I am becoming boring to myself to start almost every story with the sentence of how it is not possible to travel this year. Indeed it is, but you just need to be flexible with your plans, destination and means of transport. So instead of going to Kenya in June by plane, we switched to Swiss-Austrian Alps by train, bus and car in August.
Switching our plans brought different experiences for me, first of all because I am not used to spending half of my holiday hiking, and by hiking I mean full day of serious hike, but it also meant that visiting new countries is possible and you don’t need to fly across the ocean for that.
Our itinerary was very open, we only planned the places where we were going to spend the night, and the daily agenda was created on the go. And so it begun.
Night 0 – Night Ride from Baerlin to Munich
Having some issues that do not let you plan your exact dates for the holiday, but also not being ready to pay over 200euros for a train ride to Munich, meant searching for a cheaper option, and BlaBlaBus, came like a Jackpot. Selling half of their seats in the vehicle, just so that everyone can feel safe. It was a smooth and cheap ride, plus their routes are starting from the main train station in Berlin, so that we didn’t need to spend extra time going to the Central Bus station which is at the other part of the city for us.
DAY 1 – Munich – Innsbruck – Reutte – Brand bei Bludenz (3 Nights in Brand)
The distance between the bus and the train station in Munich is around 10 minutes walking. There isn’t anything much on the way, except some public buildings. We put two hours for Munich just so that we can eat Krapfen at the train station, little did we know that they are available only in winter time. There isn’t stuffed pretzel that cant fix this, plus it gave us the opportunity to literally jump on the train 2 hours earlier. We had a flex ticket for this one and therefore the possibility. Short 2 hour ride and we arrived in Innsbruck, one of my top 3 cities, and yet I haven’t spend full day in here. Shame on me. Many of the places were closed due the circumstances, so we had to satisfy ourselves with coffee to go and colorful houses.
The holiday for me always starts after we take a car, so I was still not in full enjoyment mode. Of course there were some issues in the rental agency, and for the firs time in the history of our travels, we went for another rental company. Since our preferred one had special rules in Austria. What matters is that we were finally on a vacation. And our first stop was the Reutte Area and the Highline 179 hanging bridge. After spending some time here, we continued on our way to Brand by Bludenz, stopping for lunch on the road, and supermarket.
*Tip every place on the highway in Austria has a high rating, but not every place offers the tastiness that it is stated. But its a highway so let’s say it is excused.
Day 2 – Brand by Bludenz – Rätikon Mountain – Lünersee- Schesaplana – Feldkirch
Brand is basically one street village with recreational centers, picturesque houses, and it is winter or hiking destination. On just 7km ride you can reach the Rätikon gondola, or you can hike up to Lünersee. The bluest and most impressive lake I’ve seen and stepped into it. If you want to hike the Rätikon, this is the first stop, the second stop is the Totalphütte, serving delicious things like fruit lasagna, and the third and most of challenging stop is Schesaplana summit. (I made it). The night was reserved for Feldkirch, the biggest city in the Voralberg area, had many bars, and restaurants open with many young people. Afterwards we found out that one of the 007 movies was filmed here – A Quantum of Solace. I highly recommend visiting this city, not because of Mr. Bond.
Day 3 – Malbun – Vaduz
The time for a new country has come and it is one of the smallest in the world. The rules and currency in Liechtenstein are in line with those in Switzerland. When we saw the prices in Liechtenstein, we were afraid of what might be awaiting us in Switzerland, luckily it gave us false picture about Switzerland. We spend most of our day in Malbun, and hiked to the Augstenberg Summit, admiring the greenness around, and jumping from one country in another. Then we stop to buy cheese, from a producer on a road and continued to Vaduz. My impression about the city: 5 banks, 3 consultant houses, 1 supermarket and 1 shopping street. There were vineyards as well, and the symbol of the city, The Vaduz Castle, but there were hardly any people. The only people we saw were either coming out from a bank, or waiting the bus to Feldkirch. As well everything was closed before the stated closing time. Summary: Malbun – huge yes, Vaduz – even bigger no.
Day 4 – Wallensee – Zurich – Lucerne (2 Nights in Alterswil)
I was waiting for this moment since our vacation started, I was imagining that stepping in the lake would get the world back to normal. It didn’t, but it was one of the better feelings of the vacation. The weather, the water and the landscape were perfect, too bad we were not flexible to stay a full day, since we had to pass by in Zurich and pick up keys for our accommodation. The lake gave me the small Italian city lake feeling, and I cant wait to repeat this kind of city again. On the way to Zurich we decided not to drive the motorway, and took the road along the lake. Zurich this time was short but we squeezed time for a burek with meat, and we bought Swiss sim card.
Next on our plan was Lucerne, and the true feeling blessed moment. Such a beautiful city, so lively, and all the restaurants next to the river/lake were full of happy people. You literally could not find a chair. You could not recognize the world was in pandemic state and that you are in Switzerland, based on everything I’ve heard about the country before. The beautiful bridges, tiny streets, and just watching the lake flowing in the river was strengthening the “I want more of this” feeling.
In normal times Lucerne is known as the Chinatown of Switzerland, because it is favorite among Chinese tourists. We finished the night with rose in our accommodation in Alterswil. What an eventful day.
*Sunny – for 20CHF you can have unlimited internet in Switzerland for 10 days.
Day 5 – Grindelwald – Bern
All the days from our trip were good, but maybe this was the best, based on what the people liked most from what I’ve shown, and based on the passion I was talking about the city of Bern.
I didn’t know much about Grindelwald, except that it is the access point for Eiger. When we arrived there I could not shut my mouth from excitement, all the sights without exception, from glaciers, lakes, to flowers and the cows, were breathtaking. We took the gondola up, and then did about an hour walk to the lake. Homemade melted Liechtenstein cheese and tuna sandwich break, and we were on the way down. Such a relaxation and mind-wandering in progress. My wish was to also visit the Blausee, but then decided that we skip it, so that we can have more time for Bern.
What we saw in Bern is something that I am retelling everyone. Yes, the bears are popular, but nothing beats people placing their clothes in the waterproof bag, and jumping in the Aare river for a swim or for a “ride”. If I can mention one regret about the vacation is why we didn’t do the same. I guess we are coming back here sooner than anywhere else. We ended the day with rösti in a very local restaurant, where we got scared about our health, because it started raining and the place got very packed. And even though there were weather swings, nothing could ruin our impression about the city.
Day 6 – Montreux – Sion – Furka Pass – Gotthard Pass – Verdabbio (2 Nights in Verdabio)
It was accommodation changing day and, we took the route to Verdabbio, in the Italian part of Switzerland. The only thing we knew, was that we were going through the Furka Pass, as true Bond fans. We started at Montreux, as so many people recommended it. It is nice, but its not the type of city I want to visit. It is just hotels, riviera and lake view, but you can say it was shaped according the tourist needs.
Next was Sion, medieval town more central, with two castles and no shadow to hide. We had eclairs to go and a croque monsieur to go from the local supermarket. Happy low maintenance kids.
Furkapass and the villages around were breathtaking, I am definitively not the person for tiny curvy roads, but I always participate. Scared for the people that were taking the curves with Bond style speed, we arrived to the Belvedere Glacier Hotel, but that was for picture and coffee purposes. The Glacier was not as visible as the pictures from the past were showing. So sad. The route down towards Gotthard’s pass was easier to bare, and Gotthard’s pass lake area was full of camper vans, truly jealous of those people that got to spend the night there, and that will wake up with a view. You can tell my experiences wish list was extending. It was already night and we reached Verdabbio. Feeling as we were in Italy, and having wine on our balcony made the atmosphere more Italian.
Day 7 – Lavertezzo – Locarno – Ascona
Lake day, hike day again. The bluest water. The region of Lavertezzo was another tourist spot with lot of camper vans and car homes. Because it was an easy hike thee were many families with young kids. Do I need to repeat that everything is so picturesque and authentic?
We were thinking whether we should go to Lugano or Locarno, but based on the distance, we decided fo the later one. Small city, big square, full Italian offer, and yet we decided to go to Ascona for dinner. Ascona is less than 30 minutes walking from Locarno. It reminded me of the Como area in Italy. Unfortunately, we couldn’t explore as much as we want, sincee heavy rain in progress, but we explored all the tastes in the single menu restaurant Grotto Baldoria. For 19CHF you get 7 or 8 courses. Not high class courses, but worth the experience. Family owned, popular with tourists, but who would skip this offer?
Day 8 – Zurich (1 Night in Zurich)
After the most delicious homemade breakfast consisted of honey made from the owner’s sister, marmalade from her mom, and prosciutto by her brother, under the wine grape shadow, we headed straight to Zürich. We did tourist classic walk around the city, ate ice-cream, shopped at Victorinox and admired the lake. Then we met our friends, and like a locals we went floating on the Limatt river. I live for these kind of days, when you do the simplest things, and yet you manage to experience the vibe of the city. This was so good, that we made a decision we are buying that float-boat. In the night we visited an open air market Guggach Gärtli in the Oerlikon area.
Day 9 – Zurich – Innsbruck. – Munich – Berlin (Night ride to Berlin)
Our last day was reserved for Sunday all you can eat Brunch at Kafi für Dich, mega delicious, but also the most pricey meal of the trip. Worth it. Then strolling around the Langstrasse area, and seeing more and more people brunching. Tellhoff Ice Cream was my last stop, and then we had a 4 hour non-stop drive to Innsbruck. Snacks for the road were by Baguette from the train station in Innsbruck, and except that we witnessed small theft on the train station in Munich, the rest of the night was not very eventful.
My feelings for this trip were most of all #feelingblessed, that I could experience one of the most beautiful countries in time when most of the world could not travel, but blessed to fall in love with new cities, and to confirm myself that I should not take opinions about countries from people that haven’t really experienced it properly. My feelings toward rental companies are still very negative, and the feelings towards spontaneous planning are totally OK.
If you were waiting for a sign to go visit Switzerland, This is it.