Europe Part 2: Switzerland

I have officially been back from Europe for 2 weeks and the more time I’ve had to reflect on my trip, the more gratitude and grounding I feel. 

I was so lucky that after my adventure in Greece, I was able to fly to Switzerland to not only explore the country but also visit my sister, brother-in-law, and first and brand new niece! I had never spent time with a 3 month old baby and new parents before, and hadn’t spent very much time with my sister in two years, so I couldn’t wait to arrive and spend some quality time with family.

I left Santorini early in the morning. Aressana greeted me for my airport transfer with a to-go breakfast which made my heart so happy, and put the icing on the cake of just how thoughtful this hotel really was. My driver and I chatted the whole drive to the airport. He told me lots about the greek food system and we chatted about the food related cultural differences between Greece and the U.S. I loved hearing the perspective of a local, and loved hearing his health and environment conscious perspective compared to some of the other greek locals I met. 

After 2 planes and a train ride I arrived at the town my sister and her family lives in, Fribourg, Switzerland. I got off the train and was greeted by my smiling sister and my little niece taking a nap nestled into her mama. We walked back to her flat and she showed me around. It was so fun seeing another one of her cute apartments. My sister has lived in several different places over the years: San Francisco, L.A., Barcelona, Copenhagen, and now Switzerland, and I always love when I get the chance to go visit and explore the new lives she’s created. 

I went to Switzerland without a plan, deciding to take each day as it came and live in the moment. I was most interested in exploring the Swiss Alps. Being from Boulder, Colorado the mountains are home to me and the Alps have always called me.

I soon realized that Fribourg is not in the Alps, not in the pre-Alps, and not super close to the Alps. I felt silly for not doing more research which was extremely uncharacteristic of me, but I had such a difficult time getting a feel of Switzerland from Google searches. I realized that if I wanted to explore I could easily get places by Switzerland’s comprehensive transportation system of trains, buses, boats, cable cars, gondolas, etc. but also that it was pretty expensive for tourists to travel by train. I was hesitant at first to plan journeys with expensive transportation, even though I knew that I was only in Switzerland for a short amount of time and wanted to see the things I came to see. 

After a day of exploring Fribourg, I realized that this town wasn’t exciting enough for me to spend a whole week here. I wanted to see the parts of Switzerland that appealed to me and that sometimes you just have to pay for the things you want to do. Sometimes I struggle with my money mindset. I love working hard and saving money, and I worked extremely hard to save for this trip and make sure that I had spending-money to explore. I bought a 3 day unlimited transportation ticket and felt empowered rather than guilty, a personal sign that I had made a good decision and trusted my intuition. I began planning my journey for the next day, packed my bag, and got ready to hike in the Swiss Alps.

The next morning I got up early, walked to the train station and took a series of trains with the destination of the Grosse Scheidegg to First trail from Grindelwald. Although I had researched the journey online, it was difficult to get a feel for it. I hoped I could rely on my common sense and intuition to get me to the right place, as well as the many signs from the universe that guided me in the right direction.

It took more than 3 hours to get to the trail head, but I didn’t mind; it felt like an adventure in itself. Every train ride got prettier and prettier. As we passed Lake Thun and Interlaken, I was mesmerized by the clear, glacier blue water. The scenery as we passed the open fields and eventually looming mountains was stunning. I was already so happy with my decision to get out and explore. 

The first big sign that guided me on the adventure was when I met a group of Canadians on one of the trains, one who’s lived in Switzerland for the last 7 years. She had just hiked the Grosse Scheidegg to First trail two weeks prior (a crazy coincidence for how many trails there are in the area) and gave me all the tricks and tips. She had pictures of the trail heads and scenery which not only made me excited to be immersed in the beauty, but was also comforting knowing what I should be looking for. Until this point I kind of felt like I was floating around hoping to get where I wanted to go and hoping that this plan was feasible, but talking to this friendly soul solidified that I had chosen a good trail and that I was on the right path.

After three trains I arrived in the town of Grindelwald, a small mountain town nestled in the Alps that reminded me of Breckenridge, Colorado. The next and final step to get to the hiking trail was to take a 35 minute bus ride to the route. I was in a trance-like state as we winded around the narrow road. These mountains were so enormous I couldn’t believe my eyes, and the vibrancy of the scenery was didn’t seem real. The grass radiated a bright emerald. The diverse shades of blue, grey, and white blended and contrasted to define the tall peaks. The bright sky was clear and friendly, welcoming me into its home. 

I reached the end of the bus ride and marvelled at the place I was about to embark my hike from, so jaw-droppingly beautiful. I began my hike, following the signs. I passed so many cows which lit me up with excitement. They all where cow bells around their necks and the multitude creates a chorus of chimes, the perfect background noise to the perfect scenery. 

After a while I got a little confused about which direction I was supposed to go. I ended up on the easier, flatter version of the path that my new Swiss-Canadian friend on the train had told me about, suggesting I avoid. I decided to go back the way I came and find the path I had intended to be on. When I got to the split point, I decided to go a different way, exploring a different trail before coming back to my intended path. I started walking the other day and came to a steeper downward path that called my name. I was looking for more intensity in the hike and had found what I was looking for.

The whole time I was on this trail I didn’t encounter any other people. It was me in the valley, surrounded by the giants and the local cows, following the marked rocks that guided the trail even in sections overgrown by the wilderness.

It was here that I felt home. I felt so at peace with who I am and what I am in the world. I realized that I am so strong and powerful and that I can truly do anything I put my mind to. That what I do impacts the world and everyone and everything around me because we are all connected. That my actions towards others has an affect. If I’m kind to someone, it might change their day, create a ripple effect and just make the world a better place. If my actions come from hate, insecurity, bitterness, or any other nasty places, a ripple effect will still ensue, but rather than the light love and kindness, a dark shadow is cast over those around me. 

I was also confronted with just how small and powerless I am. We truly have no control over the natural world. Something bad could happen at any time and we have absolutely no power to stop it. All we can do is live in the moment, appreciate the beauty, never taking it for granted, and most importantly do everything we can to support Mother Earth and save her. Every action has a reaction and if we can shift our priorities and focus ever so slightly we can make a big difference. Can we use less gas? Buy fewer things? Have the important conversations that Climate Change is real and that unless we do something, the earth that is protecting us won’t be so beautiful anymore. It won’t be sustainable or supportive or any of the things we take for granted. 

Nature seems to have the power to invoke deep thoughts but also simple sense of nothingness, contentedness, peace. During this hike I thought a lot, but I also spent lots of time in a pure, in-the-moment bliss, wandering through the trails, playing The Sound of Music out of my iPhone’s speaker. 

Eventually I made it back to the original intended path. This one was more populated, and I enjoyed passing the other hikers, smiling and being greeted in whatever language they spoke. It made me realize once more how connected we are and that kindness is universal. 

I arrived to First as clouds started rolling in. I had a deep desire to go paragliding, but after discovering I would have to wait more than 2 hours for the next available spot I decided to pass. I wanted to move on with my day and didn’t want to be at such a high elevation if a storm rolled in. I took the gondola down, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I love watching the mountainside pass by me, engulfing me into the valley. 

I continued my day on the Schlithorn, another big touristy spot with 007 James Bond theming and special attractions to lure visitors. To get to Schilthorn you take a series of cable cars up the steep mountain. I took two short train rides and a bus to get to the cable start, then started my ascent up the giant slope. I was slightly tired and confused and was so thankful for a kind man who helped guide me where to go when transferring cable cars. He felt like a second guardian angel guiding me on my journey.

I stopped at the second to last stop at an attraction called the “Thrill Walk” which was a glass path on the side of the mountain that served as a lookout. There weren’t very many people and it was fun to explore and take in the fresh mountain air. The most interesting encounter I had was when I offered to take a picture for a group of young Americans. They guessed I was from Colorado by my “accent” which I was utterly shocked about since many Coloradoans feel as if we are the lack of an accent 🙂 They were from Washington D.C., and said that the young girl solo traveling in the mountains also made sense being from Colorado. 

That made me think.

How cool is it that until this point I hadn’t even realized that I never even thought twice about hiking alone in the Alps. I was smart about my plan: I chose a well-populated, but not too insanely touristy area, I knew what to pack, I knew how to navigate my way there and follow basic trail etiquette, I knew how to watch the skies and be mindful of the clouds rolling in… I was never scared or fearful of the mountains, they brought me peace and comfort. I feel so blessed to be from Colorado and that hiking is part of my life. That I have the skills to spend time in nature and navigate myself where I want to go. 

The next day I did another long day of adventuring. Paragliding was still heavy on my mind so I decided to do it in Interlaken, a town situated between two lakes with the backdrop of the Bernese Alps. My guide Roli was extremely funny and made the whole ride so much fun. We strapped in and started walking and all of the sudden the wind picked us up and we were gliding in the air, just floating. I never imagined the ride would be so smooth, and looking out at the emerald lakes and mountainous expanse was mesmerizing. Roli told me how blessed he felt that this was his office, that he could spend his time doing what he loved and showing others his beautiful home. I was inspired to keep searching for the things that make me feel alive and that my work can and should light up my soul just as Roli’s does for him. 

The remainder of the day included a hike, a boat ride, and a spontaneous trip to another big city Lucerne. The train ride to Lucerne was a magical ride through the countryside, the perfect backdrop to journal and reflect on the last few days.

The next few days promised some rainy weather. The first was my last day of my train ticket so I was determined to explore. I went into Bern, the closest city to where I was staying. Stepping into the city I was immediately drawn to places that felt like me. I started my time in Bern by having lunch at a vegetarian restaurant I’d heard about, Tibbits. This was a buffet, also Whole-Foods hot bar style, where you take as much as you want and weight it at checkout. The food was so so good. So many different types of dishes hot and cold, from salads, to pastas, breakfast foods, entrees, fruit, desserts and so much more. Everything was clearly labeled (and with English on the back!) so it was easy to identify foods that were vegan, gluten-free, and any other allergens or restrictions people have. The inside of the restaurant was absolutely darling and reminded me of another health-food restaurant I’d been to in Barcelona, Flax and Kale. After filling my plate and spending wayyyy too much money, I feasted on my assortment of nourishing goodies, making me happy from the inside-out.

Wandering the streets of Bern I found lots of cute organic stores had I loved checking out. One store was owned by the sweetest lady who made all sorts of fun vegan treats from energy ball, to chocolate, to brownies, to fancy dried fruits. I loved chatting with her even though English wasn’t her strongest language. I appreciated her making me feel so welcomed. 

The last few days were more low-key with the rain giving me much appreciated time to relax, journal, and get in some runs. I loved running through the different Swiss towns and exploring a new place. I also loved getting to spend a little time with my family and being apart of little Swiss life for a few days. 

The final day I went on a beautiful hike with my family that was a short bus ride distance away from their home. We enjoyed our calm hike and the stunning views from the lake at the bottom. My favorite was seeing all of the families getting outside and being surrounded once more by the chorus of cow bells. It was the perfect ending to the perfect adventure.

Thank you Europe for the adventures. The thrill and the laughs. The food and the sunsets. The memories that will last a lifetime, and all of the little moments already escaping my mind. I’m so blessed to have had the opportunity for this travel, and am so excited for everything the future holds.

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