Everything you need to know about Switzerland!
So, that time is fast approaching once again, when exams are over, you can pack up your books and leave the academic world behind for a couple of months. But the question is, what to do with all that free time on your hands? What can you be doing instead of agonizing over essay deadlines and statistic problems?
Well, the summer’s always a great time to apply for a job so you can earn a little extra money that I’m sure will be much appreciated once September rolls around again! However, going straight into work from the pressure of exams may not exactly be everyone’s cup of tea…Anyone can relate to that need to unwind and have a little fun first, and what better way to spend those long Summer days than travelling?
Exploring new places is a fantastic way to broaden your horizons and learn about different people and places whilst gaining a little more life experience – because we all know travel has its hiccups (especially when travelling without the bank of mum and dad)! As long as you can be flexible and take any unexpected turns in your stride (surely there’s always a great story there waiting to be told later), you’ll be sure to have a great time. So, the only question that remains is: where to go?
Why not start with my home country, Switzerland. It’s in mainland Europe and really quite small so it’s not too overwhelming but I promise, there is plenty to see and do. Despite its renown as a place to go in Winter, for skiing and mountain activities, it’s actually also an amazing place to visit in Summer, don’t be fooled.
Here’s a wee fact file that might be helpful:
Language(s): There are actually five official languages but the two most commonly spoken are French and German
Currency: The Swiss Franc (CHF) – almost on a par with the Euro at the moment
Places to visit: Personally, my favourite region is the Suisse Romande, which is French speaking and the part of the country that borders Lake Geneva and its near surroundings. Some of the most popular and idyllic towns to visit in the region are Montreux, Lausanne and Vevey.
- Montreux: a beautifully maintained lakeside town boasting one of an extremely rich Jazz history. It actually holds one of Europe’s most popular music festivals, the Montreux Jazz, for a fortnight in early July (01.07.16 – 16.07.16) The Chateau de Chillon is its own medieval castle on the lake that is open to visitors The Freddie Mercury statue is a must to have your photo taken with, everyone wants a picture with Freddie!
- Vevey and Lausanne: other lakeside towns with idyllic old towns and side streets for getting lost in and also the places to go for a spot of shopping (although it often isn’t too cheap and don’t expect as many shops as in the UK!) >You can get ice-cream down by the lake and do some lake activities like going out on pedalos, paddle boarding or just plain swimming. There are plenty of grassy areas to lay down and sunbathe on the shores. There are also many BBQ areas if you’re a keen King/Queen of the Grill.
- CGN: these are the big lake boats that travel all around the lake between Switzerland and France, perfect for a day trip to Evian across the water and a day trip out.
- Geneva: famous for its enormous water jet (be wary which way the wind is blowing or you might get wet)
- Cailler chocolate factory: this is a personal favourite, set in the mountain region around Chateau D’oex, you’ll find this amazing gem where you can guzzle enough complimentary, free chocolate that you’ll wish you hadn’t by the end.
- Whether you’re a hiker or not, it is definitely worth taking yourself on a walk in Switzerland because the views will never disappoint (try the Dents de Jaman/Midi for a challenge, or do the Pléïades or any trails around Gstaad and Chateau D’oex.
- Thermal baths: even in summer, these hit the spot…bubbles, warm water and steam rooms, what more could you want after a tough day of walking the mountain trails?
Food to try:
• Spaetzlï: now this is hard to describe but trust me, should you order some, it will be amazing
• Fondue/Raclette: traditional cheese dishes, maybe wear sweatpants before you indulge
• Rösti: a grated potato side dish that is also delicious
• Meringues and double cream: (from the dairy if possible) heaven in a dessert. Enough said.
Tips and tricks for an even better stay:
• Switzerland is famously expensive, so try and save yourself some cash when you can by walking places. Public transport is expensive and when the country is so beautiful, why not go on a wander, appreciate the beauty of the area instead
• In a restaurant, order a “carafe d’eau” or jug of water and it should come free
• Most things aren’t open on a Sunday so be sure to check opening hours before planning anything
• Learn some key phrases in French and German – it makes everything that little bit simpler
• If you’d like to shop in a supermarket, MIGROS is probably the cheapest but still good quality (or ALDI)
• Eat lots of Swiss chocolate and be prepared to take a lot of photos (especially of the lake on a good day)
• Enjoy your stay!
Katie Harwood, 19. English Literature student.