Switzerland: Where the Wasser and Schokolade are purer
Ah Switzerland, the birthplace of the Red Cross. The country is made up of four linguistic regions: German, French, Italian and Romansch. Not only are the Swizz multi-linguistic they also have the highest wealth per capita. Non-nationals make up to 23.3% of the population.
60% of Switzerland is mountainous - made up by the Swiss Alps and the Jura Mountains. 48 mountains in Switzerland are 4km or taller. The country also contains up to 1500 lakes, which comprise 6% of the European landmasses fresh water. These lakes in conjunction with glaciers, make up another 6% of the landmass of Switzerand.
Switzerland is famous for Alphorns, Yodelling, Fondues, Raclette, Cow-bells, Rosti, Toblerone Swiss Chocolates (apparently helps with altitude sickness), Bircher Muesli and lagers.
From Paris we travelled past Lyon, Bern, through Interlaken up to the beautiful town of Lauterbrunnen set amongst a steep valley filled with waterfalls.
The very name ‘Lauter Brunnen’ (‘many fountains’) even implies the beauty of this landscape. There are 72 waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley alone, the most famous being the Staubbach Falls. Plunging almost 300 metres from an overhanging rock face, they are one of the highest free-falling waterfalls in Europe.
The valley town of Lauterbrunnen (at 795 masl) is the starting point for some of the best known day-trips up to the Jungfrau region. A rack railway links Lauterbrunnen with the sunny terrace-town of Wengen on the eastern flank of the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Kleinen Scheidegg, the station where you change trains for the onward journey to the Jungfraujoch - the Top of Europe.
Jungfraujoch is a the name of a saddle in the Bernese Alps, connecting the two peaks Jungfrau and Mönch, at an elevation of 3,466 metres above sea level. It is a glacial saddle, on is situated on the upper reaches of the Aletsch Glacier. The Jungfraujoch railway station, at an elevation of 3,454 metres, is the highest in Europe. You definitely need your Toblerone whilst travelling in the tunnels through the mountains. It lies below the Sphinx station, and is connected to the Top of Europe building - which includes panoramic restaurants, cafes and a post office - why so Swiss?
Several tunnels lead outside, where secured hiking trails on the crevassed glacier can be followed, in particular to the Mönchsjoch Hut. Along this track is a mountain peak, in front of which a lot of tourists love to take nudie pics - some of our crew managed a shot. There is even a bar outside, with some deck-chairs to enjoy the view. No need to keep your beers cold either - the snow is a very good insulator. Perfect for the local lager - Rugen Brau.
The Sphinx Observatory, one of the highest astronomical observatories in the world, provides an additional viewing platform at a height of 3,572 metres. It can be reached by an elevator from the Jungfraujoch. The observatory houses one of the Global Atmosphere Watch's atmospheric research stations.
To top it all off the 'Top of Europe' boasts its very own ice-gallery.
Lauterbrunnen town itself is just amazing. A group of us visited the Swiss Army Knife store - A cultural icon of Switzerland, the design of the knife and its versatility have both led to worldwide recognition. These knives typically have a main blade, as well as other tools, including screwdrivers, can openers, amongst others. These gadgets are then safely stowed inside the handle of the knife through a pivot point mechanism
Whilst in Lauterbrunnen we also tasted the influences of German, Italian and French cuisines within the Swiss delicacies. Swiss meals are quite simple and consist of potatoes, pasta, bread or cheese. Fondue is the most well-known Swiss dish and is made out of melted cheese. It is eaten by dipping small pieces of bread or potatoes in the melted cheese. Chocolate Fondue's fore-fathers. And you all know Potato Rosti's? These were typically eaten for breakfast in Switzerland - until Birchermuslei came along. Swiss love Mac & Cheese for dinner - maybe next time you are craving it, claim that you are Swiss?
The best thing about Switzerland - the cleanliness of the water. Where else could you chill your beers in a glacial stream? Or even just scoop some water out of a river to quench your thirst?
Before I forget - I must impart my knowledge on the history of yodelling.
So there was a weary traveller lost amongst the Swiss Alps, when he stumbled across a farmer. This farmer luckily took him into his hut, where the traveller was greeted by the farmers wife and daughter. The farmer provided the traveller with some warm soup and a bed with cosy blankets. During the middle of the night, the traveller had to get up to go to the bathroom, on his way back he was stopped by the farmers daughter waiting seductively at the door - she lured him into her room and that was that. The traveller made sure not to make any noise and snuck back to the bed that had so graciously been offered to him. A few hours later, the traveller again had to go to the bathroom. Upon his return, the farmers wife was lying on his bed in the nude awaiting him. It was fast and frisky, but soon after the deed the wife slunk back to her room. In the morning, the traveller got up briskly - knowing that he would have outworn his welcome, and decided to leave. The farmer caught him in the act and was very upset with the traveller... 'Why you! Why did you have to fuck my daughter'. Running away in the distance, the traveller yelled back 'Andddd yooourrrr laddyyyy tooooo!'.*
It was in Lauterbrunnen too, that my brother and I trialled our onesies with our names embroidered on the back. It was meant to be a secret until we got these out, but our tour group quickly figured out that we knew each other pre-tour and the only surprise was the wicked-onesies. Which were excellent for keeping toasty whilst camping in Switzerland in Summer - Yep its pretty freaking cold.