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Switzerland: Zurich & Thun

SWITZERLAND | Thursday, 16 August 2018 | Views [300]

Side note: Switzerland would be a MASSIVE place if all the mountains were ironed flat. 

Leaving Barcelona we decided, because our flight was super early, we just wouldn’t sleep and would go out the night before. Clearly, that idea has some red flags around it, but it worked out super well! The lovely people AP had been on exchange with helped us with our bags all the way to the Aerobus. On our way, we realised how exhausted we were and got excited to nap on the plane. Upon check-in, Annaliese’s passport was missing. Deep breaths on my part, I held our spot in line while she searched. 5 minutes of stress later and it was in her secret pocket. Got to our gate and even had time for a snack.


Arriving in Zurich, Switzerland was hard. Our exhaustion had hit and Switzerland wifi is not easy to obtain. Annaliese’s data wasn’t working (I never had data), and we needed a phone number to obtain a verification code and blah blah blah. 2 hours of trying to problem solve, and a girl at a Starbucks just let us use her number. Could have thought of that sooner…but, delusion. A train and a bus later and we were at our hosts. We were Couchsurfing while in Switzerland, if you know what that is, skip the following description:


You use a website/app to coordinate free accommodation for travellers. After staying with someone/hosting a traveller, you get reviewed which increases your chances of being accepted. You don’t pay anything, and the hosts do it mostly because they want to interact with other travellers and it improves their chances of getting free accommodation when they travel. Obviously, there are some safety concerns, but the reviews are verified and we found them to be trustworthy.


Our hosts at our first accommodation were a lot of fun and showed us a lake nearby that all the locals swim in. Lucas, Chris, and Lewis were all students and shared as many stories with us as we did them. The first thing we did was sleep. This accommodation was lovely, we had our own room, plus the pillows and bed were plush. It was also the first time we were getting to sleep with cooler weather, as Barcelona averaged 90 in the evenings. Apparently, one of the guys Chris had knocked on the door to grab something from the room (it was kind of a makeshift living room as well) 20 minutes after we had laid down and we were both sleeping as hard as rocks. We woke up at 6ish in the evening and decided to go for a swim with the boys. We swam the entire lake because it was a bit more of a pond than a lake. That being said, the water was perfectly chilly and clean, much-needed refreshment.

The boys had bikes for us to borrow, so we did that to/from the lake. This was my first cycling experience in Europe, and the first time I had been on a bike in a really, really long time. Of course, everyone else bikes often. I did pretty well other than having to do some street to sidewalk manoeuvre. The bike slid out from under me BUT Annaliese was very reassuring and told me once I knew how to do it that it wouldn’t happen again. Apparently, you can’t come at it from an angle and I needed a bit more speed. It gave the boys a good laugh, considering they grew up on bikes and it is their main method of transportation.


We had stayed out too late to get dinner from anywhere, so the boys we were staying with made us dinner. Really lucky for us, because literally, everything in the town had closed by then.


The next day we took the train and gondola up to Felsenegg. Annaliese very quickly refused to stop trying to pronounce it properly and went we ‘Fesselberg’ most the time. To the top we went, if you’ve seen the pictures I just uploaded, it’s where the fabulous lake views were from. We had a bit of a wander, but there was very little to do up there. Food was insanely expensive in Switzerland, so we had a coffee, enjoyed the view and went back down. We quickly realised in Switzerland that transportation tickets aren’t monitored, so while we were supposed to only be up there for an hour, I think we spent 3. We were a bit nervous that someone would get mad on our way down, but the Swiss couldn’t be bothered with that and they’re way too nice.


The wandered around the town the rest of the day and enjoyed running into the old buildings and seeing Lake Zurich. Nothing overly special, but it was a fun town to wander. They were in the peak of tourist season while we were there and it never felt crowded, a major contrast to Barcelona.


That evening we had volunteered to make dinner for the boys, in return for their kindness. A pretty cheap meal, vegetarian pasta with a salad and garlic bread. That being said, they ate most of it and it facilitated one of my favourite evenings in Switzerland. After sitting around enjoying dinner, we decided to play drinking games. We did all the really childish clichés, 21, never have I ever, truth or dare. BUT one of the boys, Lewis, made a point to ask really deep questions.


So at first, we were asking pretty surface level questions and moved past that really quickly. We talked about all things from relationships, mistakes and dreams to life goals and what we want our families to look like. There were some really vulnerable conversation topics, to the point Annaliese and I made a point to check in with each other afterwards. Everything we discussed we knew about each other, but a lot of the perspectives and experiences we hadn’t been as open to sharing with other people before. In hindsight, we were both super happy we had been willing to open up, because it allowed the boys to do the same thing. Afterwards, the boys commented that the level of conversation we had would almost never happen in Swiss culture. “People here are way too reserved, it’s still odd for us to have certain friends over for dinner.” -our new friend Lucas explained.


Eventually, one boy had left for a midnight swim and the rest of us were drunk and tired enough to head to bed. Ended a super fun evening with hugs all around (also weird for Swiss culture) and took off the next morning for Thun.


To get to Thun (pronounced like tune..looney tunes) it would have cost $80 Swiss Francs roundtrip. We deemed that out of our budget and decided to go with the more budget-friendly option: hitchhiking. Hitchhiking is very abnormal for Switzerland, but it’s so safe there we felt pretty sure of ourselves. Our first carriage was driven by a local engineer who told us all about the university systems in Switzerland and how everyone served in the military for 2 years when he was younger (that’s still the rule, but only 70% of the population does it now). He also told us about how most people work in trades before deciding to go back to university, and that only 40% of the population really needs a degree.

He took us more than halfway and dropped us just outside the capital city of Bern. We got snacks at the gas station, had a laugh and sat for a bit at the rest stop. Annaliese went back in to buy a banana, and while she was in there the owner gifted her 2 blankets. Apparently, we looked a bit rougher than we thought. Or, he assumed because we were hitchhiking we would be needing them. Funny but random souvenir. We got wifi, found the best spot for us to put our thumbs back up, and made it all the way into Bern. The guy who picked us up this time was from Macedonia (north of Greece) and spoke NO English. It was a good effort on both our parts, but we decided it would be best to have him drop us at the station. We think he was Muslim and he motioned some sort of blessing over us as we left which we appreciated. 


We were pretty close to hitchhiking all the way to Thun, but just some background. Thun is a lovely little town between Zurich and Interlaken, two pretty famous cities in Switzerland. Practically no tourists go to Thun, which is why we picked it. Locals would ask us how we found the place or what we could have found to do while visiting. So finding a ride to Thun was going to be pretty difficult, and it only cost $7 Francs for us to get there from Bern. So we decided to pay for it and not lose any more of the day. Plus! Absolutely stunning train ride which made it all worth it.


We couch surfed again in Thun. The man we stayed with is 72 years old and does all of his travelling by motorbike. He had been a widow for 10 years and since his daughters moved out he found living alone lonely. Because he had couch surfed a couple of times, he decided to host. Easily one of the nicest places we stayed in on this trip. The bathroom had a proper tub and he gave us fresh towels, we had a balcony, he gave us Swiss beer, made us breakfast and offered us a ride to the train station when we left. One potential with Couchsurfing is your host could want to hang out with you, but none of our hosts really made an effort to do that and encouraged us to go explore with their recommendations.


One of our days we spent walking to a castle over the lake (also featured in my facebook pictures). We made it most of the way, but Annaliese had some bodily issues halfway there. Major knee ache and some back pain, we decided not to push it and hopped on a bus. We both explored the castle without each other and without paying for it. I had been waiting for us and got bored, so I just wandered it when the attendant happened to not be there. So mine was by accident, and I explored the upstairs of the castle and everything to the East entrance. Annaliese, having heard my experience, decided to head in while I was filling in my postcards. She made an effort to get through the castle without talking to any of the different attendants and covered the part of her shirt where everyone’s entry tickets were. Stealthy. She got through the entire castle and dungeon before heading out. Very admirable was to save $15 Swiss Francs.


We set up our evening at the edge of a lake and watched the sunset. It was funny because I kept telling Annaliese to turn around so she could see the sunset, but she kept telling me to turn around to see the different colour lights being cast on the mountain we were facing. Two boys had wandered our way and we got to chatting pretty quickly. They were both tradies, but I don’t remember what they did. They found our stories and July plans to be crazy and really wanted to hear about our different interests. They both agreed it was boring living in Thun, which we understood. Other than nature, there was little to nothing to do/see despite how gorgeous it is. I asked the boys where they would live if they could choose anywhere in the world…their answer was Bern. Remember Bern? The capital city less than 30 minutes away from Thun… Their answer gave us a really good perspective through which to understand the boys. They had no prospects of leaving what they knew but were very happy to complain about it. This isn’t meant to paint them in a bad light, they were both really kind and we definitely enjoyed our chat, but they hadn’t experienced much which is why our travels were so interesting to them.


Finally, the big event. The next morning we had planned to head back into Zurich, see the lake and pick up the bigger bags we had left with the boys who hosted us the first night. Luckily, I had decided to check my email (for the first time on this whole trip). I saw an email from our airline saying our flight had been moved up 4 hours. Those 4 hours had already been carefully allocated, and we were now very behind schedule. We packed our belongings as quickly as possible and headed for the station. Heck of a way to wake up. We thought the train we had got was going to take us all the way to Zurich, but luckily I checked with a local when we arrived in Bern and we hopped off that train with seconds to spare.


Had we stayed on the train, we would have been stuck going the wrong direction for at least 30 minutes and missed our flight. Then we found our new train but didn’t realise that it was at the other end of the tracks and sat on the empty side for 10 minutes before it left…embarrassing. Caught the next train all the way to Zurich, sorted our bags, and made it to the airport. You may see a picture of Annaliese and me during this venture smiling, but with tears in our eyes. We ended up having just enough time to buy snacks before getting on the plane to Budapest. Success!

Switzerland was absolutely one of my favourite stops on this trip. For future Europe trips, I’ll mark it down as a great place to get out of the hyper touristy cities and take a breath in some really, really fresh air.  


Ciao for now! Budapest, Amsterdam and England to come.


Xx Lynee 

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