Switzerland Part I / by Mark Andre

To say that I was excited for an eight-night trip through Switzerland would have been an understatement. We'd been planning this trip since January and had a google map filled with pins of amazing locations and restaurants. After the overnight flight to Zurich we hit the ground running. Aareburg was a little town halfway between the airport and our first destination in Bern. 

Aareburg and its picturesque castle and church

Luckily I scouted ahead for parking because there was very little to be found. This little town looked like something straight out of a Disney movie. The Church, Castle, and River create a place worth the stop. 

Zentrum Paul Klee designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop

With our first stop in Bern, I had to stop and make a pilgrimage to a building by one of my favorite architects. the RPBW designed Zentrum Paul Klee tucks itself into the landscape with flowing structure punctuated by glass boxes. 

We caught Bern on a very warm day and walking uphill from the public parking to the hotel with our bags in tow required a good break before setting off for dinner. We found a place in the Altes Tramdepot Brauerei that overlooked the Aare River, the Bear Garden (yes Bears) and the old town center of Bern. 

Overlooking Bern and the Aare River

A classic car on the streets of Bern

Walking back across Bern's old town to the hotel was a beautiful experience in a quintessential European city. We even caught a few classic cars along the way that transported you back to another time. We took this as a short day to help nurse our jet lag with some extra sleep. 

Looking back at Gruyeres from the entrance to the Castle

To kick off Day 2, we left Bern and headed for the little village of Gruyeres. We arrived to an event taking place that meant we parked rather far from the village. We later found out that a wedding was happening at the Castle that day and all the special musicians and people we there to lead the wedding party in a parade to the castle. It was very fun to hear the Alphorns played in the charming town square. 

After making our way back down the path to the car, we headed into the heart of Geneva stopping off along the Swiss Riviera in Vevey for lunch. 

The Fork of Vevey on Lake Geneva. Kodak Porta 160 Film

I was rather underwhelmed with Geneva. The weather wasn't that great the day we were there and the skyline of the city was pretty underwhelming. Walking into the old town we stopped off for Fondue at the Restaurant Les Armures and had a wonderful meal sitting along the street. 

Chillon Castle on the shores of Lake Geneva

We headed back along the shores of Lake Geneva towards Chillon Castle. Wandering the maze of rooms and passages that have been constructed since the Twelfth Century felt a bit like I was in something right out of Game of Thrones. 

Making a pit stop near Les Hauderes on the way to Zermatt

We spent most of the third day in the car. Leaving the French-speaking part and heading up into the Alps for the German-speaking cantons. We stopped off in Les Hauderes at a wonderful little cafe for lunch. After we got back on the road, we parked and unpacked the car to take the train up to car free Zermatt. 

Night views over Zermatt and the Matterhorn

We were a bit disappointed as all the trails for hike we planned for the next day were closed due to the risk of avalanches. We took the opportunity to head up into the peaks via cable car. We first visited the Matterhorn Glacier paradise. The highest viewing platform in Europe (12,739 ft) was completely shrouded in dense cloud cover and snow but the walk down into the glacier was very fun.

We hopped the cable car back down to Zermatt and climbed aboard the mountain rack railway up to Gornergrat. The hotel and observatory would normally boast amazing views of the Matterhorn but the low cloud cover completely obscured the view from 10,134 ft. The surrounding mountains and clouds did make for some beautiful abstract images of the peaks we could see. 

Come back later this week for the second part of the trip including Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken, the Aare Gorge, and Lucerne.