The Swiss Alps. My pictures will tell the story of our stay in the Alps.
Our tour guides were my cousin Magda and her husband Uli. Magda is from Greece but is currently living and working in Zurich as a professor. Uli is originally from Germany. They have a 2 year old son named Lennart who speaks German, Swiss German, and Greek. He is smarter than me and you.
We drove from Zurich to Saanen, which is more towards the western side of Switzerland. Our first views of the Alps had waterfalls and bright turquoise lakes nestled at the bottom of the mountains.
On our way to the Steigenberg Hotel, we stopped at a canyon to let the kids run around the playground (which had a teeter totter that I 100% loved using), and we hiked through the canyon as well.
The hotel was probably one of the best I’ve ever stayed at. You know how when you book a hotel online and the pictures look wonderful and you think, “Wow this looks awesome!”, and then you arrive and realize they just spruced up the place for the pictures and it’s really a shit hole? Well, this was the opposite. The pictures were amazing looking online, but in person it was 100x more beautiful.
The view of the Alps from the lobby and from our balcony were spectacular. The pictures do it no justice.
They served the best breakfast buffet known to mankind. They had everything you could possibly want to eat- cereal, 4 minute and 8 minute and scrambled eggs, a large variety of Swiss cheeses, deli meats, smoked salmon, a jam bar, a tea bar, a juice bar, a crepe bar….I could keep going but I think you get the idea.
On our first night, we drove to the next town over called Gstaad. It was very quiet and pretty empty because summer is the low season. During the winter time, Gstaad is known to be a ritzy, fancy ski resort town. Our reason for being there was fondue.
Our fondue was a mixture of Gruyere cheese and another kind of Alpine cheese that I can’t remember because dinners are extremely chaotic and distracting having a 1 and 2 year old at the table.
It was served with bread, boiled potatoes, apples, and kiwis. They also had the option of having dried meats with it too. When the cheese is gone, everyone fights for the burnt cheese that is stuck to the bottom of the pot. It is a pain in the ass to get off but oh so worth it. The only way to describe it is like a somewhat hard, burnt tasting cheese cracker?? I promise it is good.
After we ate each morning, we let the kiddies play in the indoor pool that overlooked the Alps and then would head out for an excursion.
This little Alpine town is something you see everywhere you go. They all have one church or bell tower with a clock on it with the town surrounding it. The farms that are on the outlying edges of the towns serve two purposes- one is to farm and produce dairy and agriculture products obviously, but the other purpose they serve is to keep cows, goats, and sheep grazing on the grass to keep the fields looking like fields. In other words, they are landscape architects. The reason why the Alps are so beautiful is because the mountains are so diverse with scenery. There are all sorts of trees and flowers, but there are also large green fields and beautifully constructed Alpine homes and buildings. The Swiss government subsidizes these farmers to keep the country looking beautiful, and produce some of the world’s best dairy products.
Uli did his Ph.D. in Fribourg, so he took us to the town to show us around. Fribourg is somewhat built in and around a canyon, so there are buildings and houses on the top part and on the bottom. There is also a river that runs through it. Uli knows everything about the places he visits and lives, so having him show us around was an educational experience. His friends call him “The man who knows something about everything”.
Like all Swiss towns, Fribourg has a lovely little bell tower too. We walked from the top to the bottom of the city, and the view from the top of the city was just spectacular. You could see the surrounding mountains, the roof tops of the city, and all of the fields and farms nearby.
After we left Fribourg, we drove to the town of Gruyere, like the cheese. It is perched on top of a hill and surrounded by fortress-like walls. When we first entered the town, we could smell Gruyere billowing out from all of the restaurants. My first order of business was to buy some Swiss chocolate.
I am not a huge fan of meringues, but these have the perfect balance of sweetness, softness, crunchiness, egg-iness, and the bottoms have some caramelized sugar that gives it a subtle burnt flavor and it is just an explosion of yum in your mouth. I am determined to recreate these when I get home. Meringues are a popular specialty of this area of Switzerland.
We only went to Gruyere to have dinner. Our original plan was to go on a gruyere cheese and chocolate making tour, but we spent the day in Fribourg and the kids were on the verge of exploding…the usual. Dave and I already agreed that we are definitely coming back to Switzerland for our 10 year anniversary, so maybe we’ll do the cheese making tour then.
We ate at a Swiss restaurant called Le Chalet.
Magda and I shared a traditional Raclette. It is just like fondue, but you use a different method to get the melted cheese. The raclette is served using a contraption that has a heating element on top and a tray below it. The tray holds a big ol block of gruyere cheese, and it is served with bread, boiled potatoes, dried meats, apples, etc.. The tray swings out so that the raclette eaters can scrap away the melted cheese.
So after we were all cheesed out, on our last day we drove through a town called Sarnen and had more cheese.
I had Alp Potatoes covered with ham, melted Swiss cheese and a fried egg. The kids shared a dish called Winnie Pooh (lol at the cute and quirky American names they use for different things in Europe), and it was a veal cutlet that was breaded and fried, served with noodles in a mushroom sauce. It was really good and it crossed my mind that you would never find something as elegant as that dish on a children’s menu in the U.S.
After our lunch, we went to the top of Mount Pilatus. We took a train to the top which cost 70 Swiss Franc per person (yikes!!) and is also the world’s steepest train ride. It only took 30 minutes to get to the top and it was pretty amazing to see the transition of the scenery go from green, flowery fields to barren rocky terrain.
When we got to the top and got off the train, we had to climb maybe 10-15 stairs to get to the platform. Being 6,500 feet above sea level made this a very difficult task. I was so out of breath after climbing the stairs, it was pathetic!
On our way up, we saw some wild Capricorn which I didn’t even know existed as animals until now. I thought Capricorn was just a zodiac sign.
On one side of the mountain, you see the snow covered Alps and on the other side you see flatter land and the city of Lucerne. I spotted a little chapel sitting on the edge of a cliff. I have no idea the who/what/where/when of it, but how does anyone get to it without dying?
Everything about Switzerland was beyond perfect. It was everything I pictured in my head it would be and more. I felt like I was in a Utopian place and did not want to leave.
I would highly recommend going to Switzerland in the summer to see the lush green landscape. We loved staying in the western part of the country and got to enjoy both the German and French speaking parts. The hotel exceeded our expectations and I can’t wait to go back for our 10 year anniversary!