Food / Travel

Experiencing Engelberg

Engelberg, Switzerland

After a morning high in the mountains, the last group excursion of our trip was a journey to the Swiss countryside. Listed as “Swiss Heritage” in the travel brochure, it was an optional outing which I think everyone in my tour group took part in. After a short break back in Lucerne where we grabbed lunch, our bus drove south to the town of Engelberg.

In winter, most visitors come to Engelberg for the skiing; there is a cable car that takes people up Mount Titlis. Our driver let us off right in front of the cable car station where we would wait for our next mode of transportation. With the clouds and the rain, it was getting a bit cold and Kate handed out miniature bottles of schnapps to supposedly warm us up. I received a bottle of plum-flavored schnapps which tasted far too similar to cough syrup; after one or two sips, I capped the bottle and ignored it for the rest of the trip. Even Kate admitted that the brand she bought was not very high-quality.

After a few minutes, our ride finally came to pick us up.

Horse-drawn carriage ride

It was about eight people sitting in our carriage: six of us in the main seating area facing each other, and another two or three in the higher back row. Had the weather been better, I think the carriage ride would have been a bit more romantic and picturesque. Instead, the top was pulled up to shield us from the rain so the views were a bit more limited but we were all snug and warm with the thick blankets covering our laps.

Engelberg Abbey

We were driven around Engelberg to take in the sights, from shops in quaint buildings to views of the cable car and the surrounding mountains. As we drove past Engelberg Abbey, Kate (who was sitting in our carriage) mentioned that there is a cheese factory located at the monastery.

Farm house

Eventually, we reached the end of the ride and our next destination, a working farm in the town. Ulli, our hostess was the owner and after welcoming us to her farm, we were ushered inside the barn. It was dimly lit but there were lights hung about around the small windows and along the wall. We were given cups of hot tea (with or without the schnapps) and then she spoke to us about the life of a Swiss farmer and the products they produced (especially the cheese).

Cheese pie and rösti

Gingerbread and Birnbrot

After a quick Q & A, we feasted on some light snacks. There was a platter of cheese and slices of a beef that was thinly sliced and more reminiscent of salami; the cheese is one that is only available in the country and never exported. That was followed by homemade cheese pie and rösti; I ended up with a huge slice of the pie which I passed along but I did enjoy the rösti (one can never go wrong with any version of fried potatoes. And dessert was homemade gingerbread and Birnbrot/Birnweggen, a Swiss pastry with a pear filling from a local bakery. The former was fine, though a bit too spiced for my tastes but I loved the Birnbrot.

Calf

We were free to explore the barn afterwards and that included getting up close and personal with the bovine residents in the next room. The smell wasn’t too pleasant but everyone enjoyed getting close and personal with the cows, though it was hard to take photos of the animals since they kept moving around. In one area in the back were a few calves, and they were so cute that many people wanted their photos taken with them.

Musical interlude at the farm

When I returned to the main room, Ulli’s son was preparing to play a little music for us. I think he played a few traditional songs and he was pretty good. We stayed a little longer after that and then made our leave after thanking both Ulli and her son for their hospitality. We walked from the farm back to the cable car station, where our bus was waiting for us. It was a long drive back to Lucerne in the rain and then we spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for our very early departure in the morning to Zurich airport. Dinner that night was at a local Italian restaurant along the Reuss River and then we all went our separate ways, either for a final stroll around Lucerne or back to the hotel to pack (for me and M, it was the latter).

And so our trip had finally reached the end. It’s amazing to look back and see how much we actually did in the span of a week. Here’s looking forward to my next getaway.