This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Europe with the Voyageurs Florida Ambassadors of Music. The trip lasted 16 glorious days, and we visited 7 countries. Our European adventure began in London, and continued in Paris. After three days in France, we continued our travels in Switzerland, before going to Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, and Germany. At the conclusion of our trip, our supervisors, all experienced travelers, asked us what our favorite destination had been. My answer to this question was always an indecisive “everywhere,” because I had enjoyed each place equally. However, the overwhelming favorite of my peers seemed to be Switzerland. As I reflect upon my experiences in the mountainous country, I can certainly understand why this was the case.
As I rode in our coach from France to Switzerland, my head was filled with memories and scenes from our bustling, landmark-filled days in London and Paris. Soon, however, my attention turned to the astonishing view outside the bus window. I saw an arresting landscape of rolling green hills beneath towering, snow-capped mountains. Every one of us was in awe, not believing that a paradise like this actually exists beyond postcards, nor grasping the fact that we were actually there. After a short rest stop overlooking the astounding Lake Geneva, we continued to our home for the next three days: the charming ski resort town of Crans-Montana.
It was raining when we arrived at the welcome tent where we would be introduced to our city coordinator. In the midst of the chilly rain, however, outside our bus window we saw two sweet ladies holding up a sign that said, “Welcome to Crans-Montana”. After just visiting two cities that were so massive that no one knew we existed, we were now in a picturesque place where the residents did everything they could to make our stay special. We were given discounts in most shops, greeted by everyone cheerfully, and there was even a special shirt they had made that featured our group name, adorned with Swiss and American flags. It was because of this overwhelmingly warm welcome that we began to realize that this tour was so much more than a fancy trip our parents had financed. Just as the vastness of the Alps helped us realize how expansive the world really is, the warmth of the Swiss people helped us realize that we were touching other people’s lives with our presence and our music.
Besides the warm reception in Crans-Montana and our hotel, the Hotel Elite, another magnificent Swiss experience was walking from the Castle of Chillon along Lake Geneva to the city of Montreux. The tree-lined walkway revealed the lovely lake, framed by flowers and a horizon of mountains in the background. Another highlight was when we visited Zermatt and the mountain that looms over the town, the Matterhorn. Everywhere in the region, we were confronted with a spectacular Alpine panorama of mountains, vineyards, lakes, flowers, and adorable chalets. Our stay in Switzerland came to a marvelous conclusion when the locals demonstrated traditional Swiss music and dance during our Farewell Fondue Party. I never expected that I would be doing the chicken dance with people dressed in traditional Swiss costume, or that I would be mischievously throwing M&Ms off our enchanting hotel balcony, or that I would be skipping through a ski resort with friends, while our rendition of “The Hills Are Alive” from the Sound of Music echoed down the Alps. Switzerland was a sublime dream, and it’s easy to see why my traveling companions and I were utterly swept away.
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