Why Switzerland is best experienced cold
Why do we travel? Why go out of one’s comfort zone to experience something new, something different, when there’s so much comfort in the familiar? After being back in the tropics for over two years, I have settled into the predictable routine of not having to worry about the cold. I had to dig up my layers from storage over Christmas as I prepared to go back to one of my favorite travel destinations: Switzerland. I was half excited, half scared to be back in lower temperatures that assured good hair days and cozy evenings but can I still withstand the cold?
Turns out I can – while having a lot of fun.
It wasn’t my first time in Switzerland but this is the first time I get to experience the country during winter. Following a red-eye flight from Singapore via Swiss Air, we woke up to a chilly Zürich and hopped on a speedy train that took us to Interlaken. Many Filipinos would have heard about it by now through hit Korean drama Crash Landing on You but it has earned much merit than being a popular filming location. Two lakes are situated on each side of the town while rolling hills, mountains, and cliffs, offer dramatic views everywhere you turn. It’s obvious why the place was chosen for the show. The dramatic landscapes that change almost daily depending on the light and the seasons, the Swiss way of life represented by the wooden houses and farm animals, the snow-capped mountains — Switzerland feels like a painting that came to life. The dramatic landscapes make it hard not to fall in love in such a place. If you want to seal the deal, I suggest that this be your next trip with your significant other.
A few train stations away is Grindelwald, a quintessentially Swiss village that turns into a winter activity haven, perfect for families. Sledding down slopes isn’t just for children. From the village, there’s a terminal for one of the newest cable cars in the region, The Eiger Express, which takes you straight up the Eiger glacier. It’s not just for people looking to ski from the top but for those who also want to enjoy stunning views on a sunny winter day. Jungfrau, the snowy top of Europe, is just two train stations away from the glacier. Dining and enjoying a couple of drinks is even better at a high altitude.
Photos in the snow are great but what’s even better about winter travel is trying out the activities particular to this season. While I’m not the sportiest traveler around, Switzerland makes it easy to give things like skiing, driving a snow mobile, and even winter kayaking a try. A two-hour ski lesson is enough to get one hooked into this winter activity. One of our guides referred to it as ‘white opium’’ with travelers visiting the same ski towns in the country to enjoy the slopes and après-ski every single year.
Idyllic Mürren paired with some Spy Thrills at Schilthorn
A village of roughly 400 people, Mürren is only accessible via one of the steepest cable cars in the world. It is used for furniture, sacks of rice used by the Singaporean chef who chose to reside in the village after falling in love with it years ago, and even by travelers with their luggage in tow. It’s quick, convenient, and safe. The calmness of the mountain beckons at the town made famous by the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Hundreds of film crew descended on the village as they filmed there and on Schilthorn, the peak of the mountain that can be accessed from Mürren by a short cable car ride. From being a British elite and Swiss thing, skiing became aspirationally mainstream as the sixth James Bond film showed the spy and the only woman he ever got to marry throughout the series falling in love on Swiss slopes while fighting off the evil Blofeld.
Switzerland makes it easy to give things like skiing, driving a snow mobile, and even winter kayaking a try.
A museum sits on top of Mt Schilthorn—inside Blofeld’s lair in the film—with a revolving restaurant serving an extensive, spy-approved, boozy brunch.
Old world charm at Engelberg
If you’re fascinated by life at the turn of the century as much as I am, then the village of Engelberg offers a mix of the old, luxurious ways of life with modern indulgences. Before the two World Wars, the Brits would take a direct train journey to Engelberg for their ski holidays. Nearby Mt. Titlis is connected by a revolving cable car, making sure that any commute outside this country will never feel the same. No traffic, breathtaking scenery, and always on time, extensive train lines and floating up in the air with cable cars to your destination really has its advantages.
The Kempinski Palace has a gorgeous spa where you can warm up after a day of skiing or the thrills of going on a cliff walk. End the day with cheese fondue at the hotel’s restaurant or have a tasting menu at Restaurant Spannort along the village’s main shopping street. Have a glass of Petite Arvine as a reward for a cold winter day spent right.
During the trip, I found myself leaning out of a balcony in Mürren, with the mountains directly in front, the cable car station about a hundred meters to the right, and the crisp cold air on my skin while I sipped my second cup of hot cocoa for the day. I was people watching and taking note of how life in Switzerland can be so good to their people. Maybe we can learn from each other and replicate some of their good practices at home. I thought: “This, this is why we travel.”