I fell in love this summer. I got drunk on Italian white wine and fat with Swiss cheese and French bread. I accidentally sunburned so badly that I’m sure I have scars on my shoulders.
The 36 degree sun was not kind to my pale English skin, and even SPF50 couldn’t save me. I spent two weeks in Cottens, Switzerland, layering on the after sun and sun block, hoping I’d miraculously produce some melanin – but alas, it was not to be.
During the days, I dipped in and out of the 26 degree pool with my cousins to cool down, and gushed about how amazing their lives were. At night, I sat in the garden or on the patio with my aunt and uncle, drinking copious amounts of wine (which I will deny to any medical professionals) usually followed by dinner at around 8 or 9pm. The food is out of this world. I’m not certain if it’s my familiarity with eating like a student or the masses of processed food we shovel down at 6pm in England, but food in Switzerland is amazing.
My favourite part of my time in Switzerland, was without a doubt the Alps. We went to a very affluent town called Montreux for the day, and the view of the Alps from the Montreux side of Lake Leman, is probably the most breathtaking I’ve ever seen. Until that point, the closest thing to a mountain I’d ever seen was Roseberry Topping in good old Yorkshire. The Alps are awe-inspiring. Being an adventure-hungry 20 year old, I wanted to get on my hiking boots and dive in.
I visited Bern with my cousins during a weekday. We explored the city, went to the market, found an amazing international vinyl merchant who had the coolest records ever – and we bought a couple for my uncle, who is a massive metalhead. We got each other friendship bracelets – mine is red, white and blue. We spent a lot of time in Fribourg. My second favourite view of Switzerland was either the mountains from the metro between Cottens and Fribourg, or Old Town, in Fribourg. Old Town is a stunning concatenation of boutique shops and shuttered maisons, all surrounded by trees and greenery, directly under the sun.
For young people, there’s a system of things in place – something a little like a youth club, called a jeunesse, in each town. I wasn’t a member, but my cousin took me and introduced me to her friends, telling them I didn’t speak a word of French. I do speak a little French, and I’m working on it, but I wasn’t particularly confident – which was mirrored by most of the Swiss teenagers. A lovely girl I was introduced to wanted to work on her English, so we compromised and mixed the two. Everyone was braver after a few drinks and we challenged the language barrier. (Side note: the legal drinking age is 16 for beer and wine, and 18 for spirits, and we were allowed to drink unsupervised.)
The jeunesse we attended hosted a party in the woods while I was there. It was fantastically put together, with a marquee bar, DJ and dance floor, and portable toilets. These clubs are all funded by events the members host, which I think is fantastic.
The Swiss are justifiably proud of their beautiful country; their public transport is immaculately clean and always on time, they recycle everything they possibly can, and their countryside is stunning. The Swiss are also responsible for cheese and chocolate, which are my two main pleasures in life.
My only grievances about Switzerland are that they don’t queue (I have never witnessed this and I felt like a barbarian) and how expensive everything seemed to be.
I am eternally grateful to my wonderful family for generously inviting me into their world, and showing me such an amazing place. I can hardly wait to have more adventures. I have bought a map of the world, and I will colour in the places I’ve been. I will keep you posted!