Before I had set foot on Swiss soil I had not given a great deal of thought as to what this country might be like to visit. It is fair to say that I thought it would be pretty – visions of Alps and snow skiing came to mind – and that they made world famous chocolate, watches and that it is also the place I associated with shady characters and Swiss bank accounts as well as a country that has resolutely refused to get drawn into World Wars.
A fairly rudimentary assessment really.
I had a list of countries that I wanted to try and see in Europe during 2012 but honestly, Switzerland didn’t loom high, and in fact it didn’t even get on the list of maybes. So it was a stroke of luck that our round-the-world ticket landed us in Zurich for the start and finish of our European summer.
I fell instantly in love with Zurich when we first arrived. It was such a stunningly beautiful city that literally sparkled in the sunlight. Damien and I were so seduced by its charms that we quickly resolved to make room for a few more days at the end of our trip in Switzerland to see if the rest of the country stacked up in comparison.
Simply put, it did and then some! I was blown away by the sheer beauty of this country and the unrelenting persistence with which breathtaking vistas seemed to abound. It is a country that I feel really has to be seen to be believed, and I want to see it again and again and again.
We based ourselves again at Santosh’s place in Sellenburen (a suburb of Zurich) and upon his recommendation purchased a four day Swiss Pass, which was luckily a ‘two for the price of one’ deal in September when we were there. For the cost of $240 we were able to travel pretty much on any train, tram and boat in the country and visit many other attractions (or at least for half price). It made the travel we did around Switzerland affordable in a way it would not have been otherwise, so we were very thankful for his advice.
Day 1: Our first day we went to Lauterbrunnen in the Jungfrau region which is a jaw dropping area of magnificent Alps and valleys with grass so verdantly green that they it looks as if it has never thirsted for water. We went on an amazing hike from the valley up nearly a kilometre (vertically) to the town of Murren, and then back down into the valley. It was such a fantastic hike, challenging but with such magnificent views. It gave me a taste of the region and a longing to come back one day and do more.
Day 2: We visited the capital Berne. It was a grey old day and although the town is charming enough, we decided that it could not compete with Zurich in the beauty stakes so we left and headed on to the town of Lucerne to see how it compared. Lucerne is a very pretty town but it was also shrouded in grey, and we were wondering if on a bright sunny day its lakeside situation with surrounding Alps (which were obscured by clouds) would compete with Zurich for the beauty queen crown. We enjoyed a trip on the ferry which was a decidedly more fancy and comfortable ride than the old Sydney ferries at home (though I love those too!). All in all it was a nice day and we were treated to lovely views of the countryside as we rode from place to place on the efficient Swiss trains.
Day 3: Whilst in Lauterbrunnen the first day we discovered that the World ProBase Wingsuit Jumping competition was being held just after we would exit Switzerland. However the practice jumps would be held while we were in the country. It was too good an opportunity to pass up (plus we were quite happy to go back to beautiful Lauterbrunnen for another visit!). So off we went again on the train and then walked up the valley to find a good position from which to watch the jumpers launch themselves off the cliff up in Murren. We witnessed 29 jumpers in total and it never got boring! It was very exciting to watch as they dropped off the cliff and flew through the air, with the sound of the wind running over their suits audible as the descended at a ludicrous speed towards the ground. It was such an exciting spectacle and one which we were extremely happy we made the effort to go and witness.
After we had had our fill of wingsuit action, we decided to take a different train route back from Interlaken station to Zurich via Lucerne so we could check out some different landscape from the train. We were rewarded with the best out-of-train scenery of our whole time there. We were grinning from ear to ear and regularly shaking our heads in disbelief that such a stunning country as this could exist, and that we could see it all from the comfort of our train seats!
Neither of us was very keen on the day ending and we decided on a whim to stop off in Lucerne for dinner before making our way back to Zurich. We chose a nice restaurant on the water. The sunset cast a lovely pink hue across the sky, and as we sat there we savoured the evening that was to be our last in Europe. Lucerne was a lovely location for our farewell dinner in this part of the world.
Day 4: Although we were to fly out to New York this day we wanted to squeeze in a little more of this gorgeous country before we headed to the airport. We caught the train up to the Rheinfall. This is an extremely impressive waterfall that you are able to get exceptionally close to. It is awesome to be able to get so close to such a massive volume of water thundering over the precipice. What makes this waterfall even more interesting is that there is a rock island at the base of the waterfall that local boats ferry tourists across to, so they may climb up and watch the water from a central vantage point.
After a brief look at a nearby town we returned to Zurich, and we could not resist one last look at Zurich to see if was still as beautiful as we remembered the first time. As the weather was cooling down by this time of year all the bright flower boxes were empty, and there were many fewer locals cavorting on the lake in their boats or sunbaking or swimming along the banks. Zurich was still lovely but lacked the shimmer of mid-June loveliness that greeted us the first time around.
All in all, Switzerland was a wonderful country to finish our time in Europe and I know we will return one day to spend much more time.