A - Z 2020 Switzerland - Alps

Nufenen Pass between the Italian part of Switzerland and Valais

Welcome to my 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge!

As announced in the Theme Reveal I am going to be talking about all things Swiss.

What could be more fitting for the letter A than our wonderful Alps?

People who have never visited Switzerland, might think that my entire country consists in snow covered mountains; this is not the case, however.

My Mom thought so, too, though.

Her parents were fugitives from the Holocaust, who emigrated to what later would become Israel. She grew up 15 minutes from the beach, played outside with kids from all over the world pretty much all year round and enjoyed eating oranges or avocado that she picked herself.

When her Dad got a job offer in Switzerland, he didn't think twice, packed his bags and left to start his position and look for an apartment for his family. 

A few months later they were getting ready to move as well. 

Whle my Mom was sad to say goodbye to her friends, she imagined her new life in Switzerland was gonna be just like she knew from reading Heidi. 

Obergoms, Valais

You all know Heidi, right? The orphan girl who was living way up in the mountains with her eccentric Grandfather. She played with Peter, a young goat herder and his animals, until her aunt took her to Germany where she was working as a nanny. Heidi felt very homesick in the big city to the point that she started to walk in her sleep and tried to "escape".

Imagine the rude awakening my Mom experienced when her Dad introduced her to their new home in Switzerland: just your average small town with roads, apartment houses and industrial areas!

She felt lonely and miserable, just like Heidi. Thanks to her sociable and positive nature, she soon made friends, graduated and became a Kindergarten teacher. A few years later she met her very own Peter, who was going to become her husband and my Dad. 

He took her hiking to the Swiss mountains, so I guess she got parts of her Heidi experience after all, and they've been living happily ever after. We can't visit them for the time being, but this too shall pass.

Arosa, Grisons

So, the Alps... Here's the touristy part of this post:

If you want to experience them up close, you have to brace yourself for a few things:

The trip: It's not like you just take a freeway exit and you're there. Typically there are narrow, winded little roads leading through countless small villages until you arrive at your destination. Depending on the season the streets may be snow covered and / or icy.

The resort: some are car-free. You may need to leave your car at the valley station and take a train or even a gondola to get to your destination, shlepping all your bags and ski gear. It's worth the hassle though, because once you arrive, it's super peaceful. 

The weather: we are all hoping for a blue sky kind of day, and if you're lucky you'll get it. Even if a day starts out nice, though, you should still bring appropriate clothes! Dark clouds may start gathering quickly, bringing rain, hail, snow, you name it. You want to be prepared.

The gear: wear good shoes (no, flip-flops don't qualify. Seriously!!), layered clothing with a warm and water proof jacket, a hat and sunglasses. Wear sunscreen all year round. 

The rules: when skiing or hiking there are announcements made visible to tourists. Some trails and slopes may be closed due to risk of avalanche. Don't push your luck; observe the restraint. It's not worth it.

The food: while there is a wide range of restaurants available at locations that are easy to access, at peak season it can be tricky to score a table. Bring some chocolate, bread, granola bars or dried meat, just in case. Also carry enough water.

The orientation: Since mobile phone reception may be spotty, small trails may not be on Google, and batteries may die, do yourself a favor and bring a paper map. As it gets dark, orientation becomes hard if not impossible. 

The emergency plan: save the phone number 1414, better yet, download the Rega App. Rega is Switzerland's Air Rescue Service. The app alerts the Rega Operations Center, and your coordinates are automatically transmitted. I'll talk more about Rega when it's time for the letter R. 

If you follow these guidelines, you should be good to go and enjoy the mountains.

Riederalp, Valais - photo credit goes to my Mom

Here are a couple of popular trips to take:

Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe. At 3,454 meters (=11,630 feet) you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the mountains from the observation deck, visit an ice sculpture exhibition, purchase chocolate and Swiss Army knives, or try to score a hole in one in the snow! 

A word of caution: this is an unforgettable, but also pricey excursion, and if you are likely to get altitude sickness, don't go there. I was up there three times in my life. It wasn't equally bad every time, but I never feel great and was so glad to reach the village.

Schilthorn, Interlaken, aka Piz Gloria from the James Bond Movie in her majesty's service. 2,970 meters (=9,744 feet), famous for its 360° revolting panorama restaurant and an avalanche training center.

Monte Brè, Lugano, in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. Only 933 meters (=3,060 feet) but with a stunning view over the Lake Lugano and the Monterosa, the Bernese and Valais Alps.

Lake Lugano, Italian part of Switzerland

Pilatus, Lucerne, 2,132 meters (=6,994 feet): Dragon gliding, ibex safari, astronomy evenings, rope park, so many activities! The city of Lucerne has a lot to offer as well. It's where you can walk across the famous wooden Kapelbrücke, the Chapel Bridge. It was built in the 14th century, nearly lost in a a devastating fire in 1993 and rebuilt the following year.

Last, but not least, my personal favorite alpine experience:

Gornergrat, Zermatt, 3,135 meters (=10, 285 feet) I will be talking about the village of Zermatt in my Z post, so I'll keep this short. Just a teaser: this is the panoramic view that expects you! The summit at your right is the Matterhorn.

Gorner Glacier

How did you like your virtual trip to the Swiss Alps? Have you visited Switzerland in real life? Let me know in the comments down below. 

Hope to see you back tomorrow for B is for Bern, Switzerland's capital, and our Bundesrat (federal council). I promise it'll still be entertaining :-)


  1. wow! love the alps :) I used to live in Geneva a long time ago... Keep safe x

  2. Aaaaaaah, Alps ;) I'm French, from the French side of the Alps, so I love your post of course ;))
    I will come back tomorrow for Bern ;)

    Feel free to join the A to Z Challengers Linky Party:
    A to Z Challengers Linky Party

  3. I enjoyed reading more of your family history, Tamara. And, such a lovely tour of the Alps! ❤️ When I was living in St. Gallen, our school organized weekend excursions (can't remember exactly where to) and enrolled us in skiing classes. 🎿 In the summer before school started, my mother and I took a bus through the alps, from Zürich to Milan, with at stop at Lake Lugano. Such a beautiful place! 😍 I'd love to come back to Switzerland, one day. Until then, your virtual tour has provided a wonderful taste.👌

  4. Enjoyed reading your post... Especially the mix of the personal story part and the touristy part!! Will look forward to more posts on the challenge

  5. I loved the family story along with the opportunity to travel in a virtual way, since we won't be doing it for real anytime soon.

  6. Hi this is my profile... I don't know what went wrong the last time

  7. Beautiful pictures. We went to Peru about five years ago and I was worried about altitude sickness but fortunately both my husband and I did okay so maybe we'll have to add the Swiss Alps to our bucket list. It looks gorgeous. Weekends In Maine

  8. Why yes, I did think Switzerland is mostly made up of snow-covered mountains but with modern buildings and maybe a lot of chocolate makers.

    Still haven't read Heidi. I don't think I'm up for skiing at all.

    Have a lovely day.

  9. my mom had been to Switzerland as a tourist and otherwise I have seen a lot of it in Bollywood movies. I wish to be their in person, as of now will follow your series to get a virtual tour of this place.

    -Ujjwal Mishra

  10. I've always wanted to visit the Alps ever since reading (and re-reading) Heidi. Maybe one day...

  11. Beautiful! And I admit, I'm with your mom on this - thought Switzerland was just like in Heidi! Or at least, once was. 😉 Loved the virtual tour - especially now that we can't go anywhere!


Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment. It will be visible as soon as I had a chance to verify that you are not an anonymous user and/or a spammer.