I awoke this morning to an unexpected surprise… snow! It wasn’t sticking, but the flakes were coming down! Kind of a big change from the heat wave in Lyon, France. Myka, the woman from my hotel, offered to drive me to the top of the Gotthard Pass where there’s a museum, then I’d walk down from there. I could have walked up, but it’s over 3 hours and I just wasn’t feeling that energetic. I pile on my three layers and woolly scarf and we head up. The mountains all have that powdered sugar look since it’s been snowing, and as we get higher it’s getting snowier and snowier and much more frigid looking. As I’m getting out of the car the door almost flies off because I didn’t realise how windy it was! Oh, the wind-my nemesis!
I pay for my admittance to the museum and go to the top floor to watch the film about the origins of the Gotthard Pass. On either side of the screen there were 2 figures. On the left was the devil, and on the right was St. Gotthard, who the pass was named after. The movie told the story of how with great beauty, there is always great evil (who knew?) The story goes that in the days before they had bridges crossing the river the people had to navigate the pass via hanging walkways off the cliff walls. This was both dangerous and not very practical, since the route was being used to take goods back and forth between the Italian and German cantons of Switzerland. So, it seems that the people made a deal with the devil to build a bridge for them, but his price was the soul of the first to cross the bridge. The people fooled the devil though and pushed a goat onto the bridge, so the devil was duped, and was he mad! He picked up a giant rock and was going to throw it at the bridge to destroy it, but instead just hurled it towards the village of Goschenen, where it still sits. The bridge is called (what else but?) the Devils Bridge. The pass has been in use since the 13th century, and gradually over time improvements were made because it’s the fastest way between Uri (the German canton) and Ticino (the Italian canton).
The elevation of the pass is about 2100 metres (6900 feet), and to me it looked the way I’d imagine Iceland to look in the winter… cold, bleak and barren. As I set out, I was really wishing I had a hat, but I just made the best of my windbreaker hood and woollen scarf. I wasn’t that cold actually, I wrapped the scarf around my head and face and the jacket cuts the wind really quite well, so I was feeling pretty good! The walk down took about 3 hours, I was on the lookout for a resident herd of ibex, but they eluded me. The snow never did let up, but now and then I would find myself in a sheltered area where the wind would die down and I could take my hood off. The trail was very well marked and more or less followed the car road, so I never felt like I could get lost. And yes, I was the only crazy person walking out there… not a soul to be seen so I took advantage and decided to sing the entire ABBA gold album as I was trodding along. It was just me, the wind and the mountains.
The St. Gothard museum which sits at the summit of the pass. This is one of the last postal sleighs that was in use up until vehicles started to use the pass. Before that mail was carried by messengers on foot. Now that I’ve walked part of the pass, I can only imagine what that would have been like in the winter.
This is a little montage of photos are what I like to call “The many stages of cold, colder, not so cold, cold again and so cold I look like a bandito!”
Look, it has little purple flowers growing inside the petals!
Which was should I go? And where’s that St. Bernard with the whisky?
View of the village from above.
My first gnome sighting!