For a first visit to Switzerland, both Uday and I were fairly blasé. Visions of spectacular, honey-dripping beauty, stunning vistas were almost expected. Thanks to Bollywood’s love affair with the Swiss Alps and our many friends’ visits, there was honestly not much of a sense of discovery or surprise associated with this trip. In fact, we had decided on it only because a friend’s mom had offered her lovely vacation home for a week and Zurich could be reached in less than 4 hours from Paris. We did not anticipate liking the the country and its people as much as we did.
We stopped in Zurich for a brief bit and took a train deeper into Switzerland to Samedan, a little town adjacent to St Moritz, a high-end Ski town. This train took us on a slower but more picturesque ride through mountains and valleys to reach the charming town of Samedan. We heard that during peak season, tourists easily outnumber locals.
View of the Swiss countryside from inside a kitchen, Samedan
Our timing of this visit at first seemed hopelessly off. It was the end of May, and the two worst (or perfect) weeks of the year to visit Samedan. Winter season had just ended, summer had not begun and most tourist establishments were shut for their break. The town was almost deserted and apart from a little 7-11 kind of shop (albeit much fancier in its product range) at the train station, everything else was barely open for a couple of hours each day.
We had not quite expected this emptiness and quiet. As we walked up a little hill leading towards the vacation home, we barely ran into other people – no way to even check if we were trudging up the right hill!
That said, the silence and emptiness was not disquieting or eerie at all. I tend to like bright, sunny places with lots of people and activity and this place was none of that. And yet, the story-book town charmed me in no time. Nature all around seemed to be in harmony with the built-up little town area. She was happy and expressed it in the majesty of the surrounding mountains, height of the tall conifers, and the constant chatter of little birds. She probably was, because people here took great care of her too. The town was spotlessly clean, with a highly efficient recycling program and people just took care – in everything they did. Yes, it is much easier when the population density is so low, but that should not deter one from admiring it.
The apartment we stayed in was charming and perfectly perched on a little hill overlooking the central church on one side and a still snow-covered mountain on the other. Warm, cozy and entirely finished in wood, this was probably one of those rare vacations when we spent nearly equal amounts of time indoors and outdoors.
Over the next two days, we walked about fairly aimlessly, taking bus rides and train rides, hiking up mountains, walking around lakes until it got too cold or windy to carry on. They really do redefine “going for a walk” in these parts of the world. We met walkers en route who were planning just a day trip of walking about 7-8 hours. Like they were going to the grocers.
View of the Swiss alps from a balcony – in Samedan, Switzerland
We took a 10 min ride to St Moritz, the glitzy town of the super rich. Despite the low season, there was no shortage of Ferraris and Lambhorginis on the narrow streets. St. Moritz and Samedan have an air of finesse, and exclusivity that impresses. Nothing is really over the top and though there was a sign of wealth everywhere, nothing made me turn away in disgust.
An inviting bench along the lake in St Moritz, against the backdrop of the beautiful Swiss alps covered in snow. The wind was biting but exhilirating!
Did we enjoy going to St Moritz in the low season? Well, there were definitely moments when we would have liked a little company or just someone to ask for directions or opinions. But now, in retrospect, I think we enjoyed it – very much. I have heard that it gets incredibly busy during peak periods when it would have been impossible to find a quiet moment in town. This way, we had the entire place to ourselves and it couldn’t have been better.
Yellow flowers along the lake at St Moritz, set against the beautiful Swiss alps
Next up – Zurich, so much more beautiful than we’d expected…