This weekend, I stuffed my giant purple backpack full of the warmest clothes I own, triple checked my paperwork, and headed out for my very first weekend trip to Zurich, Switzerland!
Not only did I get to go to SWITZERLAND, but I got to stay with some extended family – Alice and Natalya Stämmer! I cannot thank y’all enough! Even though Natalya and I hadn’t seen each other since we were both babies, Alice welcomed me into her home and spent the weekend giving me a glimpse of their Swiss way of life!
Here’s how we made the most of my 3 days:
My trip kicked off with a couple bus rides to London, Gatwick where I was absolutely blown away by European efficiency. Let me tell you – America is doing it wrong! At Gatwick, you scan your boarding pass and make eye contact with a machine, walk right up to the security scanners where there are 7 mini lines at each station, keep your shoes on, and you’re off to your gate! In the bathroom, stalls are actually big enough to bring your luggage in and each sink has a personal hand dryer. Gatwick gets a 5/5 Yelp review for sure.
Alice was kind enough to pick me up right from the Zurich airport and we headed downtown via train to grab a Swiss meal! This was my first time in a non-English speaking country and I really enjoyed learning about various cultural differences. Switzerland is split into 26 cantons or subdivisions and has 4 official languages: French, Italian, Romansh, and of course, Swiss German which is spoken in Zurich! We ate at a cool casual place with a great view called Sternen Grill where I tried a mushroom veal dish with späetzle (a delicious hashbrown type side!).
Afterwards, we swung by the hotel where Natalya works to say hello before heading to bed.
What better way to spend my first day in Switzerland than by heading out to the mountains! Luckily, we were blessed with incredible weather the whole weekend. We drove about 2 hours to Shilthorn, a part of the Bernese Alps of Switzerland with a 2790m summit! All bundled up, we took cable cars up to check out the views. At the Birg stop, we went on a Thrill Walk along the mountain’s perimeter. Words cannot describe how beautiful the views were and pictures do not accurately convey how immense these mountains are. You must go check them out for yourself!
Next, we took the final cable car up to the summit for lunch and of course, the scenic backdrop used in James Bond 007. The restaurant spun 360 degrees as we ate and once again, I opted for a Swiss meal, this time a delicious Schnitzel and a post-lunch coffee with amaretto. Nothing will ever beat this lunch view!
Afterward, we walked around the top deck and James Bond tourist attractions. This was a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.
On our way back down, we stopped in the mountain town of Murrän, a tiny town with a 1,630m elevation that is completely unreachable by car, yet is complete with its own post office, fire station, grocery store, and church.
I miss the mountains already! With full hearts and tired legs, we headed back towards Zurich. For dinner, we made a pit stop in Luzern (Lucerne) Switzerland. The architecture here is noticeably different from Zurich and quite lovely! Walking around the little adorable cobblestone streets is one of my favorite activities. Alice took us to a cool penthouse bar atop the Astoria hotel that she’d discovered by mistake one night. The pizza and drinks were good but the conversation and company was even better. Alice and Natalya made me feel comfortable right away and I loved learning about the differences between us and (maybe) more importantly, our similarities.
You know how you typically Google image search a place before you go on a trip and then end up being disappointed because the place doesn’t fully live up to your expectations? I solemnly swear that this will not happen with any city in Switzerland. Zurich is full of history, cute places to eat and shop, and stunning views everywhere you turn and of course, the lake! Even though it is winter, locals and tourists alike take every sunny opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.
Natalya and I spent the afternoon just the two of us. Our first stop together was Cafe Felix, an adorable coffee and cake shop with a grand staircase and elaborate decorations.
For dinner, we cooked cheese fondue together! (Okay, mostly her) before heading out to check out Zurich’s night life.
On our final day, we started off with a beautiful hilly hike in the forest near their home. There is so much nature to be enjoyed in Switzerland and I got just a taste. The hills were full of kids sledding down and dogs happily prancing. Sometimes, you just have to take it all in.
After our walk, it was time to say goodbye to Natalya as she had to work. It was a sad goodbye! Alice and I finished up our day with a short trip to the nearby Rapperswill! Once again, this small historic looking town had an entirely different look than the others I had experienced thus far. We walked around, saw a castle, and watched the sunset. Alice knows so much about each of these places and the history behind them and it was incredible to have her as a friend and guide.
After a lovely risotto dinner cooked by Alice, I was off again.
Once again, I would like to thank Natalya, Alice, and her husband Zeno for being so generous as to host me and spend their time showing me around! It is always so lovely to spend time with family and truly relax for a weekend.
To Switzerland: your mountains, cheese, chocolate, and people did not disappoint! (However, no one would mind if things were a bit cheaper!)