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April 9, 2015

Easter weekend in Europe is a much bigger deal than in the U.S.  For starters, Friday and Monday are holidays so no work (yay!).  We decided this gave us the perfect opportunity to go somewhere.  Where though?  Well, we decided without too much thought on Switzerland because plane tickets were really cheap and hey! Switzerland! Chocolate and cheese what could possibly go wrong?  Well, as we quickly found out after doing some research an obnoxiously strong Swiss Franc is what.  Turns out the Franc is an incredibly stable and strong currency currently trading essentially on parity with the U.S. Dollar.  This would be fine, except for reasons I do not fully understand everything in Switzerland costs about twice as much as it should.  So, a simple meal of meat and potatoes and a beer out at a beerhall can easily run you above $30 a person.  A personal sized pizza at most places will cost over $20.  McDonalds meals run between $13 and $17.  Entrance to most museums is around $30.  All this made us think up some very creative ways to spend our time and small budget while we were in Switzerland.

We flew into Zurich late on Thursday night and bought a Zurich Pass which lets you ride all the public transit, including boats and lets you in to some museums for free.  As it turned out we didn’t even make it to any museums as the day was absolutely beautiful.  Since it was a holiday though almost every shop was closed so we spent the day not in town but in the parks around the lake.  We took a boat out to a park then walked around enjoying the wonderful weather and quiet.  For food we stopped at the main train station where there is a grocery store that is open on holidays and got bread and delicious cheese (one of the only really good deals in Switzerland).  Combined with some dried fruit and nuts we had a nice little meal.  This was a typical meal for us the entire trip

After a very nice morning we went back into town and checked out to the university and the view from the grounds.  Then a bit on a spur-of-the-moment decision we hopped on a train to Uetliberg the “Mountain” overlooking Zurich.  This train ran to the top of the mountain where you could then walk up to the top of a tower to see all over Zurich spread below.  It was a wonderful day with perfect weather.

Early Saturday we hopped on a train to Lucerne.  We had found that you could get train tickets on the internet if you booked in advance so this wasn’t very expensive at all.  Unfortunately the good weather didn’t stay with us and all Saturday it rained pretty hard.  We braved the weather to see Lucerne.  The famous wooden bridge over the river, swans everywhere, and a shockingly busy farmers market considering the weather.  We decided to have our one meal out of the trip at a recommended restaurant for raclette.  We ordered an asparagus salad, raclette, and a bottle of water.  This was plenty of food for us both, but not a ridiculous amount and cost about $70.  With the weather continuing to be so lousy we decided to wrap things up early and head to our room for a nice hot bath.

Easter Sunday came with a very overcast but not wet morning and so we made a nice breakfast of eggs, easter bread, tea, and yoghurt.  After breakfast we went into town stopping to stare at the delicious confections on the way.

At the tourist information office we asked about hiking partway up the nearby mountain then taking a gondola.  The kindly lady manning the desk assured us that despite not being able to see the mountains because of the clouds they were very much covered in snow and ice and that unless we had crampons, ice axes and snowshoes hidden under our casual city clothes it probably wasn’t the best day to go hiking up any mountains.  Instead she very nicely gave us a route map for a walk up through the some alpine meadows that were snow free.

This turned out to be absolutely perfect and the walk just got nicer and nicer as the clouds slowly lifted revealing the mountains across the water.

We made it back into town and continued our stroll through town enjoying the sun and beautiful sights.

After a quick rest of our feet we headed back out to see the city wall as the sun was starting to set.

By this point I was getting a bit desperate for some meat so Alexandra suggested we go get a burger at Burger King.  I mean, they used Swiss beef (said so right in the advertisements).  It was bound to be pretty good!  Well, we ordered a double cheeseburger with drink and fries.  It cost $15 and was I swear smaller than one in the U.S. and the fries were like a kids meal portion.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  I am still craving a proper burger after that farce.


After the burger fail we went back to our hotel and started to think about Monday.  Our flight left at 6pm and the train ride from Lucerne to Zurich only took about 45 minutes.  On a whim we decided to spend about a $100 on train tickets that would let us go to Interlaken and then Bern before returning to Zurich.  Turning our 45 minute trip into nearly 5 hours.  But boy were those 5 hours worth it.  The train between Lucerne and Interlaken was amazingly beautiful with stunning mountain views and blue lakes around every bend.

In Interlaken we took a short walk taking us to the lake and having a quick lunch on a park bench.

From Interlaken the train ran down to Bern where again, being a holiday, everything was closed.  But, the town itself is a wonderful place filled with impressive architecture and a stunning river running through town.

After a few hours it was time to head to Zurich and then home.  All in all we really enjoyed our time in Switzerland though I think it would be much more interesting if you had an unbelievable amount of money to spend on things like $100.  As we did it, mostly enjoying picnic lunches and dinners it was very fun and the generally beautiful spring weather made our many hikes and walks all the more enjoyable.  I’m not sure I will be going back to Switzerland but if you are prepared for the eye-watering prices the stunning scenery is probably worth it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Betsy jellema permalink
    April 11, 2015 4:53 PM

    Alex, what a great story, what gorgeous photos! Would love to have been there with you, taking it all in. I forwarded to a family that I used to visit for my Parents as Teachers work. The mom is Swiss German, actually met her husband, a Hollander from MI, on line.

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