I’ve always wanted to go to Switzerland. Seeing the Alps in the Sound of Music and hearing stories from my Daddy’s days there made it high on my travel list. However, I never expected to make it there before California!
On Friday morning, I left early for Dublin. Upon arriving at the airport, I waited to meet my dear friend Kelsa. While waiting, I ran into our friend Cara! We three had gone to Glasgow in October and were sad that we would not all be able to go to Switzerland together. However, we got to spend a couple hours in the airport, so that more than made up for it.
At 1 pm, Kelsa and I boarded our plane, and at 4 pm arrived in Basel. It was overcast, but not pouring. After navigating customs, we went to meet Markus Steffan, Kelsa’s third cousin who lives in Oftringen, about 50 minutes southeast of Basel. We had no trouble connecting and soon found Markus to be a very dear man. As we drove home, we chatted about family, travel and hobbies. I found out that he and his wife Rosi are big divers, and they just gotten back from a trip to Florence the week before.
Oftringen proved to be a delightful village, nestled at the bottom of some large hills. Markus’ lovely home was actually next door to that of his parents, who had a large garden (with Swiss chard!) and an apple tree. Rosi welcomed us so kindly into her home and had a warm lasagna waiting for us. She is originally from Italy, but was born in Switzerland. Although her English was a bit broken, her smile, sweet giggle and hospitality spoke volumes. We also met Mia, the Steffans’ 6 month old cat. She was full of energy and we enjoyed playing with her over the weekend.
That evening, we drove to downtown Oftringen and walked around. Being there at night just accentuated the charm of the city. Markus explained that the city used to be walled and pointed out several flags of the different Swiss states and old murals.
In the morning, we headed out to Lucerne. It was a brilliant day – clear and sunny. When we arrived in Lucerne, it was busy with shoppers wandering through the market in the square. After walking across the old bridge, we boarded the boat for our cruise across Lake Lucerne. Kelsa and I were completely taken aback by the beauty of our surroundings. How great is our God!
When we arrived at the base of Rigi Kulm, one of the mountains, we hopped on the train that would take us up to the peak. The ride up was breathtaking. The view beneath us was fabulous. Gradually, green grass gave way to snow and we stopped at the top. On one side was a birds-eye view of the lake and on the other was a panorama of the Alps. At the summit, we sat down to lunch. The sun was so warm, that I sat quite comfortably in my sleeveless shirt with snow all around! Afterwards, we walked around the peak, snapping photos and then got some coffee in the hotel there. After cruising back toward the city, we got off the boat early and walked along the lake. We watched the sun set over Mt. Pilatus and bought some roasted chestnuts from a stand. I’d never had them before, but now I’m sold. What a perfect day! That evening, Rosi made us Alpen macaroni – a pasta dish with potatoes and apples. It was delicious.
The next morning, we headed off to Zurich, where we would meet Markus’ niece, Tabea. Tabea is 20 and a graphic design student. We really enjoyed getting to know her as we hiked up Uetliberg, a large hill with a amazing view of Zurich beneath. Once we reached the top, Kelsa and I went to go climb up a lookout point on the side of the hill. When we reached it, we were stunned to see a group of 6 Grove City students! They are studying in Nantes, France, where Grove City has a small program for communications and engineering students. We enjoyed catching up and took some photos together. After hiking back down, Markus, Tabea, Kelsa and I ate at the Crazy Cow Cafe, which Tabea recommended. I enjoyed a bowl of savory, piping hot pumpkin soup and warm bread. We then walked through downtown Zurich, seeing old cathedrals, cute (and expensive) shops and Swiss banks. Once we arrived home, Rosi was waiting for us with a lovely fondue dinner. Anton & Margrite (Markus’ parents), Doris (Markus’ sister) and Tabea and her mother all joined us. Half of the table only spoke Swiss-Deustch, but as we reached over each other, stretching our fondue forks into the pots, it was some of the best fun I’ve had in ages.
On the morning of our last day, we had a leisurely breakfast and then headed to Basel. We had a few hours to explore the city before we had to be at the airport. Even though it was raining, Basel captivated us with its charm. The city is older and quainter than Zurich and Lucerne.
Finally, the time came for us to depart. Kelsa and I were truly overwhelmed with the kindness of our hosts. They had paid for many of our activities, driven us around, cooked for us and so much more. Anton had even given each of us 6 bars of Swiss chocolate as a good-bye gift! I left Switzerland amazed by its beauty, but more so, appreciative of the warmheartedness of its people.
Hopefully, at some point in my life, I will again be able to say “Grüezi! (Hello!)” to Switzerland.