Considering the amount of travel that I do with my family, I realised off late that I haven’t been writing about them as much as I would like to. My kids have been an integral part of many-a-journeys, and it is only fair that after having carried them and their luggage through many countries, surviving numerous tantrums in public, and often forgoing my own wants for theirs, I share their utter cuteness with the rest of the world.
First, I must introduce my two little lovelies who came into this world, and suddenly everything changed in my life – mostly for the better, but sometimes also worse;
Saanvi, my daughter, was all of 9 at the time of this trip. Around the age of 6, she went into an agreement with me that I would be allowed to have her hair cut any which way I wanted till she turned 10. She turns 10 in a few months, and more than entering the double digits, she’s excited about getting “control” of her hair back. The two things that have surprised me the most about her caring personality is that she has an adventurous gene in her and that she enjoys the adrenaline rush one gets from being on roller-coasters, something she certainly didn’t get from her Dad.
Vivaan, almost 3 when we visited Switzerland last year, belongs to a class of his own. I really mean that. He’s so naughty, active, and out there that his teachers would prefer him to be in a class of his own. Underneath all the cheekiness, he’s the most considerate 3-year old I’ve ever come across, and if you can forgo the breaking things part, screaming and jumping, he has a heart of gold. However, we are always looking for a babysitter for him, since the last few didn’t work out – I have no idea why – so in case you would like to give it a try, call us. Oh! Some of my friends call him The Tasmanian Devil, lovingly, of course, I might add.
Coming back to our three-week-long vacation in Switzerland, which proved to be quite the experience for both the kids who got to enjoy various activities over this period.
It’s often surprising how little it takes to occupy the mind of a child and how much satisfaction and enjoyment they can derive from the most basic of activities. Here are 10 that they, and we, in turn, enjoyed while exploring Switzerland;
Counting Cows – Train journeys, similar to flights, can be a little hard on kids, especially the active ones. Being confined to a relatively smaller area for an extended period makes them restless. The trick is to keep their mind diverted with something to do, so they don’t have the time to be naughty. We got Vivaan, who was otherwise jumping on the seats, to count cows. Not only was the scenery en-route from Vevey to Bern spectacular, but it came dotted with the occasional herd of cows or taos as my son called them. He spent a good few minutes mooing and looking at “so many taos”.
Chaplin’s World – I love going out on Daddy-Daughter dates with Saanvi. She’s very much a mummy’s girl, so whenever I get an opportunity to share an event or experience with her, I make the most of it. Living in Corseaux, we were quite close to where Charlie Chaplin spent his last years. His house is now a museum and Chaplin’s World is a beautiful look into the life of this legend. Besides a walk-in-museum, it has an entire area – that we almost missed – where scenes from his movies have been recreated using sets and wax figures. There’s the option to dress up, take photos, and just be a small part of the classics that he made over his film career. A visit to Chaplin’s World remains one of my daughter’s fondest memories from the trip.
Bunk-Bed Living – I’m not sure why kids have a fascination with bunk-beds. I did too when I was small, and now I see the same enthusiasm in my children. Imagine their surprise when we walked into our little mobile home – which wasn’t mobile – in Lauterbrunnen, and they saw that their room had bunk-beds. While my wife and I tried to adjust to the compact size of the living arrangements, my kids were busy deciding who would sleep where and testing the bed going up and down the ladder. Little joys, right?
Sledging at the Top of Europe – We were so lucky to reach Jungfraujoch on a beautiful sunny summer day. It was “warmer” outside in the sun than inside where it was impossible to take a photo without having someone walk into it.
Outside though, you could take in the views while drinking hot chocolate or as we did, go sledging. There were options for adults to go zip-lining as well, but the kids seemed to have enjoyed going down the hill, again and again, and again, with never-ending enthusiasm. A wonderful family day spent at a beautiful location.
The Fountain of Youth – Bern, capital of Switzerland, is a charming little city that is full of culture, tradition, art, and fountains. Not exactly a “fountain of youth”, but as you can see, the youth seem to have been making the most of these surface fountains at Parliament Square.
I was informed that it is believed, under the surface of the square, is where quite a bit of Swiss gold is stored. Interesting facade don’t you think, having fountains on top.
Playground Mania – Switzerland is full of playgrounds. Everywhere you go, you’re bound to come across them; by the lake, in small Swiss mountain villages, squares in big cities, carousals in idyllic locations, it’s every kid’s dream come true, and obviously, my kids loved them. In fact, it got to the point where we have to distract them whenever we would spot a playground lest we’d be late for whatever activity we had planned initially.
Cheesy Chocolaty Day – Even though it’s a little educational rather than hands-on, the Chocolate Train we took to Gruyere and Broc to see the cheese factory and Cailler chocolate factory respectively was enjoyed wholeheartedly by the kids. It was the first real train ride for us in Switzerland –we got to sit in a baroque cabin – on top of which the promise of endless chocolate and cheese would drive any adult to jump with excitement – I’m talking about myself here – let alone kids.
From the enticing hot chocolate early in the morning to lifting up a block of cheese to an all you can eat presentation of chocolate, there were lots to take in and admire on this day full of scenic beauty and gastronomic delights. Although, the sugar rush felt by the kids at the end, and their actions, as a result, is another story altogether.
Snow for the First Time – Now that’s one to remember, right? The first time you see snow and the first time you experience snowfall. While the latter is yet to happen, my son got to be in snow for the first time when we took the Gronergrat train from Zermatt. The views of the glacier were panoramic, the weather so cool that it made us devilishly happy about not being back in India, and my kids throwing snowballs at my wife was simply priceless.
Name Calling – Getting kids to repeat hard to pronounce names can be both hilarious – for us – and a learning experience – for them. My son, surprisingly, was pretty good with Swiss city names. Getting him to repeat and remember them was a favourite activity that we would do whenever we had free time.
It reached a point when he started repeating names of places that would be called out on the PA system in trains. One time, on our way back from Zermatt, he was repeating the names so well, that it made a stern looking ticker collector smile and go “Awwww”. A Casanova in the making I tell ya.
Matterhorn Madness – Be honest now. Imagine riding a cable car, hundreds of feet above the ground, when it suddenly comes to a stop. While it stops moving towards its destination, it begins to sway from side to side. While I would sit tight on the Matterhorn Express whenever this would happen, my daughter would jump, and I mean really jump, with joy going “weeeeeee’, till the time I would, out of pure fright, ask her to sit down.
Due to high altitude, my wife stayed back with my son on this one, but this little excursion I took with my daughter to be high up in the sky, in the freezing cold, where light-headedness almost sets in, was definitely a ride to remember.
Fly-Kissing in Montreux – This one is for the grandchildren. As innocent as my son looks sometimes, he can be quite the opposite. In Montreux, while the Mrs. went about shopping, I got the job of taking care of the kids – see how considerate I am, please make a note of this for future reference. One of the activities we did was to take a toy train that ran the length of the promenade in the town along Lac Leman.
All was going well as we sat waving to the passing, walking, public until my son decided to start giving flying kisses to all the pretty girls – of all ages. Hilarity ensued as he would first wave, and when they would respond back, he would quickly give them a flying kiss. Since we were on the train, all this would happen within seconds, leaving the girls in shock at first, which would turn into a blush and laughter eventually.
My daughter and I would simply break out in hysterical laughter each time it happened, which I believe proved to be the kind of motivation my son needed to carry on with this little activity of his. My only regret, I do not have a video of this.
Switzerland is a beautiful country that pays a lot of attention to kids, their education and enjoyment. In fact, throughout the continent, you will find fantastic alternative European city break options for kids that add value to your family vacation. While at first glance you may think there isn’t much in the country like Switzerland except natural beauty, a visit will make you realise that you just need the right atmosphere and intention to have fun, no matter where you are in the world.