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Learning Swiss German at the Lobhorn Hut

The Lobhorn Hut has starred as a central character in my Swiss life. For whatever reason, this friendly little mountain hut that sleeps less than twenty people continues to draw me in for the simple fact of being in the right place at the right time. Having one of the best views in all the Alps is certainly a bonus. It has become our backyard playground.

The Lobhorn Hut with the Lobhörner behind. An alpine ridge traverse is popular along the crest, and there are several alpine sport routes along the base.

One winter day as Janine and I were skiing by, we decided to stop in for a warm drink. 30 minutes later I had both a job and a Swiss German teacher, Irene Tamang.

Irene and her husband Talak Tamang are the wardens at what is one of the smaller Swiss huts. After many years wardening at the Trift Hut, 2015 is their first year at the Lobhorn.

When I first met Irene, she asked where I was from.

“Interlaken”.

“You don’t sound like you’re from Interlaken”, she remarked at my English. She then proceeded to speak Swiss with me, to which it became immediately apparent that I wasn’t up to the task of conversation.

My dishwashing skills may well be better than my Swiss.

And so I was dealt a much deserved blow in the form of a Swiss language punch. I knew I needed some immersion in Swiss and Irene, without knowing me, offered to take me in at the hut, and teach me Schwiizerdütsch. She’d already taught her Nepalese husband Talak Swiss by simply cutting him off from speaking English, she was ready to do the same to me.

So, one snowy day in May I found myself shouldering a heavy pack as I marched up the Lobhorn Hut Trail from the tiny village of Isenfluh. Upon arrival, I was shown my room, and put straight to work doing a little of everything; serving food, preparing coffee, cleaning rooms, making beds and cleaning a never ending stack of dishes. All this in addition to what I’d come for, taking orders and speaking with the guests. While there was some serious confusion about the details, I was proud to get most orders correct. The only awkward moment came when I told someone, “I bii do zum schiffe und Schwiizerdütsch lerne”. I had just proudly proclaimed that I was at the hut for a piss and to learn some Swiss. The critical difference between “schiffe” and “schaffe” was noted.

For about the fifth time, I recently re-read Shunryu Suzuki’s famous, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”. In it, he says, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” With these words still fresh in my head I was able to fully absorb my entire experience. To be a beginner, to be clueless, to look the fool, to make mistakes – and to be okay with all of it, in fact to revel in it.

Dining room window view – the Eiger Nordwand.

Before the overnight guests wake up, and before anyone arrives, the hut was our own.

Merci viel viel mal Irene und Talak! Thank you for your patience, your kindness and all the attention you gave me. I look forward to being that local who drops in while out hiking, in need of a coffee, a Hasli Chueche, and some time with friends.

Irene and Talak make fresh torts each day.

Ueli Steck ran up one snowy day to be sure I was learning Swiss and not just sipping Chai and learning Nepalese from Talak – which of course, I was.

Alpine Huts get all their goods delivered by helicopter. In comes the fresh food.

Out goes the trash and recycling.

For more information about the Lobhornhütte, visit their Website, or Facebook Page.

If you are in the Interlaken area of Switzerland and up for a day hike or night in a hut, be sure to visit the Lobhorn Hut. Even the view from the toilet is memorable.

 

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