St Bernard Pass – gateway throughout the ages

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Stone Cross at St Bernard Pass

From Martigny in Switzerland (along the Via Francigena) we struggled over the hardy obstacle of a mountain ridge.

Because a flood two weeks before had washed away the walking track and the railway track – both of which followed the river.

We had planned to walk from Martigny to Orsieres that day, mostly along the Dranse Valley, but now we had to reluctantly detour over this ridge. What a pain.

Sometimes when travelling, especially by foot, it’s difficult to accept some quick unplanned changes. And up a steep ridge – no less. Carol accepted it easier than I did. We started climbing (gritting your teeth makes it more difficult) and puffed our way to the ridge top. The valley below was covered in fog and fine droplets of moisture formed on our goretex jackets.

The mist cleared and we saw a wonderful alpine view, which compensated for the recent struggle. Then down through the steep vineyards to the village of Boverniers where we had lunch.

It was time to catch the bus to Orsieres as the ridge climb had finished us for the day – sometimes you have to know when you’ve had enough.

The bus ride took 20 minutes. Well, Orsieres was a nice little Swiss alpine village, with its own church, hotels and shops. Overindulging in a traditional Cheese Fondue meal with dessert, wine and coffee, we retired for the evening.

Bus again the next day. Up through the amazing alpine region, now passing the snowline with only scarce vegetation and the massive peaks in front. Napoleon had passed this same way during his thwarted attempts to conquer Europe.

The Romans used this route when they did conquer the known-world. The bus stopped at a number of villages along the way picking up and dropping off passengers.

Finally we arrived at the famed, historic St. Bernard Pass which is only open to vehicular traffic for 4 months of the year. We got off the bus and found our accommodation. – More later.

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