There used to be a brand of treats called Little Debbie (in the Midwest). I would always beg my mom to buy us Little Debbie Swiss Rolls. They were basically the same as a Hostess Ho Ho – but cheaper. I could eat a whole package of 12 in a sitting if I was allowed; however I was never allowed. Instead I would try to make each individually wrapped Swiss Roll last as long as I could; I wouldn’t just eat these rolls, I would dissect them like a surgeon. Photo: Fresh Brioche in Switzerland First I would pull all of the hard chocolate off the outside, next I would slowly unroll it till it was flat. I would take my finger and smear off and eat all of the white filling, finally I would eat the chocolate cake. I honestly have no idea what the Swiss Roll had to do with the Swiss…not once in my 10 days in Switzerland did I see a Swiss Roll. The closest thing I could find was an adventure activity to roll down a Swiss hill…there’s no chocolate involved…but it does sound fun…why not?
I arrived in Switzerland for a 10 day break from the heat; coming from Northern Africa and going to India. Switzerland was my haven of cool. The Swiss are also lucky enough to have my dear friend Veronique living in their finely tuned country. So not only was this a break from the heat – but a visit to one of my favorite friends on her home turf. When I arrived in Geneva, my other friend Angie, from San Francisco, was also visiting Veronique on her way back home to the US. So we all had a couple of days together to hang out, see some sites, swap travel stories, and get some good ole girl talk in.
Photo: Rides at the Fetes de Geneve
When I made the plans to go visit Veronique, I had no idea that the beginning of August was such a monumental time for the Swiss. August 1st was the Swiss Creation Day! This is basically their independence celebration. This was a party time in Switzerland and around Geneva. In addition to the activities on Creation Day, Geneva had their annual week long Fetes De Geneve – a big carnival like celebration on the lakeshore. So even though I was missing out on all of the state fairs this summer in the US…I had the Swiss version right in front of Veronique’s apartment. I was surrounded by the smell of cotton candy every night! It actually was a fun photographic experience, so I drug Veronique out one night to watch the rides and work on my photography. It was a good outing and I’m rather happy with many shots.
We have fireworks for 4th of July, and the Swiss have farm brunch on Creation Day. Veronique, some of her friends, and me drove out to the countryside and attended a large farm brunch to start the day. There were Swiss flags flying everywhere, an accordion player, and plenty of cheese…I would expect nothing less from a Swiss brunch. After brunch we decided to try to hike off some of cheese, and make it back into Geneva in time for the fireworks.
Veronique and I decided to go out and explore the Swiss mountains on the weekend. I had my eye on Internlaken, the adventure sports capital of Switzerland! We took off on an early panoramic train ride to Interlaken abut 3 hours from Geneva. I was taken aback by the perfect beauty that I witnessed outside of my train window. The vistas were about too perfect – stunning green hills with little cottages nestled between the hills. I honestly thought Hansel and Gretel were going to come out of the skipping out of the valley and onto the train. We arrived in the Interlaken, a stunning valley surrounded by two lakes, and snowy mountain peaks. The largest mountain was the Jungfrau which was perfectly placed in the middle of the valley. I honestly looked too perfect at times! We made a stop at the tourist office and plotted our activities…trekking, gondola-ing, and zorbing. Being the adventure capital of Switzerland – I really felt like I needed to get a bit of adrenaline rush out of Interlaken – which is where zorbing came in.
Zorbing is not some new dance, or an alien life form – instead it is a Swiss Roll of sorts. It requires a large inflated plastic ball, and a hill…are you intrigued? I honestly can’t believe that I convinced Veronique to do this – but she was game for a roll. We arrived at the Zorbing hill before sunset with a bunch of other thrill seekers (mainly young Aussies…go figure). There’s no skill required to zorb…just a strong stomach. The zorber wears a neck brace, gets into the zorbing ball, straps in as if you were in a jet fighter plane, and then they push you down the hill. The inflated giant ball not only rolls down the hill with you inside, but it also bounces – getting completely airborne at times. At the end of the hill a giant net acts as the brake for the ball. I figured that if I could survive motion sickness on a Moroccan bus – I could survive zorbing! The distance was rather short, but the impact dizzying! Veronique was a trooper and went first. After she nearly lost her pants jumping into the zorb, she strapped herself in and went rolling down the Swiss mountainside! They allowed you to take a small point and shoot camera inside the zorb for the ride, so I of course took the opportunity to document the experience. On my first roll, I attempted to video the ride inside the ball. Unfortunately – I’m having trouble getting it uploaded – so you will have to check back later to see the exciting video – so be sure to check out the pictures in the meantime! After the first complete revolution, I lost control of the camera, but you can hear me laughing all the way to the bottom! On the second roll, I attempted to photograph me at different parts of the roll, mainly getting exciting shots of my elbow. Overall – it was an exhilarating experience – and we both felt like we deserved a glass of wine after the ordeal!
The next morning we spent slowly making our way up to the Schilthorn peak which offered stunning views of the Jungfrau covered in snow. I wanted to hike to the top, but we didn’t have the time, nor the fitness to be able to do that in one day! So we opted for the next best option…automated machinery. The Swiss love their machines…it’s an engineers paradise. We rode up the mountain via train, gondola, and funicular…a trifecta of mechanical engineering! Along the way we did do some hiking between gondola stops. The villages in the mountains were once again pristine and the picture of perfect Swiss living. There was plenty of beer, tuba playing, berry strudel – and cows. The cows were hours of entertainment for me. You could hear them for miles – as they all wore their large cowbells grazing the steep hillside. When I say large…I mean large. I have no idea why the cow needs to be wearing a bell the size of it’s head – I guess the Swiss live by the ‘bigger is better’ attitude…at least when it comes to cow bells. As we arrived at the top by our last gondola – I soaked in the cool air, the quiet, the wide open space – as I won’t get a experience like this in New Delhi!
The rest of the week in Geneva was spent cooking, doing laundry, trip planning, frivolous shopping, sushi eating, and stocking up on travel necessities prior to arriving in India. I achieved exactly what I wanted to in Switzerland – I was able to visit the home of a very close friend, and I was able to refuel a bit in cool weather. I also had some bonus experiences that really made my time in Switzerland memorable – Creation Day, Fetes de Geneve, trekking in the mountains, and a real Swiss ‘zorbing’ roll!
Photo: Veronique and I at the top of Schilthorn
A Swiss send-off! Video of a yoddeler!