Growing up in a valley, I’ve always fondly referred to mountains as my security blanket; having them encompassing me on all sides is where I feel most at home. You can imagine, therefore, just how incredibly elated I was to arrive in the stunning Swiss Alps – the second stop on our 18-day Topdeck Tour.
When we first drove into the Engelberg, a small village resort at the base of Mt Titlis, the cloud was so low we could have kicked it, meaning the mountains were completely hidden from view. Over the next two days, however, my jaw was permanently stuck to the ground when we did finally get to soak in our surroundings and witness the majestic mountains that surrounded us.
Although our stay in Switzerland was short-lived, we left with so many amazing memories, and it’s definitely a country we hope to head back to one day.
Part of the Uri Alps, Mt Titlis is accessible from Engelberg via cable car and has plenty to see and do at the Summit. Waking up on yet another grey morning, I was a little worried we’d head all 3,238 metres to the top and still see nothing, but I really needn’t have worried about a thing. Around half way up the mountain, we broke through the clouds to the most brilliant blue sky I’d ever seen, and nothing but snow for miles. I’m no stranger to snow, having grown up below a ski resort for most of my childhood, but this was definitely snow like I’d never seen it before. We spent a good few hours at the Summit, and you could easily be there all day. We ventured across the highest elevation suspension bridge in Europe, explored a glacier cave and, of course, had plenty of snowball fights, but you can also go skiing or snowboarding, visit the Adventure Park or go snow tubing (which was unfortunately not running on the day we visited). There’s also cafes, restaurants and shops to browse. It also looks incredible in the summertime (and a lot warmer for those who aren’t fans of getting their feet wet).
Hootch and Hammers
One of the best parts about travelling with a tour group is that no matter how small a place may be, you always bring your own entourage! We were in Engelberg from Monday to Wednesday, but the local bars were only open on the weekends – however, as there were almost 50 of us, the bar at our hotel – Hotel Hoheneck – opened especially for our crew and it’s safe to say we made a decent dent in their alcohol supply! As it was still early days on the tour and there wasn’t much else to do at night time, it was a great way to settle in with a drink (or five) and get to know one another. The bar had a very cool atmosphere, super friendly staff and a variety of games to play – including a very entertaining German game called ‘Hammerschlagen’ (which I believe means ‘beat with a hammer’ in English). This drinking game involves hammering nails into the top of a stump, and despite sounding fairly simple, provided hours of entertainment for us all with plenty of cheering, whooping and sighs of near misses resonating throughout the place.
Working…Five til Nine?
Whilst most of the places we stayed during our trip were major European cities, Engelberg was very small in comparison. Looking at it on a map now, I feel like we missed a large chunk of the town, but this is most likely because nearly everything was closed for the majority of the day we were there. It was during the week, so perhaps it’s more lively on the weekend, but we struggled to even find a place to buy lunch, with all of the restaurants not opening until the evenings. With all of the retail stores also closed, I admit it did feel a bit like a ghost town during the day – but also provided me with the perfect opportunity to take a nap and try and recover from the flu, so I wasn’t that mad about it.
Cost of Living
If you’re planning a trip to Switzerland, do prepare yourself for the price hike of your basic necessities – meat in particular. Our tour guide, who studied in Switzerland, did give us the heads up and said she basically lived as a vegetarian during her time there due to the cost of meat, and we discovered the cost for ourselves when we went shopping for a BBQ we were having at the hotel. The cost of groceries and what-not didn’t bother me too much though, as the majority of meals were included in the tour, and the hotel were kind enough to provide all the bread and salad for free with our BBQ dinner. (I have to say, kicking back and enjoying a BBQ and a few drinks whilst swapping stories with our new friends surrounded by the Swiss Alps was such a great night and a bit of a ‘had to pinch-myself’ moment.) But the one thing you really need to know when it comes to cost is that the chocolate is top notch and very affordable compared to the price of Swiss chocolate in Australia, so absolutely no complaints there!
And Then The Clouds Parted
Waking up on our last morning in Engelberg was like waking up on Christmas Day. The clouds had finally lifted and when I looked out our hotel window, I’m pretty sure I let out a squeal. Where we’d previously seen grey had been replaced by the most majestic, snow capped mountains I had ever seen in my life – basically my idea of heaven! With an early departure, we rushed out the door with my camera in hand and walked around town taking as many photos as possible before we had to leave. Unfortunately, as it was early in the morning, the mountains were casting a lot of shadow over the village, meaning photo-taking opportunities weren’t ideal, but I’m happy enough with the incredible view imprinted on my memory.
As you can see, our stay in Switzerland was very short, but oh-so-sweet. Spending time in a much quieter location was a blessing, as we didn’t get a lot of down time during our tour, so knowing we could just kick back and relax without the fear of missing out on anything was exactly what we needed. Speaking for both Wes and myself, Switzerland is definitely one of the first countries we’d rush back to on our next trip to Europe – there’s so, so much more of it for us to discover and fall in love with!
If you’ve been to Switzerland, what did you love best about it? And where should we visit on our next trip? I’d love to hear all of your suggestions, so please leave them in the comments below!