I’ve traveled to several countries in Europe over the last 13 years, but my absolute 100% favorite has been SWITZERLAND! I love everything about this country. I do have a special affinity for it, also, because I have Swiss-German heritage in me. So, going there makes me feel connected to my ancestors. But I have a special bond with it spiritually, emotionally, mentally and even physically beyond the fact my ancestors hail from there (specifically from Bern). Switzerland gives me a feeling of home and belonging for whatever reason. I’ve visited Switzerland twice in my life, but if I could visit every year I totally would. Today is the one-year anniversary of my most recent trip to Switzerland with my family and, boy, do I miss it! If I was going to live somewhere else in the world besides the US, it would absolutely be Switzerland (specifically the city of Lucerne). What is it about Switzerland that I love (besides the ancestral tie), you may ask? In a nutshell- everything!
First, the views and natural beauty are out of this world incredible. It looks like heaven! No, I’m not exaggerating, it is quintessential paradise. Actually, if you’ve ever seen the Robin Williams movie, “What Dreams May Come”, Switzerland is where he meets his soulmate/wife and when he goes to heaven, his personal heaven is the lake and mountains in Switzerland where he met her. So, Switzerland is quite literally like heaven, at least for me and Robin Williams’ character in the movie. But it truly is utopian. The Alps are… man, I’m struggling to find the appropriate word here… astonishing, astounding, spectacular, divine, perfect and incomparable. You have the spectacular mountains (often snow-capped), the bright green valley festooned with wildflowers and adorable chalets and the lakes there are the most dazzling color blue I’ve ever seen. Seriously, the color of these lakes is a color I have yet to see in a Crayola crayon box. It’s like aqua but it’s more gorgeous than aqua; it’s more of a swirl of blue, green, gold and purple. It glitters and when the sun hits it, I really can’t describe it, but the lake fills with golden flecks of warmth. You have to see it to believe it. No photo I have ever taken of Switzerland has ever fully captured its essence, it’s flawless beauty. The colors together of the gray mountains, the crisp white glaciers and snow on the tops, the bright azure sky, the vivid green valley, the aqua, glittering water and the spots of red, purple, pink and yellow flowers… I mean, it’s like a microcosm of heaven on earth, truly. As corny as it seems I always felt Switzerland was the epitome of paradise and utopia, it is the collection of all God’s masterpieces in one place. It’s like Nature is an art student and She has chosen Switzerland as her major piece to display at the show for all to admire and fall in love with. It is the culmination of all her finest work tucked away in the Alps, kept safe, in Switzerland. It is her finest piece of art, a work of passion and inspiration. Bavaria and Switzerland ARE where fairy tales come alive. It’s a privilege to immerse yourself in a real-life fairytale wonderland like this.
The geography is, also, extremely varied. It isn’t just mountains and small Alpine villages with cows grazing on rolling hills. In the Southern regions, it actually is similar to the French of Italian Riviera with palm trees and bright tropical flowers- the Swiss riviera. There’s a ton of geographical diversity in such a small nation, it’s incredible. The flora and fauna evolve and alters with the landscape as well. The architecture, as well, changes from region to region from more French in style, to Italian and German and then your archetypal chalet of the Alps. The cities are both great commercial centers but, more than that, cultural and historical epicenters. Switzerland is a blend of rural and urban life, of refinement and modesty, of high art and culture in the cities and idyllic farm life, of embracing modern life while still holding a great respect for history and the past. It’s the best of both worlds.
I also greatly admire Swiss culture. Just as America is a melting pot, Switzerland (to me) is a unique melting pot of 3 major European nations, a fondue melting pot if you will. Switzerland is the perfect combination of 3 major cultures – Germany, France and Italy- all in one. It’s the best of German, French and Italian culture with a whole lot of profoundly Swiss flavor to it. It isn’t as if you took these 3 cultures and combined them to create Swiss culture, they are like the seasoning making Swiss culture more profound and full-bodied. All 3 languages are spoken there and Switzerland has its different regions that are more German, more French and more Italian. But they ALL are still profoundly Swiss- first and foremost. The Swiss don’t think of themselves as French if they are in Lausanne or Montreux, or Italian if they’re in Lugano of German if they are in Bern, Zurich or Lucerne. They consider themselves totally Swiss. Swiss culture is a perfect blend of all these 3 great cultures, but yet they have created their own specific identity. The Swiss like to differentiate themselves from their European neighbors. They are very individualistic and independent. They like to march to the beat of their own drum. And I love that about them. They love their country and their culture, and they strive to maintain it and appreciate it. They’re proud of who they are. The Swiss were in many ways cut off from much of Europe due to the Alps for centuries which allowed them to create their own personality and kept them safe from invaders. Switzerland is the only European country I can think of who has managed to avoid attack or invasion for as long as they have. They’re famous pacifists, which helps, but their geography plays a huge part as well. Basically, no other nation has been able to disrupt or tarnish Swiss culture and heritage which allowed them to “make up their own minds” so to speak. And they weren’t overtly influenced by their neighbors. While Italy, Germany and France may be influences, they don’t define Swiss culture by any means. They have managed to thrive and survive amongst great giant nations, managing to make their own way. You get a little bit of those flavors of Italian, French and German but it’s just a hint you experience in cuisine, architecture, language, etc. It’s like a teenager not succumbing to peer pressure which allows them to become who they truly are and who they want to be. I love that about Switzerland and I identify with that personally- they want to be themselves and do it their own way, they don’t want their powerful neighbors to define who they are. They are genuine, true and authentic.
Alpine culture is much more than just chalets, yodeling, schnapps, cows, chocolate, cheese and lederhosen- it’s a laid back, down-to-earth, colorful, quirky culture. The Swiss are wonderful, they kind of remind me of the Midwesterners of Europe in a way with their demeanor. Switzerland has a different vibe than other countries in Europe I’ve visited. They’re very hardworking and determined yet also appreciative of the simple pleasures and joys of life. Some parts of Europe, in all honesty, there is a bit of snobbishness I’ve encountered but not in Switzerland. They don’t take themselves too seriously and they seem to have a better grasp on what matters in life- simplicity and bliss. But they also work hard for what they want (it’s the German in them). They are refined but they don’t turn those noses up to others. They’re like refined Europeans in blue jeans, what I mean by that is that maintain a down-to-earth atmosphere and personality.
I was going to go into my third, fourth, fifth, etc. reasons about why I love this country but I don’t want to ramble too long. So, all this month in honor of my most recent Swiss vacation a year ago (on the anniversary) I’m going to blog about all my favorite cities and experiences in Switzerland. All my August posts will be a love letter to this fabulous country. During my last visit here I visited Zurich, took an Alpine train to St. Moritz, Lugano and Lake Maggiore, Lake Como and Isola Bella (Italy), Zermatt, Matterhorn, Alpine farmland, Interlaken, Lucerne, Montreux and Lake Geneva and Mt. Pilatus. I’m going to write about all them.
I do have an apology to make, slightly, because some of my photos (specifically from Zurich, the Alpine train and St. Moritz were lost when my phone had a bit of a “temper tantrum” and some of my pics were lost. I hadn’t had the time to back them up yet, sadly. So, I have no photos of Zurich (specifically their absolutely gorgeous train station and their “guardian angel”) left-they were completely wiped out. And I only have 2 photos left of my Alpine train trip and a very few left of St. Moritz. I was devastated but I take it as a sign that I’m meant to go back! The Alpine train, ugh, THOSE photos were truly spectacular and incomparable. So, I’ll just have to describe it all from my very vivid memory. Next post, I’ll talk about our horrendous airport experience flying out, arrival in Zurich, Alpine train ride and St. Moritz! More to come!