A Seeker’s Delight — Switzerland
What I learned about life from my Swiss travels
It’s one of those countries where you can sit in a train and look out of the window forever.
Yes, I’m talking about Switzerland — the land of pristine lakes and rivers, snow-capped mountains, delicious chocolate and cheese with sounds of cow bells and train whistles in the background.
When you travel through Switzerland, you feel like every small town and city has popped out from a fairy tale. But more than the picturesque beauty of the land, one marvels at the attention to detail and precision.
The Swiss are known for their timely train services as well as their watch craftsmanship. Precision is almost embedded in their DNA. What astounds you even further is that you can get one from end of the country to another in the same day by train… Every place in the country is easily accessible.
Switzerland is a country you can’t get enough of…
Simply because it’s so diverse in its landscape and cultures. This is probably because it has plenty of “friendly” neighbours — something few other countries can boast of.
To its west lies France, in the south it is bordered by Italy, the north touches Germany, and the east is surrounded by Austria and Liechtenstein. Different languages are spoken in different cities, depending upon the neighbouring nation. The cuisine too changes as you travel in different directions.
So, when one wanders through Switzerland, one also gets a sense of wandering through the neighbouring nations… The pizza gets crisper on one end, while the fondue gets cheesier on the other. A great mix of flavours that entice you every place you go.
But, more than a traveller, the land touched me at the level of a seeker.
Everywhere I turned I learned a new lesson about living in harmony — harmony with nature, with neighbours, with time.
There was a strange synchronisation one felt in that country, almost Zen-like, where time went by but still stood still; where trains moved, but cows continued to graze at the same spot.
Movement and stillness, tradition and modernisation; singularity and stability, friendliness and plurality — Switzerland is a country where all dualities merge, teaching you lessons on being spiritual still material, of looking outward while still being content with one’s inner strengths.
Here are some of my key takeaways from that small yet grand land called Switzerland.
1. Live in harmony with nature
Surrounded by mountains, placid lakes and much greenery, one realises how important it is to live close to nature and co-exist with it, just like the Swiss do.
Most of the land’s natural beauty is accessible by the tourist, and is highlighted in the best manner possible, without disturbing it, but working around it to create a memorable experience.
On our visit to the Rhine Falls, located near Zurich, we took a boat to a steep hill and trekked to the top to feel the wet cool breeze of the Falls on us...
Complete Nirvana in such an effortless way!
2. Aim to touch great heights
Jungfraujoch or the “Top of Europe”, as it’s often referred to, was accessible both by cable car and train. An engineering genius of the Swiss indeed, making one traverse such great heights and experience the snow-laden Swiss Alps in a mode of your choice.
The white panoramic view of the mountains, when seen up close and personal, simply takes your breath away.
The underlying lesson here is that no height is too high, and the human mind will always find a way to the top (pun intended).
So follow your dreams, even if they seem too daunting at the start, the peak is not too far away!
3. Fill your life with sweetness
The “home of chocolate” for sure, Switzerland boasts of several brands of chocolate that you want to fill your bags with. My personal favourite was the Lindt chocolate museum in Zurich. Here we took an interactive multimedia tour, and went back to a time when cocoa beans were used as currency.
Of course we tasted chocolate, lots of it…from fountains that had white chocolate, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate.
With so much chocolate around there is no way a nation or its people can be unhappy.
No wonder then that Switzerland ranks No 4 on the Happy Planet Index score. Whoever said only meditation made you blissful…next time, try chocolate :)
4. Get a bird’s eye view of everything
Most cities in Switzerland can be viewed from the top. We took a funicular ride (a railway system that moves vertically through a steep slope) to Bern, the capital of Switzerland, to get an aerial view of the city.
A bird’s eye view always gives you a different perspective of everything.
We marvelled at the Medieval architecture of the historic Old Town of Bern, as we sat at the Rose Garden, and ate French fries and grilled sandwiches. Distanced from the hustle and bustle of the city — that we experienced at the main station — we could now disconnect and enjoy the beauty from afar.
5. Keep friendly relations with neighbours
It’s difficult — as we’ve seen in our country — but the Swiss make it seem so easy. This stable democratic nation has boundaries that are clearly defined, but at the same time it embraces its neighbours, allowing everyone who visits to partake of the vibrant cross-cultural exchange.
Our train ride to Lausanne culminated with a majestic view of Lake Leman, a lake shared by Switzerland and France, with a glimpse of the French commune Evian, far in the distance. We heard French spoken in the restaurants and had crepes on the street — a great French experience, without even crossing the border!
Key takeaway — Mutually respectable and beneficial relationships, with clear boundaries, can make the world a better place!
6. Make time and precision your allies
Train schedules that seldom err made it easy to get through the picturesque nation with ease. Not just the Swiss railway system, even Swiss watches are known for their precision and intricate craftsmanship.
Adherence to time does not just show respect for the other, but also for oneself.
And, when time and precision are on your side, there is little that can’t be mastered, and not much that can come in the way of progress!
Perhaps the reason why several industries in Switzerland thrive, and why it has become such a rich country over the years… Rich, not just in wealth, but rich with inner strength and resilience too.
There is plenty one can learn from Switzerland, and one needs many visits to absorb its dynamism and calm. As a traveller and seeker, I’m sure the land will call me once again, and perhaps teach me more lessons, and show me newer landscapes…till then, the memories of this trip will linger on!
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