Now that I’ve shared the more touristy part of this trip (London), it’s time to share a bit about the the location that this entire trip revolved around: Switzerland!
In case you missed it in the previous post, the whole purpose of this Europe trip was to attend one of Kristin Sweeting’s Study Abroad workshops. Brides/vacation planners/non-photographers, you can skip down to the pictures but I just have to take a second to talk about how awesome of an experience this was. While there are SO many workshop options out there for wedding photographers, I knew I wanted to take a workshop with Kristin because I have known her well for about a year now, and I am consistently so impressed with her skill, tenacity, positivity, her understanding of how to run a high-end wedding business, and her willingness to share all of this with the photographers she coaches and mentors. I highly recommend investing in a workshop/coaching with her, because this workshop/coaching trip clarified so much for me in my business, and has already led to healthier daily practices for me as a small business owner. I’m so thrilled to now have a group of women (including Kristin, Jen and Amilia) committed to supporting and encouraging each other as we grow our businesses and walk through the daily challenges and joys that come with doing this weird wedding photography thing.
So now… Let’s talk about Switzerland! While this part of the trip was mostly focused on the workshop, we did have some time off to explore in each city. A few highlights from each place we visited are below! (Spoiler alert: the food was real good… so sorry not sorry, I’m gonna talk about that a lot.)
Our time spent in Geneva was mostly filled with lots of workshopping, so even though we were there for several days, I probably wouldn’t trust myself to give you a super thorough review on traveling there (especially because Kristin booked all of our accommodations and did all the research!), BUT below are some highlights:
The Old City
So very, very charming. Cobblestone streets, French architecture, and the SHOPPING…. holy moly. Where do the Swiss get their money??? I will never see more expensive or high-end retail shopping in my life thanks to Geneva. Just wow.
The Cathedral of St. Peter
Right in the center of Geneva, and I’d definitely recommend a visit. This place was beautiful, and it was where John Calvin gave frequent sermons during the Protestant Reformation, which is pretty darn cool (you can even see one of his chairs right inside the cathedral). If you climb up into the bell tower (I think it was around 5 francs to get up there), the panoramic view of Geneva is amazing, and worth a visit even if all that historical stuff bores you. Also, the inside of the bell tower is super cool. Remember, too, that Geneva is a much smaller city compared to places like London or Paris, so it was not at all crowded when we were there (this was after I had toured Westminster Abbey just a few days before, so this was a welcome surprise). Very peaceful, quiet, and really beautiful.
I’ve always really liked fondue, so doing it traditionally in Switzerland was pretty awesome and really delicious. This was my first experience with cheese like this though, and fair warning, it absolutely does smell like feet. People aren’t kidding when they say that. The good news is it doesn’t taste like feet. :) Make sure you get some beef fondue, too, because DANG was it good.
Wine + chocolate!
We had chocolate cake and mulled one for one afternoon workshop, and it was so delicious it almost brings tears to my eyes just writing about it. UGH. Swiss chocolate. Every bit as good as you’d think it would be. Find a bakery or a chocolatier (there are a gazillion) and just gorge yourself. You will not regret it.
One of the biggest benefits (to me) of visiting Switzerland is that you get to experience so many different European cultures all in one place. French, German, and Italian influences everywhere… And that means you can pretty easily find authentic food from natives of each of these countries in Switzerland. So obviously I was a happy camper. Probably my favorite meal of the trip was in Geneva – some of the most delicious pasta and tiramisu I’ve ever had at a lovely little place in the Old City called Vino Olio Cafe.
I LOVED Lucerne. I loved loved LOVED Lucerne. I wish I got a chance to walk around the city a bit more, because it is by far the most charming European city I have ever seen. Beautiful architecture, good food, exceptionally kind people…. It is absolute perfection. It feels comfortably small and quiet, and definitely romantic. Lucerne is in the German side of Switzerland so – fair warning – they speak German, but most people also speak excellent English. Highlights below:
This place feels like it’s straight out of a Wes Anderson movie, I swear. If you go to Lucerne, you HAVE to stay here. I could not recommend it more. It’s a historic boutique hotel high up on its own little mountain. When you land at the train station in Lucerne, you can see it in the distance and it is stunning. It was built in the 1800s and the rooms were just beautiful and so luxurious – all-marble bathrooms, fancy furniture, floral wallpaper, and even one of those semi-scary old-school elevators! Such an interesting little gem of a place. Also, the bar was excellent, the breakfast was awesome, and if we had eaten at the restaurant, I’m guessing it would have been awesome, too. And the view was spectacular. I did not want to leave.
So much more German than Geneva! Again, I think that was one of my favorite parts about Switzerland – how many different influences there are on the food, the art, the architecture… It was beautiful. The little covered bridges on Vierwaldstätter Lake even had these beautiful paintings that told stories (in German) on each of the arches. So cool.
AHH I was so excited to try raclette and it did not disappoint. Basically it’s just a giant plate of cheese melted over various things like potatoes and pearl onions and pickles. The pictures I had seen showed it being served at restaurants by a server who brings over a massive wheel of cheese to your table, lights a fire under it, and then lets you scrape off the cheese and eat it as it melts. Sort of like reverse fondue. I never actually saw it being served this way in Switzerland (and since reading more about it, I think that’s more the French way of doing it?), but it was still awesome and I’m so glad I tried it. Like the fondue, be prepared for some STANKY but delicious and super rich cheese. It. Was. So. Good.
Vierwaldstätter Lake + the views of the alps
Eat dinner on the lake, if for the atmosphere alone. Again, just insanely charming and romantic. And make sure you head out to where the lake opens up a bit and check out the view of the alps because HOLY MOLY when you are in Lucerne you are really in the alps. It was so cloudy while we were there that we didn’t even realize until the last day how incredible the views were from the lake and from our hotel. When the clouds finally cleared, we were blown away. There was a set of enormous mountains right there the whole time that we didn’t even see. I can imagine that during the summer when it’s less cloudy, the views are spectacular all day every day.
Three Kings Cake
I read up on this Swiss tradition after we got home, and was pretty excited to find out that we got to try Three Kings Cake/King Bread because we were visiting near the time of Epiphany (January 6th)! Apparently, it’s traditional in Swiss households to bake this sweet pull-apart bread on the morning of Epiphany. There’s a tiny king figurine cooked into the bread, so each family member pulls their own piece of the bread out, and whoever gets the piece with the king inside gets to be king for the day, paper crown and all! I bought some at the train station for lunch (super healthy choice, I know) and we also got some before our dinner on the lake. Pretty cool :)
Engelberg + the Alps!
I want to go back and spend a week just in Engelberg. It’s pretty much exactly how I pictured a tiny Swiss alpine town to be, but it was better than that. Cute little restaurants, charming inns, really legit-looking ski people everywhere…. UGH it was a dream. Even the train ride here basically had me in tears because it is so breathtakingly beautiful. The highlights:
I said in my last blog post that Switzerland was somewhere I always wanted to go, but it wasn’t on my “has to happen in the next 5 years” list. Let me just tell you right now that if you don’t put the Alps on your “has to happen in the next 5 years” travel list, you’re crazy. The Alps were so breathtakingly beautiful I actually cried. (Have you noticed how much crying there was on this trip? Yeah me too. Moving on.) They’re so steep that it kind of messes with your eyes a little bit – they’re thousands of feet up, but you feel like you could just reach out and touch them. When we got off the train in Engelberg, I jumped around in the street cursing for a few minutes. I’m not exaggerating when I say that standing in the Alps made me feel more alive than I have felt in years. They are an absolute marvel.
I’m guessing most ski areas in the Swiss alps are pretty fancy (because it’s the Swiss Alps), but this one felt especially nice. The facilities were massive and spotless, and Mt. Titlis is not just for skiing. We took the lift up to an area where you could go tubing which was SUPER fun, and then took the lift even further up to what I assume is the peak of the mountain. There’s a glacier cave, a bar, the highest watch shop in the world (because it’s the Swiss Alps), and the Mt. Titlis cliff walk: Europe’s highest suspension bridge. Click on that link at look at the pictures. Yeah. Feeling queasy yet? Unfortunately, the wind and the clouds had visibility at pretty much zero by the time we got up there, so we skipped this, which was probably for the best anyway… But it was still pretty freaking awesome to be standing in the clouds on the Alps. This is a life experience I will never, ever forget.
(Photos below by Kristin Sweeting)
Local beer and sandwiches for lunch, hot chocolate after a long day (not skiing) on the mountain. Such a cute little spot.
Overall Switzerland thoughts:
DO. NOT. MISS. THE. ALPS.
Plan more than a few days because if it’s foggy, you want to leave some time for the fog to clear. Because holy moly are the Alps beautiful.
Try raclette and fondue but don’t limit yourself – enjoy the variety of European foods that Switzerland offers!
It’s expensive. Lucerne seemed less expensive than Geneva to me (but again, Kristin did all the planning!), but there are ways to save money. Eat a big breakfast at your hotel, and find quick service spots for lunch (like Spannport Inn in Engelberg!).
Learn a few French and German phrases before you go, but don’t worry too much – most people we encountered spoke at least a little English.
Take the train, and don’t plan to sleep on the train. The journey itself is breathtakingly beautiful, and you probably won’t be able to peel your eyes away from the window.
Set aside some time to wander. I went on a run through Lucerne on our last day there, and I’m SO glad I did. I could have spent days just wandering through Lucerne.
Get up and watch a sunrise somewhere over the Alps! Why? This is why:
Lindsay Campbell is a wedding photographer specializing in natural, romantic wedding photography with a bright and airy film look. She photographs weddings in Chattanooga, Franklin, Nashville, and the surrounding areas, and travels across the country to photograph weddings! If you’re looking for a Chattanooga wedding photographer, Nashville wedding photographer, or Franklin wedding photographer, get in touch!