When my friend from the Syracuse University London program pitched the idea of meeting up in Switzerland, my eyes instantly lit up. The Swiss Alps have always been a dream destination for me. I was simultaneously enchanted by their beauty and spooked by their mythical tales. I booked my flight with trepidation, knowing that the country is notorious for being expensive. Needless to say, I’m so glad I went.
We flew into Basel, an intriguing town on the Rhine River that straddles three countries: Switzerland, France, and Germany. Flights were reasonable (via EasyJet) and we were able to secure a budget hotel (Ibis) near Basel’s main railway station. The city instantly won me over with its mobility ticket- a free public transportation pass you receive should you stay at one of its many hotels. Trams frequently departed from our hotel to the train station, the Marktplatz, and other idyllic locations on the Rhine. It was perfect for two college students on a budget. We spent our first evening exploring charming old Basel. The Rathaus dominates the main square, boasting an illustrious facade made of stunning red sandstone. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and finding a cheap bar on the Rhine to end the night was definitely a plus.
From the beginning, we knew we wanted to see the Alps. After seeing them from afar during my last trip to Munich and seeing them from the sky as we approached Basel, not going would be such a letdown. Trains run frequently from Basel to the picturesque town of Lucerne, but they do cost a pretty penny. Thankfully, they are convenient and comfortable enough to justify the price tag (and it would be the only way we would get to see Switzerland’s famous mountains). In just over an hour, our train pulled into Lucerne’s main station, a modern building that stands out from the medieval architecture along the lakefront. Lucerne was an instant hit. The city’s historical center hugs the water and the Chapel Bridge looks straight out of a fairytale. We caught the cheap bus from the station to the village of Kriens, where our journey to the top of Mount Pilatus was to begin.
Mount Pilatus is one of Lucerne’s most impressive features. Little red cable cars ascend the mountain for thirty-minute scenic trips. From the top, you feel like you’re on another planet. There are very few places in the world where you can look down at clouds. Just being there, I was in awe that the land we were standing on was created by nature. It’s one thing to see Manhattan from the top of the Empire State or Puget Sound from the top of the Space Needle, it’s another to see one of the most famous mountain ranges from one of its many majestic peaks. It literally and metaphorically took my breath away. I encourage anyone in Europe to make a voyage to the Alps. Their grandeur and fascinating mythology is enough to justify how much it costs to get up there. It is often said that travel is the only thing that makes you richer. As college students on a budget, we couldn’t agree more.