While the world is slowed to a stop, at Ryder-Walker we have been reminiscing about the good old days and remembering all of our favorite things about traveling in the Alps. Sometimes when you aren’t able to enjoy some of your favorite things in life, it helps you focus in on what you miss about them, and helps you understand what makes certain experiences special. At Ryder-Walker we are already looking forward to the next time we get to travel. Here are our top 5 reasons why!
1. Coffee in Haunted Hotels
One of my favorite oddities of the Alps is the region’s many Belle Epoch era hotels that are nestled in the mountains. Slightly reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining, these lavish hotels sit largely empty by the side of the trail, royally decorated, and largely forgotten as the days of traveling into the mountains by carriage for a royal welcome slip into history. Today, many of these historic hotels still operate and while they might not be the most comfortable options for overnights, many of them still offer the chance to sit, enjoy a cup of espresso, and feel the history of the Alps around you. The perfect counterpoint to enjoying an espresso or beer at a hut after a long day’s hike, these old hotels are one of the truest oddities of the Alps and are places I cannot wait to return to.
2. Artisanal Picnics
Something all Ryder-Walker guides and clients know is that a picnic doesn’t have to be a simple affair. When you are sitting down in a field beneath the Mont-Blanc or Matterhorn and unwrapping your lunch, the excellent farmer’s markets and artisan bakeries of the Alps have you covered for the best picnics of your life. Whether you’re eating Brie and bread, apricots, cured meats, or just a Swiss chocolate bar, relaxing under the mountains with a well-curated picnic is an experience worth returning for again and again. While I know the excellent Swiss cheesemakers aren’t going anywhere, I’m still looking forward to the next time I get to step into an authentic cheese farm and pick out what sort of local Alpkäse (mountain cheese) I will be eating that afternoon.
3. Finding Forest Creatures
The animals in the mountains are one of the elements that make every hiking trip feel unique, even if you are hiking a trail you are well familiar with. Whether you are spotting Slovakian foxes, Swiss ibex, or the robust population of marmots that inhabit the Alps, nature always keeps it interesting for us. These long months indoors have made me appreciate these unique experiences with animals even more. I still remember the last time I watched a chamois – a tiny alpine goat – pick its way up a seemingly impassible rock face. It’s encouraging to remember that the mysterious forest creatures will always be waiting around the next corner on the trail, to surprise us, and for us to surprise them.
4. Reaching the top of the pass
It’s my opinion that there is no better feeling than reaching the top of a high pass and I’m sure many of you will agree. Whether it’s just because you finally don’t have to hike uphill anymore, or because the views of the mountains open up around you in breathtaking splendor, reaching the highpoint of a hike is both a relieving and exhilarating experience. Spending time in the high mountains can make you feel freer, even lighter, despite the effort, it takes to reach them. We miss looking out at the distant summits of Valais or taking in the craggy splendor of the Dolomites and can’t wait to share these experiences with you again soon!
5. Friends Old and New
Finally, we at Ryder-Walker miss each other. Both our guides and you, our esteemed clients, who have become friends over the years – or maybe will next year! The extraordinary individuals I have met hiking with Ryder-Walker is part of what makes the experience so unique. Over the years I have met masters in essentially every profession from doctors to geologists and professors. The people you hike with never stop providing you with interesting life lessons, unexpected perspectives, and new friendships. Even beyond the people, we hike with, the locals we run into on the trail are another element of what makes hiking in the Alps so special. I remember the first time I was hiking by myself through part of the Brenta Dolomites, it was an incredibly misty day and a lone traveler came huffing up the trail towards me. The man stopped on the trail to introduce himself as Igor, visiting from Eastern Europe. Igor had been living in Trento for the month and invited me to play volleyball the next afternoon, promising that I would meet “Dozens of Italian women” there. I never met up with Igor for volleyball, but the strangeness of that moment still sticks with me.
Whether you are an old friend or new, and I know I speak for all of Ryder-Walker when I say this, we miss you and are excited to see you on the trails again soon!