I broke up with Starbucks several months ago, and I certainly had no intention of rekindling the flame while in Europe. As it happens, however, Switzerland is a country so quaint that everything closes to observe an actual day of rest on Sunday, and Lucerne, a city of roughly 80,000 residents, is shuttered up like a ghost town. The only exceptions are a few little shops on the lakeshore geared towards tourists, including (of course) Starbucks, the only open business with a public bathroom.
So here I am, breaking my resolutions, firstly so that I don’t appear rude after using the facilities, but also because a girl can get homesick! And writing a blog post seems like a fitting break between my morning of driving through the mountains and another long stretch of driving ahead for me this afternoon.
My impression of Switzerland is that this place is nothing short of magical. Long before the landscapes of New Zealand became the commonly accepted setting for Lord of the Rings, I read the books and imagined a very specific landscape and feeling for Middle Earth, and my experiences in Switzerland have matched my imagination almost perfectly!
Here are a few of my favorite things that I experienced yesterday:
** Waking up in the morning to purrs, licks and happy paws made by two cartoonishly adorable cats who were clever enough to open my bedroom door using the handle. Here’s one of them, check out those eyes!
** Being invited to breakfast by Christophe, one of my hosts, on what has to be the most awesome rooftop deck in the history of ever, with gorgeous mountain peaks visible in every direction.
** Exploring a village near Thun that has the same name as my family surname. Coincidence or long lost ancestral homeland? The cows did not have an answer …
** Driving around the Thunersee (or Lake Thun in English) with the most immaculately clean and crystal blue waters, surrounded by quaint countryside and snow capped mountains.
** Interrupting the lakeside drive to explore the towns and countryside along the shore, such as Interlaken and Spiez, or this quintessentially Swiss farmland somewhere between the two:
** Returning to Thun and taking a long walk through their lakeshore park, and enjoying their adorable town and tiny castle.
** Looking for a grocery store on Saturday afternoon to buy food for dinner, and discovering everything closes at 3:00 pm so people can get started with their family time and day of rest a bit in advance of Sunday, awwww… And when my hosts, Sonja and Christophe, took pity on me for not knowing how early the stores would close, being invited to share an awesome, fun and delicious vegan dinner with them. Sonja even shared with me her recipe for an amazing cashew lemon saffron sauce that we ate with grilled vegetables, I will share it with you soon!
Although the landscapes did leave me ooh-ing and ahh-ing and sometimes even loudly exclaiming “wow!” – I think the best thing about Switzerland is just how gentle and rational all the people I met have been, with a low-key but ever present sense of humor, and a deep feeling of kindness when they speak to you.
I’ve spent less than 48 hours in Switzerland so far, and I already have the sense that to be born Swiss is something like winning the lottery. I’m sure life in Switzerland, as anywhere, has its ups and downs, its frustrations, heartbreaks and disappointments, but what a stage on which to live the human drama!
I would have loved to continue on with my plan to view more alpine wonderlands in Switzerland, Austria and finally Slovenia, but I discovered to my great dismay that I am forbidden from bringing my rental car into Slovenia. Big sad face! I strongly considered traveling into Austria anyway and then diverting north into Germany instead of south into Slovenia, but with rain in the forecast today and who knows how many days before the rain turns to snow, I decided it was a better plan to steer my little roller skate southwards into warmer climates, so Italy here I come!