All the Places We Call Home – Switzerland

We went home last week. Not back to where we were born, or through the neighborhoods where we grew up, but to a place that’s carved out corners of our hearts. Katie and I lived in Switzerland for 10 months. When we returned to North Carolina in April, we had a hard time imagining when we would ever go back. In a year? In a decade? Some distant future, surely, but not just six months later. So when we found out Katie’s work would take her back for a few days, there was no question of going or not going, but how long our trip would be and how best to squeeze the most of home out of that short time.

As Katie took part in a company workshop, I explored old haunts. All  the coffee shops that  I had transformed into offices, the same places I finished book after book while abroad. I looked out over the city at Lindenplatz, ate on the steps of Gross Munster, and walked the Limmat River. It felt nostalgic to retrace my steps through the unchanged city.

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We had the pleasure of old friends to accompany old haunts. One night we snagged dinner with Jo and Jordash, who happily played CodeNames with us. I also was fortunate to grab a meal with Stefan Bachmann, friend and writer, who lives in the area. But several of our meals, and our entire weekend of travel, was hosted and helped by the Domecks.

The trip began with factory tours and quaint towns. You can see from the picture below, Gruyeres is a small gathering of buildings on a slice of Swiss land. The chateau overlooking the town proper is breathtaking. We went for the views, but also for the cheese and chocolate. Our first tour was of the Gruyeres cheese factory.

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A quick ride took us from there to the Cailler factory. This side of heaven, chocolate is the closest we can get to perfection. Not only were we stunned by the production of the tour (imagine traveling through an animated history of chocolate), but we all found our sweet tooth at the end, where Cailler set out about 20 different chocolates and you could eat as many as you like. I finally had my golden ticket…

… and I went all the way through the chocolate buffet. Twice.

From there, we redirected our journey toward the French regions of Switzerland, heading for Montreaux. The sites that waited for us on the banks of Lake Geneva were truly stunning. Vineyards marching their formations down to a sway of blue, all offset by mountains and sunsets. Not a bad way to enjoy a glass of wine. We found a fine restaurant in town later that night and enjoyed the stag medallions, along with our first taste of escargots (Katie wasn’t a big fan of that one). The winning meal, however, might have been Justin’s Pumpkin Cappuccino.

The next morning we had our stomachs filled by a French bakery and set out on a new adventure. This, of course, is where the Domecks’ spontaneity plays into the trip. The plan was to drive to Interlaken, where Katie and I would spend a few days on our own. Of course, we decided to take the more scenic route. This brought us through a massive canyon, onto a tunnel-train, and finally to the beautiful launch pad that is Kandersteg.

While the Jungrau region still stands out in my mind, we were privileged with a flawless afternoon and that incomparable lake reflection of towering mountains… Oeschinen Lake really stole our breath away.

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From there, we hiked down, climbed back in the car, and headed on. It felt like so many of the adventures that had come before it. Good company, beautiful vistas, and secret threads. Katie and I parted ways that night, barely making it into our room (apparently 8pm was well past the check in time for our hotel in Wengen). The next morning we ate pastries and drank coffee and ascended the familiar lift, setting our feet down in Mannlichen once more. The hiking paths belonged to us. We saw the occasional person being ferried overhead on the lifts down to Grindelwald, but otherwise, we had the quiet mountains to ourselves.

Highlights include:

  • being really cold, then really hot, then really cold.
  • A standoff with a bull
  • Quiet talks with the love of my life
  • Snow-tipped mountains
  • A really, horrible tourist lunch
  • Katie’s decision that she is definitely coming back as dairy cow

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On Tuesday, we headed back to Zurich. The Domecks hosted us one last time (with Katie providing her famous Chicken Parmesan recipe with the secret sauce). Between dinner and games and conversation, it was quite clear that we had come home… We would fly home the next day, tired from the trip, catching flights, all to get back to another home. It’s quite a worthy state to be in, though, isn’t it? Finding a home here, leaving a home there. Knowing always there are places that you aren’t simply welcome, but at ease, in your element; finding a way to smile and laugh and dig deeper into this one, wonderful life. I find myself aching for whatever comes next. I find myself missing good friends. I find myself thankful for home, wherever that may be.

What now, you ask? The next adventure of course.

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