This past weekend I traveled outside of Sweden for the first time since arriving exactly four weeks prior. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had a lot of nervous energy around planning weekend trips and what role that would play in my study abroad life. Obviously, traveling is a huge aspect of studying abroad in Europe, specifically, so the question was more about where and when. With so many options and an already almost-full schedule with classes and other DIS activities, my friend and I decided we needed to just sit down, pick a place, and commit to making plans. Our searching landed us on Switzerland and two weeks later, we actually did land in Zürich.
Two days seems like an incredibly short amount of time to experience an entire city, much less two, which is what my friend and I were hoping for, and that’s definitely true, but with someone else who has a knack for planning, you can fit a surprising amount of activities and sights in one weekend. This was just a long-winded way of saying that truthfully, I did not do much of the planning or brainstorming because my friend knew more about Switzerland and had ideas for what she was interested in seeing. This ended up making the planning process really simple and conflict-free, which is always a bonus!
We started off our trip with a few hours to explore Zürich on our own and find some sense of familiarity in yet another cobbled-stoned city. After settling on lunch at a small Italian restaurant we joined a walking tour of Old Town and we were easily the youngest two people in the group by a margin of about 30 years. The feeling reminded me of family vacations when I was younger and the obligatory historical tours my mom booked that my dad and I always dreaded. Knowing that we booked it ourselves and were able to successfully put together an itinerary gave me a strange sense of independence and confidence in my ability to explore and travel on my own. I mean, I wasn’t completely by myself, but when you’ve mostly only traveled with your family or with some sort of adult supervision, going to a different country without that can be daunting.
So now, for the one thing I absolutely need to recommend. I had an amazing time in Switzerland and couldn’t have asked for a better first trip out of the country since arriving in Europe, and for that reason I feel like it would be cruel to leave out the best part. One important thing to keep in mind is that Switzerland is one of the most expensive cities in the EU, and in my experience more expensive than Stockholm or New York, but if you are able to budget and set aside enough money, it is definitely worth the two-hour flight to get there! My friend and I decided to take a day trip to Lucerne, a 45 minute ride south of the city, to what feels like another world. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life and I am convinced it will stay in that standing even until I leave Europe.
The city itself is quaint and beautiful, just like most other old European cities, but what makes Lucerne so special are the mountains that loom just over the horizon, beyond Lake Lucern, a convergence of four different bodies of water. We enjoyed an amazing lunch overlooking the lake, where the sky and water seamlessly glared back at us underneath the beautiful bridges that line the city. After getting off the train, we walked across the bridge and immediately knew we needed to take some time to sit on a bench and just stare at what looked like something projected on a green screen in front of us. We must’ve sat there for cumulatively three or four hours the entire day and I can’t think of anything better we could’ve done with that time.
With this first trip being such a success, I’m more hopeful and optimistic about the trips I planned for the next three months and have a newfound confidence in my independence! And with that, this weekend I’m off to Poland, so more on that later!