In Switzerland, I fondue’d! With Swiss cheese, of course. I also ate Swiss chocolates and drank a few really great local Swiss beers! It was a country that caused me to marvel at not only the food choices, but the peaceful spirit and the beautiful scenery. Switzerland was all kinds of wonderful.
We only had three nights to spend in the clean air of Switzerland, so we broke it out by two cities with two totally different dynamics. We spent our first two nights tucked away in the mountains of Interlaken and our final night overlooking Lake Geneva in the city of Geneva.
We arrived by train from Paris mid-Monday afternoon. Having to switch trains three times in order to get there. Once we arrived, we walked to our hotel which was located right in the town that sat hugged below the mountains. We stayed at a hotel called Hotel Interlaken (real original, I know…) – not the nicest of places, I must admit. The room somewhat resembled an oversized walk-in closet and there was no air conditioning. There was a big fan provided for the room though, which was….. nice, I suppose. But much like Paris, last minute booking in Switzerland was extremely difficult. So we decided we would take what we could get and made a vow not to spend a whole lot of time in our room. On a positive note, the staff was extremely friendly and the room was really clean! We also had gorgeous views of the mountains, which made the situation a little better!
The town of Interlaken was adorable! It reminded me a lot of a ski bum community you would find in Colorado. Much like Breckenridge, only on a way smaller scale. The old architecture was so charming and the air was so clean. It was refreshing to take in the serenity of the town and all it’s surroundings.
The town is known for catering to backpackers – more so than anywhere else in the country! It is famous for being a major Swiss travel destination for travelers on a budget. So if you can imagine, the amounts of youth hostels and dive bars were rather excessive, which didn’t bother me! The town is also a major mecca for adventure seekers and thrill chasers. Activities range from high adrenaline sports such as hang gliding, sky diving, parachuting, winter sports (when the season is right) and water sports – as the town sits right in between two large lakes. Many of these activities, however, are not so cheap. And budget travelers often find their wallets rather light after partaking in such activities. Mike and I went on our own hiking adventure on Tuesday that did not dent our wallets at all. And in my opinion, was so much more fun than the thrill of risking your life in the air 🙂 Personal opinion, of course!
There is one major road that leads a path directly from the train station as far deep as into the town. Cobbled narrow streets with no vehicle access then spring off of this road. Here you will find family owned restaurants, bars and boutiques. Off the main road there are also restaurants, chocolatiers and a number of timepiece shops, as majority of all watches are proudly made in Switzerland. We explored every nook and cranny of the town, walking along the most beautifully glacier blue water and marveling over the sweetest Swiss made houses. It felt as though we were characters stuck in a perfect fairytale. With deep green grass, crystal blue waters, abundantly bright and colorful wildflowers and mountains so high the top isn’t even visible from below. It was surreal.
That night we ate a fondue dinner at a traditional restaurant called Restaurant Chalet. Known for authentic Swiss food with a Swiss vibe unlike any place else. Wooden tables, chairs, plates, floors, ceilings and figurines dazzled the interiors, and it made us feel as though we were dining in the kitchen of a sweet Swiss lady’s home. I am typically not a Swiss cheese lover, but when in Switzerland, you have to eat Swiss cheese! And I didn’t hate it! Our dining experience was not cheap, but it was well worth it.
Interesting observation: Swiss beer vs. Swiss wine – Swiss beer is so much better. Much like Germany, the local beer tastes better than the local wine. If you are a big fan of eating and drinking locally when visiting foreign places, this is an important observation. We actually loved the local beers on tap in Switzerland, but the wine was not great and we were not the biggest fans.
The next day we woke up extra early and set our for a thrilling adventure. A DIY (do it yourself) hike through the Swiss Alps… Led by none other than my tour guide husband. I did not prepare myself for the steep climbs and lack of restroom situation, but at the end of the day, I was alive and it was so worth it!
How we started our journey through the Alps: We made our way to the local train station very early in the morning where we hopped on a regional rail up to Lauterbrunnen. From there we jumped in a scary cable car up to Murren – where we began our hike. While in Murren, we explored the car-free town that literally is the storybook of Switzerland. It was quiet and secluded and high up enough to feel like you are floating on the clouds. The houses were straight out of an old tale where characters that resemble friendly gnomes might live. It was a serene moment where for a short time, life stood still.
We stopped at a nice lady’s small cafe where we picked up sandwiches, snacks, waters and beers to toss in our backpack for a picnic lunch we would have later on in the day. We then hiked up and down on paths and in whisking meadows to reach a teeny tiny town called Gimmelwald. Why Gimmelwald, you might ask? Easy. Long, long ago an anonymous backpacker jotted down these words in a mountain hostel’s guest book: “If heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald”. Heavenly is exactly what it was. After catching our breath once we reached the town where not much was going on other than goats laughing and cows mooing, we were suddenly breathless again. We were one with the mountains and flying on clouds in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It was surreal. We found a broken down bench, cracked open our beers and ate our sandwiches over priceless views. It was one of my favorite days. Not only did I get to bond with my husband in one of the most secluded areas, but I got to experience nature and all it’s beauty with such simplicity. I didn’t take for granted once the clean air I was breathing and I thanked Mike a hundred times for guiding me through such an amazing journey. I guess you can say, I was struck by happiness.
We hiked around the area to experience even more beauty and then made our way back to Murren. Where we rewarded ourselves with beers at a small cafe overlooking the mountains. It was such a wonderful day!
That night we dined at the most famous restaurant in all of Interlaken, the Golden Anker. It’s the place that locals insist on being the best in town. I beg to differ. Then again, I am not a local and I am not familiar with the other options they have. It was an experience I am glad we got to partake in and the menu was quite vast with dishes ranging from spicy fajitas to ostrich steaks! It was a fun setting to end our visit in Interlaken.
Wednesday morning, we boarded a super quick train to the cosmopolitan city of Geneva. It was like night and day going from Interlaken to Geneva. We hopped off the train into a super sleek and ritzy area decked out in all things fancy.
We would only be spending one night in the country’s second largest city, and the hotel rate was far from reasonable. Geneva is easily Europe’s priciest city. We stayed at a beautiful hotel overlooking the lake (Lake Geneva – gorgeous!!) called Hotel de la Paix. To help put things in perspective for you: a tiny room at a hotel on par with one like the Holiday Inn ran at the rate of €400/night when we were searching for hotels. Granted, we were staying over the time a convention was taking place in the city, resulting in the extremely high prices, but that might help give you a gist of just how pricey it can be.
We spent the day roaming the city streets and trying on glamorous timepieces. When in Geneva, you have to try on ridiculously expensive watches, of course! After some serious convincing to my husband that we are in no situation to be splurging on $15,000 watches, we got cocktails and sulked over the struggles of our really tough life 🙂
That night, we got a casual dinner at a (very expensive) bar and walked along the sparkling lake where we stumbled upon the most vibrant double rainbow we had ever seen! It rained while we we were eating dinner resulting in our walk back to bed magical.
Thursday morning we boarded the train to Nice, France. A week in the French Riviera is exactly what we needed after long hikes and tiring travels. Stay tuned for beach tales from the stunning south of France! Until then, bon voyage!