Switzerland

My first experience in Western Europe was in Switzerland. As a country mostly untouched by war, it still has its historic architecture and culture in many parts of the country. Switzerland is unique amongst Europe in the fact that it has three sections with three languages. The most popular two are the French and German regions but lesser known is the Italian section. The French part of Switzerland consists of cities such as Lausanne and Geneva. The German part includes the capital city of Bern as well as the most expensive city in Europe, Zurich. The Italian part of Switzerland is much less known as it lies on the Southern hills of the Swiss Alps close to the Italian border. While not heavily visited, they are full of culture, great food, and extraordinary people.

 

Perhaps the most famous thing in Switzerland are the Alps. When I think back to my trip there, it can be hard to put the Alps into words. They are monumental and gorgeous beyond belief. While images often shown to people display rugged mountain tops covered in rock and ice, this is a small part of the Alps. Hundreds of meters in the air lie valleys and green landscapes. From the top you get one of the most breathtaking views in the world. While I highly suggest everyone make a trip there during the summer, winter is not for everyone. While the Alps are more than just frozen mountains covered in snow, during the winter they turn bright white and temperatures drop significantly. However, this is not a bad thing. The snow covered Alps offer some of the best winter sports in the world with skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and more. The temperatures from the Alps also help keep Central Europe (and especially Switzerland) at a nice temperature even in the dead of summer.     

I loved Switzerland and it was a great introduction to Western Europe for me. I would not, however, recommend it to budget and solo travelers. I was lucky enough to stay with family while there and thus, cutting accommodation costs completely out of the picture. Staying in cities like Geneva, Bern, and Zurich can run your bank account hundreds every day with prices being comparable to Norway and Iceland. If you are still considering attempting to do Switzerland on a budget, make sure you find either a cheap hostel, use a couch surfing app, or try camping. Make sure you have easy access to the trams and trains of Switzerland as they are a great, cost effective way of getting around. Cooking your own food is an important part of budgeting in Switzerland. While the food is delicious, it is not overly unique due to its influences from France, Germany, and Italy. You would be best to spend your money on activities and of course, chocolate. 

Image by Patrick Janser