I have to admit, I was having trouble coming up with something to write about today. Although I think there are some negative aspects of Pinterest, it does sometimes serve as great inspiration. I was looking at a board about European travel destinations and came across several images of Switzerland. I decided this would be a great time to give some tips and share my experiences of traveling in Switzerland.
Because I have so many pictures, etc. to share, this will be a very long post. Sorry in advance!
My parents saved for years so that they could take the whole family (the two of them, my 2 siblings, and me) to Europe in 2008. Although they have both traveled quite a bit, it was the first time either of them had been to Switzerland, and it was also the first time my siblings and I had traveled abroad (other than in Canada). After looking into several options, they decided to take us to Switzerland for two weeks. We traveled through Untours, which is an amazing tour company. They essentially take care of all the basics, but other than a couple of optional trips and an orientation, you are left to your own devices, which my parents really liked. My parents chose Switzerland because it was highly recommended, especially for families. Switzerland is very kid- and teenager-friendly. When we went, I was 14, my brother was 16, and my sister was 12. We also really love hiking and mountains, so Switzerland just made the most sense (although my dad was also really interested in Austria). Untours took care of our plane tickets (although you can find your own if you prefer) and set us up with an apartment to live in. The apartment was really nice and we stayed there the entire time, using it as a base from which we could travel to different places. Our apartment was in the tiny town of Reuti. It was pretty far up in the mountains- the only public transportation to get there was by bus, and we were the last bus stop. But it was gorgeous and the apartment was spacious, with its own kitchen.
The view from our apartment living room
We would spend each night there planning the next day’s activities and didn’t really have a plan ahead of time.
We spent the first day exploring Reuti- it was a very lovely rural town. The above pictures are from the first day there. We also visited the Aareschlucht Gorge one of the first days we were there. It was gorgeous even though it was a rainy day.
We also enjoyed the Ballenberg open-air museum. There were some really cool houses, but we particularly liked the apothecary section- it was so life-like.
A lot of people recommend visiting Bern, the capital of Switzerland, but we weren’t so impressed. We really love history and the outdoors, but we’ve heard Bern is great if you like to shop. If you go, be sure to catch the clock tower at 11:00 or 12:00, as it does much more the greater the number of hours. We unfortunately hit it at 1:00, which is not so interesting.
Although we didn’t love Bern, we all really liked Lucerne. We stuck mostly to the historic section. There were a lot of really cool buildings, some with paintings on the side of them. The Chapel Bridge is gorgeous. We recommend visiting the “Saddest Lion in the World” as it is a truly spectacular sculpture out of stone. We also took a boat across Lake Lucerne. It is so beautiful!
We spent the majority of our vacation hiking the Alps. There are a lot of great, easy trails that almost anyone can do. Some good ones are the Grandfather’s Walk and the Grandmother’s Walk. These are relatively flat and the trails are well-maintained. We also did a couple of harder, longer hikes on more perilous trails. Something we learned while there is that all water from fountains, etc. is drinkable in Switzerland. When we went on our hikes, we would refill our water bottles from cow’s troughs. There is a spout up above the trough that fills it, and it is safe to get water from these spouts (the cows don’t drink from the spouts). Also, in the cities and smaller towns, there are often fountains and such- it is all safe to drink. This was very helpful when we were outside all day and didn’t want the added weight of carrying water bottles around.
On one of our hikes, the trail went right through a cow pasture. There were two cows blocking the path. My dad told my mom to walk right between them because he thought they would move. She didn’t want to, but listened to my dad. When she approached them, one of them snorted at her. She was rather mad at my dad because it scared her, although the cows did move out of our way without a problem.
We accidentally ended up in Mannlichen, a town way up in the mountains, where we came across this wood carving named Felix. We also touched snow on the hike from here to another town.
Some other things we enjoyed: a traditional Swiss parade in Wengen, the large chess board in the smaller town of Meiringen (this is where we got on the train each day), visiting a cheese farm, riding trotti bikes (they’re like scooters, but have bigger tires), visiting the Hergiswil Glass Museum (where we blew our own glass), enjoying small towns such as Sachseln and Sarnen, and visiting the Oberhofen Castle in Thun.
Overall, it was the trip of a lifetime (although I really hope I can go back sometime!). It was my first time overseas, and it certainly has greatly influenced my love of travel. I can’t wait to explore the rest of Europe and the world, but I think Switzerland might always be one of my favorite places. The people were super friendly, the food was excellent (although we mostly made our own meals), and there were so many different activities to partake in. And, most importantly, it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.
Note: All photographs above were either taken by me or my brother, Chris- most of them by Chris.