Switzerland: For the Love of Cheese, Chocolate and Scenery!

To those of you who don’t know, I spent 25 years of my life with Aviophobia – Fear of Flying.

I used to see family members and friends discussing trips and travel experiences throughout my life and not even feel concerned…. Until the day had come, where all the factors were in favor and I stepped a foot in Switzerland (Kind of cool for a somewhat first time traveler!). Ever since, things became pretty much dramatic, and my Aviophobic self became so addicted, managing to visit 7 countries in less than a year!

Cutting the story short, let me share with you some of the great moments of my journey in the Land of Cheese, Chocolate and Alps.

I have visited 4 main regions in total: Bern, Zurich, Lucern and Bernina Alps.

  • Bern: Needless to say that each city had its own charm, yet the impact that the medieval city of Bern (the capital) left in my heart is just magical. Remember the old stories of Beauty and the Beast? Yep. Exactly like that! Perhaps it’s because I’ve never seen a medieval city before, yet the houses, the roads, the town-hall, the big clock at the entrance of the old town, even the water pumps… just Magical!IMG-20170107-WA0060-01.jpeg Old Town of Bern – View from UpIMG-20170107-WA0064-01.jpeg Entrance of the Old Town of Bern – Zytglogge
  • Zurich: Not only a beautiful city, but also the food there is so good, you just can’t get enough of! I made sure to eat Cheese and Beef fondue daily there (and Oh God! I still crave this cuisine from time to time!).zurich

My advice for you is to try Le Dezaley Restaurant (Niederdorf, close to the GrossMünster) for fondue. Once there you’ll understand what I mean… The house in which the restaurant is located exists ever since the 13th century, and the medieval ambiance is felt inside. Try all the sauces they offer, allow your taste buds to enjoy new flavors.

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Cheese Fondue… Tasty!

  • Lucern: Now that’s a bridge worth taking photos of! (Considering that this bridge – Kapelbrüke – is of the most photographed bridges in the world). Named after St. Peter’s Church (Thus the Kapel = Chapel Bridge), it is also the oldest wooden bridge that you can witness in Europe.
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Kapelbruke – Chapel’s Bridge

What I also found interesting in Lucern is Saturday’s market. People from all around the city gathered on the sides of the lake and sold literally everything (from veggies, food to flowers, flea and crafts). The beauty of this market is that it is so diverse, you can meet people from all over the world just by visiting their stands (From France, Germany all the way to Peru and Brazil, I was impressed!)

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Saturday’s Market

Another place worth seeing in Lucern is the Lion Monument: A huge carved dying lion in a rock is placed in the middle of a small garden.

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Lion Monument

  • Bernina Alps: One cannot visit Switzerland without passing by the Alps, and I did. Took the bernina express panoramic train and visited all the mountain range from eastern Switzerland to northern Italy – Literally! (The train’s last stop was in Torino – Italy). The alps are simply majestic. Covered in a beautiful white veil, the mountains were fully decorated.
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Miralago and Swiss Alps

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Bernina Express Panoramic Train

Few tips to Consider if visiting Switzerland:

  1. Eat Chocolate from day one. I didn’t and I regret it. Laderach is the chocolate brand I loved most. Try all the variety that your eyes can fall for (Strawberry, Chilli lime, Cornflakes, Glacier, Florentine and many more).
  2. Metro use is beyond amazing. The swiss are truly of the most organized, punctual and clean community I’ve ever met. Metro works by the second – literally.
  3. If visiting several cities within the country, use the “Swiss Pass” instead of buying several tickets. It’s valid for X full days (you decide the bundle you want) and covers any kind of transportation.
  4. Switzerland, though in Europe doesn’t use the euro currency. The country has the Swiss franc (CH).
  5. 1CH = 1 USD approximately.
  6. The country has high cost of living index (Highest in the world), thus the high quality of life (And trust me, it’s amazing…)
  7. The citizens in Zurich and Lucern are by far of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Super helpful and courteous!

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That’s how I got my Passport stamped last year! Highly advising everyone to visit this breathtakingly beautiful country…

Happy Traveling Everyone! 🙂

7 Things to Know if you are visiting Europe’s Hidden Gem: Budapest

Last July,  part of my overcoming fears journey, my friends and I decided to hit the roads again and travel to the Land of Healing Waters: Hungary.

To be honest, the country wasn’t on my Traveling Bucket List, yet I got carried away with the excitement of visiting a new place.

5 days and Budapest amazed me with its charm. Simple yet full of life… This city exceeded my expectations.

To help you/encourage you to visit this country, check out some of the things I discovered there…

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1.Local Currency: Though Hungary is part of the European Union, the country has its own currency: the HUF (okay, that sounds funny but their currency is the Hungarian Forint).

Now let us make it hard on people who hate Mathematics: 1 USD amounts to 292 HUFs (Try buying a coffee cup without feeling like you paid a lot :P).

2.Spending Budget: If you are a young tourist wanting to benefit from the land’s sights yet on a budget, a day in Budapest would actually cost you around 100$. (25$ for the accommodation, split between 2, 8$ for the transportation, and the rest for entrance fees, food and gifts) – That being said, Budapest is very, very affordable!

3.When: Early Summer. (Last week of May is Optimal, not too crowded, not too cold).

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View from Top of Buda Castle

4.Location to stay at: Budapest is actually the combination of two cities Buda and Pest. (Buda being the “Elitist”). Zoom your map to Pest, find a location near the Metro Station and Book it!

5.Ways to Commute: METRO. Easy, simple, and giving you access to all the main locations in the city. Besides that, Budapest Metro is not heavily populated like other European cities (Paris, Rome).

 

Tip: If you are traveling in a group (2 or more), buy the Group Ticket  (24-Hour Group Travel Ticket)., it’s a saver especially if you are using it a lot.

You have to note that you can get to a good number of attraction sites by walking.

6.Top Places to Visit:

A- St Stephen’s Church: Though beautiful from outside, make the effort to go inside and don’t even think of missing the Tower. The church oversees Budapest and the view from up there is breathtaking!

Tip: Entering the tower requires an entrance fee, yet entering the church is free of charge.

B- The Hungarian Parliament: Not only the 3rd biggest parliament in all Europe, it is also majestic! Gothic style with a brown-reddish dome… Just beautiful!

C- Buda Castle: Located in Buda, on Castle Hill and overseeing Pest. The Chain Bridge (that one can pass by when commuting between Pest and Buda) is visible from up there.

Tip: Instead of walking all the way to the Castle (20 min of walk in the hot summer weather, take the TukTuk. It gets you close to the castle in a minute and grants you a good view and “new” commuting experience in the city.

D- Matthias Church: 15 minutes away from Buda Castle, this church is witnessed the coronation of several Hungarian Kings (Most famous being Franz Joseph). The tiles covering the church can’t be missed (As they are a Hungarian Specialty).

Tip: The Church is both a prayer place and a museum. Benefit by visiting both for a minimal fee.

E- Fisherman’s Bastion: Originally built to commemorate the memory of fishermen who maintained this part of the city (A fish market was located there instead of the bastion).

Good to know: It’s been said that Walt Disney got inspired from this place to build the actual Disney castles.

Tip: The place is so close to Matthias Church. Also, benefit from having a quick bite in the market nearby. (The sausages there are a must try!)

F- Margaret Island: It is a big park (an actual island). You can bike it all! (Such a cool experience)!

7.Food Items to try out:

A- Kurtoskalacs or Hungary’s famous Chimney Cakes. Yummy! Just heavenly and so worth the try (eat one every day – worth it and make sure to try the different combinations!).

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A must try. Day and Night, those chimney cakes are amazing!

B- Goulash soup: not the best thing I’ve had yet famous in the Hungarian cuisine, so it is a must!img_6944.jpg

C- Sausages. Sausages. And even more sausages. Try them all!

D- Tarhonya: looks like couscous yet in fact its big pasta with meat/chicken stew next to it. (not bad at all).img_9055.jpg

5 days and I felt like I needed much more to discover plenty of things about this place. And even though I didn’t foresee it, Budapest turned out to be a hidden gem in the middle of Europe!

Advising you all to book a flight and visit this city full of life!