Is it wrong to say that I do not have a burning desire to see the entire world? That there are some experiences and places I am not anxious not add to my list of exploits, or travels. There are some countries that I think, “Yes, that would be cool to see, but I don’t have to see it in the next five-ten years.” Switzerland was one of those places. There were many more spots in Europe that I was anxious to see before I made my way to Switzerland: Germany, Croatia, Denmark, Norway, the list really went on. But, somehow, it worked out that I would see Switzerland before any of those other places. And I’m so glad I did.
My trip to Switzerland was, serendipitous; there is no other word for it. I was standing in line for the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam. The line was about three hours long. I quickly made friends with the people in front of me, and behind me. We ended up spending a good chunk of time together in Amsterdam. And then, when I decided to stay in Europe a bit longer, I traveled with Angela, a Swiss girl, the girl from the line at the Anne Frank museum, on a whirlwind tour of Italy and France. At the end of the tour, she invited me to spend 10 days in Switzerland with her before I would head off to Rome to start au pairing. Well, I couldn’t say no! 10 days in Switzerland! With a local? Who in their right mind would pass that up?
I was very lucky because Angela was kind enough not only to show me her college town of Zurich, but also to take a day trip to Lucerne, and show me her hometown. I loved exploring the fairy-tale towns of Zurich and Lucerne; tripping along into fairy-book like towns, with colorful houses and old-fashioned architecture that looked like they came straight out of a Hans Christian Anderson story. It was an experience to ride up a mountain in a gondola, being pounded by snow and wind in the middle of August (sadly I only saw part of the magnificent view that was promised due to the weather). And, I hated hiking in Switzerland (feeling like I would surely keel over and die) but man, were the pictures worth it. My favorite part was meeting Angela’s friends and family, who welcomed me in right away and were more than happy to take me along to concerts, and festivals, to go shopping and watch movies snuggled under blankets. They only spoke English when around me-even when just conversing with each other, which was so incredibly amazing and thoughtful.
Zurich is a cool, little town. There are lots of young people here due to the university. But Zurich is also the main financial and business capitol in Switzerland. So lots of business people call Zurich home. I really liked the sharp contrast between modern and medieval. There was so much shopping in Zurich, but also a lot of really quaint corners to discover and hills to climb that offered some great views.
If I could offer any advice, or suggest a “must see” in Zurich, it would be a hike to Lindonhof. It is a short climb and offers the best views of the city. Other than that, take a free walking tour. I usually do in any new city, but for some reason I kept missing the tour.
My second piece of advice concerning Switzerland: it is expensive. Amazingly, stupidly expensive. I cried when I saw the prices of restaurant food. If you’re on a budget, you have to go to grocery stores and make your own food. It is really the only way to not spend hundreds (yes hundreds) of dollars a day on food. At the tail end of my time in Switzerland, we went on a day trip to Lucerne. I was almost broke, but thankfully Angela had some free train tickets and was kind enough to use them on a day trip for me. Lucerne is even more quaint than Zurich. I admit Lucerne was definitely more my style. I loved the small streets, the tiny shops, and small town atmosphere. When you think Switzerland, you think of a town like Lucerne.
One of the highlights of my trip was a gondola ride up Säntis mountain. Säntis is part of the Appenzell Alps in Switzerland, and is one of the highest mountains in the area. Instead of hiking the famous mountain, we decided to take a gondola ride up to the top. I was pretty sick the whole way up and down. But somehow we made it. I highly suggest that if you visit Switzerland you take some time and get up to the mountains. The mountains are spectacular.
There was a lot of cloud cover and we didn’t get to see too much at the top of the mountain. But the views on the way down were still spectacular. Unfortunately all of my pictures were taken through the glass windows of the gondola-but I still think you can see the vastness and majesty of the landscape.
The top of Säntis was covered in snow-and more was coming down. It was August. The week before my friend and I had been sunning ourselves on a beach in the south of France. Living in Florida, this was my only time seeing snow in the year 2014.
My other mountain adventure in Switzerland (it’s Switzerland-mountain adventures are a must) was hiking, or, let me use the Swiss term, “walking”, the Ebenalp. On the way we stopped at Seealp lake, and finished the hike at a one-of-a-kind restaurant built right into the mountain: Äscher cliff restaurant.
Angela assured me this hike was fairly easy. It wasn’t. It was one of the hardest hikes I’ve done. In the pictures I’m smiling, but I am really dying on the inside. I think part of it was the altitude (I get extreme motion/altitude sickness), but part of it was the sheer angle of the climb. I stopped about every five minutes to breathe. Angela and her friend were so calm and patient, stopping with me and encouraging me. I’m really happy I made it to the top, but gosh, was it difficult.
Every part of Switzerland was magic. I’m so thankful to Angela and all of her friends who made my time there so wonderful. It just goes to show that you never know who you might meet on your travels. And you never know where you might go.