Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More Cow Bell

After hours of breath-taking beauty and stomach-clenching drives, sometimes you find yourself in the middle of the Swiss Alps with the windows down and the sun roof open, enjoying the cool summer breezes and the endless sound of bells - cow bells.

One wrong turn off Unterdorf will land you on a 15-mile mountain passage way into the heart of the Swiss Alps. We were on our way from Liechtenstein to Interlaken, Switzerland to meet friends for a canyoning adventure. What should have been a two-hour drive from the fourth smallest European country took more than four and, at times, as much courage as I had inside me.

The Klausenstrasse (Klausen Pass) is mostly known only to Swiss locals and participants of the Klausen Run - a grueling race that takes place every four to five years. In 2006, it was labeled the craziest mountain motor race in Europe.

The strasse connects cantons Uri and Glarus at an altitude of 1,948 m (6,391 ft). With more than 136 bends, swift sweeping turns, quick switchbacks and miles of dark and narrow tunnels it's not surprising tourists typically steer clear of this alternate route. As you creep up and around turns, rickety road blocks are the only real barrier between the uneven roads and sheer drop offs. Traffic lights are set it place to determine the direction of cars on particularly narrow sections and within underpasses.

Handfuls of motorcyclists and bicyclists whizzed by as we inched up the mountain. Proving they weren't amateurs to the course, they faced this gorgeous, beauty-driven adrenaline rush fast. Scott and I made our way slow, taking in as much as we could.

By the time we reached the top, we were surrounded by some of the most remarkable sky-scrapping peaks I've ever seen. Dozens of waterfalls trickled from the snow covered caps onto the valleys and towns below. Farmers tended to their land. Smoke escaped from the chimney's of wood-framed homes.

We grabbed quick bowl of goulash at Hotel Klausen-Passhรถhe before making our way back down the Klausen Pass. The largest collection of free-range cows I've come across yet were in the valley waiting to greet us. Some stood in the middle of the road, while most just grazed mountainside. All swung their bells with pride.

(Google Maps)

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