Swiss Road Trip

IMG_0969After Spain, the last leg of my grand spring break began. From Nimes, France, Sonja, her mom, and I began our road trip through Switzerland earlier than anticipated because of an unforeseen circumstance: Sonja rolled her ankle thanks to the high sidewalks in Nimes, and was prescribed crutches and some weird-looking compression socks. So after one stressful day in France and another for recovery, we piled into her mom’s blue stick-shift for a few days of driving through the Alps.

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Comes close! (Disneyland pictured on phone)

Although I was definitely excited to see all of Switzerland, the most exciting part of the trip came on the first day. We visited Zermatt, the only town that provides a clear view of the Matterhorn. Sonja had planned this stop just for me since I told her that I’ve only seen the Disneyland Matterhorn. She insisted, rightfully so, that we see the real one. Even during the off season, Zermatt was packed with wealthy tourists bobbing in and out of high end, brand name stores and buying boxes of chocolates shaped like the famous peak. (Okay, I’ll admit that I did purchase one of those ridiculously expensive little treats.) Needless to say, the real Matterhorn was much more impressive than the fake one, but when I showed Sonja a picture of the Disney Matterhorn, she agreed that it’s actually quite a good model.

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In the car, Sonja and her mom spoke German, so most of the time I had no idea what was going on. As the American girl who’d never been to Switzerland before, I wasn’t privy to the route-planning discussions, and Sonja and her mom (as I learned later) often kept concerns, such as whether we’d reach the Matterhorn by sunset, from me. I was touched that they were trying so hard to make sure I had a good time, and it was comical rather than offensive to be excluded. One night, the car went “thud,” and neither Sonja nor her mom explained to me what was going on. I thought we might have hit a cat or a dog for a good five minutes, but then I figured out that we were merely stuck, unable to maneuver the car out of a narrow, ledged driveway. Thank god it wasn’t a pet.

IMG_0986Our other main stop came on day two, when we stopped in a village with a view of three of the most famous Alpine peaks: Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger. In English: The Virgin, Monk, and Spider. They’re clustered pretty close together, so we got some great pictures from the town whose name I can’t remember for the life of me. At lunch, I finally got to try Raclette, the melted cheese dish I’d seen so many times in viral videos on Facebook. It is a Swiss dish, so I got the authentic version, but it didn’t look nearly as food porn-y as it does in the videos of NYC restaurants. Still, it was really tasty, and I felt like I was experiencing an important part of Swiss culture by eating it. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Experiencing cultures through food?

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At a neighborhood bar trying to keep up with the Germans’ beer consumption

On the last day, after a weekend full of taking winding roads through the mountains, we passed through the Interlaken region, getting gorgeous views of the two lakes. We finally reached Sonja’s hometown in the afternoon and enjoyed a homemade meal, the first I’d had in a really long time. While I was there, we hit all of Sonja’s favorite spots in town and visited the nearby cities of Bonn and Cologne. I met some of her friends from school as well, including her best friend that looks (and is personality-wise) similar to me. As Sonja suspected, we all got along very well.

The days I spent in Germany were lovely, and after four nights, I took a plane from Frankfurt to Dallas and spent a blissful week at my own home before heading to Ithaca to surprise Ali for her 21st birthday weekend. After she got over the shock, we did a ton of typical Ithaca things, and celebrated for her multiple times. It was an incredible weekend, and as glad as I am that I made the trip, I’m even more glad that nobody spoiled the surprise!

Now I’m back in Oxford for my last term abroad. I’m choosing not to acknowledge that the experience I’ve been looking forward to for years is coming to a close; instead I’m focusing my energy on making the most of the rest of my time here. And although that can sometimes be hard to do with all the reading and writing, I’m doing my best to remind myself to strike a balance and take advantage of this place before it’s time to leave. Stay tuned to see how it goes.

~Natalie

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