10 REASONS WHY SWITZERLAND SHOULD BE PART OF YOUR EUROTRIP

Location: Switzerland

Google “best country in the world” and what do you see? Switzerland is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and underrated countries in Europe. Mention Switzerland and all things positive comes to mind. Think of its untainted natural paradise with amazing variety of landscapes–think mountains, valleys, forests and glaciers. Think of the efficient public transportation system, the prestigious watch brands, the solid private banking system. Think of the richest, smoothest chocolates and cheeses you can imagine. To top that off, add an unrivalled density of art and architecture, culinary excellence and nightlife, and you pretty much have the ingredients for a perfect escape from everyday life.

I’ve actually been to Switzerland last year (more about that in my next series of posts). I had a pretty tight itinerary since I wanted to visit as many European countries as possible.

After spending only two full days in Switzerland (Zurich and Mt. Titlis), it easily became one my favorite and most memorable trips to date. This year I was lucky enough to visit Switzerland for one whole week. In celebration of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Switzerland, the Embassy of Switzerland in The Philippines invited four (4) lifestyle bloggers to experience the Swiss life. Yes, Switzerland may seem relatively small as compared to other European nations but that certainly does not mean that it has less to offer. It has definitely succeeded in becoming a tourist mecca that is at the same time not over-commercialized. Everything seemed unreal to me.

If you’re finally going on that long overdue Eurotrip with your family, friends or special someone, here are ten (10) reasons to convince you to visit this beautiful European country.

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The Swiss Alps are perhaps the most iconic and stunning mountains on earth. Check out the packaging of a Toblerone bar and you would see the famous Matterhorn (this is why the chocolate is shaped like a mountain). The Alpine region of Switzerland, conventionally referred to as the Swiss Alps represents a major natural feature of the country. The Alps cover 65% of Switzerland’s total 41,285 square kilometres surface area, making it one of the most alpine countries. But what’s really special about this is the fact that the Swiss Alps are very accessible. Just make a trip by train and see for yourself. Within a few hours, you will be greeted by bare icy mountains, quirky small towns, vineyards and fresh meadows. The Swiss Alps are a very popular holiday destination for tourists and locals alike. The impressive network of trains, funiculars and cable cars make it easy for anyone to visit the most iconic mountains in the world.

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I don’t mean to exaggerate but Switzerland looks like it was taken out of a fairy tale. Stroll along the cobblestone streets of Zurich and you feel like as if you stepped into a children’s story book. Wander through Bern’s old town and you could burst into your favorite Disney song (not that I would do something like that *wink*). Take a train to Lucerne and imagine Heidi, the quintessential Swiss mountain girl, walking along the hills with her grandfather. Okay I should probably stop. Point is, being in Switzerland is like being transported to a different time period. You really have to see it for yourself.

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If there is one thing that really impressed me about Switzerland, it has to be their public transportation system. Trust me, the SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) has got its transportation system down to a science. The trains arrive and depart, and as the saying goes, like the Swiss watch–not one minute early or late. Switzerland’s public transportation system demonstrates what public transportation should be. The service is frequent, reliable and synchronised. The trains are clean, quiet and it can pretty much take you anywhere around Switzerland. Being in an economy class train in Switzerland is like being in a first class elsewhere.

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Switzerland is without a doubt, one of safest countries in the world. I heard stories from locals leaving wallets and mobile phones on trains or in restaurants, and retrieving them the next day with everything still in tact. I went on a Eurotrip last year and it was the only country wherein I did not feel the need to worry about getting mugged. The Swiss people are reserved, polite and helpful. During my trip last year, I boarded the SBB train with a bunch of drunk dudes. All of them seemed really tipsy, but they must have read in my face that I was unsure if I was on the right train. They didn’t hesitate to help me and give me that sigh of relief that I did board the right train. It was also the only European country wherein I experienced locals holding the door/train doors for me. It’s a simple gesture but it really made an impact. Making me realize that the Swiss people have a strong sense of personal and civic responsibility.

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I’ve been to 7 European countries and Swiss food definitely had a lasting impression on me. Yes, eating out in Switzerland can get pretty expensive but hey, you get what you pay for. Some of my favorite Swiss food include the cheese fondue, wherein you dip bread into a communal pot of hot, melted cheese. The raclette, wherein you put half of a huge round slab of cheese near a flame and scrape the melted portion into small, boiled potatoes. Oh God, writing this got me craving. Anyway, I also love the Rösti, the Swiss version of hash brown. You also have the Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, made of slices of tender veal smothered in a sauce made with white wine, cream, onions, and mushrooms. I also had the best meal in Zürich HB station, wherein I got to eat Cervelat, a type of sausage produced in Switzerland, and they serve it with mustard and bread. Simple, pretty cheap, and so delicious! To understand how Switzerland is known for churning out such top-quality food, one must consider its clean lakes and pure mountain air which provide the healthy natural surroundings for animals to flourish in.

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If you love chocolate, you’ll love Switzerland. I happen to be a big fan of chocolate (I can give up rice for a year but not chocolate), so imagine my delight when I was finally able to try Swiss chocolate…in Switzerland! I went to Coop (a supermarket in Switzerland) and bought a bunch of random Swiss chocolates, tried all of them, died and went to chocolate heaven. It was honestly the best chocolates I have tried in my life, and to think those are random ones (I’ve probably only got to try the cheapest ones in the store yet they’re still so good). Just imagine if I tasted the premium ones! So, ever wondered why Swiss chocolate is considered to be among the best in the world? It uses more cocoa beans and less cocoa butter! This mixture is made with the best quality cocoa beans from Africa together with the freshest milk from specially bred cows in Switzerland. But the real secret lies in the conching method, in which the chocolate is produced. The blend of beans, cocoa butter and milk is smoothened and mixed between granite rollers, a process that can take anywhere from 75 to 150 hours (whoa). The result? A velvety smooth texture that melts in your mouth. Just how much do the Swiss love their chocolate, you ask? Well, according to a survey, the country consumed 11.7kg per person in 2014. Crazy!

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If ever I was successful in convincing you to include Switzerland in your Eurotrip itinerary, do yourself a favor and drink Swiss wine. During my recent trip to Switzerland, I think it’s safe to say that I had Swiss wine with 80% of my meals during the trip. This is because only less than 2% of Swiss wine is exported (and that 2% are exported mainly to Germany lol). Nearly all the national production is drunk within the national boundaries. Haha!

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For an authentic Swiss experience, drink water from the fountains or from your hotel room’s faucet. Haha! Swiss drinking water is a quality product from natural resources– of which 80 percent stems from natural springs and groundwater, and the rest from lakes. In some places, you can drink straight out the lake without second thoughts! I was so happy when I found our that tap water in Switzerland is potable. I have such a hard time budgeting my money for food and drinks (bottled waters are expensive in Europe), but since I can drink from the fountains in Switzerland, I have more money for Swiss chocolates! Haha!

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You probably didn’t expect this to be on the list, but did you know that Switzerland is home to the oldest and longest-running vegetarian restaurant in the world? Yup, Hiltl Restuarant in Zurich has been serving delicious vegetarian meals for more than 100 years now! Although the Swiss loves their chocolates, they’re also very healthy, meaning you’re much less likely to find preservatives and unnatural ingredients in their food. Swiss food is fresh, and you can definitely taste the difference. We made sure to try it out for ourselves and boy were we surprised! There was a wide variety of vegan food, even dessert! Some dishes didn’t even taste like they were vegetarian food at all! It was really good and definitely worth a visit.

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My engagement on Instagram went up by 80% because of my Switzerland photos. Every single photo I took of the Swiss alps, the beautiful landscapes, the wooden bridges, the medieval castles, the cobblestone streets or the well-preserved architecture were picture-perfect. Everything looked like it’s from a postcard. No effort needed. That is how beautiful Switzerland is. I also love the fact that the architecture in Switzerland are highly influenced by its neighbouring countries. As a result, it doesn’t have a distinctive “national” style. I, however, appreciate this diversity. Go to Zürich and you would see the German influence, head to Geneva and you’ll feel like you’re in Paris. Switzerland borders France in the west, Germany in the north. Austria in the east and Italy in the south. This goes to show that Switzerland is a global powerhouse that has so much to offer.

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For more information and event updates, you can visit The Embassy of Switzerland in The Philippines here.
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