A Whirlwind Swiss Vacation

On January 22, I left everything I knew in Canada for a 7 month exchange program in Zurich, Switzerland. The first week of my trip was a vacation with my parents (sorry Trevor!). My family loves to ski, and we have only ever skied in Canada, so my parents decided to come to Europe with me to ski in the Swiss Alps for a few days.

When we arrived, we spent one day doing an express tour of Zurich. Although it was overcast and cold, we rented bikes and cycled down the Limmat River and a little ways along the edge of Lake Zurich. I suppose January isn’t peak tourist time, as we saw mostly locals out for a Saturday morning stroll or run.

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Walkway along the edge of Lake Zurich
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Doing some fishing on the lake, perhaps?

The old town was as quaint and adorable as one would idealize a European town to look like. Narrow cobblestone streets, buildings that are hundreds of years old, and towering church spires.

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Dad in the old town of Zurich
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Churches, bridges and other touristy things.

One of the best parts of the day was getting to visit ETH Zurich, the university that I am going to be studying at (in English: the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich). The campus itself is interesting – it consists of a number of buildings scattered around the center of the city. What this means is that next to a lecture hall there may be a (non-student) apartment or office building. Coming from a university like UBC, this is certainly a novelty.

January is an exam month for the students, so the buildings were very quiet. These photos are of the main building, which holds many of the undergraduate lectures. They have done an impressive job of renovating and updating the building without totally destroying the historic feel of it.

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The main hall at ETHZ
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Side atrium at ETHZ

The next morning, we were off to Zermatt to go skiing. Lugging bags of clothing, ski boots, and skis we made it onto the train which would take us across the country. The ride itself was picturesque, through the Interlaken region and up through the Alps, and we arrived in Zermatt to views of the towering Matterhorn.

Buildings old and new in Zermatt
Looking up the river in Zermatt to the Matterhorn

Unfortunately only about half of the entire mountain was open due to lack of snow – in fact, the least amount of snow they’ve had in 20 years according to one ski instructor. Without anything other than groomed runs open, the skiing was a bit of a letdown. In fact, coming from Whistler, I would classify their idea of a “ski run” as an “access road” – narrow and groomed. High winds kept the upper alpine lifts and t-bars closed which meant no access to the Italian side of the mountain.

High winds at the Matterhorn!

Oh well, just being there and getting to experience their ski culture was interesting (2 hour fondue lunches anyone?). And on the second day we got a dusting of powder and the sun came out, which definitely made the skiing more enjoyable.

The Matterhorn in real life and in chocolate!

For our third and final day in Zermatt we decided to forego the lackluster skiing. Instead we hiked up a trail on a mountain adjacent to the ski area. After over an hour’s hike uphill, we were surprised to stumble upon a little restaurant with a great patio.

Lots of places to hike to in Zermatt!

Enjoying a milchkaffee and apple cake at a restaurant an hour’s hike up a mountain

Now it’s time to say goodbye to both Zermatt and my parents. They’re heading home after our whirlwind Swiss vacation, and I’m off to start studying and climbing in Zurich! Or should that be climbing and studying…?  🙂


2 thoughts on “A Whirlwind Swiss Vacation

  1. Thanks for sharing snippets of your fabulous trip in Zermatt and Zurich. The university you’ll be attending looks so cool. It will be so neat having classes here! We look forward to staying in touch and hearing more about your adventures in Zurich and Europe.
    Jan & Stan


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