Switzerland has been a dream destination of mine for quite some time, not for the skiing though (I would tumble my way down the piste into a hospital with multiple fractures if I ever gave that a go), but mostly for the gorgeous scenery and beautiful alpine waters, being in a true nature utopia.
This was one of many highlights on my trip around Europe, mostly because I got to do what has always been at the top of my bucket list… a skydive! To be able to do one here in Lauterbrunnen above all the trees, mountains and waterfalls was just mesmerising, it’s no surprise it’s one of the top 5 places in the world to take this leap! I’ve been up in a helicopter twice before but to know I’d be jumping out this time made it even more exciting! After a safety briefing and getting suited up in what I can only describe as prison jumpsuits (this just made the James Bond feeling grow as it was like we were the bad guys doing extreme stunts to get away), we headed for the skies…
Soaring past the waterfalls, above and through all the mountains is just an unreal sight you have to actually see with your own eyes. That moment my legs were hanging out of the chopper was the first time I felt my heart race a little as it suddenly hit me what I was about to do, something completely against your basic human instincts and throw yourself out of a high flying, fast moving piece of machinery and send yourself plummeting towards the ground from several thousand feet in the sky with nothing but a foreign guy and piece of material tied to you. Those first few seconds of plummeting felt unreal, just like I was having a dream but the pressure you feel against your body, particularly your face which in fact feels like your skin is being pulled off from behind you, soon snaps you back into the moment and you see all of the clouds passing through you as you soar past the granite cliffs and feel the spray of the waterfalls.
Being given control of the ropes once the parachute had opened did make me a little nervous as I could just imagine myself steering us a little too far the wrong way and ending up in a tree, but fortunately I landed safely on my backside at the finishing point. Bullseye!
This was only the start of my action packed day and it had definitely begun on a high note. After changing out of my prison gear back to civilian clothes I headed to the town’s train station where we took a slow (I mean snail paced kind of slow) train journey up the mountain to Jungfrau, also known as the Top of Europe.
You will be easily fooled by the climate up here; even though the sun is shining and you can actually get burnt, it’s just a thick layer of snow and is around -5 degrees so plenty of layers are needed. The view from up there is just immense, you can literally see through the valley for miles and you can get some damn good photos (I must say I got some pretty creative ones with a Toblerone bar). Take your time to take a tour around and admire the surroundings, visit the shop for souvenirs and stock up on Lindt chocolates from their store before taking the chilled (very chilly) train back down the mountain into the valley.
I was told on this trip that apparently all of the fences are put up around the mountains to stop the cows from falling down. This highly amused me but I can see the logic. Sticking with cows, I also learnt that Swiss chocolate tastes so good because the milk that is used as one of the ingredients is from the Swiss cows; the happiest cows in the world as they live among the Swiss who are the happiest people in the world…
A lot of people think of Switzerland and the alps as a skiing destination, but I thought it was great as a summer destination as well. It is ideal for nature lovers and active outdoor people; there are so many hiking and cycling trails, river rafting, helicopter flights for the adrenaline junkies and just so much forestry area that you can just relax and take some time out from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world. The name Lauterbrunnen translates to ‘many springs’ in German and it is easy to see why it was named a UNESCO Heritage site in 2001. With its 72 waterfalls pouring, anywhere you stand all you can hear is the sound of the water falling against the rocks and get the smell of flowers and the moist, crisp air just like you get after a thunderstorm literally gives you that breath of fresh air.
To get a sense of how magical this place is you should get your boots on and take a short walk through the caves behind one of the waterfalls as it not only gives you some pretty spectacular views but it also cools you down as the water sprays against you while looking out into the valley. Beautiful! What makes it feel real is as you walk through the valley you go past all of these traditional Swiss cottages, the kind that you see on postcards and can get little models of. It just makes the atmosphere seem so peaceful, it’s no wonder this is one of the happiest countries in the world! The landscape and the waterfall that lights up every night gives you the sense of being in another world, like in a movie, and camping out under the stars makes you wake up feeling totally at ease and chilled (that’s not because of how cold it is in the valley at night, I totally underestimated that and woke up like an icicle).
Now, you can’t go to Switzerland without thinking about all of the delicious food you can treat your tastebuds to. The first thing that comes to my mind is fondue! The glorious food of the Gods! Both cheese for main and chocolate for dessert, you can literally put anything on a stick, dip it in and just absorb the creamy and heavenly taste. The cheese fondue in particular you are more than likely to find on the menu in any restaurant here as it is a staple food of the area and you won’t find it as good as this anywhere else in the world so don’t be ashamed to give into temptation and don’t leave without getting your fix of creamy, cheesy goodness!
While I’m on the subject, something else you should try and what in particular makes a good breakfast is this little, famous dish known as the Rosti… kind of like a loaded, fried hash brown, it can’t be beaten and you can mix pretty much anything into it! And of course, you can’t go to Switzerland without coming away with an unnecessary pile of Toblerone and Lindt chocolates (but whether they make it home or not is another story).
Although the majority of people would choose to go to a Spanish or Greek island for their summer vacation I would urge you to consider something a little different like Switzerland as it is a totally different kettle of fish. You will come back with new memories of things you can never have imagined and is definitely a change to all those days lying on a beach day in day out. Step out of your comfort zone and fly into the unknown…