From the Andes to the Alps
by Jessica McDonald -- June 24th, 2015
Many of you understand the benefits of a great hike: the excitement when you first jet off with your water bottle filled to the brim, the determination that kicks in when you know you’re halfway there, and the feeling of accomplishment when you finish the trail and look back at how far you’ve traveled.
It’s one of my favorite ways to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city in order to reconnect with nature, and every time I decide to tackle a trail I’m reminded why I chose the field I’m in. I haven’t had a chance to hike since the Inca trail in Peru, but the great thing about Geneva is that mountains surround it, leaving me with plenty of options to choose from when deciding where to go!
So after staring at the remarkable outline of the Alps through my window at work for multiple weeks I decided it was time to take a trip to see them up close.
I traveled to Lucerne, which is a small compact city a couple of hours outside of Geneva. Luckily, one of my travel partners Jen Kunz – also a Duke masters student- knew how to drive stick shift. Automatic cars are much more expensive to rent in the city! I must say she did a fantastic job driving on the very narrow roads and an even better job parking in the very tiny parking spots (meant for very compact vehicles and smart cars).
We traveled with Jen’s husband Shreshth, who had just arrived in Geneva from India, Shreshth’s brother Saral, who flew in from Amsterdam, and Sarah, who is also a fellow in the Duke program.
We were quite a motley crew and I thoroughly enjoyed our road trip together as we listened to famous Bollywood songs while Sarah, Jen, Saral, and Shreshth all tried to teach me some Hindi phrases.
After arriving in Lucerne we decided to see the sites in the city first. We saw the famous Chapel Bridge which was constructed in the first half of the 14th century. This is located in the very center of the city.
Next we saw the Lucerne Lion. This monument was carved out of natural rock in memory of the heroic deaths of Swiss soldiers that fought and died in 1792. The beauty of this monument took me aback and I was awed by the sheer size of it.
Our last stop was the old city wall, constructed in 1396. Despite the massive amount of stairs that needed to be climbed, we made it to the top of each of the three towers that are still in tact and open to the public. We could see the whole city from the top.
The loveliest part of the day was when we decided to go paddle boating on the lake. I always remind myself when traveling that its important to see the sites, but it’s even more important to sit back and observe. This allowed me to take the time to really look around at the outline of the city on the water with the snowcapped Alps out in the distance. Switzerland has some truly beautiful landscapes.
The next day we decided to take a hike in the Alps! The mountain that we hiked is called Mount Pilatus, also known as the dragon mountain. We took a cable car thousands of feet into the air, through the clouds to the very top.
At 7,000 feet you can see 72 Alpine Peaks.
The vastness of the mountain range was breathtaking. I felt like I was on top of the world with the clouds far beneath us, and the crisp clean air felt so fresh and invigorating.
We chose to hike the so-called “flower trail,” which highlights the diversity of the alpine flora with designated plaques along the path. We passed through stone archways and maneuvered our way around the edge of the mountain. In fact, we spent so much time basking in the beauty of what we were seeing that it took us double the time to hike the trail than it should have!
Upon reaching the end of our hike this was our view…
I know that this is just the first of many hikes I will take while I’m here this summer!
A huge thank you to Jen Kunz for her lovely photos.