I wasn’t rebellious in high school, but when my teacher mentioned Switzerland in a year 9 class, a friend & I couldn’t help doing some sneaky Googling. Switzerland – according to Google images – was the most beautiful & magical place that I’d never seen, & I dreamt that one day I’d tick the two prettiest looking places off my ‘list’. I never actually thought that it would happen, and a few days later I still find myself in disbelief.
We’ve done pretty well with travel so far, aside from somehow missing the snow by 1 day in almost every major city we’ve visited (it’s snowed the day we’ve left at least 4 times). The day we set off to leave for Zürich in Switzerland, we had a minor disaster day. We woke up late, check out took forever, we misseda tram and then missed our train from Innsbruck. During the 2 hour wait for the next train, we realised that the accommodation we had booked wasn’t in Zürich at all – it was in a town called Winterthur, 37 minutes out of the city. In Australia this wouldn’t be so bad, but when a train ticket to the city centre costs 27 Francs per person ($37.50 in Aussie Dollars), you’re not inclined to do it for 3 days in a row. That’s literally over a dollar per minute…!
To our great relief, Winterthur was a beautiful town, and one of the first places that greeted us with light falling snow that literally stayed on our noses & eyelashes. The hostel was clean & beautiful, with a slanted roof and old wooden beams. We spent the Sunday exploring Winterthur on foot, walking through pine forests blanketed with snow and streets lined with cute houses. Switzerland has a ‘feeling’ that I can’t properly describe – it’s cosy and classic, but somewhat exclusive and expensive.
We decided to take 1 day trip to Zürich (it was easily done in a day), where we wandered through lanes of boutique shops, in and out of cathedrals and watched old Swiss men play chess on a mountain that overlooks the old city and the large canal that runs through it. The boys wandered off to find a long boarding factory, foolishly leaving Georgia and I in the most expensive shopping district in Europe, and the third most expensive in the world. We strolled in and out of exclusive jewellery stores that unlocked their doors for us to enter and locked them again once we stepped inside – all wearing our hiking boots and Kathmandu jackets. Occasionally they offered for us to try on pieces of jewellery worth tens of thousands of dollars, and we willingly obliged, even though they knew that we could never afford them. There seems to be an appreciation for fine things here that goes beyond ones ability to purchase them.
When planning for Switzerland, 2 place names came to mind – the same 2 that I ‘discovered’ back in high school and had become obsessed with visiting. Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen were quite close together, and it didn’t make sense to stay in both. We opted for Interlaken, the bigger and more accessible of the 2 – a township laced with canals and surrounded by incredible snow capped mountains of the Swiss Alps. When we arrived, the mountains seemed to have gone on a holiday of their own – a low fog completely covered the mountains, and while the crystal clear canals and lakes were gorgeous, they weren’t the same without the mountains’ reflections. The next morning we awoke to everything Interlaken had to offer – sun, mountains, snow & sparkly blue lakes. We made the most of it by going for a long walk around Lake Interlaken, and Peter & Richard thought the lake was too good to resist – on a pebbly shore, they ran straight into the lake, swimming a little way out before emerging, shivering, in the zero degree weather. We spent the evening before and after dinner on an outdoor iceskating rink in the shadow of the mountains.
Possibly the best moment in Interlaken was when Peter turned and said to me, “so do you want to go to Lauterbrunnen?”. Though Interlaken is beautiful, Lauterbrunnen had always been the top of the ‘list’. I actually felt a bit emotional as the train climbed into the village, nestled in a valley between snowy mountains (though they too were a little covered with cloud) with Europe’s highest waterfalls and snow completely covering the ground. We walked through, playing with the snow and admiring the frozen waterfalls, some of which still flowed with the occasional chunk of ice crashing to the rocks below. It was completely incredible – and if you were ever to go in the summertime, I’m sure it would be a sight to be seen.
While this trip is easily one of the most incredible things I have ever done or experienced, I can’t help thinking that the multitude of ‘euro backpacking’ blog posts I read before leaving Australia were somewhat lacking in the gory details of living out of a bag on a budget (except Ruby’s – read it here). I’m not particularly scared of ‘roughing it’ (though it’s hardly rough), but I have to be honest that I felt underprepared for washing my socks & undies in the bathroom sink every couple of days. Backpacking certainly comes with a lifestyle – one with constant lessons and challenges – for instance, not kindly offering to wash your fiancé’s socks, shirts & undies before hanging them above his bunk bed to drip into his mattress (I truly am sorry). We’ve learnt that ‘hostel’ does not equal ‘guest kitchen’ (hello Aldi microwave meals…), and that once someone mentions bed bugs, you’re sure to convince yourself that they’re biting you even after triple checking your bed. We’ve managed to master the art of squishing 4 people & 4 people-sized packs into incredibly small elevators, and after many attempts to cook the perfect rice (3 rather soggy meals later), we’re finally getting there.
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a little apartment in Rome, watching a corny Italian soap opera with Georgia – and I can’t wait to tell you all about our adventures in Florence and Naples and all the ones to come in this crazy city! If I don’t get run over by a moped (it’s feeling like a high possibility right now…) then there should be an Italy post up in the next week! I hope you’re all well and enjoying the big and little adventures of life.
— Lauren x