When it comes to us Indians, Switzerland has always been quite the favorite. For those who could afford a trip abroad, it usually meant a trip to Switzerland. Family vacations, honeymoons, late bloomer holidays, all came with a pre-decided destination.
I think I’d credit Yash Chopra for passing on this obsession of the Swiss Alps to all of India.
This was where we saw the likes of Sri Devi, Juhi Chawla, Kajol dance away to romantic melodies. This was where we fell in love with the idea of a trip to the Alps.
Switzerland was never quite on my bucket list, and even when I had the chance to explore the country for the first time, I knew exactly what to do.
Being a Bollywood fanatic myself, I wanted to explore the locales of Gstaad, Jungfrau, Lake Lungerer, Lake Geneva where films like DDLJ, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Chandni were shot.
I also wanted to explore Interlaken, where Yash Chopra has been commemorated as the Swiss Ambassador.
And since then, Switzerland was that part of my 2-month long Europe Trip that I was most looking forward to.
I could only imagine driving past the spots where the epic Shah Rukh-Kajol love saga was shot, where Kajol danced away to ‘Zara Sa Jhoom Loon Main’. I was keen on visiting the Saanen bridge where SRK says, “Palat! Palat! Palat!” and then the St. Grant Church in Montbovon where the famous church scene was shot.
There was Lake Lungerer, Lake Thun, Luzern, Lausanne, Mount Schillthorn, Jungfraujoch, Mt. Titlis where many other Bollywood and Hollywood films were shot.
I had my lists ready.
But I had not the slightest clue what was going to happen when I reached there. I considered packing a chiffon saree too! (Told you, I am one big Bollywood fan). But I was traveling to Switzerland in January, which meant crazy temperature!
For almost the last 50 years, Switzerland had become the mecca of Bollywood fanatics. The excitement for this trip was real!
And to be honest, there was nothing more than I planned in particular other than self-exploring and taking Bollywood tours in Switzerland. Eating lots of Swiss Chocolate included.
With this plan, I started my Europe trip on the 1st of January, 2018.
15 days into the trip, I was in Switzerland. Exploring this pure heaven through the scenic Swiss Trains. Due to ongoing events, I failed to find myself a decent budget accommodation in Gstaad. So, I opted for the obvious- Interlaken. All thanks to my Swiss Pass, unlimited transport by the Swiss transport system was covered by the pass.
15 days into our European winter sojourn, the temperatures were dipping without any sign of snow.
I guess that was reserved for our stay in Switzerland.
A day into Switzerland, the weather started getting worse resulting in landslides and transport issues. I had to reach Gstaad from Interlaken for my Bollywood tour. But clearly, I got excited too early to be living this long-fantasized dream.
There was going to be no Bollywood tour for me! As heart crushing as that was, my Blind Date with Switzerland had just begun…
As most of you might be aware, a Swiss holiday is definitely not the most pocket-friendly offering! And then to be sitting indoor sipping on the free hot chocolate, staring at the stunning views from our hostel didn’t do justice either.
So, we decided to make this #TheBlindList worthy.
We started by picking out all possible brochures and flyers from our hostel to check out the kind of activities available.
We had to look into the monies, the time and the schedule to align for the upcoming week.
And we came up with the most contrasting itinerary for our Swiss winter date! What was supposed to be a Bollywood location scouting vacay, turned out to be an adrenaline filled vacation amidst the serene views of the snowcapped Alps.
#THEBLINDLIST: A DATE OF MANY FIRSTS
Swiss Chocolate Making
We started off our Swiss Blind List adventure with a chocolate making workshop in Interlaken. We booked ourselves a slot for making Swiss chocolates at the Funky Chocolate Club. This was the very first time we were trying our hands at chocolate making or participating in any culinary workshop on our travels for that matter. We weren’t quite sure what to expect! But the workshop was quite a lot of fun learning the tricks of tempering, mixing and molding chocolate. Of course, it involved tasking all kinds of Swiss Chocolates like pros and eating all that we could while at it!
Look Ma! I am a certified Swiss Chocolatier!
Skiing for Beginners
Next up was an adventure very common to the Swiss, but a first for me and many other Indians like me. On recommendation by our friends from the Interlaken Tourism, we decided to try skiing for beginners.
Here in India, let alone snow, we don’t have too many seasonal activities that we participate in.
While dressing up in our skiing gear, I could literally feel the shivers of trying something that I was totally new at!
THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE THAT I SAW REAL SNOW!
The nervousness was peaking even while we were at it. Our instructor kept guiding us with ‘Fries’ and ‘Pizza’ (codes for skiing positions). But I got neither Fries nor Pizza correct! I slipped and failed over and over, while kids no more than 5 were skiing like pros around me!
I’ve always believed that I must travel to explore, to fail, how else would I know what I am missing out on! This was one of those instances.
Who doesn’t want to fly? I wanted to as well. And to fly over the Swiss Alps, getting the stunning view of this beautiful country was an exciting idea. With the winters peaking, I wasn’t quite sure if paragliding would be suitable or even possible.
But there are other plans when you don’t have one!
After almost 4-5 gloomy days in Switzerland, we had our first sunny day. It was special because watching the snow shine in the sunlight was unreal.
I had earlier inquired about a paragliding flight with AlpinAir Paragliding and they called back confirming my flight today. They picked me and took me to a height of 4400ft. Now unlike other sports, there is very little preparation that goes into preparing for paragliding. And before all of this could sink in, I was running up for my first flight in Switzerland.
The next 15 minutes were blank with gorgeous visuals, the feeling of being blessed and the belief in possibility.
Everything can happen if you want to!
This flight was like 15 minutes of meditation with open eyes, transversing from one point to another.
It’s hard to comprehend what changes after such an experience, but it’s never the same again! It’s hard to define it as travel inspiration alone. But it’s an enriching experience, each better than the other!
While the trains were running, I had to visit at least one Swiss Mountain on my first trip to Switzerland. I chose Mt. Titlis over Jungfrau because of the discounts available on the tickets on my Swiss Pass and that I also got to travel by the famed Panoramic Golden Pass trains.
I have to admit, traveling by Swiss Trains is no less than a breathtaking experience with the scenic views and the smooth journey that comes along.
Well, when we reached Mt. Titlis we were only lucky enough to experience a foggy journey to the top as the temperatures kept dipping. By the time we reached the top, it was snowing and raining, so much that we could only see the whites. All the attractions including the suspension bridge were shut. I could say that the trip was almost a flop. But this was my first time ever in -6 degrees and this was all the snow I had seen in my life. And I couldn’t think of a better rendezvous with snow, than this!
Our final activity, a day before we left was winter kayaking. Now honestly, we had kayaked before in the sea- in Split and Maldives. But we had never kayaked in a lake. And we thought that the idea of an outdoor activity like this in chilly Swiss winters was quite the challenge.
We booked our trip and walked from our hostel in Interlaken to Bonigen speculating what was in store for us. At the High-Tide Kayaking School, we met Dave who was waiting for us. Dave handed over wetsuits for us to change into. Now, this was our first time wearing such ‘fancy’ gear for kayaking. But the fact that it would keep us warm and safe in the chills was convincing without another thought.
Lake Brienz was waiting for us as we began kayaking in the afternoon sun. Minutes later, all the anticipation had turned into excitement and fun.
Just look at that view, I mean.
In our own individual kayaks, we were in the middle of a stunning wallpaper like frame. There were conversations and there were brief moments of silence. On reaching the opposite shore, we hiked up to the Ringgenberg Church to sip on some hot fruit tea that Dave had carried for us. The view, the tea and the moment that we were living in had paused time.
You know how some experiences are rejuvenating from the inside? We were in the middle of one such experience.
On our trip back, we hardly spoke.
The sun was beginning to set and we could witness the last rays of the winter sun shining on the snowcapped peaks of the surrounding mountains.
This was the perfecting ending to the day!
The perfect end to my first Swiss experience!
This was the perfect end to #TheBlindList, the one where the best decision that I made was by going with the idea of #SayYesToTheWorld.
I’ve always loved planning. It gives me the thrills for the trip. What to do, what to eat, where to stay, how many days… everything is thought through! But what when the plan goes wrong?
I am so glad this trip happened. For once, things didn’t go as per my plan and that was the best thing to happen! Because how else would I have pushed myself to get out of the comfort zone and explore newer horizons.
This trip, my first Swiss experience was unlike any that most people describe. The closest I got to Bollywood (my original plan) on this trip was having Shah Rukh Khan visiting Davos to receive the Crystal Award by WEF.
I couldn’t have asked for better. And I certainly couldn’t have planned this exploration! Like most people, even I can now say how much I love Switzerland. As for my original plan, well, there’s always a next time!
This article is an entry for the #TheBlindList contest by Lufthansa. #SayYesToTheWorld