Switzerland is admittedly one of my favorite places I was able to visit. It was incredible. I was nervous about traveling alone but I ended up loving every minute of it.
The day I left Suze in Annecy began a long day of travel. My first train ride took me to Aix-les-Bains, France, my first layover. After spending an hour and a half there, I caught my next train to Geneva, Switzerland. I had a really tight connection in Geneva so I ran, but still ended up missing my train. Luckily I had Wi-Fi so I was able to message my Airbnb host and tell him that I would be arriving an hour later, as he was picking me up from the train station. I hung about in the station for an hour and caught the next train from Geneva to Lucerne. I didn’t arrive to Lucerne until 9pm and was met by my host Thomas/Bernard (I am still unsure which…online it says Bernard but he kept saying his name was Thomas?). He kindly took me to his home and showed me around. I fell asleep early as I was exhausted from my day of travel. The next day I had to wait up in the morning in order to register for classes in the Fall which was surreal. 2pm in Switzerland was 7am in Nashville so I ate breakfast and waited around until then to start my day as I didn’t want to risk not having Wi-Fi if I decided to try to register while I was out and about.
I spent that first day in Lucerne wandering around the city’s old town, walking along Lake Lucerne. The city is surrounded by mountains on all sides, as is most of Switzerland as I found on my train ride there. I lay out in the sun for an hour or two on a bench along the lake because it was so hot out. It was then that I started to feel odd about traveling alone. I realized I hadn’t quite adjusted from traveling with Suze to traveling alone. Having to wait to start my day later had caused everything to feel a bit off. I ended my night near the lake with a pint from a pub right on the water and some overpriced soup and bread. Everything was so expensive there, just in general. Deciding that the next day was going to be productive and full of activity as I had been lazy that day, I made my way back to my Airbnb late that night to hatch a plan.
The next morning I woke up early and got groceries so as to avoid spending too much money and accidentally paid 8 francs for two apples. Oops. With my Eurail pass I could easily hop on and off trains without having to pay any money for them, so I hopped on the next train to Interlaken, a small village just 2 hours outside of Lucerne. The train ride itself was a huge part of my satisfaction with my day of travel. The scenery was beautiful, mountain after mountain, clear blue lake after clear blue lake. It felt good to be surrounded by familiar scenery. That train ride made me so homesick for the Northwest and home, but was comforting at the same time. I was finally in my place. Not once was I bored with what passed before my eyes: huge mountains green with trees and snowy caps at the top. I finally reached Interlaken and was once again in awe of the 360-degrees of mountain that surrounded the small village. I spent most of the 2 hours there walking around, taking in all the sights, watching the paragliders landing in the green field near the center of town.
I then decided to head out to my next destination, Grindelwald. I caught a train from Interlaken to Grindelwald that lasted about 40 minutes. It was small and old and the windows rolled down just enough so that you could smell the fresh air and feel the wind on your face. It felt so good and the scenery was equally as breathtaking, but suddenly felt so much closer than before with the window down. As we came up into Grindelwald, the mountains were right in your face. The little town was nestled between snowcapped peak after snowcapped peak and the small cottage-like houses were so quaint. The town is right near a ski resort and while I was there, some sort of festival or event for skiing was going on so the town was hopping. I walked the length of the town, sat in the sunny 75-degree weather, ate ice cream, and marveled at the mountains; it was a perfect day. Soon I decided I’d better catch the next train back to Interlaken. I came up to the train station just as the train was leaving, but wasn’t fussed about it as the train came every hour. I decided I’d walk the other way, out of town, just to see what more there was to see before my train came.
Pretty soon I just kept walking until I came up to the edge of town. I decided that because the train ride had only taken 40 minutes, walking back to Interlaken couldn’t possibly take more than 2 hours which would still give me plenty of time to catch a train back to Lucerne…really smart right? Definitely an accurate estimation of how long it would take me to walk through mountains some 12 miles. Anyways I just carried on my way, high on life, even after the sidewalk disappeared and I was walking side by side with the rushing cars flying past me. I’m walking and taking selfies with the mountains, smiling ear-to-ear and I come up on a fork in the road and a man with a trailer and car is parked next to the road.
He tells me something in German and later switches to English, I’m assuming by the confused look on my face, and tells me that I can’t walk on the road because its too dangerous and legitimately not allowed. He asks me if I’m going to Interlaken and I say yes and offers me a ride. I hesitate and just as I’m about to say no another guy pulls up in his car and says something in German to me, the only word I can understand is Interlaken. The first guy then is just like, “its fine, just come with me” and I’m like “but what? What is this other guy trying to say to me?”, and he just motions for me to get into the car with him…so I split second decision decide that I’m just going to go with it and hitchhike to Interlaken.
You would think that I’d have been nervous about this, but I honestly didn’t feel in danger at all. It all turned out okay and the guy, John, was extremely nice, though I would never recommend hitchhiking regardless. John was raised in South Africa, but Swiss by birth. We spent the ride talking about his sister, who lived in North Carolina, and the random odd jobs he had held over the years (pilot, professional fly fisher, Zamboni driver, etc.) He dropped me off at the train station in Interlaken and after the drive I realized that if he hadn’t given me a ride, I very well might have been spending the night in the Swiss wilderness. I can see myself one day telling my kids about that one time their mother hitchhiked in Switzerland...while in the same breath telling them never to do it themselves.
I arrived back very late from Interlaken and all the restaurants were closed…except one…yes, I ate McDonalds and spent 10 francs on a “mini cocktail snackwrap”, water, and mini-mcflurry and I hate myself every day for it. Switzerland is ridiculously expensive…but so beautiful that I'm not sure I even care.