It’s difficult not to enjoy Switzerland. Not only is it picture perfect, it is one of the safest countries in the world. Where you can go off on a trek into the mountains pretty much by yourself. Or travel from one part of the country to another without too many worries about your safety.
A view of the lake on my first trip in 2005
Geneva and Zurich happen to ranked among the top cities with the highest quality of life in the world. (And as a result, Switzerland also happens to be the most expensive country in the world to live in).
I’ve been in Switzerland since the first week of August and I must say that I’m enjoying it more than my first time. For one, I have more days in hand. And rather than rushing around, I’ve had the opportunity to soak in some cultural experiences, walk around some amazingly scenic trails in the Swiss mountains, experienced living in a small village and devoured inordinately large amounts of cheese and wine. My quota for the year, is definitely over.
A traditional dish called raclette. Among other things, it has a lot of cheese.
Enjoying the beautiful green mountains
But what better way to enjoy a country? Here are a few…
Trekking around the mountains
They’re almost painfully beautiful. Well, the pain is partly because the climbs are tough in parts. But the views more than make up for all the effort and hard work. In my first week, I got whisked away to the mountains and I wasn’t going to complain. Though I was informed this has been a really dismal summer by Swiss standards, we were lucky enough to get a few days of sunshine and clear weather.
Views from the chalet we stayed in
We stayed in a cosy chalet up in the village of Gryon, a town located around an hour’s drive from the city of Lausanne. From there, it was a matter of planning where to start the trek from, where to end, pack our picnic lunches and then set off. We did 3 treks into the mountains and each one was memorable in it’s own way.
The village of Gryon is the perfect place to base yourself for treks around the area
To be able to walk out into the mountains without a care in the world is a feeling unmatched. The routes are really well marked and it’s unlikely you’ll get lost unless you’re really bad with directions. Someone commented how it seemed so safe – just both of us traipsing through the countryside. And yes, it is actually. At no point did we feel unsafe. With a walking map in hand, and an excellent guide in Stephanie, who was brought up climbing the mountains around the area, I couldn’t have been in better hands.
Gushing alpine streams accompany you on many portions of your walks
Nothing like a dose of fresh mountain air
The three treks we did:
The approximately 8km trek begins with a gradual climb and then gets slightly steeper, goes up to a view point and then descends through some tall trees on the other side
2) La Croix des Chaux-Bretaye
Around 15 kms, we hiked to a peak called La Croix des Chaux at 2012 metres. From there, we hiked through some narrow paths and valleys to the village of Taveyanne, climbed to Ensex and ended the trek in a small picturesque village called Bretaye.
Don’t miss a walk around the lake in the village of Bretaye
3) Javerne-La Tourche
View from the top of the climb at a point called La Tourche, and we did around 8 kms to and from a high altitude pasture called Javerne.
A couple enjoying the view from the top
Stephanie and I enjoying the trek to La Tourche
Switzerland’s walking and trekking routes are really well marked and you can check out these websites for more information.
— My Switzerland
— Walking Switzerland
Biking on beautiful scenic roads
It’s almost a sin not to be able to ride on these roads. I look with a certain amount of envy at cyclists enjoying the beautiful countryside roads, with hardly any traffic. Also, most cars give a wide berth here and besides there aren’t too many of them on the back roads. I’ve encountered quite a few cycle friendly trails. One particular one I’d like to do one day is the Vallee de Joux area. With some nice climbs, scenic routes and amazing views, I’ve marked this area for future reference! Otherwise too, summer is a great time for cycling with the weather just right. Not too warm and not too cold. I almost regret not getting my folding cycle along with me.
Cyclist enjoying a perfect day
— Cycling in Switzerland
— Mountain bike land
Of bovine pleasures: visiting a dairy farm
I am loving the cows here. Not to take away from our beautiful specimens back home in India. But they’re extra large in size.
A good looking specimen, if you ask me!
They also are quite curious. And they are adorned with these beautiful bells. When you’re walking in the countryside, it’s not unusual to hear their synchronised ringing from a long distance, the sound echoing through the countryside.
High on alpine pastures, are these charming dairy farms that look inaccessible and remote. And they probably are, by Swiss standards. We passed by quite a few on some of our treks.
Grazing their hearts out. And enjoying their daily dose of fresh air and grass
On another occasion, we dropped in at one of the farms and got a glimpse of the mechanised “milking”, and a taste of the excellent cheese with a glass of wine. As we settled into the bench outside, sipping on wine and nibbling on cheese, I looked out into the sun dappled valley, with the cows letting out an occasional moo, the bells ringing and just nothing else in sight but the green mountains beyond. What an idyllic place to be.
The cows looking a bit curious at the human intruder on their blissful chewing
— Gruyere is a famous brand in these parts
Life in a Swiss village
With their community centres, their churches, and pretty wooden houses, it was a delight to experience life in a small Swiss village called Le Vaud. I have to go back to the hustle bustle and chaos of Silk Board and Bangalore after this is over, so I’m determined to relish every moment.
Life in the cosy village of Le Vaud proved to be a far cry from the chaotic Silk Board. And no, not complaining! It was much welcome relief for a weary “honked out” Bangalorean
I discovered some inside roads ideal for running and walking. You hardly bump into a soul. In the centre, there’s a grocery shop, a boulangerie and an auberge communal for those looking to rest for a night or two.
I welcomed these empty roads like a fish takes to water! And no, I am not missing our honking drivers
A really nice feature in these towns are communal “basins” or water fountains where you can go and refill your water. They seem to be always running and are probably fed by underground streams. The next village, around 2-3 kms down the road is called Bassins and has around 6-7 of these basins or fountains. With pretty flower pots adorning these spaces, they make for a nice sight.
The communal fountain, served by an underground stream I suspect
I walked, ran, watched the hills and the snow capped peaks on a clear day, across the lake. Said “bonjour” to dozens of people on the road. Ate some really delicious food, thanks to my lovely hosts. And enjoyed walking up the hills in the evening, watching the skies change colour over the lake. Back in chaotic Bangalore crossing Madivala market, I’ll remember these moments.
A beautiful summer’s day in Le Vaud
Tasting the local wine and cheese
Happy cows seem to make for delicious cheese. And of course, what better drink to wash it down than some local wine. Whether it’s a rosé, a white or a red, make sure you’re not empty handed when eating your cheese and bread. My bread intake has gone up drastically over the last couple of weeks, something I don’t much care for back home. At the dairy farm we visited, there’s a room where the cheese is made and another where it’s stored. I take a glimpse inside this room and it’s like a vaulted chamber with a very precious commodity – cheese.
The cheese chamber – here is where it all comes from
Wine is more popular than water. I think. And I’m not complaining since it’s my drink of choice.
My love for wine only got stronger
The fondue has more cheese than I eat in a year. But I finished it at one go. You have to give me points for assimilating.
So the Swiss summer is turning out nicely. The doses of cheese and wine have done wonders to my now forgotten diet, which I was asked to chuck out the minute I landed in Switzerland. Right now, I’m doing what I would advise all of you to do – give in and enjoy the summer!
— The Swiss Summer album
(NOTE: Cover photo courtesy: Stephanie Booth)