It was a delight to go on this journey as another unforgettable trip got embarked in my heart. Organizing everything was a bit tad difficult with a group pf eight people travelling together, but seriously, on travel terms, it was such a mixture of an experience, some places were incredible, while some were ordinary. I visited four places. The picturesque city of Interlaken, the classy and rich city of Geneva, the enormous and the highest mountain of Europe, Mont Blanc and Lyon in France which never disappoints with its secret night life and old, calligraphic architecture. The scenery of Geneva and Interlaken is quite spectacular with picturesque mountains, lakes and luxurious villas all around. In Chamonix, the village from where Mont Blanc begins, is a popular skiing village where we had the chance to go on top of the mountain with a cable car and then there was elegant Lyon.
We started off from Stuttgart late night with our buses booked to Interlaken with a group of eight enthusiastic youngsters excited for the trip. Shreya, Sid, Chintu, Mani, Anschuldigung, Anamika, Geetesh and me! The preparations had already started one day before, by organizing some food items, taking some spicy snacks along because as we all know the food in Europe is a bit on the non-spicier side for the Indians, and then packing some sandwiches for the next day, some fruits and chocolates for emergency. One more reason to carry some food along the way is that Switzerland as we all know is a bit expensive and since we were going to arrive in Interlaken early morning, I was really not sure if we could find any restaurants open. So Shreya too was a great help in packing the food and the crispy hunger bag was ready. Packing was sorted and at night due to some shitty train connections problem in Stuttgart we all were calling and messaging each other so that coordination was apt. Finally I could coordinate with Geetesh and then all of us reached the bus terminal on time. Before getting into the bus we were hogging, some chips and then came out the changer of the evening. Anschuldigung brought along with him JD with coke. The bliss of a whisky, WOW!
Each of us sipped a little to get rid of the cold and we were off with bus. It reached Interlaken early morning at 6:30 and the first thing when I open my eyes is the sunrise. I was flabbergasted by the view, the rays of the sun reflecting in the lake below, and kissing the mountains, the snowcapped mountains were glowing in gold. The greenery of the mountains was shining and glittering in the water, as the rays got brighter and stronger. Europe has nature at its best. The feeling is DDLJ. Those fairy tales start coming alive in every sense. Waking up to a beautiful day, where your face turns orange because of the water reflection and the sun´s rays. The skies spoke of the happy days and gave the message of optimism. In such a scenic landscape depression will disappear. Interlaken was panoramic and scenic to me. Cottages of each size along the lake bank, covered with tilted roofs and big chimneys where the smoke suggested activity, perfect sizes for a family of four, wooden roofs and crooked backyards, fences to adore the little wild flowers that grew on the lawn. The cathedrals ringing the morning bells and giving signs of waking up to the whole town. The village was so wonderful with the sun literally kissing each of us and the water aqua marine blue, had peaceful white swans gliding across the waves that formed kaleidoscopic patterns in the lake. One bad experience I had here was with the washrooms, in spite of being a tourist destination, the washrooms were locked, even the public ones, and the restaurants closed, that should not happen. Also I guess it was also the tour operators fault for not guiding us to the right one since we did not know the language. Otherwise no words, Interlaken won my heart.
Next on the list was the secret, quaint little city of Lyon, the city is pretty urbanized and well developed. When I entered the city there was nothing captivating or tempting that caught my attention. Monotonous roads, the same old big skyscraper buildings and residential spaces. Shops of all kinds, the city luxury was visible. It was nothing that looked glossy and rich, nor was it posh, but a great resemblance was found with Milan and Barcelona, and the population removed from Mumbai, as well as clean. Yes, the only view that was unique was the bridge on the Rhone River. Most of France in and around Paris, is commercialized. The afternoon was lazy and we all were drooling and snoring, because we were a bit tired as we directly headed here from Interlaken. I had some slight bickering with the tour operator because though our hotel was clean and maintained, the bathroom was small, and to top it all, there was no place to keep luggage, well this really saddened me that some people could stoop so low, and compromise on their guests ‘comfort, but nonetheless we found place and pushed our bags below the bed and by the sides. Fresh to explore the city, we tried booking a cab, because public transport halts were at quite a walking distance, and then whooping prices of 700 euros was shown on the app, just to explore the city, so the idea was given up and with a day pass of merely 6 euros I explored almost half of Lyon with public transport, metros and buses. So all set out first halt was the Notre Dame Cathedral situated on top of a hill. The view of the whole city was magnificent and a treat to the eyes. This cathedral has significance as during the Prussian War the women prayed to Lord Jesus for protection from invasion and then this church was built in that memory. It has world class designs and patterns, carved intricately and minutely in stone, the chambers made to perfection, huge hallways and statues that spoke of the hard work and history behind the church. Right at a cry´s distance from the church was the hill view that was breathtaking. The Protractor building, the stencil shaped houses, observation was in full swing by Chintu and me, the setting sun against the purple background of the sky made us all just sit there in peace entangled to our cuddly bear Chintu. After this stop we headed to the city area to see the famous fountain that illuminated at night and was a stunner. The city center was bustling in an elegant way, people were drinking in a socialized manner, the city hall looked charismatic with the lights flashing all over the pompous architecture of the building. I must say the French are really proud of their history and art. The night was young and with so many pictures being clicked we had the paparazzi feeling sinking in our hearts.
The dinner at Barocco tantalized our taste buds and set the tone for the evening. Desperados, Chianti Wine, delicious pizzas, scrumptious pastas made way into our hungry tummies and got us all talking. It was a camaraderie of a perfect kind, no phones except to click pictures and we all got talking about new experiences and cracking some jokes, discussing the day´s events and of course worth mentioning is the prompt service of the restaurant. They made sure that each one of us was served what we wanted. The guy took extra efforts to ensure that he gave us extra chilli flakes and tabasco sauce when he got to know we are Indians, and since many of us did not understand French, he was also kind enough to get an English menu card.
We got back to our hotels for a goodnight sleep as the next morning was the favorite destination, Mont Blanc, Chamonix. Mont Blanc what should I say about this place. A piece of me was taken away here, I got lost, I experienced all emotions on top of the mountain, anguish, rage, exhilaration, excitement, fear, sadness and extreme happiness or shall I call it bliss, at a point of time I also felt exhausted, it was a conundrum of emotions that played for three hours on top of the mountain. The cable car ride was whooooo….shouts, screams, shrieks, giggles, like one hell of a roller coaster ride, as we got near to the peak, it turned colder and all of us could feel the chill run down our spine. The French alps can be pretty tricky, this highest peak in Europe is fully milky white with solid rocks and can be classified as young fold mountains, not to mention the view has to be panoramic and the landscape full of glaciers, melting snow, forming into rivers and streams and flowing down to the cities, the sun was shining as bright as day. Garrulous rivers made way from the mountain below to form tributaries that lead into Switzerland and France.
The long stretches of steep, sometimes quite slushy snow were really difficult to trek yet we saw some adventurous and brave trekkers make their way to the 4000m + mountain from various slides and heavy mountaineering equipment. Paragliding was also one nice activity going on here, since summer time is still on. For the trekkers the large amount of snow also meant that the river crossing was challenging and ending up with wet feet so many times, well I also slipped so many times, but the feeling to be on top of a mountain was unmatched. A tiny tragedy also took place with Chintu and me having frequent headaches due to low sugar levels I assume, but we managed with our basic medicines and chocolates, and the energy was back. My friends Sid, Shreya and Geetesh were such a huge support. And so as we slid lower from the cable car back to Chamonix, we wondered in awe at the enormous size of the mountains. I had some mozzarella delicacy down below at the café and we were off to Geneva, our next halt.
Geneva is a very posh city in all its sense. The city center is adorned with Geneva lake and the fountain by the lakeside situated right in the center of the lake. It would not be wrong to say that this fountain stole the thunder of the evening and was the most precious jewel in the crown. Just imagine the water flowing high up the sky and as the splashes of water spread across the sky, it hugged the shaded clouds in pink, purple, orange and blue forming pristine stretches of patterns in the serene evening sky. It was sheer panorama. We were there at the Summer Festival in Geneva and also got the chance to tap our feet to Rock and Roll music which certainly gave me the needed adrenaline rush. The fair was vibrant and bustling, with so many types of food stalls, and disco floors to groove your body and move your belly to upbeat music. The music made the ambience groovy and exciting. Little kids running around for ice cream and licking their cones with relish. Little Genevian fashionistas greeting us on every colorful stall. We had Samosa Chaat for 10 CHF, Woah!..but it was worth it…ate lip smacking imli chatni after a long time. There were evening church bells ringing in the vicinity and as I observed the lakeside I saw a huge office building of Rolex Watches, expected here. As we made our way back after a satisfying evening in Geneva my heart was filled with wonder and oomph factor for this city. Grand and vintage, and at the same time royal, everything here has class.
Mani was the perfect photographer on this trip, this man has passion for travel and is a total buff. I do not know how I would have done without Shreya. I missed my regular travel buddies Mahesh and Praveen too, but then I guess for the next time, with one more awesome location. Stay tuned for my travel adventures.
Rucha Sudhir Khot