One of the smallest countries yet amongst the most influential in Europe, also on my European Top 4 (this is actually the last country from the list). It happens to be one of the most interesting for many reasons we will elaborate on further in the article. It has four official languages (German, Romansh, French, and Italian) and has a border with four countries (Germany, Liechtenstein, France, and Italy). It is also known for chocolate and watches despite the fact that it does not produce cocoa or have precious metals. Fair to say it is one of the most paradoxical countries on the continent.
I love the way they respect the environment and they can easily win the citizen discipline award. People follow speed limitations even with no speed cameras around.
The country is about 4.5 times bigger than Tokyo and ticks so many boxes, be it skiing, hiking, ice caving, watersports, camping etc...That country, folks, is Switzerland!
Getting to Switzerland
Thanks to its position as a business hub, there are plenty of options to fly to Geneva from London. (Around 100 flight options) and the Swiss city is less than two hours away from the British capital. Make sure you do enough research about your trip as Switzerland is the second most expensive country in Europe on the Nouche barometer.
One thing that used to freak me out was the price of a burger - 24CHF (£20/$26/€22)! I don't even want to compare it to any other country I have been to but it is one thing to bear in mind. Similar to the big mac index but I would call it Nouche burgernomics.
Where to stay?
Thankfully, I did not have to worry about where to stay as a friend of mine lives in Geneva, food alone was a big budget. If a normal meal would cost around 25CHF, I would not dare take a look at hotel rates - You are on your own this time, guys...🤷🏾♂️
I happened to have been to Switzerland a few times and quite frankly would not hesitate to visit again and because it is a small country, one can see so much of the country in a very short time (Just mind your pocket as well 📈)
To bust through the myth, Geneva is not the capital of Switzerland, Bern is. It is not the most populous city in the country either, Zurich is. Home of the United Nations, the biggest luxury watch brands among other international organisations, Geneva is just the second capital of the country. Despite all that, it still retains its fair share of green space.
Bains des Pâquis
So this is probably one of my rare regrettable culinary experiences. After having wasted a whole day of looking for a charger for my laptop I left back in London, I thought it was a good idea to go for a late-night "fondue", a Swiss traditional dish made of melted cheese. If you know me, you know I love all kind of cheese but, really, fondue was not for me.
A lovely place though, I may just return here as a commemoration of the hard times I have been through in here...
The lovely thing about Switzerland is that each canton is almost a world of its own with its own identity and differentiation from the rest of the country. Known for the yearly Jazz festival each summer, Montreux is more than that. Its unique microclimate thanks to its position between the hilly surroundings and the Lake Geneva makes it stand out from the already impressive Swiss crowd.
Loads of sculptures and decoration to give back to Montreux its Medieval feel
The capital of Switzerland is built around a crook in the Aare River and still conserves its medieval architecture.
There are countless bears throughout the city...
A landmark medieval tower built in the early 13th century. It has served the city as guard tower, prison, clock tower among other things...
She's beautiful, isn't she?
The second big city on the German side of the country, Luzerne is also known for its medieval architecture and the snowcapped mountains along Lake Luzerne.
Lion of Luzern
A rock relief carved in the shape of a lion to commemorate the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution.
Unfortunately, there was some construction going on when I visited but the lion could still be seen from afar...
The mount is made up of several peaks and overlooks Luzern from its 2,128 m might.
It is literally a skyscraper in its own right!
Even the mountain was shocked when it saw me climbing up 😮
I can officially say I have been once in the clouds!
It was not that cold, I promised...
It still baffles me, the simple ability to be this close to the clouds. Nature is amazing!
I eventually put back my coat not to end up a block of ice...
Entrance fee: 58CHF (£49/$62/€55)
Grindelwald is a village near the Bernese Alps and is known for skiing in winter and hiking in summer. I initially went to Grindelwald to slide down the toboggan track but sadly it was close for either maintenance or due to bad weather in that period. I thought I was not going to let it stop me from making good use of my time in there. At least, I think so...
Mountains upon mountains...
You just have to love the chalet around the city...
The mountains have different characteristics based on where you are. If you look long enough that is...
Or Thoune, for the French-speakers, is a city in the canton of Bern. It is known for the view of the Bernese Alps on the other side of Lake Thun and just like most cities in Switzerland, has kept the old town in its Medieval form.
Nature has been so looked after in Switzerland she makes sure she returns the favour...
There are countless quiet spots to enjoy nature so be on the look out!
It is about 1km from the shore of the lake and the river Aare goes right through it.
This is a photo of me taking a photo, of me taking a photo ...🤷🏿♂️
Without a doubt my favourite part of Thun, the park spread along the shores of Lake Thun and the, Jungfrau can be seen from the park on clear days.
The Jungfrau standing tall and proud behind me...
Sunsets like this ...
I just love castles, perhaps it's the old man in me that reminisce the good old days...
Another lucky shot ...
One of my favourite spots in Switzerland, Interlaken is a traditional resort town sitting between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, with numerous hiking and skiing trails.
The Harderkulm is a viewpoint at 1,321 metres above sea level and offers unobstructed view of Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, Mönch, and Jungfrau.
I think this photo pretty much summarises how I would describe Switzerland to people...
It was a steep hike and I just was not prepared, wearing trainers instead of hiking boots. The lift was shut for the year-end holiday...
Chekyeti offers tandem paragliding for those who would like to see the city from the top...
St Beatus cave
The legend of the cave says that St. Beatus chose to live in the cave for a spiritual retreat. Surprisingly, he came across a dragon already dwelling there (the type that shots lasers of fire from his eyes) and the monk, determined to take over the cave, held his cross up to the beast, invoking the Holy Trinity. The beast ended up running away and throwing itself into Lake Thun hence the clear water flow - You did not hear that from me though...
That's the cave - Again closed on the day I visited 🤦🏿♂️
A mini waterfall flowing down the Lake Thun and a monastery sitting right at the top...
All of nature is well-represented at just this one landmark
Views upon views!
One of my trips to Geneva, my friend's car was broken into and my passport, among other things, stolen - It was in the last week of the year and no diplomatic mission or business was open.
This just did not help me fall in love with Switzerland. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. I thought the fondue was it and then this...
See? Behind the nice photos, there are often some rather not enjoyable stories. Those are only funny when you look back and think about them. I did not let one isolated event discourage me from visiting Switzerland again though, as I return a couple of times after the event. Those trips happened to make up for all the sour feelings I once encountered in the country.
Until next time...