Switzerland

Switzerland is the most beautiful nation in the world. Or is it? It has many contenders, many with more history, or culture, or diversity, but Switzerland consistently reaches near the top, higher than other Alpine nations. We all subconsciously relate Switzerland to beauty, but is that correlation influenced by its wealth? When we visited Switzerland, we would find out for ourselves. 

Switzerland is an interesting country. The village of Zermatt and the towering mountain Matterhorn both are can’t-miss destinations. It also does have some diversity. The south is Italian, while the North, Center, and Northeast speak German, while the Southeast speaks Romanche. In the West, near Geneva, French is spoken. I was particularly interested in Geneva, because it contained CERN, where the World Wide Web was created and where the Higgs Boson was discovered. 

We arrived from Austria, but came through Liechtenstein. We spent around a half-day there, and finally ended up in Zurich. The ride there was worth it though, as we could see the majestic Alps towering above us throughout the journey. There were two things that I really liked about the Airbnb. First was the chocolate: our host gave us a week’s supply of Swiss chocolate. Gosh, it was good, especially the milk chocolate. The second thing was the foosball table. 

After arriving, we slept, and the next day, we explored Zurich. We started with a hike at Uetliberg, a mountain above Zurich. To get there, we had to first take a train, and after that, it was a brief hike to the view, which was magnificent. You could see the river Limmat running through the city, and overall, it was a very beautiful place. The only thing was, we had seen a carbon-copy of this in both Innsbruck and Salzburg, Austria. Thrilling views like that didn’t thrill anymore. So we tried some food. First macaroons, which were great, and then we visited Hiltl, one of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in Europe. The prices were high due to the Swiss cost of living, but we were happy to find a quality vegetarian restaurant. 

After that, we walked around the streets, and there were some very big names. Rolex and Cartier, for example. There were also names I didn’t recognise, especially banks. For the rest of the day, we toured around the city. 

Then we went to Lucerne, a city known for its beauty. Would it prove its worth? 

We started at Hotel Chateau Gutsch. This is the place to get the best birds-eye view of Lucerne. And it was an amazing view. We got to see the chapel bridge and Lake Lucerne, as well as the fortifications of Lucerne. This is a can’t miss site, and you will get the best views from here. It is truly amazing. Forget about what I said previously about thrilling views. 

After that, we went to eat some cheese, rounding out our Swiss adventures in food. We didn’t get too much cheese, but what we ate tasted great. As usual. 

We wanted a closer look at the beautiful waterways of Lucerne, so we decided to go on a boat trip. We went from crowded, but majestic and beautiful Lucerne, to the lake, which was quieter, but also more natural, though I felt the look of the mountains just wasn’t as breathtaking as the view of Lucerne itself. 

After that, we went to perhaps the most famous attraction of Lucerne: Chapel Bridge. Honestly, the best part of the bridge was definitely the view: I liked the flowers on the side, and the paintings on top, but it wouldn’t be anything remarkable if there wasn’t a picture perfect lake bounded by the beautiful city of Lucerne. The backdrop really made the location. From the outside, though, the Chapel Bridge looked great, so we took a lot of pictures there. 

Actually, everything looked great in Lucerne. 

After our stay in Zurich, our next destination would be Saas-Fee, a popular skiing destination. The 3.5 hour trip there was beautiful (it looked dangerous, though), especially due to the Alps and its natural beauty, but one leg of the journey really stood out. The road continued as usual, going through the mountains, and then we slowed. We stopped until the train arrived, then got on a ramp onto one of the train cars. We were now part of the train. We went through tunnels, and continued through the landscape until we arrived at Saas-Fee. It was located in a valley between a few mountains. Our Airbnb also included a trampoline, which I enjoyed. 

The next day, we visited CERN in Geneva (my dad barely managed to get tickets: CERN is a very hot tourist destination). It was a long (4 hour) drive there, but it was seriously cool. The visitor center was basically a huge wooden sphere. From the planetarium to the gas tanks they used for experiments, it was all very interesting. They even showed us how the particle accelerator worked, and what they did to detect the particles. I was definitely too young to understand it, but if I were to visit CERN again, I would understand a little more. Through a very unlikely coincidence, I also met Al Gore (Former Vice President and climate change activist). We got a few photos, and it was amazing to be with such an influential figure.

Geneva is also the headquarters to many more organizations, such as UNICEF, the WHO, and the World Trade organization, as well as the International Red Cross. We visited the Palace of the Nations, which was the headquarters of the League of Nations, and when it failed, the UN made it one of its four major offices. Just across the street was a broken chair. Not a broken chair. The Broken Chair. The Broken Chair is a sculpture of a big chair with a broken leg made to encourage governments to sign the Ottawa Treaty, which bans storing mines. I wish I knew that when I visited. I was just plain confused. 

When we left, we visited Chillon Castle, a small castle on Lake Geneva. It was small and quaint, and it looked like a sandcastle turned to stone, it was so undetailed. But I liked it. It was really clean: no frills, no extravagance, just a castle.

It was dusk when we arrived, and we got a really cool picture of Saas-Fee. Not much else to say. We were done for the day after so much driving. The next day, we drove to Zermatt, then took a train to Gornergrat, a mountain where we could get a good view of Matterhorn. The train ride felt like we were ascending to the clouds. And there were a lot of clouds. It became harder and harder to see anything, but finally, we reached our destination: the Gornergrat Kulm Hotel. Not much, just a large brown building. 

When we got off, the first thing I noticed was the cold. It was near freezing, which was to be expected so high in the Alps. The second thing was the wind. Usually it was just strong. Sometimes, it came in huge gusts that could knock you off your feet. When we arrived, it was cloudy, but it could rain at any time. The mountain weather was basically a dice roll: if it were 1 to 50, the weather would be cloudy. 51 to 99 would be rainy. 100 would be sunny. 

After that, we went inside because of the rain, and then warmed up for a little while. Once defrosted, we ventured outside again, and we took a lot of photos. Sun or no sun, the view was great. One one side, Mount Rosa, the largest mountain in Switzerland, and the second highest point in the Alps after Mount Blanc. On the other side, many, many glaciers and a barren landscape void of life. It was amazing. Then I almost got knocked over by a huge gust of wind and decided to go back inside. 

We spent most of the day (or at least a good 4-5 hours) there, and the rest of the time was spent a little further down the mountain at a cafe. We were hungry. There was a performance of Romeo and Juliet (in German) in the background, and it was pretty cool to watch with the mountain background, which wouldn’t remind anyone who watched the play of Verona. It would make for a good picture though.

Finally, we took the train all the way down, and returned to Saas-Fee. It was a good Alpine day, so we took a day to get the heat back in us by traveling to Milan (see Italy chapter). 

The day after that, we got a day pass for the cable car, and we used it very liberally. The cable car rides never failed to impress, the cable cars slowly ascending up to the hills, while we got a birds eye view of the ground below us, and a preview of what was to come. Our first destination was a glacier. It was very slippery, very icy, and very beautiful. We didn’t traverse most of it due to the ice, but even from there, we got a great view. 

The second mountain didn’t have the glacier walk that the first one had, but it contained a really cool view of the adjacent mountain, which had a great glacier with brilliant blue ice. There was also a cafe, so we got to drink hot chocolate while enjoying the view. Finally, our third destination was a lookout spot, where we got a great view of Saas Fee. 

The next day, we packed our bags and left for Nice, France. Switzerland does deserve a lot of attention. I think it does get a little too much, though. 

Tips: 

  • Train ride: It is a really unique experience, especially because it’s not every day you can be on a train and a car.
  • Cable cars: Try to get a day pass: they are expensive, but will both save money in the end, and you get a chance to go on the cable cars as much as you want
  • CERN: For any aspiring scientists, CERN is the place for you. It is also unique in the world of travel, as there are very few science destinations in the world. 
View of Saas-Fee
Glacier at Saas-fee
CERN

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