I left my heart in Switzerland
When most people think of Switzerland, the idea of skiing and indulging in cheese fondues springs to mind. Though this is indeed a few aspects of the landlocked country, there’s really so much more on offer.
Switzerland is probably the most advantageous country to visit if you are an avid traveller. To the west of Switzerland is France, Germany is to the north, Italy is south of Switzerland and Austria borders Switzerland to the east.
The neighbouring countries of Switzerland have impacted the nation greatly, showcasing three distinct cultures that I had no idea about until visiting. The Swiss-Germans in the north are very straight-edged and clean, the Swiss-French of the southwest enjoy wine and living a stress-free life, while the Swiss-Italians sip on cappuccinos and make good pizza.
I’ve been to Switzerland so many times (mostly Basel and Bern); the peaceful ambient atmosphere makes it one of my favourite places in Europe. The country is terrific; low unemployment, beautiful scenery and the highest GDP than any other country in Western Europe.
A weekend in Zürich
The first time I visited Switzerland with a full squad was right after my 18th birthday. The idea to visit had never entered my mind until my friends peer-pressured me into an unplanned weekend. We took a short trip from Germany and arrived in Zürich in no time. Though it was a weekend and our time was limited, we managed to squeeze in so many activities that would make a group of tourists jealous.
We took a stroll to Lake Zürich, a popular spot for swimming, boating or having a picnic on one of the banks. If you are looking for a truly memorable experience, take a ferry between Meilen and Horgen on the lake. The surrounding artisan cafes combined with the mountainous backdrop is a real treat to your eyes.
My friends and I felt like we needed something more invigorating and spontaneous, so we went to Altstadt which means “old town” in German. There were so many medieval houses, contorted lanes and iconic landmarks, perfect for taking photos. You might think I was on the set of Game of Thrones.
While there was a lot of history in Altstadt, the location was also home to many of the city’s clubs and shopping malls.
The next day we decided to have a good breakfast which consisted of Mcdonalds. We needed the energy for Uetliberg, a famous mountain that takes about 30 minutes to 3 hours to climb (depends on your health condition).
At the top, we could see the Alps which were an excellent view from the window of a café we sat inside. There are a lot of nature trails that we didn’t realise until arriving. We opted for a nice woodland walk which was easy to explore.
Bern baby Bern
As I mentioned above, I’ve been to Switzerland for so many times, but mostly to Basel and Bern. I might visit other cities before but mostly with friend and family. SO this time I decided to visit Bern, a capital that’s managed to retain its historic identity, alone. The old town of Bern is also classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, something that I could tick off my bucket list after visiting.
Bern is set in the heart of Switzerland and the gateway to the Alps. Though the city has an excellent transport system, it was much better for me to travel on foot, so I didn’t miss anything. I headed to the Rose Garden to get a panoramic view of the city and the river Aare.
I really enjoyed the many boutiques, bars and cabaret stages in the old town which naturally attracted a lot of tourists. Wish you were here Lea 💔
Another iconic location I went to was the Albert Einstein House, where the genius often stayed when in Bern. I learned a great deal about the Nobel peace prize winning physician, especially the strange fact that he didn’t like to wear socks. Tried it once, turned out it wasn’t a good idea for a hyperactive guy like me. I got some blisters on my feet. Huft! Not recommended!
Anyway, the house of parliament is also located in Bern, very close to the railway station. I thought I should stop by as doors are open to visitors most of the time though it wasn’t particularly exciting as anticipated.
Bern is also known for its heraldic beast, the bear. The city has Bärengraben aka bear pit or bear park where you can see a family of bears which is something I didn’t expect. Visitors can access the elevator for free. It makes the park even more convenient not only for young adult but also for elderly and disabled people.
Getting to know Geneva
Ever since I was a kid, I would aspire to work as a UN secretary general. The possibility of working on volunteering projects across the globe appealed to me. I have a few friends who work with the UN in Geneva which were a perfect reason to visit.
A tour to the UN was definitely on the cards since I was in Geneva. I was lucky that I have friends who work there, not only I could join an hour tour, I even had a chance to wait for them at the library. Check out UN Office Tour admission here.
The tour consisted of visiting many rooms, ones where important and historical decisions were made. There was the assembly hall, council chamber (lots of negotiations took place there), a movie screening on the activities of the UN and gifts given to the UN’s office from different countries.
It inspired me with so much hope; that maybe someday we can all live in a world with peace and understanding. The city of Geneva is mesmerising, and I’ve never seen so many expats in any other city in Switzerland. This gave me the opportunity to make new foreign friends a little easier. Swiss people are genuinely gifted too; a lot of the locals I met could speak at least three languages with ease.
Dinner took the form of cheese fondue with a few of my pals which were followed by chocolate fondue afterwards. The experience felt taboo, but in Switzerland, it’s perfectly normal for adults to indulge in.
Couple years back, I visited Dina in Geneva. She was one of my co-announcers on student’s community radio. We both love X-Files, that was enough reason for us to explore the city around midnight. We were pretending to be ghost-busters since all the old buildings, and quiet canals looked like places you would probably find ghosts.
Dina’s friend (sorry, I forgot his name) who also lived in Geneva was an expert on cooking and a culinary student. I got the special privilege of enjoying his food (and it was free too). Since Switzerland is a little expensive, we could just hop over the border to France to get some supplies and ingredients (which is very common for the native swiss).
Finishing off in the Alps
Probably the biggest reason why so many tourists flock to Switzerland is because of the Alps (and maybe not paying tax too). The Alps mountain range spreads across many European countries, its only in Switzerland can the highest peaks be reached. One notable spot on the Alps is the Aletsch Glacier. It’s regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage site and quite the spectacle.
There was no way I could visit Switzerland and not go skiing in the Alps. It’s essentially a rite of passage for dedicated travellers. The toughest decision was whether I wanted to go skiing or snowboarding. I decided to ski one day and snowboard the next. One unusual activity is snow golf which was not as difficult as anticipated. My greatest advice to anyone going to the Alps is not to eat yellow snow. You can PM me if you want to know what it is, though you might have some idea already.
As long as one of UN offices is still in Geneva, I’ll always come back, and Switzerland will always be one of my most favourite countries to visit.
Thanks for reading this blog, hope you enjoyed it. Read more travel blogs here. Meanwhile, have a wonderful holiday!!