A tale of two cities (and two summits) in seven days

People are staring, cheese fondue is flying and there’s a small dog sitting in the passenger seat.

It’s my first night in Switzerland and I’m seeing Zurich’s historic Altstadt (Old Town) in a rather unconventional manner—from the back seat of an electric tuk tuk that’s serving up fondue by the caquelon (pot).

Click play to WATCH

At first I was sceptical. Hot cheese and cobblestones sounds more like a recipe for second-degree burns than a good Euro night out. But once I master the art of skewering small bites of bread while bouncing down a 14th century stone alley, I come to appreciate the fresh breeze that’s cooling my stick of molten cheese.

Our etuktuk driver, who navigates Zurich’s Augustinergasse like Keanu à la Speed, lets me in on the Swiss fondue secret: dip your bread in white wine before dipping it in cheese. It’s a culinary revelation; I think I might have found heaven.

Click play to WATCH

It’s not even my first brush with the afterlife today. This morning we spent an idyllic Sunday cruising the city on e-bikes (which you can rent from one of many docking stations in the city). The sun was out, batteries fully charged, bellies full of pretzels.

Then I put the bike in Turbo Mode, shouted “let’s go Turbo Mode!” and proceeded to stack it in a Zurich gutter. My life, and all the pretzels I’m still yet to eat, flashing before my eyes.

Click play to WATCH

Turbo Mode is a pretty accurate description of the next six days, when I’ll be going from city to summit to city to summit (that’s right, two cities and two summits) in an effort to identify what makes Switzerland so… well, Swiss. Besides economic prosperity and internationally renowned chocolate—what’s at the heart of this landlocked country? And what will I find at the top of its mountains?

Hit play!


I can’t see my hand in front of my face. The menu is in braille. And with my loss of sight, I’ve also lost my appetite—an interesting neural connection. I’m at Blindekuh, the world’s first restaurant in the dark. Having been led (literally single file, hands on shoulders) into the darkened dining hall, the blackness is overwhelming. Borderline claustrophobic.

The experience is designed to offer sighted people an insight into the world of those who cannot see. All our waitstaff are sight-challenged, the menu is a chef’s surprise and I’ve already surprised myself by starting to eat with my hands. Wielding a knife is proving both difficult and dangerous. Flavour identification has also gone to hell—is this a bread dumpling or slice of veal? Who am I? Is there life on other planets? What happens if you type google into Google?

Eat Tip

Search out the Bäckerei Vohdin in Old Town, a family-run bakery that’s been doling out cinnamon cookies and city-best pretzels since 1626.

Travel Tip

Grab a city key from Zurich's Town Hall these keys open up some of the city’s private, most historic laneways. You’ll feel like a VIP.


I’m soaking in a bath in a century-old vault that used to be a brewery. Earlier this morning I watched the sunrise above the Zurich cityscape from a thermal rooftop pool. In a few moments I’m going to move into the floral steam room to detox the floral gin highballs I downed last night.

The Hürlimannbad & Spa, located in the former site of the Hürlimann brewery, is both an ode to brewing and a take on Roman bathing rituals. Neither of which are surprising to me. The Swiss love beer, with records showing that brewing was taking place as early as 754 CE in St. Gallen. And they’ve also got a tonne of Roman artefacts floating about, as Zurich was once a Roman army stronghold. Frothies and forums, that should be Zurich’s historic motto.

Drink Tip

Venture to Langstrasse, formerly the red light district and now prolific bar street. According to our guide “it’s the dirtiest you’ll get in Switzerland”. In the best kind of way.

Travel Tip

Head to Industriequartier, a neighbourhood in Zurich’s west, for super trendy nightlife. We saw Malian jazz legend Boubacar Traoré at Moods. And it was a big mood.

Click play to WATCH


Lake Lucerne is 114 square kilometres of cobalt blue and I’m kayaking a fraction of it with Kanuwelt Buochs en route to a lakeside sauna. My paddles glide through the placid water; the surrounding mountains are hazy in the morning light; the tinkling of cowbells float in on valley winds.

We caught two trains and a bus to get to evergreen Buochs and if I learned anything about the Swiss today it’s that their public transport is terrifyingly punctual.

With the traditional sauna cranking at 70 degrees celsius, I alternate between sweating and (very cold) swimming. I feel like every man I’ve ever dated who has told me about Wim Hof would be proud right now. I also feel like my Swiss grandparents (if I had any) would be proud of me too. This is how you stay healthy in Switzerland, apparently.


The world’s steepest cogwheel railway is, as you might expect, really freaking steep. I try not to think too hard about the Swiss engineering required to drag this giant red caterpillar car up a giant alpine mountain. But the panoramic views are out-of-this-world, and the hotel—Pilatus Kulm—is straight out of a Wes Anderson movie.

Mount Pilatus stands 2,132 metres above sea level and proudly overlooks central Lucerne. In the Middle Ages, people believed dragons with super healing powers lived in the mountain’s craggy crevices. I see no evidence of dragons, but I do watch a sunrise so beautiful it has me believing in magic.


Dragons, angels, castles on hills. Lucerne, also known as the ‘City of Lights’, is a fairytale—and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. This is where mythical Switzerland comes to play. As the story goes, an angel landed on a hill just outside of the valley and showed the first arriving settlers where to build a chapel in honour of St. Nicholas (note: not Santa Claus), the patron saint of fishermen, sailors, archers, repentant thieves, brewers AND pawnbrokers.

Angel or no angel, I eat the best sausages of my life, cry at a statue of a dying lion (in memory of the French Revolution), walk the Carpe Diem bridge and am told in no uncertain terms by a chocolatier that I have a “very educated palate”. How do you say “I love Lucerne” in Swiss German?

Eat Tip

Try your own hand at a bespoke chocolate tasting at Max Chocolatier. As they say “trying single origin will turn you into a chocolate snob”.

Stay Tip

For a bonafide slice of Swiss history, stay at Hotel Schlüssel. This boutique hotel has been welcoming guests since 1545, and is a picture-perfect heritage site.


Cable cars and cog wheels and gondolas, oh my! We make moves to Engelberg—adorable ski town, picturesque valley, delightful train station—only to make further moves up the mountain to Titlis. At 3,238 metres above sea level, my Converse sneakers slip in the snow. That’s right, snow. I don’t regret much this trip, but I do regret my shoe choice today.

The TITLIS Cliff Walk is the highest suspension bridge in Europe, and I squint against the bright sun as I try to spot Germany. I squint again in the low light as we walk through a slippery glacial cavern. Then I cradle a hot coffee and squint at the epic view to the Uri Alps, and wonder what they’d look like in the winter.

Click play to WATCH

It’s at this moment I realise I’m not done with Switzerland. My seven day odyssey might be over, but I’ve only just scratched the Swiss surface.

Yes, the Swiss are perennially punctual people. Yes, their menus are overwhelmingly dairy heavy. Yes, the grass here is, quite literally, greener than Australia (where I call home). But I’ve also learned that Switzerland’s cities are laden with centuries of history, their mountains are sprinkled with magic, and their culture is warm and welcoming but forthright and fair.

It’s a place where you can eat pretzels made to a centuries-old recipe one day, and drink schnapps in the Alps the next.

In Switzerland, you really can have your fondue (in an electric tuk tuk), and eat it too.

get lost travelled as a guest of Switzerland Tourism.

Get there

The thing about Switzerland is it’s very accessible. You can fly from pretty much anywhere in Australia and there’s loads of connections. Or you can fly to a neighbouring European country and catch a train (arguably more romantic). If we’re training, we’re big fans of a convenient Swiss Travel Pass. Not just limited to trains, you also get travel on all Zurich trams and Lucerne buses. Plus! 50% off your ticket up to Pilatus and Titlis mountains.

Stay there

When it comes to bunking down, Switzerland’s accommodation options are endless. From sustainable stays to quaint cottages or luxe city hotels, there’s something to suit every traveller. On this trip, we absolutely adored Zurich’s 25 Hours Hotel, Engelberg’s beautiful Hotel Bellevue-Terminus and the magnificent Pilatus Kulm.

Get Informed

The largest waterfall in Europe, Rhine Falls, is near the town of Schaffhausen, in Switzerland.

Tour There

If you’re looking for a comprehensive, nation-wide list of operators or experiences, check out our friends over at Switzerland Tourism. If Zurich tickled your fancy, Zurich Tourism is your best bet. More of a Lucerne traveller? Lucerne Tourism have your back.

Words Tayla Gentle

Photos Michael Mouritz

Tags: alps, Europe, fondue, mountain, switzerland

While you're here


Cube Aletsch bills itself as a 'million star hotel', and both points  are...

Cube Aletsch bills itself as a 'million star hotel', and both points  are fairly straight...


Art house Basel is cool. Really cool.  ...

Art house Basel is cool. Really cool.  ...


Spanning 1.5 kilometres, the longest treetop walk in the world has opened in...

Spanning 1.5 kilometres, the longest treetop walk in the world has opened in Switzerland....


Whitepod is a high-tech eco-camp with all the comforts of a hotel in the...

Whitepod is a high-tech eco-camp with all the comforts of a hotel in the stunning Swiss...