We flew over the Swiss Alps and glided down the sparkling Lake Geneva laced with wooden cottages, only to land within a few minutes in cloudy Geneva, Switzerland. The moment our foot was out of the airplane, the cold breeze hit us, and we knew, we had touched down in Europe. From 40 to 4 degrees, the drop in temperature felt like pure bliss.
We had an immediate train to Interlaken via Bern, and were mortified that there was just a 6 minute time gap to switch platforms. So as our practice for Indian local trains goes, we pushed through the crowd with our bags and dashed into the train only to realize we had 2 minutes to spare. The process was so smooth due to clear directions and instructions on the platform. From then on we learnt that this country had tremendous value for one’s time and we were never worried. Whether it be Switzerland or Paris, their Public Transportation is extremely efficient. Every second is taken into consideration and every single bus, train, etc. is right on schedule. In the small cities of Switzerland, it takes you about a day to figure out their entire transport system. After that, moving around is a piece of cake.
We longed to see the European beauty and that was the first thing that we noticed. Interlaken welcomed us with lush green carpets with grazing cows, snow-clad peaks, vintage houses with the brightest blooming flowers, lakes and so much more. And since we were travelling on our own, we had the leisure to spend hours appreciating the surreal beauty. The creative and aesthetic sense is ingrained in each individual person and so every home.
The experience to the Top of Europe- the Jungfraujoch Peak (11,371 ft.) was more than thrilling, but it was crammed with tourists. Even though we enjoyed playing in the magnificent snow, the real splendor lay in the small villages down below.
We were loving their country, but it lacks a certain warmth which is felt in our own. Though the people there do help you when needed, they have a tendency to look down at foreigners, especially if we do not speak their native language. So when we hunt down an Indian restaurant after getting tired of their sandwiches and other foods bland to our palate, we expected some brotherly treatment, but were sadly disappointed by the indifference displayed by the Indian owner to his own people.
After experiencing the magical land of Interlaken, Luzern city suddenly felt very commercial to us, though we enjoyed the boat cruises and walks on the Kapellbrücke. The same applied to Paris. Paris- a City of Lights, felt much like Mumbai at first sight. Crowded and Chaotic. However, the TGV train that ran at a speed touching 330 km/hr, took us from Basel, Switzerland to Paris. An experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Other than the Eiffel Tower, Arch de Triomphe, Louvre museum and other mesmerizing structures, Paris is adorned with stunning old buildings, sculptures and monuments. For those who love high end shopping, Champs-Élysées is your paradise.
You do grow to love their fast paced lives in their underground metros in just a few days. These places had a unique feel to them that made the departure so much harder. You just have to love it.
Switzerland is blessed with God-given natural benefits. After seeing their massive fresh-water lakes for two weeks which constantly get refilled by the downpour, it was very disheartening to see the dry, slum-covered landscape while landing in Mumbai. But nevertheless, we felt proud when the airhostess announced, ‘All Indian Passengers flying with us, Welcome Home!’
It was a fabulous experience, and the first vadapaav after hitting the Highway to Pune put a cherry on the top.
Things to remember-
- Buy the Swiss Pass for Switzerland which gives you access to every transport facility, including boat cruises.
- After trying all their delicacies, you do miss our food (especially the vegetarians), so carry instant food packets from home. Buy small yogurt packs and bananas from their local stores to have during outings.
- Carry an umbrella and a jacket at all times as it may start raining anytime.
- Book all your tickets (eg. Disneyland, Louvre, etc.) from India itself to avoid the painfully huge lines there.
- Grab their local maps and explore adjoining cities on adventure sprees.
In the end, we came back with a bucket full of memories to last us a lifetime. And though India welcomed us back home, we carried a little piece of the beautiful Europe with us!