Things you should know about walking the Way of St. James in Switzerland
So this week-end I have started walking on the Way of St. James leading through Switzerland. As I have to work during the work days, I am only able to walk on my week-ends. Therefore it will take some time between my posts. Sorry!
I would like to start with a little information about the Camino here because this might be really important if you are planning to walk across this country:
1. Price levels
The first thing you have to keep in mind when planning to walk the Camino in Switzerland is the high price levels. Yes, no beds in hostels for 5 or 7 Euros here. Actually the price for a night in a defined pilgrims’ hostel is between 20 and 35 Swiss Francs, which is about 15 to 28 Euros. In other places the prices go up to 50 Euro or more.
But the hostels aren’t the only places with high prices. It’s the same with groceries and everything else.
This is not to shy you away. You should just keep in mind that in the few days you need to walk across Switzerland, you have higher costs than in France or most of all than in Spain.
2. Prilgrims’ hostels – albergues
The second thing you should know that only few towns have official pilgrims’ hostels because the Way of St. James doesn’t have the same status here like in Spain. They have started establish hostels in recent times. But the typical pilgrims’ hostels here have about 10 beds and not more.
This means that reserving a bed here is wise if you don’t want so sleep outside. It may be that you’re the only pilgrim in the hostel. Or that it’s already full when you arrive there. But 10 beds are full quite fast!
In case there isn’t an official pilgrims’ office, there are often private ones or pensions or normal hotels. They are more expensive though.
Not to shy you off – but if you don’t like walking up and down you better chose another Camino. The Way here in Switzerland rather resembles the part between St. Jean and Roncesvalles than the topography of the Meseta. You are crossing the alps here and should keep that in mind.
Distances aren’t as far as for example on the Camino del Norte though. Switzerland is small. Therefore there’s a village every few kilometers. If you have to walk more than 5km to the next place, that’s already quite unnormal for here.
4. Restaurants, bars and farmers’ shops
Here there’s not a bar or restaurant in every village. So you shouldn’t set off without anything to eat. As Switzerland is small though, you only have to walk for a few hours to the next restaurant. Therefore: Take something light and small with you but not huge portions. You don’t have to walk one or several days without coming across restaurants or shops.
Many farmers in Switzerland have their own little “shops”, usually in the form of a little waggon on the side of the road where you find food or flowers they grew/produced on their farm. You usually can take whatever you like from those little waggons and put the money for it in a box. There’s no surveillance of any kind so this functions on a base of trust. They offer you what they grew themselves and hope it’s worth something to you. While there might be people taking things and not giving anything I want you to keep in mind that parts of their earnings are coming from that business. Do you want to work without pay?
So in case you are taking their products, please also pay for it.
I point this out because in Spain there were pilgrims taking the cherries from the trees alongside the Camino. Those cherry trees were completely empty in the end. Farmers don’t grow food for free, they have to live off something. And it’s unfortunate that there are people who don’t care about that. Even worse when they are “pilgrims”!
5. Opening hours
Opening hours in Switzerland are traditionally shorter than in other parts of Europe. They originally were Mon-Fri from 8am to 6.30pm.
In many villages shops are closed between 11.30am and 13.30pm. While recently those opening hours have been prolonged to 8pm in many places and shops often stay opened over lunchtime, you should keep that in mind.
So that’s what just came to my mind after having walked on the Way here for several days. I’ll come up with further posts, but this time with descriptions of the Way and pictures 🙂