Even as we take the rail from Lyon to Lucerne, Switzerland, my girlfriend Thyme is already coming down with a fever. Still we enjoy the ride, taking in the glorious green mountains and pastoral landscape of rural France, then the mountainous wonderland that is the neutral state of Switzerland. It is a place where the taxes are high, the quality of life higher, and the scenery magnificent; a place so beautiful that it only could have descended from the heavens.
But when we get off the train in the city known for its lake, mountains, and German-speaking people, we realize that Thyme left our Eurail passes on the train in her absent-minded illness. I try not to blame her, but we’re going to need to front the bill for the rest of our train tickets on our trip backpacking through Europe. Though we realize this, we also realize there is nothing we can do, and we might as well move on and worry about the money later.
We try not to let it bother us because we’re only in Switzerland for a few days. First, we walk to an authentic Swiss deli and grab some delicious sausages, spaetzel, and plenty of pickled and tasty accompaniments. We sit on the edge of Lake Lucerne and take in the sunshine, the food, and relax after the stress of losing our passes. Sparkling pecks of light dance across the deep blue water. The air is fresh and my head clears.
Then we head to our hostel, freshen up, and return for a short hike around the lake. We resolve that we will take it easy today, and leave the more intense options for tomorrow, when we hope Thyme will feel better.
Walking aimlessly though the forest, we watch as the native Swiss drink beer, have a picnic, and enjoy their Saturday. We find our spot in the grass and enjoy a beer from the pop-up cafe. The trees are green, the water is blue, the beer is cold, and we take in the calm of the day while relaxing in Switzerland’s stunning beauty: the lake and mountains that seem to go on forever as they carve out their place in the topography of this small country.
Topping the day of leisure off right, we head to a restaurant on the lake for some gourmet pizza. A variety of meats and vegetables make it a satisfying meal that goes well with a German beer. After getting some the famous Swiss chocolate at a chocolatier, we sleep like stones in our hostel bunk beds.
But the next day Thyme feels even worse. We’re moving on to Interlaken , and though the scene outside our train windows is magnificently glorious–as if the passing moments are stills in a film depicting an alien planet–Thyme is miserable. I feel awful for her. Her fever is high, she feels nauseous, and she can’t bring herself to enjoy the beautiful landscape of the verdant hills covered in a pitch-green, the cows grazing across the mountains, or the rural communities that care for the land and healthy cows.
We make it to lovely Interlaken–a tiny town torn between two lakes–and she feels a little better. Catching some snacks at the train station, we walk over to one of the lakes and I enjoy a freezing swim while Thyme takes it easy on shore.
Then we make it to our hostel, where Thyme rests and I read outside on the patio, occasionally watching the tourists and locals traverse the city’s narrows streets while gazing at the mountains, which perfectly surround the quaint spot in this tiny country.
Thyme wants to keep doing things, and I am no help with my excitement to get out of the hostel and explore more of the country I haven’t yet traveled in. Looking back on it, she should have stayed back and rested.
Nevertheless, we decide to take the shuttle to the top of Harder Klum instead of hiking it as we planned. It costs a decent amount of Euros and I have definitely wish we hiked up it but the view from the top, where a Germanic restaurant sits off a cliff, is incredible. You can visibly see the small town, delicately balanced between two lakes, encompassed by towering mountains. It is perfect, but because Thyme is sick, we skip any food or drink at the restaurant. I tally it on my small list of regrets that could not have turned out any different.
Though my traveling partner is sick, the sheer visual and spiritual qualities of our short weekend in Switzerland will be remembered forever, and we will surely return for a longer, healthier stay. We still enjoy the other-worldly quality of the perfectly green mountains, the crystal clear lakes, and the reserved disposition of its small town folk. We try not to take the place for granted, especially since we know how great it truly is, especially since we’re off to Italy where Thyme’s illness will become even worse in the humid Italian heat and congested streets . . .