travel

10 days in Switzerland

We brought the kids to Switzerland for 10 days during the March school holidays – yes we took 5 babies on a plane 14 hours to Zurich and lived to tell the tale.

Normally, we wouldn’t do Europe with so little time but the Krisflyer Spontaneous Escapes promo that dropped in Feb was too good of a deal to resist. It was 50% off the miles required to fly to Zurich, which made it only 19,000 miles one way (that’s significantly cheaper than a redemption ticket to Tokyo) for travel in March only, so y’know, YOLO and all that.

How was it like bringing 5 kids to Switzerland? A lot less crazy than it sounds.

In fact, it was a very acceptable level of crazy. I’ll credit it to the fact that these kids are the best travelers and they’re the reason why we even dare to attempt these crazy adventures. They helped with the luggage and strollers and kept a lookout for one another and had zero meltdowns the entire trip. I was prepared for a bit of madness but it was all very smooth and easy.

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March is a really nice time to be in Switzerland. We started in Lucerne, a gorgeous city an hour from Zurich.

Lucerne is the kind of dreamy that is just straight up unfair. Nestled between the breathtaking Swiss alps of Mt Pilatus and Mt Rigi, the city is a mix of old world medieval architecture and modern shopping malls. Our hotel was 3 minutes from the Reuss and we spent most of our time walking beside the river, along the Chapel bridge, then to the colourful Altstadt to explore the cobbled laneways of the charming old town.

The husband says that I’m like 85 on the inside but I’ll embrace being an old soul because my enduring love for cobblestones and old school charm will probably never go away.

I still like trips where there’s a lot to do, but I’m also starting to really enjoy just being with my favourite people in the world, walking and talking.

On our second day, we sat by the Lion of Lucerne for an unusually long time, during which we saw bus loads of tour groups coming by to snap selfies furiously and then leave. The place was strangely moving and the kids didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave so we sat by the little pond quacking at 2 ducks and googling details of the French Revolution.

The big kids were fascinated and even Hayley was like “Why is the lion so sad?? Did he lose his mommy? I think we need to give him some snacks to cheer him up.

To mix things up a bit, we also took a cruise around Lake Lucerne. After the ridiculous fjord cruise in Norway, we’ve developed a love for boat rides. There’s something about having the cold wind in your hair as you stand on the deck looking out on miles and miles of pretty blue water.

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Part 2 of the trip took us to Lauterbrunnen, our base from which we explored the Jungfrau region.

Instead of renting a car, we decided to rely on the Swiss Railway to get around. Turned out to be a great decision because the trains are convenient and comfortable. Okay, lugging the suitcases + strollers up and down the trains was a bit of a hassle but totally manageable.

Lauterbrunnen is nuts, you guys. This tiny little Swiss town is in a valley flanked by towering rocks and we woke up each morning to this.

Before we arrived, I read all about how Lauterbrunnen is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I took it with a pinch of salt because hyperbole, but when we got there, we were all a little speechless.

During the 3 days we spent in Jungfrau, we explored Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken, Grindelwald, and took the cogwheel train to Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. It’s 3,466m above sea level, which is a lot of numbers but I really understood how high that really was when we reached the peak and I felt the ground start to give way beneath me. My head was throbbing and I had to draw sharp breaths and I felt nauseous so I found a corner to do my Asian squat with my head between my knees for a bit. I peered over at the husband and he was also looking rather green so we high fived on both being afflicted with altitude sickness.

I thought some time to acclimatise would help but not by much, so we powered on ahead to visit the viewing deck and some of the touristy indoor attractions.

One of the stops was the ice palace, which is an entire place covered in ice. The floor and walls were solid ice and there were ice sculptures of penguins and bears and a dog, I think. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to explore because on our way in, Finn slipped on the ice floor and split open the top of his left brow. It was pretty brutal – when I saw it, there was so much blood I thought he had lost his left eye. Thankfully, it was just a very, very bad gash that was deep and raw and angry. I don’t think I ever want to see this much exposed flesh ever again in my life.

I kept pressure on his brow while the husband carried him back to the first aid centre. They couldn’t do much up on the mountain so we had to rush him back down to the nearest doctor 2 hours away in Lauterbrunnen.

Poor baby took 4 stitches to the head like a trooper and I held his hand super tight as he cried and cried while they injected anaesthesia into his raw wound and stitched him up. Yeah that wasn’t fun.

On the way back from the doctor, Tru said sadly “maybe if we didn’t come for the holiday, Finn would be ok and not injured.

Which is…true.

But then also what kind of life would it be if we don’t do stuff because we’re afraid bad things might happen? Bad things happen all the time anywhere and the best thing we can do is plan and take precautions and after assessing all the risks, just go for it.

Although in retrospect, the only thing we might not do again is go back up Jungfraujoch and mostly because it’s more touristy than we expected + the altitude sickness makes for a less than enjoyable experience.

After sleeping it off for a night, Finn had almost completely recovered the next day. We asked him if he wanted to rest in the apartment but he would have none of it. He wasn’t going to sit around all day when the option to go sledding in Grindelwald was the alternative.

And Grindelwald? So much fun. The town at the base of the mountain is adorable and we spent the better part of our afternoon sledding at Bodmi, a super fun kids play area. This was Hayley and Theo’s first real experience with snow and they were in heaven.

They made snowballs and snow angels and snow castles and went up + down the hill squealing like well, very happy kids.

***

It had already been a spectacular experience in Switzerland but the pièce de résistance of this trip was definitely the stunning car-free ski town of Zermatt. It was like stepping into another world, like we had walked into Diagon Alley, except maybe even more magical.

5 days seemed like a lot of time to be spending in a tiny town but those 5 days went by in a flash because as the kids say, “when you’re having fun, a day is like one minute.

Zermatt may not have Niseko’s powder but that view of the Matterhorn as you come down the mountain? I don’t quite have the words to describe it.

After some time in the snow, the other kids preferred hanging out at the playgrounds and walking around the town so the husband and I took turns to hit the slopes with Truett. I don’t think I’ve seen this boy have so much fun in his life as when he was flying down the slopes on his skis. I asked him if he preferred skiing or Disney and I saw actual pain in his eyes, like “what kind of cruel question is this, mom??!

Being able to spend some quality alone time with my #1 baby who hasn’t been a baby for a long time now was a special bonus this trip. He’s grown up to be a really good kid who is funny and kind and considerate and very cool and he’s got such a big heart it makes me feel like we did ok as parents who had to learn everything on the fly.

My favourite part was getting to the bottom of the mountain so we could ride the ski lift back up together and chat while taking in the beauty of the magnificent Swiss alps.

And most of all, I’m just pleased that my almost teenager still enjoys our company and genuinely likes of hanging out with us. :)

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I’ll always be grateful for all these memories that we get to create together and I hope when the kids grow up, they’ll be as fond of each other as they are right now.

 

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