Switzerland

Switzerland is the most beautiful on this planet and I don’t know anyone who would disagree. Despite being landlocked this small country has been blessed with so much natural beauty and such dedicated people that it is almost impossible not to fall in love with whichever corner you visit.

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River Rhine in Basel

This small country has 26 cantons and 4 main regions based on the 4 languages spoken; French, Italian, German and Romansh. The country has a different name is each language; Schweiz in GermanSuisse in FrenchSvizzera in Italian and Svizra in Romansh and in case these are not enough the name on the currency is Helvetia, which is the Latin name for the country.

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Zurich

It is quite a bizarre thing but most Swiss feel a closer association to the bordering country than other parts of Switzerland that speak a different language and yet everything is running very smoothly. So smooth infact that it is the wealthiest country in the world per capita and Zurich is also always among the top 5 most expensive cities in the world and I never heard any one living there complaining. The infrastructure is kept in pristine condition no matter which part of Switzerland you are in.

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Chateau d’Oex near Montreux

Most cities in Switzerland have a lake in the city or nearby with more than 1500 lakes in this small country and the views in each direction are simply breathtaking. The French alps stand cover more than 60% of the country and the views are unparalleled with ski resorts and spas that let you enjoy the snow outside in hot tubs. The cheeses and chocolates of Switzerland are considered the best quality and without exaggeration I have seen massive stores full of chocolates with so much variety you want to live in there forever.

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Geneva

The country is also the birthplace of Red Cross and has the second biggest UN office along with probably the biggest luxury boutiques collection. If I were given a chance to see only 1 country in the world, I would choose Switzerland without hesitation but I would strongly recommend visiting in Winter and Summer to see the beauty of this place is different seasons and it will impress you, gauranteed!

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Lausanne

 

The Racism Factor 

Swiss are very reserved people, perhaps the most reserved in the whole of Europe and they don’t like showing emotions especially in public. I never heard any children crying or being loud and that’s not necessarily a good thing. I felt the certain air of coldness from people but that’s the character of Swiss rather than a racist behaviour. A few times that I did interact with people they were kind enough and guided me in as much detail as possible. People on the French side were a bit more cordial than the German side though. All in all Swiss are cold and reserved but not racist, at least not to your face.

The Gay Factor 

Switzerland is a very liberal country and with a near perfect literacy rate homophobia is very uncommon in the society. There’s a lot of people on grindr and most of them are very hot. Well Swiss guys are quite good looking because they are mostly tall and athletic.

Fun Fact: The personal guards of Pope or the Swiss guards also come from Switzerland and there’s a strict criteria to be part of that elite group.

There is however a slightly more drugsie scene in bigger cities especially in Zurich and both the clubs I went to, people were off their faces on heavy drugs which was a little heart breaking. You won’t feel any threat in Switzerland for being gay and everyone is really liberal about it.

Fun fact: Switzerland is the first country that legalised gay civil unions and by massive public support through a referendum and not just a law in parliament. The mayor of Zurich is lesbian and is very loved.

Value for Money 

Woof! Switzerland is ridiculously expensive unless you earn in Swiss Francs. The standard of life is very high in Switzerland and so are prices. You really need quite a lot of money even if you are travelling on budget. The best way to avoid this situation is to be prepared and budget tightly. Luckily I stayed with my friends both times so they knew the ins and outs but on my own it would be quite expensive.

Itinerary

I visited Zurich in summer of 2013 and then Basel, Montreux, Lauzzane and Geneva in winter of 2014/2015 and both my trips made me fall in love with this place and I want to go back at every single opportunity. Zurich and Basel are located in the German region and the other three cities are in the French side, I have yet to visit the Italian side though.

Swiss cities are not very big and you can easily see them in 2 days but I’d recommend 3 days in each city so you can go out of the city to explore the nature as well which is an integral part of Swiss life so don’t forget to pack some sturdy shoes.

Accommodation

Accommodation in Switzerland is the biggest expense and I’d highly recommend looking at all options. For Zurich the best area to stay is around the city hall or Rathaus which is also the gay area in the city and very easy to move around from there.

For Basel the best area is around the central station and you can easily move from there.

For Montreux, Lausanne and Geneva I’d recommend staying in one city like Montreux and travelling around. The other cities are quite close by and very quick to travel to.

For Geneva I’d recommend staying near the central Geneve station which is in the centre and has some good gay venues around but also easy to travel around from.

Food

Chocolates and Cheeses! Swiss know how to use both of them and there is so much variety of fondue in this country from white wine to champagne that you can have a different one for each meal and it still won’t be enough after a month and the condiments are endless but extremely delicious. The Swiss also take pride in the whole set up of Fondue eating just like the Japanese tea ceremony; the table is set and there is special cutlery and then the cheese pot will arrive and you will be served with bread and baby potatoes and then the condiments (My favourite is Bresaola beef).

Tip: You shouldn’t drink cold drinks with Fondue because it will harden the cheese in your stomach. Order or make some green tea and a brisk walk after fondue won’t let you feel heavy and queasy.

Another fun thing to try is the Raclette cheese which is used for melting. Large slices of cheese are melted is special trays and then eaten with boiled potatoes and pickles and the way this cheese melts is just mouth watering.

The third thing to try is another Swiss specialty; Rosti. It is like potato fritters and it is mainly a breakfast dish. I tried it with half fried eggs and it was my favourite breakfast throughout.

And last but by no means the least, Chocolate! You will find each size, type and variety of chocolate in this country. Supermarkets have whole sections dedicated to chocolate and you just can’t have enough of it from Chocolate pizza to chocolate fondue to chocolate fountains with marsh mellows and fruits.

If you love chocolate you should try the one with chilli and sea salt, my two new discoveries and my new absolute favourites!

Phone & Internet 

Phone and internet reception is very good in Switzerland in big cities. The signals do tend to be weak in far off places especially at higher altitudes but that’s understandable. You can find full details of pre paid sim card here.

Now since Switzerland is neither in EU or EEA, the roaming charges caps do not apply so be very careful using your phone in this country. It is best to buy a local sim card but you have to be careful there as well. You need to activate a package and after initial 4GB your internet speed is reduced to almost nothing and you will have to wait till next month or pay 5 Francs a day which sucks.

Wifi and internet is really good and quite easily available everywhere so use Wifi instead of mobile data or heat stuff like watching videos, downloading stuff or uploading pictures and videos.

Cash & Cards 

The official currency of Switzerland is Swiss Franc and it is denoted by CHF. Card payments are accepted almost universally in the country and you will find card and cash machines almost everywhere although you don’t need cash for most of the stuff.

Currency exchanges are also fairly common especially the city centres and tourist hotspots. You won’t need a lot of cash to rely on but I think Taxis and public transport requires cash especially public transport requires coins to buy tickets.

Tips

  • Plan your trip and book your accommodation in advance, Switzerland can be very expensive last minute.
  • Preparing one meal a day or two will keep your budget in check.
  • Book your tours in advance as well as ski tickets and reservations are done months in advance.
  • Pack for heavy winter because at higher altitudes it is extremely cold.
  • Instead of taking flights, drive or take a train and you will see some amazing views.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses area must at higher altitude to protect your eyes and skin from UV radiation.
  • Don’t forget to go hiking, the views from mountain tops are a sheer and utter pleasure.
  • In summers don’t forget to visit some lakes, most big cities have one in the middle.
  • Always check the temperature outside before stepping out, it could be ridiculously cold one day and quite temperate the next.
  • Keep some change on your for the public transport.

 

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