By Anika Prakash
What happens when you let two kids travel around the world without parental supervision? My parents had to ask themselves this question as they awarded my sister and I a two-day journey to the illustrious Alps in Lake Lucerne, Switzerland during our recent Winter Break. My sister Meeta Prakash, in her first year at Virginia Tech’s Carilon School of Medicine, did not initially consider this trip as a gift. She became overly stressed while preparing for any possible thing that could go wrong. Not only did Meeta pack almost the entire medicine cabinet, but also included seemingly unnecessary items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer. I, on the other hand, was ecstatic to relax on this quick stop-over trip before venturing to India to visit family.
As one can imagine, two young sisters did not use conventional methods to find housing and transportation. Due to the last-minute nature of this trip, we only had a few days to book all of the tours, lodgings, and flights. My sister used Instagram to find the Bürgenstock Resort which, luckily, had rooms available. The newly renovated resort was constructed against the backdrop of the breathtaking Lake Lucerne and the Alpine foothills. While getting to the hotel from the airport in Zurich might have taken hours, it was worth every second for a look at the majestic peaks. An hour-long boat ride across the peaceful lake and a short lift on the Bürgenstock Funicular, which is similar to a railway, allowed us to capture all aspects of the landscape and watch the snow glisten on the mountaintops.
One of the most alluring lookout points was the Hammetschwand, which offers an astonishing view of the mountain that is almost entirely surrounded by Lake Lucerne. The most acclaimed attraction of Burgenstock Resort is the Alpine Spa, which boasts amenities ranging from yoga classes in the Spa Garden to a relaxing steam room. The most spectacular element of the outdoor complex was the infinity edge pool, where Meeta notes how “the boundary between water and sky appears to melt away.” The scene from the edge of the pool reveals a tapestry of glaciated peaks and snow-covered hillsides.
An inevitable result of having two young people travel alone in a foreign place is that they tend to make foolish decisions. For example, my sister and I decided to go skiing in Engelberg, even though it had been at least six years since I had skied. Unfortunately, I fell quite frequently, having to take off my skis to walk down the mountain. Lucky for me, the charming Mount Titlis had so much more to offer than skiing. With the mountains looming above in the morning sun, it’s easy to understand why people are mesmerized by the inspiring terrain around Engelberg.
This part of the Uri Alps houses Central Switzerland’s loftiest peak, at 10,000 feet, with stunning views of the surrounding snow-covered valleys, glaciers, lakes, forests, and mountains. The temperatures are got as cold as 20 degrees Fahrenheit – two jackets were not enough to keep warm.
Just as fascinating as the mountain itself are the countless opportunities for memorable excursions. The most exhilarating moments of our trip were during snow tubing down a 500-foot slide called the Fun Lift, with a striking Alpine panorama. Some tourists also enjoy walking across a suspension bridge that is about 1,600 feet above the ground. Thrill seekers, like my sister and I, enjoyed walking through a glacier cave. We also took pleasure in using our ski boots to help ice skate through the glacier, an unwise decision that caused my sister to fall multiple times.
As well as trekking through the mountains, my sister and I had the opportunity to explore the local cuisine and restaurant charm around Lake Lucerne. We were amazed by all the food; even the complimentary breakfast was superb. The food ranged from traditional waffles and pancakes to meat spreads. While in the resort, we also got to try two different restaurants. The Taverne 1879 served traditional Swiss food, with fondue being its most famous cuisine. Fondue is a dish in which small pieces of bread or meat are dipped into hot cheese or a hot cooking medium, such as oil or broth; it was one of the most decadent meals I have had. Finally, we got to explore a Swiss spin on Asian cuisine at a restaurant overlooking the lake. We enjoyed various Asian dishes, such as sushi, pork buns, and pad thai, all prepared in an authentic, open show kitchen. However, there was a significant lack of flavor compared to similar dishes prepared in the United States, which is ironic since the name of the establishment is Spices.
At first, I thought that I would not have to tour any museums or historical sites, since the trip did not include my parents. I was greatly disappointed with Meeta when she attempted to teach me the entirety of Swiss history in a mere three hours. Before embarking on our flight to India, my sister made me take a historical tour of Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city. The perk of not having my parents with me was that I was able to recover from jet lag by sleeping in many of the museums. Furthermore, the usually extensive tours of museums became shorter and more enjoyable without my father quizzing us on what we had learned.
The two main sites we visited gave us a glimpse into the peculiar history of the country. The Swiss National Museum displayed the history of the country from its origins to in-depth analysis of current issues. The château and gardens enchanted visitors with their beauty and stunning views of the Lake Geneva, impressively bringing together the past and the present. The Fraumünster church presented another aspect of Swiss events as it delved into the history of a convent that was inhabited by the female members of the aristocracy of Europe. According to the website, “its most stunning treasures are the stained glass windows by Augusto Giacometti and Marc Chagall’s five-part cycle.”
Not only will I remember this trip for the alluring combination of culture and scenery, but also getting to experience what life will be like without my parents in the future.
Featured image courtesy of Ri Vella.