Fresh air. Crisp wind. Clean roads. Log cabins. Snow-capped mountaintops. I immediately knew I loved Switzerland. Even after arriving from Florence at three in the morning, elation took over my tired, lagging body, and I lit up like a little kid at Christmas.
The fresh air greeted my lungs. The crisp wind stung my face. The snow-capped mountaintops controlled my eyes. The clean roads showed me a different side of Europe. The log cabins comforted me in a foreign country. Needless to say, Switzerland stole my heart.
Switzerland differed from Florence, where I’d spent the last month, in many ways. I could immediately point out the changes in everything I saw, felt and experienced around me. Grindewald, where I stayed, graced me with an impeccable view of the mountains. The mountainous landscape greeted me at breakfast every morning, and put me to bed every evening. I could not help but stare at the beauty and gawk at God’s creation.
Now, sitting in Florence, I look out my window to a concrete playground surrounded by buildings, not mountains. Towers greet me every morning and concrete puts me to bed every evening.
Switzerland offered a multitude of activities. Mountain biking, canyoning, paragliding, hiking, hangliding and skydiving allow visitors and tourists to experience a life on the edge and connect with nature. The mountains provided me with a break from the city life of Florence; a break from shopping, a break from coffee stands on every corner, and a break from the noises of bustling life in the city. Although the coffee stands and shopping can be nice, I enjoyed the peacefulness of Switzerland. I enjoyed the connection with nature as I biked up a mountain, hiked up a mountain, saw a natural waterfall plummeting from the side of a cliff, gawked at the height and expanse of the Swiss Alps, and welled with tears at the beauty of God’s creation.
In Florence, I am in a different kind of awe. I stare at man-made beauty. I view artwork from famous artists I have only ever heard about in school. I gasp in disbelief when I realize the artwork is older than the United States. I feel my body overcome with goosebumps when I learn the history of the city, the importance of the artwork, and the influence of the Medici family during the Renaissance.
Alas, my heart is torn.
I find it odd I can love two cities so differently. Everything differs. The crowded streets of Florence cease to exist in the vast countryside of Switzerland. The loud bars of Florence fail in comparison to the outdoor bonfire bars locals gather around in Switzerland. The pride of the Florence people disappears entirely in the kind, polite manner of the Swiss.
At the same time, the relaxed nature of the Swiss people makes me appreciate the motivation Florentines have for family, culture, and history. The mountain towns make me crave fresh fruit stands on every corner in Florence. The thin, high-altitude air makes me long for Florence where I can breath easy.
Traveling to Switzerland taught me a valuable lesson. No two cities are the same, but I can love them equally. Switzerland forced me to appreciate Florence for things I took for granted; the fresh fruit, the abundance of coffee, the locality of stores and the bustling atmosphere. However, Switzerland also opened my heart to a world I never knew existed; the extreme sports, the beauty of the Swiss Alps, the thrill of becoming one with nature through a hike, and the peacefulness of the Swiss countryside.
Traveling to Switzerland expanded my perception of the world and planted a seed of indifference toward Florence. Traveling to Switzerland opened my heart to the passion of the Florentine culture and, most importantly, awakened my desire to travel more.