The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland

As I’ve arrived back in Zurich, where my Swiss adventure began, it seems as if my journey throughout the big cities and the alps of this beautiful country has come to a close (for now). When I last wrote, I had just arrived in Zermatt, home of the Matterhorn. One of the best parts was that my hostel room actually had a direct view of the massive mountain. I was there for less than 24 hours and although the town is small, my stay was still far too short.

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I spent the evening wandering around the area trying to find a way to walk to the Matterhorn (after all, Google maps said it was only a four hour walk there). Although I failed to maneuver through all of the living spaces and the hills, I was able to get some pretty cool pictures of the giant mountain that Disneyland named a ride after. I ate snow (made sure it wasn’t the yellow kind), made snowballs and threw them into the air, and just generally had a carefree snow day. I spent the evening walking around all of the downtown shops and although they were all closed, they still had beautiful lit-up displays in the windows. That’s one thing I’ve noticed in general about Europe-they really know how to display and show off their stuff. I ended up treating myself to a romantic candlelit fondue dinner for one at Cafe Du Pont (courtesy of my dad’s suggestion-even from oceans away he still manages to help me out with finding places to go and things to do). My waiter seemed confused that I was eating by myself at a booth fit for a good six people, but I didn’t mind it a bit. It was actually really peaceful eating on my own, and I definitely showed off my American eating skills and ate the entire basket of bread, most of the cheese, and most of the potatoes. Needless to say, when another waitress asked me if I wanted more I had to decline. Overall, the Swiss fondue experience was spectacular.

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While there, I ran into a local (who happened to actually be a Californian working there) and he ended up showing me around all the different pubs/clubs in the area. We started out at Papperla Pub/Schneewittli Nightclub, and then continued on to both Gees Cuckoo Club and the Unique Hotel Post. Each of them had their own mountain charm and warm feelings and it was quite an enjoyable little “pub crawl” of sorts.

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The next morning I walked around the city a bit more before catching the Glacier Express to St. Moritz, my next destination. The Glacier Express was an 8 hour train ride through the glaciers of the Swiss Alps, and since most of my electronics were uncharged and dead, I spent most of the ride listening to the train’s provided genuine Swiss mountain yodeling music. The music, combined with the wondrous mountain views really made me feel like I was in Switzerland. The train wove through tunnels, rode over bridges, and climbed mountainsides and I must’ve taken 500 pictures of the same views just because they were so amazing (being from California, I’m not quite accustomed to seeing so much snow). I arrived in St. Moritz around 17:00 (5pm) and settled into my hostel room before going out to explore for the evening. My hostel served dinner with the reservation if you asked for it and since the resort town is so expensive and I didn’t really want to mess with finding a cheap, nice place to eat, I settled for the hostel dinner. I guess the man behind the counter didn’t understand me when I said I wanted the normal dinner special and not the vegetarian special, but it ended up being okay considering my meal of soup, salad, and cheese pasta was absolutely delicious.

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My hostel was only a 20 minute walk from the town center, but in the cold and wind it felt like it took hours. It was only about 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but with the windchill it felt like 0 degrees. I was also terribly confused because the St. Moritz lake was (mostly) completely frozen. I say mostly because there were some parts where the water was flowing in and there was no ice or snow, just water. I had seen trucks driving over the lake but since I myself had never walked on a frozen body of water, I just kept to the dirt/concrete paths.

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I made my way into the town center and although everything was pretty much closed, it was all very beautifully lit up. I felt like I was in one of those Hallmark Christmas movies, walking up and down streets with bright white lights hanging above my head with a snow-covered lake right next to me. I mostly just window-shopped since, again, everything was pretty much closed down. In Europe, at least on weekdays, most things close between 5pm and 7pm. I googled “things to see/do in St. Moritz” and since the only thing that came up that wasn’t a mountain or a lake was the leaning tower of St. Moritz, I made my way there. The tower was a part of the Church of St. Mauritius, dating back to the 12th century. As I walked through the gates of the small enclosure, I found myself walking on thin ice-literally. I didn’t realize that I was walking on semi-frozen water and ended up falling straight through about 2 inches of ice/water. I marooned myself onto the closest bench and then realized that I was sitting in the middle of a bunch of gravestones (which makes sense since I was in the middle of some old church grounds) but I hadn’t realized this beforehand. It was dark and about 9 o’clock at night at this point, so I decided to make my exit before I got anymore damp or creeped out. I walked around the town some more before deciding to retire back to my hostel for evening. It had been a long few days so far and since I had the room to myself, I took full advantage of it and passed out with my cell phone in hand, trying to post about my adventures. I woke up after getting a full six hours of sleep (the most I’ve gotten all week) and leisurely ate my breakfast and checked out before hitting the town again.

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Since it was daytime and I could see more people walking on the lake, I decided to take my chances and cross the frozen water myself. A saw a few horses walking across the lake, so I figured me and my backpack and satchel wouldn’t break through. The White Turf Horse Races will be held on the lake the 26th of this month, so there was a lot of setup going on for that. There was also a group of people playing “cricket on ice” which was an interesting sight. I also saw a man riding around the track in a horse-drawn sled, which made me feel once again like I was in the middle of a Hallmark Christmas movie. I even took some time to set my bags down and attempt to make a snowman and a snow angel, but the snow was far too icy for snowmen and much too solid for snow angels. At least the thought was there.

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Although I had really wanted to learn to ski in the middle of the Swiss Alps, my parents advised me that I shouldn’t do that because, well, it’s the Swiss Alps. And I have never skied a day in my life and happen to be quite clumsy, so chancing breaking my first bone in a foreign country wasn’t exactly on the agenda (although breaking my leg while skiing the Swiss Alps would make a pretty rad story). Instead, I settled for taking a cable car up Chantarella Mountain. I was the only non-Swiss and non-skier/snowboarder on the lift but the ride itself was surprisingly relaxing and I think that more tourists should make use of the lift to see the views from the peak. Once I got to the top, I sat down and just marveled at the views. It had snowed a lot before I got there, and it was snowing while I was there as well and the town looked to be quite the winter wonderland. After taking everything in, I walked down a path towards a different mountain and took plenty of snow-filled pictures along the way. I really wanted to take the ski lift up to the top and then ride it back down but 1. I have never taken a ski lift in my life and have NO idea how to use them and 2. The man operating the cable car said it was only for skiers/snowboarders. After I became satisfied with my copious amounts of mountain and snow selfie pictures, I made my way back down the mountain. Since no one else happened to need the cable car at the time I did, it was a somewhat awkward ride down with the operator. He spoke very little English and I spoke NO Dutch, so the language barrier only allowed us to talk in very simple terms. That’s one thing I’ve learned from traveling Europe on my own-I want to learn about 500 different languages so I don’t have to deal with language barriers and can actually carry on a conversation with the locals. And not be my touristy self with my limited amount of appropriate cold-weather clothing and my obviously America baggage (my backpack literally says San Diego on it).

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Once I had fulfilled my snow bunny-ness, I headed to catch the train back to Zurich where I am staying for the night before heading to Barcelona (quite the change in climate-by about 20 degrees). When I got here around 6pm, two of my roommates were already in bed and shortly after an old French woman came in and took the bunk underneath mine and uttered the words “good night.” Since my stay in Zurich Monday went so well, I had arranged to meet with my friends here again for another night out. Hopefully French grandma doesn’t mind my coming home at around 2am, but I suppose I’ll never see her again anyway so it doesn’t really matter. Overall, Switzerland has been an amazing experience and I already can’t wait to come back someday. I’m loving the snowy change in climate but am excited to revisit one of my favorite cities in the world. Te veo pronto, Barcelona…

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