Do a quick free association with hiking. Strenuous. Dirty. Outdoors. Nature. Wild. These are some words that may come up, it does of course depend on your attitude towards the activity, one which I quite enjoy. The Swiss, pioneers of mountaineering and keepers of some of the world's best mountains, may think of a few different words in terms of hiking. While hiking both in America and the Balkans where I've been is quite the outdoors experience, a physical excursion into the relatively wild nature, hiking in Switzerland is quite civilized.
Take our hike today for example. Yesterday we met my mom in Zurich, today we wanted to hike. A day trip to the alps is not worth the amount of time on trains, especially when you sleep in, so we took a short local train to Zurich local "mountain," the Uetliberg.
The train went nearly to the top of the mountain, where we found a restaurant. Along the way, the trail was wide, clean and had trash cans on the side. Luckily, there was clear signs for the extensive range of hiking aka Nordic walking trails, with arrows pointing in clear directions and distances marked. These signs were both frequent and accurate.
Picnic tables, fountains and even fire pits lined the trail, and after an hour we came to a cable car station back into town. Attached was an immaculately clean bathroom. Later we passed roads and farms, and always more restaurants.
It was two hours until it really felt as if we were in near wilderness, with a less manicured trail and no services along the way. It's not bad, just different. The positive argument is simple and easy to accept, this civilized and clean style of hiking, full of services and easily traveled to makes nature more accessible and hiking more practiced. Where I'm from in the suburbs, one is hard-pressed to get into nature without a car.
Go Switzerland for making the urban escape easy and enjoyable for everyone.