This is the country where both my happiest and unhappiest moments in my entire Europe trip happened. It is also the country that left me with the most lasting impression and the one that gave me the most memorable experiences. I’ll get to that later.
A small but well-known country nestled cosily in the heart of Europe, bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, Austria & Liechtenstein to the east. With 60% of its terrain occupied by the Alps, it made Switzerland one of the most mountainous countries in the world; a drive across the countryside would feast your eyes with incredible sights of endless mountain ranges with snow-covered peaks and green valleys and sparse farmhouses and little cottages with dotting cattle in between. I have thus decided that Switzerland is my personal favourite country in Continental Europe, if only for the sensational scenery alone!
The people here are generally friendlier and more helpful too, and much less harried (compared to the English, French or Italian). Perhaps due to its low population, or living in a peaceful village surrounded by greens, life does take on a slower and more relaxed pace.
Switzerland is also one of the richest country in the world, and needless to say, everything is expensive here (in comparison to its other European counterparts).
In Switzerland, 3 major languages are spoken here – French, German and Italian, depending on which part of the country you are in. In Geneva, French is widely spoken but in Lauterbrunnen and Jungfrau, everything is in German. But most Swiss are able to speak perfect English nevertheless.
The 2nd most populous city after Zurich, Geneva is also the financial centre and a worldwide centre for diplomacy (as the Swiss is well known for its neutrality status). This is where the largest lake in Switzerland, Lake Geneva (Lac Léman in French) is located, where the famous giant fountain, Jet d’Eau that shot 500 liters of water per second up to 140 meters in high velocity of 200km/h. This landmark has become so popular that its image has gotten printed into most postcards and posters representing Geneva.
Geneva is also the home of the European Headquarters of the United Nations of course, with the giant broken chair in its front yard, which symbolizes victims of land mines.
This is another story altogether. A small quaint village in the Interlaken-Oberhasli district, with a population of slightly above 2500, Lauterbrunnen is one of the deepest glacial valley in the Bernese Alps, compared to the height of the mountains that rise directly on either side, the well known ones being Jungfrau (4,158m), Eiger and Schiltorn.
It is a narrow valley of about a kilometre in width, surrounded by extremely steep and sometimes perpendicular walls of mountains, causing the numerous waterfalls here. This region contains 72 waterfalls, the biggest and most popular one being Staubbach Falls (which is located next to our hotel). One of the highest in Europe, its cascade height measures about 900 feet.
Lauterbrunnen is indeed a most picturesque little alpine village surrounded by snowy peaks and complete with rivers and waterfalls ala-Rivendell fashion. Almost picture perfect. All that’s lacking are little elves and hobbits running around.