Switzerland… lakes, friends and delicious mac & cheese

June 12, 2013

Our European adventure has begun and one good thing about long train rides is that it gives me time to document my trip as we go. At the moment, we are on our way from Switzerland down to Italy. When we were deciding where we should visit on our four week holiday we considered Switzerland knowing it would give us the opportunity to visit one of Andrew’s long time school friends, Nic. I was hesitant at first because I had been to Zurich once before about eleven years ago and Jen, Lisa and I quickly nicknamed it Zur-ick. All I remember from the last trip was a two minute taxi ride which cost over 20 Swiss Francs (CHF), a 60+ CHF meal at Pizza Hut, and watching hours of Swiss MTV in our hotel room to avoid going out and spending crazy amounts of money on crap. With that said… I did appreciate that a visit to the country years later was not likely to result in the same misery, so I agreed to include three Swiss days into our month long journey.

I’m so glad we did. Even our train ride from Milan to Züg was filled with gorgeous picturesque scenery the for the entire four hours.

Switzerland has quickly morphed from one of my least favourite places that I’ve been to, into one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Nic and Flo live in an area just outside of Züg called Steinhausen and we stayed with them in their apartment. I don’t think I could count how many times I said the word “cute”during our three days. Everything is adorable. The architecture, the towns, the green rolling hills with cows scattered everywhere… It is just amazing.

lucernelake

When we first arrived, Andrew and Nic went for a bike ride and Flo took me to Züg where we walked along the lake and then stopped at a little bar on the water and had an Aprerol Spritz. That night Flo made us a traditional Swiss dinner called aelplermagronen-  macaroni and cheese with potatoes and grilled onions. It’s basically three of my favourite foods all rolled into one sinful bowl of heaven.

We managed to defeat the jet lag and stay up until almost 10pm…. a shower and night of sleep in a comfy bed after a 31 hour journey was just wonderful.

The weather wasn’t great most days so we were not able to go up to the top of Rigi mountain like Nic and Flo had hoped but instead we visited Lucerne, had lunch in a cute (there’s that word again) little Swiss restaurant and then took a roughly two hour ferry ride all around Lucerne Lake to Brünnen.  A chilly morning turned into a beautiful afternoon and the scenery was just breathtaking. I can honestly say it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Green rolling hills, blue water and a backdrop of snowy white capped mountains… just stunning. I do realise it is Switzerland, not Austria but I couldn’t help but keep singing “the hiiiills are alive with the sound of muuuusic…” It was on loop in my head all day. I later found out that when Kimbo visited a few years ago she told Flo that she had it in her head too. I mean really… how can you not get that song in your head with views like this:

Lucerne

That night we went to a restaurant in Zürich for dinner. Andrew ordered a big Swiss feast of sausages, sauerkraut, potatoes, and beer. Since Switzerland is big on meat they don’t have a lot of vegetarian or even many chicken options but that’s ok since they do have their famous aelplermagronen mac and cheese. Of course that’s what I ordered.

Our next day started with a visit to a local café for a breakfast of bread and pastry (did I mention how freaking wonderful all the bread is in this country?) and then I went for a walk around Steinhausen. Quaint houses, fields with cows, woods and people riding around on horses…yep, definitely all very cute. The afternoon involved visiting another little town where we had lunch overlooking a river. It started pouring rain as we ate but subsided later in the day.

lucerne3

We then headed to the grocery store where we bought ingredients for dinner. We started with an appetiser of the most delectable cheese fondue and were nearly too full to eat any of the rest of the meal. Cheese and bread in this country are just way too delicious, I would be 300 pounds if I lived here. It’s a good thing I did a massive diet for three weeks before we left for Europe.

fondue2

While my first visit to Switzerland eleven years ago was filled with sticker shock, this time I had quite the opposite reaction to pricing. Sure there were still some really expensive things- over 35 CHF ($40) for a salad and bottle of water for instance- but other things are super cheap, way cheaper than Sydney in fact. This morning we bought a fresh pretzel and two pretzel croissants (amazing by the way) and it cost us 5 CHF. Just the pretzel would have been at least $5 in Sydney. At dinner the other night my glass of wine was only 4.80 CHF. I suppose Sydney has set a higher price baseline so most places now often seem cheaper than home.

It’s sad to be leaving Züg. Nic and Flo were such amazing and hospitable hosts. It was great to get a feel for the country through the eyes of locals, we always feel that’s the best way to travel. While we are bummed that part of our journey is now over, we still have so much to look forward to. Our next stop will be Cinque Terre where we will meet up with Kimbo and Stu for 2 days. Until then…

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