I’ve always been a fan of the city life. The lights, the people, the constant buzz that surrounds you wherever you are make me feel alive like nothing else. It’s a blessing sometimes, to be enveloped in the warm embrace of humanity, feeling as if the world could crumble and you wouldn’t be alone.
When you live in a city, especially a big one, you learn to shy away from the silence, the calm, scared it might break the little cage of sound that accompanies your every step and keeps you from having to spend too much time with your mind. Being with yourself can be a scary thing, you know? Especially when you feel like every step you take is a risk you don’t want to see lead to failure. Suffocating your thoughts with noise becomes a part of you that you’re afraid to let go of, scared they might be too much to take.
And yet, sometimes silence can be a good thing, like ice against a bruise that needs healing. Whenever I travel, I always make sure to get some alone time, to cope with the chaos in my head and revel in those minutes of mental silence. It helps me reflect on things which, however scary it might be, is ultimately good for yourself and can make you understand yourself better.
Going to Switzerland was one of those times where I managed to finally do that. At the end of my Erasmus period in the Netherlands, I embarked with my friends on a short trip to visit my now-ex flatmate from Rotterdam, whose home is in a small city (even though he says it’s big) just outside of Zürich. I had only been to Switzerland once by then, and only for about a day in Lucerne, so hardly a valuable trip for me. It was years ago as part of a school trip and I barely got to enjoy the city before we had to leave again, so I was really excited to have a second chance with my neighbouring country (after countless nationalistic fights with my flatmate on which one is better – it’s Italy by the way).
We stayed at his family’s second house in the mountains for a few days – in a little village called Ftan – which resides on the Swiss mountains close to the Eastern border. Now as mentioned in my previous post, all Italian kids are obsessed with this kids cartoon called Heidi, where a young Swiss girl has to leave her village to move in with her old grandpa up in the Alps. Having never been to a place like that and mostly having never seen so much snow all at once (except for when I was little and we used to go to the North of Italy in the winter – which I unfortunately don’t remember very well), I was understandably excited to finally see one of these little villages.
I have to say Ftan did not disappoint. I mean honestly there was SO MUCH SNOW. The kid in me was going mental. We got to the village pretty late at night – as our flight had landed in Basel around 8pm – so we didn’t get to see much of it then, which made it all the more impressive when I woke up the next morning and found myself staring at this beauty.
While my two other friends caught up with their sleeping, my Swiss friend and I set out on an adventure (for me at least) to get breakfast for everyone, which meant going through the village. I might or might not have mentioned in another post that I studied German in High School – and was also pretty decent at it – for about three years, which meant I could almost hold a 2 minute conversation with a toddler. However, moving to the UK and hardly practising the language for the last few years, I unfortunately lost most of my knowledge and can now hardly speak shit to put it bluntly.
One of the nicest thing about these villages – but I think any village in the world to be fair – is that everyone says hi to each other, greeting even strangers and smiling at everyone, which instantly puts you in a good mood. I asked my friend how to say the most basic greetings in Swiss German and then set off to say hi to everyone – which I felt very proud of mind you. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and I was having the time of my life.
The next couple of days we proceeded to move around with the car, going first to a Glacier and then ice skating – which I had never really done before. The glacier was magnificent as much as tiring, as what we thought would have been an hour walk turned into an over two hour one through the snow and the cold. The greatest thing about these places though – that I was mentioning at the beginning of the post – is the absolute silence that surrounds you, giving space to your mind to wander. As soon as we stopped speaking we could hear our own breathing and nothing else, which I found absolutely spectacular and made me wish I had taken my notebook with me to sit down and write.
Now our experience ice skating was a bit less of a fun time, in what quickly turned out to be one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. We decided to go to a place which I believe to be called Eisweg Engadin – although I am not sure – a 3 kilometer ice skating path which goes through the forest and eventually takes you back to the starting point. You can rent all the equipment there at the very reasonable price of 15 francs, which means ice skating boots ( I don’t even know what they’re called ) and a helmet for protection which, if you’re a beginner like me, you might really need. 😅
Safe to say things did not go well with me, as I soon realised my real life clumsiness gets a hundred times worse when I try to walk on ice. In short, my friend had to constantly baby sit me through the ice until 400 metres in, when I regrettably decided to give up. I would definitely try it again, but as a first time that was more than enough 😂 . I like to think I’m not the only one who fucked up this badly though.. Am I??
After the days in the mountains we moved towards civilisation and stayed one night in Winterthur – where my friend is from – to then move to Zürich the next and last day to catch our train. Winterthur is a pretty nice city although I did not get to see much of it since we arrived in the evening and departed the next day, however Zürich gave me joy as I finally had the chance to visit Cabaret Voltaire – where dadaism was born. It’s always cool to visit such history-loaded places, thinking that people once sitting at those tables actually started something which people still study on books to this day. It feels so powerful, you know?
To celebrate the ecstatic feeling, I opted for a nice lil cup of absinthe, which got me excited for its theoretical coffee and chocolate infused taste but eventually broke my heart as I could barely taste the flavours. Either way, a great way to celebrate the day and the visit to the bar, nicely ended with me buying the DADA tote bag (I am a big, big fan of tote bags) which made me even happier.
Now our last stop was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, if not THE highlight. You might or might not know that I am a vegetarian: I’ve been one for years now, roughly since I was sixteen (I am 21 now), so going out to eat is always a struggle as I constantly hammer the waiters asking if I can have meat-less dishes without having to confine myself to the salad section (what’s the point in eating out otherwise??). Therefore, when I found out that Zürich actually hosts the oldest vegetarian restaurant IN THE WORLD, I knew I had to go. My endless researches on Switzerland to prep myself for the trip paid off, as I practically begged my friends to take me to a place called Hiltl, founded in 1898 and in the heart of the city.
This restaurant was absolutely amazing. You can choose to either order dishes from the menu or pick your own favourites from the buffet downstairs, after which you pay the weight of your meal which roughly equals to 5 francs every 100g. Being a fan of buffets, I opted for the latter and filled up my place with anything I could find – it was so amazing to be able to get anything I wanted without worrying about it containing meat or fish, it honestly made me the happiest person alive. And I mean, food. Who doesn’t rejoice at the sight of it?
If you’re ever in Zürich, either vegetarian or not, I highly recommend this place. The food is really good and, being able to choose the buffet option, you don’t even need to wait for your dishes to arrive – they’re already there. Only tip is to make sure there’s seats, as apparently the place is usually fully booked (we got lucky as we had dinner extra early to catch the train later, so not too crowded).
Overall, it’s been a really good trip which allowed me to disconnect from the outside world for a bit. Having no data on our phones for most of the trip, we didn’t have to worry about anything and were able to fully enjoy the experience with no preoccupations, which was a nice change. While it’s nice to speak to the people you love, it’s also good sometimes to turn everything off and just enjoy the moment! This also meant the quantity of my photos and videos drastically decreased, for the disappointment of the audience: I am used to taking loads of clips for posterity, but this time I decided to just live in the present and leave that aside. Memories can be nice too without the need for visuals sometimes, right?
I also saw a shitload of snow, which I hadn’t seen in years, bringing back the child in me 👻. To me, it’s important wherever I go to have some alone time to chill and relax by myself. I fortunately managed to do that during this trip as well, going for a walk through the village while my friends were sleeping and even successfully talking to an elderly couple in German – definitely another highlight of the holiday 😎. Maybe my German isn’t that bad after all (yeah sure)!
My final thoughts after all this rambling is that Switzerland is a pretty cool country, with similar landscapes to the North of Italy but a totally different vibe. Considering the common view of it as a secluded little country in the mountains, it’s actually worth the trip and can offer some amazing sights as well as relaxation. If you’re ever in Europe, I suggest making a small stop over here – you won’t regret it! Just be wary of coffee – charging 5 francs for a fancy version of dirty water should be considered fraud in every state.
That said, I think this is all for today. As always, I hope you’re having an amazing day and I will see you at the next post.