Growing up, I was definitely not your “outdoor” kind of gal. I never went camping or fishing and my idea of hiking was climbing the stairs to the fifth floor of our apartment building. We were city dwellers, watching movies about adventure seekers and living vicariously through them from the comfort of our living room.
Years later, I surprised myself by going on a solo retreat – 70 miles of hiking in one week. After I got over my electronic detox and the shock of going from the concrete jungle to the unspoiled outdoors, I experienced so many new and amazing feelings, humbled and inspired by the natural beauty that surrounded me.
These days I try and recreate those feelings by hiking and getting outside as much as I can. But between meetings, appointments and pickups, too often I just can’t or don’t make the time. So, this summer, I decided to go to a place where staying indoors is the last thing you want to do.
My vision of Switzerland was snowcapped mountaintops that touch the heavens and rolling green hills that seem to go on forever. A country that beckons even the most amateur outdoorsperson to come find a piece of paradise. We began our alpine adventure in the city of Lucerne. The moment we stepped out of the train station, which by the way, is literally on the shores of Lake Lucerne, I felt my inner child begging to get out and explore.
As always, with so much to see and so little time, we had to narrow it down to our must-see sites. We began our ascent to the top of Mount Pilatus on a panoramic gondola cableway that takes you above the rooftops and up the Swiss mountainside.
We hiked and took in the stunning scenery and then hurtled down a mile-long toboggan ride. Next, we hopped on yet another aerial cableway with a cockpit-like cabin and windows extending down to floor for the 3-½ minute ride to the top of Mount Pilatus. On a clear day, from this nearly 7,000-foot peak, you can truly see forever. The Alps are all around you, and yes, it is a bit daunting standing outside peering over the edge.
After taking it all in, we headed down the mountain aboard the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. There were definitely some knots in my stomach on the steep descent, especially going through the dark tunnels. My fears quickly subsided as we stepped off the train and onto a boat for a relaxing tour of Lake Lucerne.
With this newfound confidence, we could conquer any mountain. The next morning, we were off to the charming and colorful town of Interlaken. We had a difficult time deciding whether to go to the caves, the waterfalls or to a place called “the top of Europe” to see a glacier. We decided to board a train to the quintessential Swiss village of Lauterbrunnen, a.k.a. the Valley of the 72 waterfalls.
Staubbach Falls, smack in the middle of the town, is one of the highest free-falling waterfalls in Europe and the perfect photo opportunity. We jumped on a bus to Stechelberg to begin another journey to the summit of Schilthorn. It took four cable cars to reach the nearly 10,000-foot peak and I came close to bailing after cable car number three, but my daughter said, “We’ve come this far, we have to go all the way to the top.”
Unlike Mount Pilatus, Schilthorn was covered in snow and one of the most magnificent sites I have ever seen. The scenery didn’t seem real. It looked more like a photograph and felt like being on a movie set. Schilthorn was actually featured in the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
I felt like 007 as we were making that steep ascent up to the summit and this time, I was elated to be experiencing Switzerland for myself rather than watching it unfold on the screen from the comfort of my living room.