Day 183-186: Munich, Germany
After a ten hour bus ride from Croatia, we arrived in Munich and experienced our first taste of the madness that is Oktoberfest.
I’m not much of a beer drinker, but this event is one of those bucket list items and something Lucas had been wanting to do for years. A few friends from back home flew out to join us, which made it that much better. It’s always so nice to see familiar faces after you’ve been away from home for so long.
I won’t go into too much detail since this post is about Switzerland (feel free to shoot me a message if you have any questions about the event), but it was a few days of good times and eating nothing but giant pretzels (they are SO good). Munich is a place I’d love to visit again around Christmastime when it’s decorated with lights and garlands and snow… it would be a life size replica of the mini Christmas village set we had growing up. One day 😉
Back to the road trip!
Day 187: Zurich, Switzerland
Two of our friends caught a flight out of Germany, but one stayed behind to join us for a few days in Switzerland. We had planned to spend a week driving around the country, with Zurich being our first stop.
Zurich is your typical big Swiss city—situated on a river, clean and quiet, and outrageously expensive. Starving after our long day of travel from Munich, we eyed each menu as we walked towards our hostel, skipping every $30 burger and $20 side salad. No surprise coming from the wealthiest city in Europe.
While we enjoyed the pleasant environment and crisp fall air, we didn’t come to Switzerland for its metropolitan areas. After a brief night in the city, we grabbed the keys to our freedom-mobile and headed for the mountains. For many countries, renting a car is the best way to explore, and Switzerland is no exception. The country is known for its having some of the most scenic train rides in the world, which we originally considered using instead, but those don’t go everywhere and they’re quite expensive. With an average cost of around $70 per day (including gas), renting a car (at least when there’s no snow on the roads) is a no brainer.
Day 188: Lake Lucerne > Lungern > Interlaken
Although Switzerland is small enough to drive from one side to the other in just a few hours, we had only a week to spend and too many places pinned on our map. We also had to drop our friend off at the Basel airport midway through, which meant we had to skip the southeastern portion of the country *cue the sad violins*
Not wanting to waste any time, we headed south towards Interlaken, passing through the lake regions of Lucerne and Lungern.
If we weren’t convinced before, these photos prove that the $1500 drone investment was worth every penny (and apparently they dropped the price!)
This gem of a village on Lake Lucerne (with no name on our map) had friendly goat photobombers:
And then there’s this one, just outside of Lungern:
The first thing you notice when in the countryside of Switzerland are the bells. All of the animals—the cows, sheep and goats—are outfitted with large bells around their necks. You can hear the distant ringing 24/7. It’s incredibly charming.
Day 1 of our road trip ended in Interlaken—a town nestled between two lakes.
The clouds cleared enough to reveal a cotton candy pink sky—a picture perfect backdrop for the countless paragliders floating about.
Paragliding is hugely popular in Switzerland—the sound of helicopters, and parachutes in the sky are about as common as birds in some places.
I can only imagine how incredible the view looks from above if this is how it looks from below.
^This was the view from our hostel. We paid $31 per bed in a dorm room with less than sanitary and comfortable conditions (think black mold in the shower, hard beds and multiple loud snorers)—but that’s the tradeoff for affordability in Switzerland.
Day 189: Lauterbrunnen > Thun > Bern > Basel
The next day, we found ourselves a short drive south of Interlaken—in the storybook land known as Lauterbrunnen.
I had pinned this location after seeing it all over Instagram… and it truly is the mecca of Switzerland. I can’t imagine it gets much better than this.
We climbed underneath a waterfall, watched the sunlight pierce the clouds to reveal a forest of orange and red trees, and I learned by accident that electric fences are no joke while trying to call a sheep over.
But man, it was worth it.
By the way—our drone takes some incredible photos, but you can also get pretty epic shots with an iphone as well. More than half the photos from this trip were from my iphone 6s plus, and I’ve taken a few comparison shots to illustrate the differences.
The iphone’s colors are less saturated and there’s less detail, which is a look that some people actually prefer. The biggest difference, of course, is the ability to shoot in raw and the flexibility that allows you in editing. For scenarios like portraits, interiors or up close subjects, you’d certainly need an SLR/4k equivalent for professional results, but I find that for landscape/outdoor shots (aside from an aerial perspective of course), I reach for my phone more often than not. I haven’t even taken my DSLR out of the bag since Greece.
Here’s a couple more examples… pretty dang close, no?
But back to Lauterbrunnen. My biggest regret is not being able to stay there longer—it was my favorite place we visited in Switzerland. If you’ve ever been to Yosemite National Park, the similarities are pretty striking, with steep cliffs and cascading waterfalls surrounding a narrow valley, and snow capped mountains in the distance. Except in Yosemite you don’t have pastures with cows and sheep in bells, with historic chalets and barns every few acres. Lauterbrunnen wins.
As much as I wanted to stay, daylight was wasting and we had to make it to Basel by nightfall, so we found another village by the name of Grindelwald, just ten miles to the east.
Another incredibly picturesque valley town, though much larger and less quaint than Lauterbrunnen.
We decided it wasn’t worth the $60 cable car ride to the top of the mountain (highway robbery) and set the drone out to get the views for us.
We ate a lunch of fruit, cheese and crackers in the parking lot (this was what we survived on all week to save money) before making our way back north.
After passing back through Interlaken, we stopped by the St. Beatus-Höhlen caves on the north side of Lake Thun.
The water level was on the low side so the waterfalls weren’t too impressive, and we spent an hour touring the caves inside the mountain after the mischievous gnome convinced us to go in.
By the time we emerged it was drizzling outside, so we made one more brief stop in the towns of Oberhofen and Thun to see the famous castles.
A successful Day 2 had come to an end, and we couldn’t wait to see what Day 3 had in store as we woke up before dawn for a full day of exploration.
Day 190: Gruyères > Zermatt
After dropping our friend off at the Basel airport on the border of France and Germany, it was back to just the two of us. We loved spending a week with our friends, but there’s a different dynamic traveling with only your partner, and we were ready for that again. After 190 days together with no breaks, we’ve only grown stronger… now that is true love 😉
Being in one of the most romantic places in the world doesn’t hurt either. Some might prefer exotic beaches or tropical islands… but there’s something about these towering mountains and chilly fall air that gives Switzerland the edge in the romance department. If you’re looking for a honeymoon destination that isn’t your typical beach locale, I’d put the Swiss alps on your radar.
Note that only the alps only run through the south of Switzerland, so if you’re thinking of coming here for the mountains (as you should), skip the north altogether.
After a couple hours on the road headed back towards the alps, the landscape began to become more mountainous, and the signs more… French. Just like the north of Italy may as well be Austria, the west part of Switzerland is indistinguishable from France.
Our first stop was in the town of Gruyères, famous for its gruyère cheese.
There’s an old walled village with a castle, which was dramatically revealed as we drove in through the valley, sitting atop a ridge surrounded by low lying clouds and pastures of cows.
For an hour we were transported back to our time in France, wandering through the old village of folks selling croissants and exchanging Bonjour’s and Merci’s.
But we couldn’t stay long, because the Matterhorn was waiting.
Out of all the pins I marked for this trip, I was most looking forward to seeing the Matterhorn. Perhaps partly due to fond memories of riding the attraction at Disney as a child, but also because I’m just a sucker for a good mountain. My friends—The Matterhorn delivered.
The town of Zermatt is the closest you can get to the mountain (without hiking to it, of course) so we booked an AirBnb with an unobstructed view. It’s a car-less town, so we parked in the nearest village of Täsch and took the train in.
Our AirBnb room (shared in a chalet with other rooms) is normally around $150/night but we had a $100 credit in our account. Best $50 ever spent.
We really lucked out on the weather—it had been cloudy all week, but the day we arrived the sun finally peaked out to reveal the mountain. The king sized bed and comforter were heavenly, and crawled out of bed only once to for a tasty Swiss dinner of raclette, cooked by our hosts.
Watching the sun set and rise over the mountain from our window was truly the most special experience during our time in Switzerland—and one of the most memorable from this entire trip. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, I urge you to not to miss this.
Another regret of mine is not being able to spend more time here. I would have loved to taken a cable car or hike closer to the mountain, but the day we left it was raining and we couldn’t afford to spend two more days in one location. Sadly, we had to say our goodbyes from the window of the train on the way back to Täsch.
Day 191: Zeneggen > Saint-Jean > La Gouille
Once reunited with our car, we decided to take a leisurely drive through the back roads to see what other small villages we could discover. Zeneggen was our first stop.
The winding, narrow switchbacks along the steep mountain were worth it. Behold, Switzerland in its full fall glory:
We parked the car and wandered through the villages one main road, without a single soul in sight… except this gang of llamas:
This one is my spirit animal:
And this posse of cows:
One of my favorite stops, for sure.
We made a quick detour through the next valley of Saint-Jean, then finally over to our final destination of La Gouille.
Apart from the beautiful fall colors, the great thing about visiting Switzerland in the fall is that it’s the off season, which means very few visitors. We only made contact with a few humans during the entire 24 hour period after leaving Zermatt.
I hope it stays this peaceful and untouched forever.
Day 192: Sion > Bagnes
Day 5 began with a dramatic view of the two castles of Sion, a larger city along the Rhone valley:
The sky dried up just long enough for us to snap a couple closeups from the air:
Our Airbnb for the night was located in Bagnes, in a valley at the base of the famous ski town of Verbier. It was easily one of our favorite places yet, and affordable too.
We spent the afternoon wandering around town, admiring the French chateaus and autumn landscape.
The clouds finally cleared out and we were able to get a birds eye view over the valley (just wait for the video!)
We cooked our own dinner and enjoyed it on the patio as the sun lit up the snow capped glaciers in the distance. It was our last night in the alps, and we soaked up every minute.
Day 193: Verbier > Aigle > Rivaz > Geneva
On our last day in Switzerland, we first made a quick stop in Verbier, which has an expansive view of the valley and mountains to the west.
Then it was all downhill from there—literally, not figuratively 😉
We passed the Pissevache waterfall, just north of Martigny (it was 60° and sunny at this point):
Then we took a detour in the town of Aigle, which fell on our radar after seeing a majestic castle surrounded by a vineyard. It was even more beautiful in person.
The whole village was almost too perfect for words. Red and golden leaves fell from the sky as we passed little French speaking children laughing and playing in the streets.
Each home had its own private vineyard and garden, and as we passed one with a For Sale sign I imagined us moving here. We’d immediately bear five children who each played a different instrument, spoke four different languages, wore ruffled dresses and leiderhosen and began and ended each sentence with “please” and “thank you”, respectively. Surely that’s what every Swiss family is like, right?
A girl can dream.
We continued north along Lake Geneva, which shares a border with France. A viewpoint sign caught our eye, so we pulled off the main road into the village of Rivaz.
Another picturesque little French-Swiss town, with vineyards and views for miles.
As late afternoon approached, it was time to end our Switzerland adventure and return the car to the Geneva airport. In a matter of hours we’d be on a completely different continent, exploring the wildly contrasting African country of Morocco. As always, a bittersweet ending to what was an unforgettable experience.
Switzerland, thank you for the fond memories. We can’t wait to come back for more!
Stay tuned for the upcoming video of our week long road trip, and check out my instagram stories for the current sensory overload we’re experiencing in Morocco. This place is the polar opposite of Switzerland, and there’s so much to share I can hardly keep up.
Only six more weeks left of this trip around the world…