I was getting quite use to the cold, bitter weather of Mannheim, Germany during the second week of October. Little did I know, that those last few weeks of October were going to be the last time I’d be seen without a coat until February.
Despite the horrid weather, I was finally able to find some friends who had owned a car. I randomly met two polish guys at a VISUM (Student Organization in Mannheim) Event. Three days later, we were crossing the German-Swiss Border! It was at this time that I began to enjoy and flourish the ease of travel throughout Europe. Whether I wanted to travel by car, bus, plane, or train; it was all at a relatively low cost!
On our early drive on the Autobahn, the Volvo we were in compared nothing to that of the BMW Driver’s Ed Car we passed! You know you are in Germany when…
It’s one thing to drive around the rolling hills of California but it was beyond beautiful to see the snow-covered mountains of Switzerland.
Without the car, it would have been a lot more difficult to arrive at the fastest flowing waterfall in Europe, which was our first destination of this trip. We arrived at the Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen at half past one. Upon arrival, Brian (the Canadian), laughed because it was NOTHING compared to the Niagara Falls.
What I found interesting about this waterfall, in particular, was that everything was man made which I assumed was one of the main reasons why it flowed so fast. It cost 7 euros to go to the center but, as a group, we decided to just take a stroll to one side of the falls.
Leaving the falls, I noticed that Michał and Paweł (polish) were a lot like Americans in that Michaeł was always on his phone. Throughout the trip, Brian and I kept giving him a hard time… he just couldn’t stay off of his phone!
Traveling across the country to Zurich, where construction was tedious, we arrived later then expected but still had plenty of time to venture into the city. We began by walking down one of the most famous as well as most expensive streets in all of Europe, Bahnhofstrasse. According to a Study, Bahnhofstrasse was the third most expensive street for retail property in Europe, and the fifth most expensive worldwide! We didn’t buy anything (of course!) but we did take a lot of pictures and do some window-shopping.
Roaming around the city for a few hours, we found ourselves in the Red Light District of Zurich. Being with three other guys, they were keen in wanting to see what it was like.
We weren’t impressed even passing by this sign:
For dinner, we had the famous fondue that was absolutely incredible! After dinner we went into the Old Town. Noticing that in the middle of October was not a good time to go out! It was practically a ghost town until we were finally on a huge hill overlooking the city with some teens. We kept our distance though as they did not seem like the most friendliest group of kids. We headed back towards the tram to find our way back to the hostel for an early night in.
I was impressed with the drive from Germany to Zurich but with Zurich being the largest city in Switzerland I was not impressed with their nightlife! Perhaps, we were in the wrong area of town and it was very early for European standards but we couldn’t even find a bar open that wasn’t sparkling (EXPENSIVE) in the hour that we searched.
Having a rather quiet evening the night before, we woke up early for breakfast in Zurich and checked out at 10:00. We decided to go straight to Lucerne instead of visiting Zurich again because it was quite foggy and we had seen quite a lot in the few hours the day before. We arrived In Lucerne at about 11:30 with very congested traffic. None of us had been before, so it was difficult for us to find the city center but we just followed the crowd, as it was a Saturday morning.
When we eventually found the city center with the beautiful river running in the middle, all of our faces lit up with awe. The river with the bridges running over it was a sight to see! Especially with the snow-covered Swiss Alps in the background.
We hung out at the market eating many fruits and different kinds of cheese. We walked around the town and decided to stay a few more hours because the town was that beautiful. Another plus to having a car, our plans could be as flexible as we wanted them to be.
In order to get a map of the city center and plan out our next few hours, we went to the train station. We decided to see the lion statue:
We had lunch at a pizza and pasta place because that was the cheapest around. But it was still very expensive with the bill being around $15 for one person for a small pizza and a soda.
After eating lunch, we walked the “city wall” which, in reality, was just one wall with three towers that we could climb. It was nothing like the city walls of Dubrovnik but we did have an incredible view of the city with the Swiss Alps in the background.
We walked along the river, passing a fisherman, and headed to Bern in the afternoon. It took us a little over an hour to get from Zurich to Bern, the capital of Switzerland.
We saw the famous clock tower and walked around the city center where there was another cheese market. We also saw the Bundasplatz (Parliament) as well as the National Bank.
We headed towards Lausanne at 16:45 where we attempted to go to two grocery stores since we were trying to save on food and drinks. But, unfortunately, both stores were closed at 17:00. EVERYTHING seemed to be shut down early in Switzerland. Also, there were no LPG gas stations anywhere. We almost ran out of gas!
We got to Lausanne at 1830 where we ran into a bike show. The guys found it entertaining. When we went to the city center, we realized that everything was closed so we decided to head to Geneva. BUT, of course, the Polish had to stop at McDonalds to get some Wi-Fi 😉 Brian and I just stood around laughing.
We left to Geneva at 19:15 and had to get to the Hotel that was on the French Border before 21:00 because that’s when reception was closed (Swiss were strict!).
The hotel was very difficult to find but we found it at half past eight. We paid and went to the room where we, of course, waited more because we had Wi-Fi. Three of us went to eat at No Limit for dinner. Which was an American restaurant but definitely didn’t know how to make nachos…
The restaurant may have looked like it was American but the food was nothing like American food! After a not so very good meal, we went back to the hotel for another early night in.
Reflecting back on this second day of our trip, it really had surprised me. I had heard that Switzerland was beautiful and gorgeous, but you had to really be standing on the city wall or down by the river reflecting on what the eye is really seeing in order to appreciate the beauty that Switzerland has. Lucerne was just a sight to see! One of the most picturesque and clean cities I had been to. As everyone says, the only sight to see in Bern was the clock tower, which is entirely true.
On the third day of our Swiss-Round we headed back to Geneva, Switzerland. When leaving the French border, I could definitely tell the huge difference in housing, people, and overall well-being between the two countries. We passed the flea market in arriving in Geneva at 11:00; I could immediately tell how metropolitan it was.
I bought 10 postcards for 14 franks ($15). Immediately noticing that Geneva is less clean and more expensive then Zurich, which was good for University students like myself. We walked around the city center and saw the St. Paul Cathedral Church (Picture)
Shortly after taking this picture, I got lost in the church but ended up finding the guys later on. This was the view from the top of the tower which I highly recommend hiking up to see!
After visiting the church, we attempted to find lunch but found nothing that was cheap so we just had a snack for lunch and deciding we we could buy dinner in Germany for half the price. We then visited the Jet d’Eau, which was incredible to see in person. It is one of the main sights to see in Geneva as well as one of the tallest fountains in the world having an altitude of 10km (33,000ft)
We got soaked while walking and running as you can see! A tip: be prepared to get soaked and be cold when you visit during the winter!
We then decided to see the old United Nations building.[Picture]
We also, played in the fountain across the street from the UN building.
It was coming to an end of a fun, adventurous weekend with the group of guys. We left at half past three to go back towards Mannheim, Germany. We had lunch in Freiburg at 19:00 where nothing was open since it was a Sunday. But we did find a restaurant, which wasn’t that good but it was food in our bellies!
Overall, the three days driving in Switzerland was an adventure with the three new friends that I met!