Why hello there again Switzerland, I am so happy to be back.
Switzerland is one of those countries I simply HAD to go back to visit. The first time I went I was simply to overwhelmed and couldn’t possibly see it all. This second time was a chance for me to take a breath and try some of the fantastic hiking trails and outdoor activities that flourish in this region.
Via Ferrata- The Iron Way
Via Ferratas were introduced to me by a few Contiki friends. They are old WWI aerial access routes, now present day ropes courses that consist of steel cables, ladders and bridges that allow you to ascend, descend or traverse mountains and cliffs. They involve of a mixture of hiking and rock climbing, and you are attached to the steel cables via a harness and carabiners. So in one sense they are safe since you are attached to a rope, on the other hand you are dangling off a rock cliff sometimes hundreds of metres above the ground.
I love them.
Via Ferratas are hands-down one of the best thrill seeking outdoor activities you can do. Not only are they fun, you get to see some of the more unique parts of the region. I highly recommend trying one if you visit Switzerland.
Now there are a couple of options on how to do Via Ferratas:
- You can rent gear at any sports shop and go out on your own via a map.
- You can hire a guide to take you, or join a group going through the area.
Some courses are very doable on your own, the Mürren – Gimmelwald course is very straightforward, although VERY frightening. Stephanie and I managed it on our own and it took around 3 hours.
On the Eiger -Rotstock however, I would have been very clueless if I had attempt it on my own, so I am very glad we were with friends that could guide us through it.
The great divide
Now you hear this a lot in Switzerland, but essentially there are three main languages: Swiss-German, Swiss-French and Swiss-Italian. Zürich is Swiss-German, Interlaken and Bern as well, where as Geneva is French. It’s astonishing how just a few hours by train can make such a huge difference on language and culture. I honesty felt like I was in a different country when I was in Geneva; the way people acted, the food and the transportation systems were all so different from the interior German parts of Switzerland I was more accustom to.
Now I wasn’t in Geneva for too long, just a few days which was a good thing, since it’s not the most budget friendly of places. On my life’s bucket list of places I want to visit, CERN, The European Organization for Nuclear Research, was near the top.
I am a huge science nerd and I love watching all the Discovery specials on the universe, quantum mechanics, particle physics and string theory. (I did study engineering for a year after all) Hence why visiting The Large Hadron Collider, the 27 km particle accelerator track underneath Geneva, was indeed a very nerdy fantasy of mine.
Thinking about visiting CERN yourself? Here is what you need to know before you go:
1) Book in advance. There is only one tour a day and they run in multiple languages, so call and book in advance.
2) If you cannot book in advance or forgot, like ourselves, call anyways and find out the time of the tour in your language for the day, then show up freakishly early and put yourself down for the cancellation/wait list. Most of the time there will be space and you’ll be able to get in this way, but obviously booking in advance is the better option.
3) There is A LOT of information they are going to cover on the tour and it might be a bit overwhelming, but the information is at its’ most basic explanation. The tours are meant for visitors that aren’t necessarily familiar with the innermost details of particle physics, so don’t worry about not being a genius. I do however recommend going through the interactive information zones to familiarize yourselves with the terms and general concepts, that way you will have a much largest appreciation of the material being covered.
4) You’ll probably be a bit disappointed. You don’t get the see the LHC or go anywhere they are currently working, which is essentially everywhere. This is a bit of a disappointment; however, we have to remember that these are real scientists working and I’m sure they would appreciated us not staring at them while they work and not touching anything.
So while informative, I would only recommend a CERN tour to those who truly appreciate the science and concepts behind the LHC cause if you don’t care much for it then you will not enjoy it.