Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: swiss

The humble Swiss capital

The capital of one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, Switzerland, is not its largest city Zurich nor the internationally renowned Geneva. It is Bern, comfortably and humbly tucked behind other more popular Swiss tourist destinations. It’s true. One doesn’t usually make a stop in Bern aside from making a transfer, and I guess…that was exactly why I went. I mean, there has to be SOME reason why it’s the capital of such a magical country, no?

It would also be the final stop in my week-long trip in mid-January and the final Swiss city I visit before I leave Europe. The night I arrived, it rain. It rained hard, and it was the first time that I saw rain during the entire week of travel, thank God.

Instead of staying at a hotel or hostel, I decided to go for Air BNB after hearing great things from several friends. As I was arriving in Bern rather late, Air BNB seemed to be the most convenient and budget-friendly option. I found my host Slawek’s place, after getting slightly lost around the train station, soaked all over. Thankfully my host provided a very warm and cozy night’s accommodation, especially as I was exhausted near the end of the trip. In the morning, I felt well-rested and ready to tackle the last day, exploring the humble Swiss capital.

The old town of Bern is very compact and could be easily navigated on foot. There were light drizzles in the morning and no snow as predicted in the weather forecast, but that didn’t dampen my mood. I started out down the main street in the old town and followed a map on a fountain hunt (which I will talk about in the next post), passing by the Zytglogge (Clock Tower) on the way.

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You got me, Schaffhausen!

Once in a while you stumble upon a place during your travels that you’ve probably never heard of, or only planned on stopping by as a point of transfer. That was Schaffhausen for me.

It was hard to be oblivious to Schaffhausen since it was on the way to Rhine Falls – you either go through Winterthur or Schaffhausen on your way there. Since I went by the Winterthur route (and didn’t stay in Winterthur, which was south of Rhine Falls) going towards the falls, I figured I’d take the other alternative and head north towards Schaffhausen while heading towards the next destination. Of course Schaffhausen wasn’t an actual planned stop on the itinerary, but I had an extra two hours to spare. I could go to the Zurich Airport early…or explore Schaffhausen and see what I could find there. No need to guess what I did.

I don’t think Schaffhausen is widely known as a tourist city in Switzerland. If it weren’t for Rhine Falls, I probably wouldn’t even have known that it existed. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit. In fact, Schaffhausen was quite an interesting stopover for me, and dare I saw, I liked it more than Lucerne

It was a Sunday afternoon when I visited. The streets of Schaffhausen were very quiet, and many shops were closed. Sometimes I wonder how many residents actually live in small cities like Schaffhausen. Somehow it gave me the impression that the city was reconstructed from a colourful painting, jumping into reality through an artist’s brush, given life by the presence of the few tourists that were around the small old town square.

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Lucerne may not be perfect

At one point, Switzerland began to feel repetitive. Everything is beautiful, but that’s just it – perfect beauty everywhere that’s just too perfect. A lake in every city, mountains in view at every angle, an impeccable merge of nature and cityscape. As much as I really love Switzerland, I was beginning to feel a little bored of it. I think I truly felt this after a short visit in Lucerne.

Maybe that was why I didn’t stay in Lucerne (or Luzern) for more than one day. Either that, or I didn’t stay long enough to uncover its unique charm. I had previously heard exaggerated claims of how “perfect” it is, and…maybe it is, but the fog hid it the day I was there. Or maybe Lucerne really just isn’t that perfect. But then…who said anything had to be perfect to be appreciated?

It was very foggy in Lucerne. I headed to Rigi not long after arrival, and when I came back, it was already late in the afternoon. I only had time to discover the old town districts of Lucerne, which included the covered Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) and the water tower over the Reuss river.

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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 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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