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Chapter 12: Slight Pivot, Welcome to Switzerland

French train plans got derailed (pun intended), so I headed to the Alps

Hello from Switzerland, and welcome to Backpackin'! If you want to join 800 others reading about this weird trip around the world, add your email below: 

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For the Americans reading this, I hope your college football team kicks ass today. For the Europeans, you’re probably wondering why America loves college sports so much. I don’t know why college sports are so big, but college football is one of the best things in the USA.


Monday, September 27th

Remember what I said last week about touring Southern France? Yeah, that didn’t actually happen. Today is Saturday, October 2nd, and I’m writing to you from a cafe in Zurich, Switzerland. Whoops. Before I get started, here’s my route around Switzerland this week for reference:

So I have the Eurail pass. This pass gives me unlimited train rides around Europe for three months. On regular trains, I just hop on and go wherever I want. However, overnight trains and high speed trains require a separate seat reservation. I can purchase this at the station, and I’ve never had an issue purchasing a ticket the day of my trip.

That changed on Monday. Every single train from Paris to Toulouse was booked for Monday. Well that was a problem, because I was supposed to be on one of those trains. So I asked the worker, “Is there any destination that I can purchase a ticket for right now?”

She replied “Lyon.”

Lyon is nice, but I didn’t want to go to Lyon. However, Lyon is two hours from Geneva, Switzerland. And the train to Geneva is free. So I went to Lyon, then caught a free train to Geneva. Classic.

Every hostel in Geneva was booked, so I got a hotel instead. A few things about Switzerland:

  • Most beautiful geography in Europe

  • Crispest water in Europe

  • Most expensive hotels and food in Europe

Everything in Switzerland is high quality, and they make you pay for it. That being said, this was my first night in a month have a room and queen sized bed to myself. It was awesome. I arrived pretty late, so I dropped my stuff off and started exploring the town. Being a Monday, it was pretty quiet. The city was beautiful at night though.

Like many cities in Switzerland, Geneva is built on a lake. The waterfront was full of old brick buildings, cafes, and restaurants. I found a pier jutting into the water that had a restaurant, outdoor gym, and a few docks. There were also a ton of waterslides running from the pier to the lake. I wish I had been in Switzerland in August, I imagine summers on the lake here are awesome.

I found a pizza spot near my hotel, and had some of the best not-so-italian ‘za of my life. How did I spend my night? sprawled out on a queen bed watching some Marvel movie on the TV, just like every Mercer football road trip for four years.

Tuesday, September 28th

I slept like 10 hours, which was a welcome change up the last month or so. The hotel had all you can eat breakfast for $15, and I made sure it was worth every penny. Eggs, toast, cereal, bacon, coffee, OJ, pastries, fruit. And then I did it all again. If there’s one thing America beats Europe in every time, it’s food consumption. And boy did I consume.

After breakfast I went back down to the pier to work out. Outdoor gyms are sick because 1) they’re free, 2) working out with a brisk wind is awesome, 3) there’s always some other meat head out there doing the same thing. There were actually two meatheads out there with me this particular morning.

I went back and showered, then walked around the city for a bit. Geneva (and Switzerland in general) is fascinating. The whole place fits that American stereotype of an old European mountain city. Odd clock towers, winding cobblestone streets, dimly lit pubs, etc. That was Geneva.

Something else I noticed: everything moves a little faster in Geneva than in most other European cities. People walk around with a pep in their step, similar to NYC. In my novice understanding of Europe, I think the Swiss are the most similar to Americans when it comes to work ethic. The “grind” is alive and well in Geneva.

Outside of exploring the city, I didn’t do a ton in Geneva. There’s not much of a bustling night life in Switzerland on week nights, but that may not be a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 29th

I decided that since I was already in Switzerland, I may as well see a lot of the country. I booked a train to Bern, and headed that way around lunch. The train ride to Bern was awesome. For the first half of the journey, my train hugged the edge of Lake Geneva. There were countless Swiss towns and villages built on the shores of the lake. Really cool sight.

I arrived in Bern around 2 in the afternoon. Now at this point, pretty much all of my clothes are dirty. I found a laundromat on Google Maps, and walk 25 minutes to my destination. The machines only accepted Swiss Frank coins. No luck. Then I tried to find an ATM, and my phone died. And I had no idea where my hostel was.

So I make my way to the general downtown area, find a coffeeshop, and sit down to eat and charge my phone.

Switzerland is notoriously strict on the COVID-19 vaccine. To enter pretty much any restaurant or bar, you have to have a vaccine card.

Anyways, I have a physical vaccine card. Pfizer, baby. Well the EU now has a digital vaccine passport, which is a great idea. QR codes are much simpler than a piece of paper than you can lose. Except half of the places in Switzerland won’t accept my physical card, signed by a doctor, that is the exact same data as a QR code. The homie at this particular cafe was chill, and he let me dine there. Unfortunately, there were a lot of places in Switzerland that refused to accept it. Like dude, it’s not my fault that GA hasn’t rolled out a digital vaccine card. We did the opposite and made vaccine passports illegal. I got my shot and want to sip on a pumpkin spice latte. But whatever, don’t take my money I guess.

When my phone powers back up, I realize that I’m right next to my hostel. Classic.

I check in, drop my stuff off in my room, and head back to the living room. Another American, Rahul, was hanging out there. Rahul is 26, and he’s currently applying for/interviewing with a lot of American tech companies while traveling Europe. Rahul and I ended up exploring the city for a bit before he left to catch his train later that afternoon.

On the way back to the hostel, I passed a big ‘ole casino. Like Jesus in the wilderness, I fought the devil’s temptations and won 🤝. When I got back to the hostel, I met my roommate for the night, Shaquille. I had never met a white dude named Shaquille, and neither had he. One of one. Anyways, Shaq was a Belgian studying Ecology in Bern. He was in the hostel until his apartment lease began the next day.

I went back downstairs and met another traveler, Juliana. Juliana was Italian (can’t remember the city, I’ve met too many Italians in the last month to keep them straight). We walked around some of the areas that Rahul and I hadn’t explored earlier, and she asked me all about life in the States. Europeans, for the most part, are fascinated with the US. Specifically how it is so big, yet so culturally similar from coast to coast. (You might think CA and GA are polar opposites. They’re really not.)

Juliana also asked me about Florida Man. I love that the Florida Man meme is an international phenomenon.

Back at the hostel, I ended up hanging out with Shaquille for like three hours. We talked about a little bit of everything: careers, life, goals, and everything else that you discuss with people whose company you enjoy, but you’ll never see again. Shaq made a good impression for Belgium. Maybe I’ll go see if the rest of his country is cool.

Thursday, September 30th

I woke up around 8:30 and caught a train to Interlaken. This was the coolest city (town? area? idk) that I’ve ever seen. Interlaken is located between two lakes, and the entire area is surrounded by mountains. I walked around town for a bit before grabbing breakfast, and then I caught a cable car up to the top of Harder Kulm.

Harder Kulm is a vantage point on the side of one of the mountains, and the views are insane. You can see the snowcapped Alps, the lakes surrounding Interlaken, and miles of mountain towns from the edge of Harder Kulm. There was a restaurant and bar at the top where travelers could relax.

There is a platform that serves as a prime photo spot protruding off the side of the mountain. As I walked out there to see the view, I saw two paragliders float by at eye level. We were 5,000 feet in the air, and there were guys just casually floating around in the clouds. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’m pissed I didn’t do it myself.

I spent the next hour or so hiking around the mountain before heading back to the base. At 2:30, I went to the train station to catch the ride up to Jungfraujoch. Jungfraujoch is a glacier plateau between two of the Alps, sitting at almost 12,000 feet. The train leading to the top is a real life Polar Express. It was 58 degrees when I left Interlaken. It was 25 degrees at the top two hours later. I had to change trains three times on the way up, and each station provided me with several incredible views.

When we finally arrived at the top, I felt like I could see all of Switzerland. Best view in Europe without a doubt. I had never seen snow in September before, but a combination of shade from the mountains and high altitude keep the temperatures below freezing year round up here. I felt a bit light headed as soon as I hopped off the train. Climbing 8,000 feet in elevation in a couple of hours tends to do that I guess.

I got back to Interlaken around 7:00 that night, and I walked in the local hostel for a cup of coffee. The Interlaken hostel actually had a full restaurant, and I got a massive pasta meal for $14. By far the best deal I’ve seen in Switzerland.

I got back to Bern at 8:30, and I planned to hang out at the hostel for the night. Then a couple of guys yelled “We’re going for a drink if anyone’s interested.” I was interested.

So we head to a local pub and start chatting. My compadres for the night were Wellington (Brazilian), Adam (Swedish), and Oliver (German). We quickly figured out that Oliver didn’t speak a single world of English. This was a shocker. Germans have notoriously good English.

When we sat down at the pub, Oliver whipped out his phone. We Google Translated an entire three hour conversation with this dude.

Things we learned:

  • Oliver was in town to visit his girlfriend, who he met playing video games online.

  • Her parents had no idea Oliver existed.

  • They had met before in person (allegedly. I think this is a classic my girlfriend goes to another school move).

  • Nipple in Swedish directly translates to “breast wart”, which is both spot on and hilarious.

  • After an intense game of “Would You Rather”, Oliver agreed that he would rather have sausage-length nipples than a nipple-length sausage (this is an obvious innuendo. My mom told me to watch my language on here).

  • Having an entire conversation over Google Translate is hilarious, because the app often misunderstands random words that ruin the context.

We headed back to the crib at 12:30ish, and I was lucky to have a room to myself. Buenas noches.

Friday, October 1st


Today, I was planning on going to Zurich for the weekend. Zurich is a much bigger city than Bern (even though Bern is the capital), and I figured the nightlife would be better in the big city. Well I still hadn’t done my laundry from Monday, and I was out of clothes. Luckily, the hostel had a washer and dryer and I had found an ATM. I got a ton of coins, and spent the first half of the day just doing laundry.

While my clothes were in the washer, I spent my afternoon writing borderline sarcastic, borderline intellectual articles about the debt ceiling, unrealized capital gains taxes, and Elizabeth Warren’s comments on Jerome Powell (our hero). Why? Well I’ve somehow convinced a certain finance-meme account with 700k followers that I can write useful stuff for him, and now I’m working on said useful stuff. Career paths in 2021 are pretty weird, aren’t they?

Later that afternoon I hopped on a train to Zurich. I booked the highest rated hostel on hostelworld.com, but when I arrived the lobby was full of parents and kids. Idk who would want to stay in a hostel with some 8 year olds, but whatever. I took a shower and talked to my buddy Jake on the phone before heading out. Jake is trying to hire someone to work for him in a sales role, and I’m trying to convince him to hire me.

From what I understand, I would be more competent working like 2 hours a day from Europe than the current guy is working 8 hours from Omaha. Plus, how funny would it be making $55k “working for” one of my best friends while I’m booling in Europe? Subsidized travel is so hot these days.

I went downtown to grab some dinner and see what was poppin’ in Zurich on a Friday night. The bartender at the hostel told me where the main bar district was, so I headed that way. I tried to walk in some bar at 11:30, and once again got bodied for not having a DiGiTaL CoViD VaCcInE pAsSpOrT. This thing is getting ridiculous. I’m vaccinated. I have the government microchip in me and everything. (Do people actually believe that’s a thing?) Like come on man. I didn’t want to get curved by every other bouncer, so I headed home and went to sleep.

One dude in my room smelled like he hadn’t showered in like 3 weeks. Bro, if you smell like straight body odor from the other side of the room, take a shower.

Saturday, October 2nd

I woke up with pink eye. I haven’t done anything that could have possibly caused pink eye by conventional measures, and I’m fully convinced that the dude in my room smells so bad that his BO gave me pink eye. Pink eye sucks. Pink eye in Europe really, really sucks. Whatever. God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers, so I’ll carry this burden with a smile on my face and a twinkle in my (pink) eye.

I went to the pharmacy to get some eye drops, and I found out that I can actually get a digital vaccine passport in Switzerland. I’m currently writing from a Starbucks (that I snuck into so I wouldn’t have to show a digital card) while I’m waiting to pick up my digital vax card. Watch out Zurich. My eye is pink, my liver is clean, my vax card is digital, and I am determined to delete some beers tonight.

What’s Next?

I’m going to Venice tomorrow. I heard Italy is a real place, but you can’t know for sure until you visit it. I plan to eat pizza, drink wine, and walk around doing 🤌🏼 for 48 hours. I’m meeting Tanner and Jason in Milan on Tuesday, and we’re all flying to Croatia on Thursday. Rylan would come, but he has managed to lose his passport and phone in the last 2.5 weeks. He is now destitute, and his Europe journey has come to an end. After Croatia, I’m headed back to Italy to kick it with Canadian Mike for a week. Then we’re flying to London, where he’s headed back to Toronto.

After that, Devin Orr is hitting the Scandinavian tour with me, Tyler Collins and I will be exploring some German pubs, Joe Stark might be coming to say hello, and Hudson Brett and I will be spending Thanksgiving in Amsterdam. I’ll be capping off Q4 with a French ski trip with Jake, Cam, Chase (strong maybe), Cole, (weaker maybe), and idk who else. Honestly everything in the last two paragraphs will probably be entirely different by the time I get there.

So yeah that’s it. I can’t wait to meet up with the homies again in Milan. Happy Saturday and Go Dawgs baby 🤝


See below for the previous and next chapter:

Also, I found a website/app where you can map out trips and attach photos and notes to each location: Polarsteps. Check it out.