wanderlust: favourite hiking routes 2017

Hello my friends of travel, food, food-travel and travel-food!

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What are you up to guys? After a failed iron injection I had to spend a couple of days in bed with fever, limb pain and John Oliver (whom I’d now be ready to marry on the spot if he wasn’t already married to a ridiculously beautiful wife. Is that one of the side-effects, too?). Whatever, instead of celebrating my first world problems, I decided to use this involuntarily gained time to start writing a new blog post (finally!), which I can conveniently do from my sofa bed (John Oliver on mute for the time being).

For, before my miserable encounter with ironman, I was actually a true jitterbug. And well, what is the thing you do when you can’t stand still? Exactly: You walk. Until. You. Drop. That is why I re-discovered hiking. I say re-discovered because my first discovery of hiking when I was a kid was not particularly pleasant, especially for my Mom and Dad (squeaky “are we there yets?!” included). But I am getting old and as it happens: I start enjoying running around on foot-wide trails up in the mountains  while breathing in cow shit. Ah, I should work in outdoor-marketing, shouldn’t I?

Anyways, hiking is great indeed, because it makes you focus on your body again when you are used to using your head all the time. You don’t to think things through too many times, you just move your limbs in the rhythm of the landscape. And it is a very welcome alternation from the running practice I am urging myself to do currently, thanks to my lovely sister, who signed me up for a half-marathon four ridiculously short weeks from now!

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But back to hiking! Here’s what’s gonna happen: I will let you in on my favourite hiking trails all over the world (this collection is definitely to be extended and complemented in the years to come and still quite humble, since I am not as old as I tend to portray myself). Also, I will include some really awesome hiking snacks at the end of this monologue. For, seriously: What better motivation can one have for hiking than self-made delicious food on top of the world?

So, let’s begin with the easy one: my tiny home country. There are hundreds of great hiking opportunities in Switzerland, nothing new as to that. But many of them are not an option if you are trying to avoid tourist masses. Don’t get me wrong. I love people from wherever in the world they might be. But if there is one thing I learnt while travelling it’s this: Everyone can be an a*****e when they are a tourist, including myself. Period.

What I wanna learn from the tourists in my own country, however, is the way they look at everything as if they’d seen it for the first time (probably because the actually DID see it for the first time). I might coin this as “home-town-estrangement” and invite you all to go out and discover your home-town, home-city or homecountry as if it was the first time, explore it with a tourist’s eyes. But also, I’d like you to get out while you still can and discover these beautiful landscapes, unless you haven’t already:

Switzerland:  Schwarzsee – Jaun (ca. 14km, 4 hours, medium)

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This is a fantastic hike for beautiful autumn days and weekend escapes. I started off my hike with a refreshing bath in the Schwarzsee (black lake) and spent the night after the hike in a cute bed and breakfast in Jaun, sleeping like a baby. If you go there, check out Schuwey’s BnB and consider the next hike on my list for your second day. The hike includes about 700 metres elevation gain, but it might feel like a little more, since the trail goes up and down quite a bit. We chose the longer version and took a little break half way through. Cows are included during the hike (like, lots of cows).

Switzerland: Jaun – Gastlosen (ca. 12 – 20 km, 4 -7 hours, tough)

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The Gastlosen are a small mountain chain, easily accessible from the village of Jaun. If you feel motivated for a proper (proper-proper!) hike, you might like to start off in Jaun. But if you want to shorten the walking distance (from about 20 km to 12 km), you should definitely take the cable car to overcome the first steep hills. Trail-wise, the Gastlosen hike offers pretty much everything from easy to challenging, culminating in something-like-climbing half way through. You’re going to get 400 metres elevation gain and lose just as much. There are incredibly different landscapes along the way and nice mountain restaurants, too. Hiking is only half as fun without a nice pint of cider, isn’t it?

Norway: Vesle Nup Hike (ca. 12 km, 5 hours, medium)

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If you really think you’ve had a breathtaking view over (almost) untouched, raw landscape, you must have been up on Vesle Nup in Norway’s Hardangervidda National Park! The way there is a bit tough at times, since trails are not always marked and you gotta deal with quite an elevation gain. Yet, every step of this hike is worth its effort. And, as a side-note: It’s much cooler, much less touristy and by far more exciting than the very hiped Trolltunga hike, where you are literally walking up in a column of tourists in white Nikes. Just saying.

Iceland: Lake Myvatn – Viti Crater (ca. 15 km, medium)

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Iceland – my one true love! To be fair, I did not really like this hike very much in the beginning, due to the endless lava field we were crossing. Lava fields can be fascinating, for sure, but only to a certain extent. I found the scarcity of the pitch black landscape quite depressing. But then, nature started to change.

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Small bushes decorated the trail with autumn colours on that picture perfect september day and geological forms became more adventurous, from lava tunnels to cracks to huge holes filled with snow. Well, don’t get me started on Iceland, I could talk for hours. Just go discover it yourself and, please, be as respectful as you could possibly be with that vulnerable landscape.

USA: Cathedral Lakes Hike (ca. 10 km, easy)

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My most recent hike! Of course, one cannot deny that hiking in Yosemite is a downright touristy thing to do. And the trail was indeed much more crowded than all the other hikes I am suggesting here. But the landscape makes up for everything. A thousand times! I cam across deers, all kinds of birds (I wish I could say anything clever on birds, but I can’t) pretty flowers (dito), and a stunning plateau in the end and I was simply left in awe. I did not see any bears, unfortunately (although, to be fair, anything nearly looking like a bear would probably have scared the shit out of me). This is an easy hike but be prepared for some heavy breathing due to the thin air. I sounded like a fat whale on a diet.

Norway: Nosi Hike (Ullensvang) (ca. 13 km, tough)

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This is my other absolute must-go in Norway for everyone who is looking for alternatives to the Trolltunga hike and still doesn’t want to renounce great views. But, as it tends to be the case with great views: they come with a price tag. And so does this one. Thing is: You start down at a fjord. Which is pretty much sea level. And you are going up about 1000 metres to get that view you asked for. Sounding cruel? Check this out:

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Looks absolutely worth it, right? Well, the fitter ones amongst you might like to continue their hike along “Dronningstien” down to Kinsarvik, a small town at the fjord you will be looking down on.

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So, what are you waiting for, pretty people? Pack your stuff and go! Oh, of course: The hiking snack! These challenging hikes really do require quick and satisfying energy-refills, don’t they? Well, what could do this better for us than chocolate? Exactly: pepped-up chocolate. Check this nasty hiking buddy out:

“Doped” chocolate bites with Ovomaltine, flax seeds, hemp, dried blueberries and cacao nibs

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  • 100 g dark chocolate
  • 5 tablespoons ovomaltine
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa nibs
  • 1 tablespoon dried blueberries

PREP: melt chocolate, mix with all other ingredients, spread on baking sheet, chill )in any sense of the word) and cut in pieces

And really people: Ovo is love, Ovo is life. I grew up with that thing. It brought me savely through any winter in Switzerland. And remember how perfect Ovomaltine’s slogan fits hiking: You won’t be able to do things better, but you will last longer (This really doesn’t sound very cool when you translate it, though)! Hah, I wish I got paid for saying this, after all.

Another awesome thing to take along in old jars or whatever container you have available are oats. Humble, simple oats. I love them. They give long-lasting energy and are as multifaceted as the landscapes you will encounter on your way. And, as far as I remember, it’s the only healthy thing I already loved when I was a kid: oats with milk, banana slices. So this version is a bit more fancy, but only slightly, since I really don’t want to steal this grain’s well-deserved show:

overnight oats in a jar with whole milk, dried apricots and caramelized walnuts

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  • 1 cup oats
  • 1,5 cups milk
  • 6 dried apricots
  • 1 handful walnuts, roasted with 1 tablespoon coconut sugar and 1 pinch of cinnamon

PREP: soak oats in milk in the fridge over night, add walnuts and apricots, done!

So, after this long post, I am gonna need another load of John Oliver. I wish you all a wonderful autumnal week and hope I go explore your wonderful surroundings one your own or with your loved ones once you’re able to make time.

Loads of love, Florence

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Sweden: 3 cities, grey skies, and a shipload of sins

Hello there, everyone! Doing fine? Now as for me, the semester at university has started again and there was only one possible way to face that: Go on holidays! (To the country which, according to many Americans I have met, is exactly the same thing as Switzerland: Sweden.) And now, after a short encounter with winter winds, tons of sweets and pastry, I am back home and I guess there is no more running away from being a serious academic no more. Yet, what’s the first thing I do? Talk to you guys, of course!

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Now, let me get two things straight: First of all, don’t got to the south of Sweden in winter in times of climate change, when what used to be snow becomes rain and what used to be ice-crystal-cold becomes humid bleakness. Secondly, don’t plan to visit three Swedish cities in 6 days, or don’t plan to drive over 650 kilometers in 6 days. You will end up saying “Wow, I imagine this city must be really cool, it’s a pity we have to leave already again” all the damn time. Should have known better? Yes. But! I got to see a lot of lovely cafés thanks to that one fact that made me tell you not to go to Sweden in winter. The weather was mostly awful. A cosy 5 degrees and drizzly rain, topped with brisk wind, changing for thick snow up in pretty Stockholm. Should have known that one better as well? Yes. Anyways, it’s kinda good for you people, because I found some really warm and cosy gems up there that made everything seem very heartwarming and sweet again and that I absolutely wanna share with you.

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Now, my first stop was that city with the cute name (true: my family used to name our plush toys after it): Malmö. In a nutshell, a really easy going city. No fancy or thrilling sites, though, but that is actually what I really appreciated. For it meant that there weren’t that many tourists and I did not feel like rushing from one attraction to another. Now, one of the first things that stroke me, was that every single bakery not only had tons of cinnamon buns (I had expected those), but also tons of brownish balls, rolled in coconut rasps. I tried one (as I do with everything that is edible) and, honestly, I fell in love.

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Fun fact: In Sweden, the official day to eat sweets for kids is mostly Saturday. The only sweet that is allowed on weekdays is the aforesaid chocolate ball. However, I don’t really understand that, most of the time, that nasty thing basically consists of butter. Lot’s of butter. That is why I particularly fancied the one of a small café I visited, for it was vegan and no less yummy than the other ones. The Lite Off Salladsbar, by the way, also has some pretty awesome baristas.

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And I am over here working in my bar like, “your Cappuccino-foam does look a tiny little bit like a heart, tho?!”

So on the the next stop: Växjö, self-claimed greenest city in Europe and home of many students. Well, in winter it looks pretty brownish, to be frank. But what doesn’t? We stayed a little outside the city in a small hotel by a lake, and let me tell you that: Go there! Their in-house bakery and their breakfast or afternoon tea (Fika in Swedish) are well worth a quick stop-over: Toftastrand Hotell. Pure dolce vita!  

After that short intermezzo, I made my way a many kilometers further north: to Sweden’s charming capital city. Landscapes changed gradually, so did climate. The only opportunities to eat on the way were three different, equally globalized, fast-food chains. Blessed be the generous breakfast, again!

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Now, in summer Stockholm might very well become one of my absolute favorite cities. There is something relaxed and welcoming about that city. Winter, however, was brisk (except for the one evening most of my pictures were taken on – classic). Other than that, I was gifted with tons of snow and icy winds which made me start the cinnamon-bun competition: Where do I get the best ones? I can tell you one thing: there is an odds-on favorite for sure: the Fabrique. Okay, it’s a chain, but really, I have never had such a nastily delicious and deliciously nasty cinnamon bun in my whole life.

The other challenge that was going on was: how to eat inexpensive and tasty simultaneously. After days of roaming around, I accidentally ran into the most charming and heartwarming little café one possibly wish for: Bistro Matgatan 22. They serve a great selection of vegan as well as non-vegan lunches, with free salad, bread and lemonade for more than fair prices in a living-room-ish atmosphere. Awesome. And last but not least, in the very same street in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town (yes, it is mostly as touristic as it sounds), I found a vegan and organic bakery with all the nasty pastry they sell everywhere but with the awesome difference that it is dairy- and sugar-free. How cool is that? Go to: Naturbageriet Sativa.

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Now, after all those treats you might imagine that I felt pretty much like going cold turkey when I came home. And as I am also opting for a vegan nutrition at the moment, what I did was an attempt at my one true love, Swedish chocolate balls, vegan edition. Here you go:

vegan Swedish chocolate balls

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ingredients:

  • 500 g date paste
  • 200 g dark chocolate
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup hashed and roasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
  • 4 tablespoons flax-seed oil
  • coconut flour or coconut rasps

preparation:

  1. melt chocolate with flax-seed oil
  2. mix all ingredients and knead well
  3. form balls, roll in coconut rasps and put in the fridge for an hour
  4. enjoy with chai latte or coffee

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I wish you some sweet days, my dear fellows and a lovely beginning of spring

Sincerely, your professional chocolate-ball-addict