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Tuesday 27 September 2016
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In Heidiland

Pushpa Sudarshan, Nov 11, 2012,

Alpine

scenic View of the Swiss Alps. photo by Author

Our Swiss sojourn was replete with several highpoints — bustling cities, quaint towns, pristine lakes and of course, the all pervasive Alps with her mighty peaks and breathtaking landscape.

Our destination was the less frequented mountain retreat of Tenna. Boarding a train at Zurich Hauptbahnhof, we changed trains at Chur, an important railhead. Our connection was to a little train which chugged us on through picture-perfect scenery, lush green meadows intersected by the gurgling Rhine. The gentle rhythm of the train, punctuated by merry whistles from the engine, was in itself soporific. We wended our way past tiny, tidy stations till we reached the windswept station of Vesar.

It was then a seamless transfer to a yellow Post-Bus. The amazing Swiss transport system has connections even in the most remote corners of the country. These Post-Buses are the lifeline of little villages in every nook and cranny. Besides carrying snail mail, they also ferry villagers and visitors. Fitted with Alpine ‘horns’, the functioning of the buses is to be seen to be believed. No matter what, a bus is always there to meet the train — precise to the very second, so much so that a two-minute delay by a passenger sent the driver into a tizzy! We were also struck by the driver’s zealous sense of duty, pulling up at every designated stop, even when there was none alighting.

To the south of Zurich, overlooking the famed Safiental valley, nestles the little village of Tenna comprising a comfortable hotel, a small convenience store, a church, a clutch of houses and rolling meadows. For the battered and bruised urban soul, the engulfing quietness is a salve. Here is nature at her kindest, the air crisp and clear, a meditative stillness — time stands still. Tenna is a hiker’s paradise with many trails, all signposted to ensure one’s safety. Tenna also has a magnificent winterscape and is home to a loyal band of skiers. The village made big news in the Swiss media by becoming a pioneer in harnessing solar power for the ski lifts.

Atop the summit of one of the hills is Tenna Cross, entailing a climb of around 400 m. As we began our hike, we saw a gaunt man with a little girl, red cheeked, bare footed, braids flying — a scene straight out of Heidi! The route we followed was glorious — carpets of green and a profusion of flowers — yellow daisies, white buttercups, violet touch-me-nots literally doing a Wordsworthian dance. Our climb took us past pens of grazing cows tinkling their proverbial bells, past swaying conifers, till we came to another Swiss icon, a dairy farm whose inside smelt sharp and pungent, for it was the cheese-making chamber. The caretakers graciously took us through the intricacies of making good cheese. Waving our thanks, we clambered on, till we found a charming nook for a picnic lunch. A few metres separated us from the summit now, up we went to stand triumphant next to a tall wooden cross. Below us, a whole panorama unfolded — distant, snowy mountains, green pastures, an overflowing of red mountain roses (a rare and protected species). God truly was in his heaven!

Sabbath in Tenna brings all the villagers dressed in their best, to gather at an ancient stone edifice, the church. The inside of the church is spartan, a simple altar and rows of old oak pews. The entire community is gathered to participate in the baptism of an infant, a big event for the little village to rejoice and celebrate. Another scenic bus ride takes us back to Vesar, and we brace ourselves to take on the realities of routine, cherishing our soul-stirring Alpine experience.


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