Switzerland: Geneva, Bern, and Zurich

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Conner and I are doing Europe 2.0 trip! This time, we started in Barcelona where we studied abroad the Summer of 2017 for some nostalgia, then we headed to Switzerland. What do you think of when you think of Switzerland? Beautiful alps, cheese, and chocolate? Well you’re right, there. But there’s a lot more to the country that I learned about by traveling through the three cities of Geneva, Bern, and Zurich.

Some things that I learned about the country of Switzerland from visiting:

They use the Swiss Franc which at this moment is roughly equivalent to the US dollar. A lot of places we went also took Euros, which I don’t advise using if you can take out Francs, because a Euro is worth about 20% more, so you’ll be paying more for the same thing if you pay in Euros.

The people speak French and German (and Italian). Depending on where you are in the country, they will speak one of the three languages… we didn’t have any huge problems communicating overall but it was a challenge for us as neither of us speak French or German (I’m fluent in Spanish which was great for Barcelona but not very helpful in Switzerland…).

They offer free public wifi and virtually free public transportation

The only problem is that in order to connect, you need to have a text message sent to your phone with a wifi code, which you can’t receive if your phone isn’t in service, so we couldn’t actually use the free public wifi after all. The public transportation is great, though. Smooth sailing and incredibly reliable.

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Swiss roll with a beautiful train view

That being said, TAKE THE TRAINS!

Conner and I almost flew from Geneva to Berlin (our next destination!), but decided that it would be fun to explore Switzerland more in depth so we took the train to Bern from Geneva and had quite the experience stopping at towns along the way such as Neuchâtel and exploring those places as well. The train ride was incredibly scenic and there are comfortable seats as well as power outlets. The ticket man/woman comes around and checks tickets shortly after departing each station, so make sure you’re prepared to show your ticket! 

 

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Pitstop in beautiful Neuchâtel

First Stop: Geneva

We started in Geneva. They speak mostly French, there! No surprise, because they’re a walking distance from the French border. In fact, Conner and I crossed the border into France ourselves to go up Mount Salève via gondola and it was breathtaking.

Then, we headed to Lake Geneva to see the Jet d’Eau

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And explored old town Geneva and St. Pierre Cathedral

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Saint Pierre Cathedral in the old town

Geneva was clean, friendly, and walkable. 🙂 I would love to go back someday. 

Second up: Bern

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I loved the capital city, because I enjoyed the relaxed character and beautiful historical  scenery. Our hostel was located 5 minutes from the train station and in the center of the action of all of the restaurants, fountains, and famous clock tower. The cobblestone roads and outdoor cafes made walking along the streets of Bern feel like a Summer dream.

From what I noticed the people speak mostly German, in Bern. I did not know a word of German before coming here, not even how to say “thank you.” I was anxious about trying to communicate because I didn’t want to be laughed at, but it was a learning experience. Most people speak or understand English at restaurants and big stores, though and were friendly overall when it came to trying to help understand. Hand gestures and a friendly expression go a long way…

In terms of getting around, Bern is highly walkable. There are a variety of shops and restaurants that you can visit while wandering around looking at the world heritage sights. We ate dinner at Harmonie right in the center of town and enjoyed some Swiss wine. 

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Wine at Harmonie

There wasn’t anywhere we couldn’t reach in the city in less than 30 minutes, even all the way up to Mount Gurten which was where we went to watch the sun set.

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Mount Gurten for sunset

Other activities in Bern we enjoyed included:

BearPark (IT HAD REAL LIVE BEARS)

The Rosegarten

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View of the city from the Rosegarten

Bern was amazing and I would love to come back and explore this city more someday as well.

Last stop: Zurich

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This adventure felt a trip to the big city coming from small and historical Bern! Zurich was beautiful. We arrived via train and walked around the city for a few hours to explore. 

 

My favorite area was old town (are you sensing a pattern, here? 😉 ) with its cobblestone streets and pretty colored buildings. I also enjoyed the waterfront and all of the parks around the city.

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Zurich waterfront

We stopped in at the headquarters of famous chocolatier Sprüngli and bought a box of the best chocolate truffles I’ve ever had. I was very sad when they were gone (which didn’t take long…).

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YUM

In the evening we took a train ride to Mount Felsenegg just outside the city, and the view over the Swiss countryside was incredible. There were miles and miles of trails around the mountainside but we opted to explore the vista points and then head back down and walk a couple miles to the port to take a boat ride back into the city of Zurich. Boats are included in Zurich’s forms of public transportation, so it was like taking a bus or train.

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Felsenegg

After getting coming down Felsenegg and lost in this town we weren’t familiar with outside of Zurich trying to find the port, we missed the boat by 35 seconds… the Swiss are VERY prompt when it comes to being on time… And we were pretty starving at that point after hiking around a mountain and walking the old town with backpacks on for 3 hours.

So, we ran to the nearest grocery store and grabbed the first block of Swiss cheese and crackers that we saw, and ate it on the dock waiting on the for the last boat and watched the sunset. It felt like a terrible situation at first (missing a boat by 35 seconds and watching it speed off through the water away from you isn’t a fun experience) but turned out to be alright.

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Dinner with a view

Switzerland was amazing overall and if we had more time to spend there I would’ve further explored the cities and countryside. The views of the alps, the best fondue and the best chocolate truffles I’ve ever eaten will forever live on in my memory. ❤ 

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