Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: Switzerland

Rigi, out of this world

In mid-January, I took my final long, solo backpacking trip. The main motivation was to see Rhine Falls in Switzerland since I missed it due to bad planning in 2012. I contemplated asking for company, but after much thought, I decided to set out all by myself. I needed to get away from people for a week and spend some final moments in Europe with memories that belong only to myself. I needed to roam indulgently through endless beauties without restricting myself with anything. I needed to know that I could be lost and not afraid.

(Of course, that final line came from the lyrics of “Trip the Light” from the Where the Hell is Matt video, 2012 version.)

So I went. In the midst of packing my luggage for Canada, selling everything that I was leaving behind, and finishing off administrative procedures in France, I stopped doing everything and flew to Basel, where the week-long travel began. This trip has been in planning for about 3 months, and even though it was meant to be more or less spontaneous, I needed to know roughly where I was going as I would be visiting 3 countries and 6+ cities in 7 days. I knew Rhine Falls had to be one of the destinations, and since I was in Switzerland again, why not spend some more time in this gorgeous country? I also missed Lucerne during my two previous visits, so that was added to the itinerary. I would later go on to add Schaffhausen, Bern, Vienna, Hallstatt, and Bratislava to the route, and thus began my final elaborate solo journey.

That feeling of taking flight without a burden in my mind and without a worry in the world – it was exactly what I had been missing as the aircraft took me from Bordeaux to Basel. Switzerland again – it had been my favourite European country to visit, until not much later when it would be replaced by Iceland. Yet, I could never get tired of visiting Switzerland. The greenest grass, the bluest skies, the whitest snow, and the clearest waters are found here, and perfection is too perfect that it became eerie. Eerily attractive.

Basel was in fact just a transfer point (I had already visited Basel with chef) to my first destination, Lucerne. Then it turned out that Lucerne itself wasn’t even the first destination. Before I headed out, as I was planning my trip, I saw my friend’s photos of a place in the Swiss Alps called Mount Titlis…not so far from Lucerne. I was instantly taken over by the gorgeousness of it all – I HAD TO GO. Looking into half-day trips from Lucerne led me to a choice between Mount Titlis, Mount Pilatus, and Mount Rigi, all of which were easily reachable from Lucerne. After taking into consideration various factors including time required, cost, modes of transportation, and reviews, my choice was clear. Instead of following my initial urge for Mount Titlis, I decided to go for the “Queen of the Mountains” – Mount Rigi.

The trip between Lucerne and Mount Rigi involved 3 modes of transportation – on the way there, I’d take the boat from Lucerne, cross Lake Lucerne to Vitznau, and then take a cogwheel train from Vitznau to the top of Rigi. On the way down, I’d take the same cogwheel train down only halfway to Rigi Kaltbad, and from there I’d take a gondola/cable car down to the town of Weggis, where a boat would take me back to Lucerne. I was surprised that in mid-January, the number of tourists was anything but few. Seems like Rigi does have its reputation for a reason. On the morning of departure, Lucerne was hit with the thickest fog I’ve ever seen. The entire city was a smokey gray – you could not see any further than 10 metres in front of you. As the boat left the docks of Lucerne, I felt that we were venturing into a space warp as visibility around the boat was literally zero. The winds were chilly on Lake Lucerne, and most passengers were smart enough to hide in the warmth of the interior of the boat. Few brave ones, including me, sat outside. It would probably have been a good idea if we were able to see something, but clearly (or not so clearly…) that was out of the question. I soon came to regret the idea and like the wise passengers, went back inside before the winds froze me.

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IDS 2013 part 4 – Geneva, post-training school

Finally, we get to Geneva, the fifth Swiss city in a year, for me.

I was supposed to go to Geneva in May 2011, almost two years ago, but due to some clumsiness in planning, I had to cancel the trip last-minute. Of course having the training school in Annecy this year meant that a Geneva stopover was inevitable since well…the return tickets were from Bordeaux to Geneva (go Easyjet!)

I gotta say, compared to the other Swiss cities I’ve been to (Basel, Interlaken, Zurich, and Lausanne), Geneva did seem lacking in characteristic. I partly blame the weather for this – not a fair evaluation of a city but…oh well. Anyway, the unique memory in Geneva was not in exploring the city itself, but being with my IDS-FunMates one last time and experiencing collaboration in a big group…at our hostel! You’ll see.

(Full photo album is on Facebook, as usual 😉 Catch up on the entire series – part 1 in Lausanne, part 2 and part 3 in Annecy.)

Unlike Annecy, Geneva was met with gray skies 😦 I was so tired by the time I arrived in Geneva, after a whole week of running around. The combination of weather and fatigue dampened my energy quite a bit, which was why I missed quite a few places in Geneva – I was too tired to explore so I stayed back to rest while some of the others headed to the Flower Clock and the Reformation Wall. (By the way, yes that IS the Jet d’Eau behind the flowers, if you were wondering.)

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IDS 2013 part 1 – Pre-training school trip to Lausanne

I am finally writing about the 2013 IDS-FunMat training school almost one week after it has happened. Forgive me, I had been busy with work and moving to Belgium again and whatnot.

The annual IDS-FunMat training school is the event I look forward to the most each year because I get to meet new colleagues and reunite with some people I ONLY get to see once a year at the training school. It took place in Sesimbra 2011 with an excursion to Lisbon. Last year, the training school was in Anglet and side trips included San Sebastian, La Rhune, and Biarritz.

For my 3rd and final training school, we went to Annecy near the French-Swiss border. Hmm. This had to mean Switzerland all over again. Since I was to fly from Bordeaux to Geneva first, I figured, why not make a detour to Lausanne before the training school started, and spend some time in Geneva afterwards?

Well apparently aside from me, a lot of my colleagues from Bordeaux liked that idea. 10 of them, in fact, decided to join me for Lausanne. So I started planning, and I became the coordinator for our pre- and post-training school Swiss trips. Big task, booking accommodations and creating a detailed itinerary and all. I love planning trips, but it was the first time ever that I was travelling in a group of 11 people, so it was certainly challenging, but worth every effort because of how much fun we ended up having 😉 (See all photos here.)

Mumu cow welcomes you to Switzerland, the land of the Alps, cheese fondue, watches, Swiss army knives, and expensive everything. Without really having a goal, our group grabbed a city map from the hostel and headed into the old town for some exploration.

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The Swiss Escape, part 3: Zurich

The last stop, then, was Zurich. The first Swiss city I had ever known about is Zurich, when I heard names of various European cities on the weather forecast in China. Of course I had no idea “su li shi” in Chinese was actually Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, until much later.

The trip to Zurich was mostly a leisurely one with only the Kunsthaus (museum of art) as the must-go destination for my chef. The rest of the time was spent wandering around the city and enjoying the beautiful view of Lake Zurich with none other than the mountain ranges in the distance. So perfect.

A view of the left bank of the Limmat river that runs through Zurich, with guild houses along the river. Zurich has been a top-ranked city in several quality of living surveys in the past few years (and I wonder if the cost of living is directly proportional).

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The Swiss Escape, part 2: Interlaken and around

As I had mentioned before, Interlaken was my primary motivation to go to Switzerland.

Well, the first one was Interlaken, and the other one was Rhine Falls. A few years ago, I saw an introduction of Interlaken on a Chinese travel TV show and instantly fell in love with the picturesque and seemingly dreamlike landscapes of the place, and it became the one place I knew I needed to visit at least once in my life. As for Rhine Falls, coincidentally I also learned of it from a TV program. It would have been on my itinerary if I didn’t make a mistake in the timing, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit the largest waterfall in Europe during this Swiss trip. Perhaps next year.

Interlaken was my place during the trip. I gave Basel and Zurich to chef, but I said, we HAVE to go to Interlaken no matter what. Truth is though that I’ve heard that Interlaken is rather a touristy place, and I was anticipating something like Bruges or Amsterdam. (Sorry Bruges and Amsterdam, I keep picking on you two.) However, that was no issue for me and I told my friends, “I know it’s super touristy but I don’t care, I have to go!!”

Chef and I didn’t have much of a plan before going to Interlaken. I know that there is quite a variety of extreme activities that you can do there, like paragliding and canyoning, but with only one day, we discarded the thoughts of any of those. Indeed, it was the spirit of “not knowing what you are going to do until you get there” 😀

We took the earliest train from Basel to Interlaken at 5:59am, not-so-bright yet but certainly early. Thankfully the train station was very close to our hostel, and the journey was two hours, long enough for a nap before arrival. Even though I had wanted to make the most out of the sceneries on the way, I had to give in to drowsiness.

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