A whirlwind trip to the most beautiful country on earth
It all started with a dream. Not in an patchouli oil, fisherman pants kind of way. A literal dream. I awoke at 3:01am on a Wednesday from one of the most vivid dreams I’d had in my life. I was standing in the Swiss Alps, gazing at the mountains before me, with a massive grin on my face….then I woke up. I needed to go Switzerland and I needed to go there immediately.
48 hours later I was on a plane to Geneva.
As with most things that happen spontaneously, this has been one of my favourite trips in years. I had some airline points to use, I flew into Geneva on a Friday afternoon, much to my absolute delight it was roasting! 27c ….yes, Summer in September!
DAY 1: NYON
After landing in Geneva I got straight on a train to Nyon, 20 mins outside of the city nestled onto the shores of Lac Leman (aka Lake Geneva). Straight to the hostel to drop my bags, it was time to explore and employ the only 20 French words I know (The most important phrase:
une bière s’il vous plaît (1 beer please))
The Nyon Hostel (Chemin des Plantaz 47, Nyon) is located approx 15 minutes walk from Nyon station. It is one of the cleanest, modern, and spacious hostels I’ve stayed in a very long time. Each bed has built in plugs (very handy), in room lockers, and an in room toilet (with showers being at the end of the corridor)
DAY 2: INTERLAKEN & THE EIGER TRAIL
In a bid to start hiking at midday, it was an early start for me – filling my boots with a free hostel brekky I was off again towards the Bernese Oberland.
Train to Interlaken early doors. I tell you for someone that lives in the North of England having trains that run; a. Regularly and b. On time is possibly the most wonderful thing in the world. Just like the famed accuracy of a Swiss watch the public transport in Switzerland runs on time to the second.
It is just under 3 hours from Nyon to Interlaken (via Bern). On most long train trips I tend to go straight to sleep – but in this case (a first!) spent most of the time, nose pressed against the window, muttering “wow” to myself at regular intervals, eyeing off the Mountains in the distance I knew that I would amongst them later in the day.
Interlaken: it was clear this is very much a tourist town. Alighting at the station there are tour buses and tat shops everywhere.
PREPARE YOURSELF: If this your first trip to Switzerland, and you’ve traveled from Geneva the language changes from French to German!
Balmers Hostel would be my base for the next 3 days. Interlaken is a great place to base yourself if you are exploring the Bernese Oberland region. I have to say though in comparison the Nyon Hostel the facilites are far more basic, BUT the atmosphere, other travellers (and of course the bar) do make this is a super fun and reasonably priced place to stay. For other accommodation options in Interlaken (and there is something for every budget) click here
Bags away, I was off to spend the afternoon lurking in the shadow of the north face of the Eiger hiking the Eiger Trail – which you can read all about here
DAY 3: THE HARDERGRAT
My entire Sunday was spent on the Hardergrat, one of the most spectacular (and challenging) hikes I’ve ever had the joy to do. Check out my post on hiking the Hardergrat you wont be disappointed
DAY 4 MORNING: SCHILTHORN – PIZ GLORIA
Much to the chagrin of the others in my dorm, my alarm burst into life at 05:30, time to see another sunrise, this time from 2900m. I should point out here in my haste, lack of coffee, and general alertness – I left the hostel with shorts and a light jacket on…..boy, was I about to be in for a surprise.
Schilthorn – Piz Gloria is the site that was used as a filming location for the James Bond Film (Our Majesty service), it has a spectacular 360 degree viewing platform bringing you almost eye to eye with the Jungfrau, Monch and of course Eiger.
From the waterfall filled valley outside Lauterbrunnen it a series of 7 (yep 7) gondolas to get to Schilthorn -Piz Gloria. Joined by a group of blokes heading to the peaks to hunt (I assume, they had rifles 😶) we began the multi leg journey to the top.
Up and up we went, racing the sun to the top of the mountain. it was a very clear morning – although as the sun started to creep over the top of Monch, the clouds started to rise, by the time I alighted gondola at Piz Gloria I was greeted by the scene below.
After lurking around the viewing point for a good 40 minutes, the clouds refused to budge. The temperature at this height was 2c, cursing my decision to wear shorts it was time to head back to lower ground and warm up.
Back on the bus heading to Lauterbrunnen station – what was I going to next?
DAY 4 AFTERNOON: ZURICH
Lunch in Zurich? yes, why not, and I jumped on the next train from Interlaken. Seriously, who just pops over to Zurich for lunch? me apparently. 2 hours later I was in the private bank capital of the world, and it seemed, severely underdressed 😂
I wish I’d spent a full day in Zurich, there is so much to see here. Instead I spent a couple of hours wandering around the Old Town and getting as much sunshine as possible along the banks of the Limmat.
DAY 5: ALTESCH GLACIER & GENEVA
I was due to be in Lausanne mid morning to check out an outdoor visual art festival that was happening. Not quite done with mountains, I backpack and took a 2.5 hour detour to the Altesch Glacier.
Nothing can prepare you for the size of this. The Altesch Glacier is the largest in the Alps, at a gobsmacking 24kms long, it is the width of a 6 lane highway and in places is 900m deep. There are a number of hikes you can do around the glacier but since I was short on time, I just sat and stared at it in utter awe for quite a long time.
Right then, Lets to go Geneva.
A quick aside: On the train back to Geneva, there were a couple of older women sitting behind me, conversing in a brain melting mix of French, German, and English…that is life goals right there.
I had great plans for Geneva. Namely going to CERN (and letting my nerd flag fly) but due to the last minute nature of this trip all of the tours were well and truly booked out.
It was 30c when in the city. The nagging feeling that I had for the last couple of days that I’d forgotten to pack something, suddenly it made itself clear, I’d forgotten my swimmers…bugger.
Geneva is one of those cities that you could see yourself living in. It is very easy to get around, there is something beautiful to look at everyone (both people and buildings). I spent a couple of hours wandering around the waterfront, eventually settling a bar with magnificent view of Jet d’Eau.
Off to see the Palais des Nations, the second largest office of the United Nations. I arrived well after the tours had stopped for the day (My timings was certainly off)
Across the road from the Palais des Nations stands the ‘Broken Chair’ sculpture by Swiss artist Daniel Berset. At 12m high, it was constructed in memory of landmine victims cross the globe, an incredibly moving piece.
Accommodation for the evening was at the Geneva Hostel (Rue Rothschild 30). In the couple of hours between check in and returning the Hostel had be invaded by at least 80 teenagers and about half dozen NUNS! (actual real life nuns!)
My final evening in Switzerland, was spent with an old friend of mine – propping up a bar on Rue de Lausanne. Now if you enjoy a beverage of the alcoholic variety – Switzerland is bloody expensive. Stick to the local bars where possible but keep a track of what you order, otherwise you (and your bank balance) will be in for a nasty shock at the end of the night.
GETTING AROUND SWITZERLAND
I used a 4 day Swiss Travel Pass (approximately £200) to get around Switzerland during my trip (with airport transfers paid serparately to this). This is definitely the most cost effective way to get around with all the major train and bus routes included, or 50% discount for that are not. The Swiss Travel Pass also includes admission or heavily discounted entry to a number of museums and galleries across the country.
The Swiss Travel Pass can be purchased via the SBB website there are a number of options available, so have look and decide which is the best option for your style of trip to Switzerland.
TIP: Use the SBB Mobile App – This is the easiest to use and understand transport app I’ve ever had the pleasure to us. Your Swiss travel pass can be uploaded to the app making everything nice and easy
Switzerland completely took me by surprise, its natural beauty is beyond words and with only 5 days in the country I barely touched the sides. The country is as expensive as everyone says – so make use of supermarkets etc for food, booze and other essentials.
I will definitely be back.