Our last stop in Switzerland, Geneva, was just as beautiful as the rest of the places we visited. Once again, the combination of the mountains against the water was enough to make you want to walk out on a bridge to stop and stare all day. I grew up in the mountains and can appreciate their grand appearance, but never had I seen them next to such a large body of water. Geneva definitely confirmed why Switzerland is one of the most touristy countries.
Mom and I decided to tour the city starting with the Old Town and the looming St. Peter’s Cathedral, and finished at the Revolution Wall. While wandering around Old Town, we heard yelling and chanting from around a corner and backed to the side just in time for a huge crowd of protesters to come marching up the street. We couldn’t understand what they were saying, but one of them gave me a flyer and a Branch Chocolate bar as they passed. We watched as parents with kids on their shoulders, teens, college students and business women and men walked past us with signs or with nothing at all. Towards the end of the line, I asked a girl what was happening and in broken English she explained it was a protest for the rights of teachers and public figures who were getting a pay cut. They had sacks and sacks of Branche Chocolate, a bar unique to Switzerland, but sold all over in grocery stores instead of just specialty stores. This one had cornflakes in it and tasted like thick fudge sprinkled with crunchy texture. Handing out chocolate means business—this chocolate was urgently requesting change.
The next day, Mom and I took these cute little yellow boats across the river and saw the Red Cross Museum. It was a moving experience that makes you want to find a way to give back to the world, or at the very least treat everyone better in daily life. After museum, we got back on the tiny, heated yellow boats and drove by the iconic water spout of Geneva, the Jet d’Eau. On our way home, we stopped in a chocolatier that had been around since 1818, Martel, and tried the traditional “Pavé de Genéve”, or Geneva’s Pavement. It is a small dark square truffle that melts in your mouth. The recipe was originally crafted by a man named Mr. Stankovitch who kept the recipe a secret. Now, all chocolate stores in Switzerland try and mimic the recipe, but only the little shop, Chocolats Rohr, has the original recipe.
Geneva: a place with chocolate making history and a place with chocolate lasting through history. And that’s an un-wrap.
Mom and I took the train from Zurich to Lucerne, one of my favorite cities of Switzerland. It is situated right on Lake Lucerne and surrounded by Mount Pilatis and part of the Swiss Alps, making it a breathtakingly beautiful city. The main part of town is built right along the edge of the water and there are multiple bridges crossing back and forth including the most iconic bridge of Switzerland, the Kapellbrücke or the Chapel Bridge. When Mom and I did a tour of the city with a cute and smiling blonde lady, we learned that this famous bridge and tower used to be a form of fortification, torchure chamber and place to store treasuer for the city in the 14th century. It burnt down when a careless tourist dropped a cigar into a boat tied beneath it and you can see where they rebuilt it because the wood is still different colors.
I highly suggest taking walking tours of the city you visit, because there is so much history hidden behind the shops and chocolaterias. For example, we learned that most of Lucerne was changed or constructed specifically for tourism. The Chapel Bridge used to lead straight into a Chapel on one side of the river, but they cut it shorter and added a whole sidewalk to the other side of the riverbank so that tourists could enjoy a nice stroll and beautiful view, and use the bridge even if they weren’t going to the chapel. We learned that there are over 225 fountains sprinkled throughout Lucerne that serve as decoration but also places where people can fill up their water bottles with water directly from mountain springs. We also learned about the many animated paintings across the town on buildings and signs that served to help the people of Lucerne when the majority of them could not read.
After trying to soak up so much information that my brain hurt, it was time for dinner. Mom and I went to a restaurant on the river that someone suggested to us. We were seated at a small table carved right into the wall of the restaurant with a window looking out into the street. I loved the environment of the place right away with large wood walls and purple seat cushions. There were flags of each Canton of Switzerland hanging from the walls and a large group of women at a table next to us. They must have been having a girls night, and I was happy because when you end up at a restaurant with locals, you know that you have found a good place. We ordered a traditional dish of Switzerland, the Raclette, without knowing what it really was. We were expecting a fondue type dish with meat (which there is a raclette with meat, but not the one we ordered), but instead, the waiter came out with a little tray with a burner underneath it, a basket of potatoes, pickles and onions, and a huge plate of cheese. The plate must have had at least forty slices on it. Our waiter showed us that you take a slice of cheese and put it on the metal burner, let it melt, and then scrape it off onto your plate to eat with everything. The ladies next to us laughed at how bug the plate of cheese was and watched as we tried to learn to use the burner. It was really quite delicious, but we ate so much cheese AGAIN.
I ate more cheese in the time we had in Switzerland than I had in my last two years of college… or at least that is what it felt like! Say Cheese, Again, mom!
And that’s an un-wrap.
This mini-post will be dedicated to Confiserie Sprüngli, an extravagant chocolate shop in Zurich. It was founded in 1836 and is known for it’s handmade macaroons that parade in pyramids in the window.
Mom and I walked into the first Sprüngli shop we ran into (there are some scattered about in Zurich and even one at the train station so you can’t miss it as you leave the city), and walked in circles around the store staring into each and every one of the glass windows displaying sweet after sweet. There were tons of colorful macaroons, shelf after shelf of cakes, pastries and small sandwiches, and then a long display dedicated to small hand-crafted truffles.
After much deliberation, Mom and I decided on a small traingular cake with a chocolate layer on the outside and hazelnut filling on the inside. Needless to say, it was one of the best slices of cake I had ever tasted. The hard chocolate on the outside contrasted perfectly with the fluffy mousse on the inside, while the tast of dark chocolate and sweet hazelnut combined to create the ideal level of sweetness on the taste buds.
Sprüngli, just like the idea Swiss Chocolate, has a good reputation and a lot of hype, but it does not disappoint.