Switzerland by Maia Coen

IMG_0750The first thing I must say, for those of you who have never been to Switzerland, is: go!  You have to go!  It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the world.  My visit to Switzerland this year was entirely different from last year.  In fact, it was the complete opposite.  Instead of fog, clouds, and rain there was sunshine, cool breezes, and spectacular mountain views everywhere I looked.  It amazes me that those alpine vistas were there in 2014, but hidden behind all that gray. IMG_0780My father and I arrived by train from Amsterdam, threw our things haphazardly into our hotel room, and went right up the cable car to get up into the surrounding mountains to see them up close.  I’m at a loss for words to describe how beautiful the Alps are.  I’m rather confused why the Swiss Alps aren’t considered one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.  If you have been there you must agree with me.  It was THE most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.  Growing up in Seattle I have seen lots of mountains.  I see them often and they’re always very pretty but the Swiss Alps are something else.  The mountains towered above me reaching for the open blue sky.   Unlike the Cascades of Washington the Bernese Alps seem so much closer and immediate.  It felt like I could reach out and touch them.IMG_0653  The peeks glinted and sparkled in the sunlight.  The cliffs folded over and reached under each other creating a magnificent jumble of mountain rock.  The snow was so white I wondered if it was real or simply a figment of my imagination.  The sun felt like the soft caress of a hand against my cheeks and the air smelled like life and new beginnings.  It smelled like hope and joy and beauty; everything nature can invoke in you.  The air felt fresh and cool against my skin.  It felt like I was in a fairytale where the animals were likely to start singing any minute.  I felt so small walking along the hiking trail. IMG_0652 We walked along pausing occasionally to photograph the picturesque plethora of rainbow-colored wild flowers.  I walked quickly and happily, a skip in my step as I chattered on endlessly about the book I had recently finished.IMG_0636  I found that as I walked with this marvelous air in my lungs that I felt rejuvenated and energized.  I felt like nothing in the world could bring me down.  At the end of our hike we snacked on superb Swiss chocolate and began our decent, riding a cable car down to our tiny town of Stechelberg.

We plopped down in our seats ready for a heaping pile of Roesti potatoes practically smothered in Swiss cheese.  Think of the best tasting food you’ve ever had.  This is better.IMG_0665  We drank beer and ate our potatoes with delight all the while surrounded by the mountains.  It was impossible not to be amazed by their magnitude.  They were so large and so strong and so real.  We retired to our quaint little room and fell asleep to the sound of cow bells and the mountain stream flowing through the town.  The next morning we decided to go on a longer and more vigorous hike.  We hiked through the lower part of the valley instead of higher in the mountains.IMG_0739  It seems impossible to describe the beauty of this place when even my photographs do not fully express its grandeur.  The grass was so green it looked as if a child had picked the brightest most vibrant green marker in the box and emptied the ink across the whole valley.  The flowers were small but amazing popping up all along the trail.  These mountains were not completely covered in snow.  IMG_0709They were covered in that beautiful marker green and I swear they touched the sky.  The hike was intense and we stopped often to drink water and take photographs.  People passed us by and others waved in greeting form their homes in the hills.

Eventually we came upon a path to a waterfall.  Now I like a waterfall as much as the next person but my father seems to like them a great deal more.  More than anyone else I’ve ever met.IMG_0714  He dragged me down and up the slightly overgrown path towards the sound of rushing water. It didn’t take us too long to get there.  We entered a forest-like area and continued to follow the path.  We climbed some crumbling steps and very carefully made our way across a less than stable-looking bridge.  A few more rotting stairs later we stood before the falls.  The rumbling water forced its way over the rocks at the top and threw itself down the slippery rocks carving a crevice with its force.  A basin captured the tumbling water momentarily before escaping down the mountain.  I was happy my dad liked water falls so much.  As we made our trek back to Stechelberg I could hear the lion’s roar of the water for miles.

M3We moved higher up the mountain into Murren for our last day in Switzerland.  We geared up with our cameras and jackets and took the lift up to the 10,000 foot Schilthorn; the famous circular rotating station with amazing views of the mountains.  During the ride up we used four different lifts with people shoving their impatient selves to the front at each station.  Finally we made it to the top.  We stepped outside and I was speechless.  M6The mountains we’d enjoyed for the past few days stretched out thousands of feet below us.  New ones above shined and sparkled in a dazzling light.  I couldn’t believe I was really looking at the famous Swiss Alps.  They were so beautiful I was compelled to take pictures from every possible angle.  I had a cup of the best tasting hot chocolate ever (must be the surroundings) as the rotating restaurant brought the views to us.

Mighty Jungfrau

That night we sat outside enjoying our Roesti between the mountains and chatted enthusiastically about our adventures.  I had never seen anything so wonderful and so magical.  I had never seen mountains so big and magnificent or snow so pristinely white.  I reiterate my earlier comment; it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.IMG_0784  As we ate the sun sank below the horizon and cast it’s pink light of Alpenglow on the snowy peaks across the valley.  It felt like a dream.  The mountains and the air itself made me feel serene and content.  I had never been so happy, and to think the first time I was here all I could see was fog.IMG_0753IMG_0676IMG_0774