I would be sequestered in the summer.

From this vantage point it's an extremely steep and ice-laden staircase leading to the main walking trail along the ridge. (I only found out much later that this hair-raising situation could've been avoided by bypassing the observation tower and taking a trail that veered to the right.)

At the bottom, I was rewarded with some much needed cheese fondue at Uto Staffel, a restaurant looking out to the snow draped valley and mountains. Down the path, drinking water flows from a fountain made from a hollowed out log.

I shared the path with joggers, mountain bikers, families, couples with walking sticks, and children pulling sleds.Occasionally I'd spot the sign for my destination:
Felsenegg, the location of the cable car that would bring me back down to catch a train from the Adliswil station back to Zurich's main station.

Near the end of my 2.5 hour journey, the landscape  transforms into an even more magical land with the brush at the base of the trees glazed with ice, resembling sparkling dust.

A five-minute walk from the cable car boarding area is a cozy restaurant that serves some yummy mac and cheese, Swiss pancakes with prunes and, of course, the de rigueur apple strudel.

This is a hike that's a must for anyone who wants to experience perhaps one of the most wonderful urban wilderness options around, winter or summer. These photos are a sample of what I found:










14 comments:

Brette said...

This sounds like a lovely day. Fondue is a pretty great way to end a hike!

JTravel said...

Hi Brette, Agreed. Every restaurant had some tasty choice that was perfect pre-hike, post-hike or to fuel up during.

Living Large said...

I agree with Brette, fondu is an excellent way to end a hike. Great photos, just beautiful!

merr said...

Just beautiful. I'd love to go.

Irene S. Levine said...

What time of year were these pictures taken? Just curious!

Vera Marie said...

I had no idea there was an extensive wilderness area in Zurich. Looks absolutely wonderful.

Jane Louise Boursaw said...

You're so adventurous! You're a seasoned traveler, but I like their advice: Don't leave the trail. Can't imagine being lost out there.

JTravel said...

Hi Jane Louise, I'm actually the model of cautious. I never go off the trail in the woods. Had to do it by necessity once in Austria and made it to civilization but it was scary. Never again.

JTravel said...

Hi Living Large, Thanks. Glad you enjoyed my photos. Yes, fondue is a tasty way to replenish calories after a hike.

JTravel said...

Hi Irene, I took these photos in late February.

JTravel said...

Hi merr, if you decide to go and need any travel advice, let me know.

JTravel said...

Hi Vera Marie, I was totally surprised. It was a venue I never heard about and only discovered by accident when I was there.

Alexandra said...

I enjoyed this walk. Thanks for sharing. The one time I went to Zurich, the lake there was an amazing emerald green.

JTravel said...

Hi Alexandra, Next time I'm in Zurich in the summer, I look forward to strolling around the lake.