Posts Tagged ‘switzerland’
Zurich is a really cool city. This was my second time here, although the last time was 15 years ago, and only for a day. (Definitely not enough time to do the city justice.) Not surprisingly, this time around I found the city to be completely different from what I remembered. Grand and bustling, Zurich has all the trimmings of a financial powerhouse capital for sure, but also has quiet old town streets that feel a million miles away from all that. The train station is one of Europe’s grandest, filled with modern art on the inside and classical European architecture on the outside. Leading off from the station is Bahnhoff Straße, the grand street that runs into the heart of town.
The Swiss love their taxidermy, and so do we! While wandering the streets of the Swiss capital of Bern, we came across numerous quirky stuffed critters in store windows that just made us laugh. Deer with wigs in front of hair salons. Bunnies with guns in clothing stores. Bambi and unicorns. Have a look…
St. Gallen, tucked away in Switzerland’s northwestern corner, turned out to be a culinary slice of heaven. This city has it all—classic and modern architecture, a vast historical legacy, a focus on fashion, UNESCO world heritage sights and an emphasis on good food.
Monastery Haute Cuisine
Hands down, the most unique meal in town is the St. Gallus haute cuisine dining experience at Gaststuben zum Schlössli, a restored castle in the heart of St. Gallen’s old town with themed dining rooms.
Most people have heard of Zurich, the Matterhorn or Geneva. But St. Gallen? The name generally draws blank stares. Yet Switzerland’s northeastern capital is charming, foodie focused, relaxed, and blissfully tourist free.
I rode the train from Lucerne to St. Gallen, which turned out to be an incredibly scenic journey. It cut through green expanses of fertile valleys filled with grazing cows below big fluffy clouds in a brilliant blue sky, all surrounded by mountain peaks crowned with snow. Crossing rivers and curving past multiple lakes, this has got to be one of the best ways to see Switzerland, especially since traveling from one end of the country to the other doesn’t usually take more than a few hours.
Wanted to share some photos from my first fondue here in Switzerland. Switzerland is a land of great cheeses, and fondue is no exception. This communal classic is the perfect bonding ritual, and great for sharing with friends and family on a cold day. Although there are endless variations as far as fondue staples go, like veggies or chocolate fondue with fruit, the classic Swiss tradition is all about bread and potatoes.
Somehow the days just keep getting better. This morning I opened the windows to find a spectacular sunshine-filled view of Lake Lucerne, a welcome surprise after a few stormy days, and the perfect weather for an ascent up Mount Rigi, a must-see highlight to any trip through Switzerland. The peak of Mt. Rigi is visible from Lucerne’s city center on a clear day, easily recognizable by its pointed control tower antennae in the distance.
Lucerne, located in central Switzerland at the foot of the Swiss Alps, is simply stunning. From the minute I stepped off the train and caught a glimpse of Lake Lucerne, reflecting snow capped peaks in its swan-filled waters—the city perched at its edge—I was smitten.
The train from Lausanne to Gruyères cut through vineyards, golden in the morning sunshine, with just the slightest hint of snow accenting all the mediterranean colors. The train wound its way up and up through the grape fields, rising high over Lake Geneva, until the vineyards became stacked layers balancing over the lake, seeming ready to spill right into the water. It was a landscape just like this that first enchanted me with Switzerland. As the train made a final turn inland toward Gruyères, the landscape changed entirely, and suddenly everything was coated in a layer of snow—even the cows and sheep.
Today I visited La Maison du Gruyère (The House of Gruyère), a cheese dairy near Gruyères, Switzerland in the Fribourg countryside, where you can learn the entire cheese making process and do a cheese tasting afterwards!
Milk from Cows who Vacation in the Swiss Alps
It all starts with milk, from cows who spend their summers feeding on grass up in the Swiss alps, a vital part of Swiss culture marked with colorful traditions (see more about this below under “Fast Facts”). Gruyère cheese is still made according to a traditional recipe dating back to 1115 AD. At the cheese dairy, the milk is delivered by farmers twice a day and the cheese is made 3-4 times a day. You can watch the entire process and see the cheese makers at work—a perfect way to immerse yourself in Swiss culture.
I was drawn to Lausanne by a distant memory. Back in my college days when I was studying abroad in Italy, I took an overnight train to either Barcelona or Paris. On the way I remember waking up early in the morning and looking out the train window. I was so stunned by the beautiful view that it’s still etched in my mind. The day was crystal clear and there was a big blue lake, reflecting the sky and snow capped mountains in its waters. The hills were exploding with green and tumbled straight onto the water’s shore. I looked for a sign of where we were: Lausanne. I vowed to come back here one day, stop, and linger, instead of just passing through.
Finally today I caught a train back to Lausanne.