Our next stop after Copenhagen was Switzerland. Big sigh…Oh Switzerland. It had always been a dream of mine (and Mario’s) to visit this country. Often romanticizing all it has to offer, especially the breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps. Whether it was cozied up inside your hotel staring at them or hiking through them, it is something I always dreamt about. Even to say that it is breathtaking is an understatement. It has more to offer than I originally thought!
Aside from the obvious alps, there is such variety of beautiful lakes (they have over 1,500) and rivers throughout the country, such as Lake Lucerne, Lake Geneva, Aare River, Reuss River and the list goes on. Also, people are so friendly and humble even though they know they live in one of the best countries’ in the world. And it is no lie that the swiss chocolate really is to DIE for. Okay so there is one major downside to visiting this magical country… it is damn expensive. So, if it is on your MUST visit list then my advice is to plan accordingly to save for it. Trust me, it is worth every penny! The good thing is that hiking and taking in the outdoors is FREE 😊
We decided to spend a total of 15 days in Switzerland. Since the country is quite small we found it easy to cover a lot of grounds. This is where we went:
- Geneva – 1 day
- Lausanne – 2 days
- Montreux – 1 day
- Bern -5 days
- Interlaken /Wilderswil – 3 days
- Zurich – 1 day
- Luzern – 3 days
*side note –you do not need 5 days in Bern, we added some extra days in because we wanted to work on some side projects and finish some travel planning
Driving through the Alps
We were so happy we rented a car for most of the time in Switzerland. We were able to save enough points on Expedia that we had the total cost reduced significantly by using our rewards. We loved the winding roads, massive tunnels, cliff sides, mountain and lake views, and passing through quaint villages. Not to mention the freedom and flexibility to stop anywhere we wanted at any time. This worked well with our go with the flow and unplanned schedule.
When we first set out on our drive from Geneva to Bern, it was a bit cloudy and we couldn’t see much in the distance. We both remember that moment the clouds slowly began to part and bang! The Swiss alps right in front of us, almost like it had just been painted into the bright blue sky. We had to pull over a few times to capture some pictures and breath in that fresh alpine air.
Continuing along our drive we listened to music full blast while weaving in and out of the most amazing tunnels and winding around stunning cliff sides. I felt like I was in the game ‘Need for speed’ – who remembers that game?!
The 4 Languages
I was quite surprised to learn that Switzerland has FOUR national languages – German, French, Italian, and Romansh. It was beautiful to hear them all while travelling throughout the country. And experiencing /seeing the variety of cultures and cuisines to coincide with it. For those interested you can see which languages are spoken in the specific areas on a map:
We hit the areas that speak mainly German and French although it would have been nice to see the small Italian speaking regions like Ticino and Lake Lugano in the South (touching Italy). Cuisines ranged from pretzels and schnitzels to the best pizza and pasta we ever had! A lot of residents are trilingual – which I thought was pretty incredible.
Every place we visited, it was nice to see the awareness for buying local and supporting farmers throughout the country. It was prevalent when visiting local markets, expos and fairs. We went to the Bern Expo which focus’ on products, technologies, food/drink and agriculture. It was a coincidence that we happened to be there when this expo was on – which happens only once a year. We also went to local markets and I learned a lot since I was able to speak directly with farmers and local producers. We saw locals supporting locals.
A lot of the Swiss people we met were not from the major cities such as Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern, etc. Instead were born and raised in the vibrant villages and towns of the countryside. In fact, the two major cities in Switzerland, Geneva and Zurich only have populations the size of London, Ontario. Town after town, we couldn’t help but notice alive their countryside looked, with busy local streets and stunning country homes. Nothing seemed abandoned or in disrepair. There was lush greenery everywhere, bright flowers growing on front lawns, mountain river streams cutting through them, free range livestock, boutique shops and cute pubs almost at every turn. We stopped for coffee and a stroll when we could.
Switzerland is one of the world’s great exporters of chocolate. Eighteen Swiss chocolate companies made 172,376 tons of chocolate in 2012. Not to mention the chocolate is off the charts. Honestly, I am not a big sweets person, but I ate chocolate every single day! Good thing is they have high quality ingredients and don’t add all that CRAP that many other chocolate bars you buy at the convenience stores have. Of course, they are marked up because of this. But it will automatically force you to have it in moderation which is not a bad thing. Also, some are LOADED with nuts- so they are high in fibre and protein rather than jam packed with sugars 😊
Some tips to keep your costs low while visiting Switzerland:
- Hiking/Trekking/Walking – Do lots of hiking and explore the stunning landscapes by foot – it is free!
- Rent a car using travel points. Trains are beautiful and stress-free way to travel but don’t allow you as much flexibility to stop and take in the scenery at your own pace. Look for accommodations with free parking or near free parking as it can be brutal in some areas
- Don’t drink too much alcohol since it is SO expensive. Wine is a good and more affordable option.
- Markets have TONS of free samples to get you feeling pretty satisfied for a while…we did do this. Sad but true! lol
- Use Airbnb to cook your own meals, use lots of veggies as its cheap and healthy!
- Do groceries at markets or go to the grocery stores near closing time where items are marked down
Until next time,
-HIKING THROUGH THE SWISS ALPS
-GLUTEN FREE EATING IN SWITZERLAND