Guest Post By: Senior studying Marketing and Accounting, Nicholas Chindavongsa. This Fall, Nicholas studied abroad with the Bocconi University exchange program.
Switzerland is known for the alps, cheese fondue, chocolate, banking, and Swiss-made products. I watched multiple videos on Rick Steves’ Youtube channel about the beauty of Switzerland and I knew I had to go. Returning from Murren to Stechelberg, I exited the Gondola into a little town called Gimmelwald, in Lauterbrunnen.
Gimmelwald is a small town where approximately 120 people and family cows reside. A small village, yet tourist-packed town in the hot summer months. It was the beginning of October so there were no tourists in sight, just myself and my friends. I took a stroll through the town and was surprised by how cute the family-friendly town is. There were multiple cute little family-run shops. There were farms left and right filled with cows eating grass. And there was also the occasional loose animal taking a stroll, breathing in the Swiss air watching the world go by. I passed by this shop called The Honesty Shop, selling souvenirs, snacks and beverages. This particularly stood out to me because it was Europe’s First Unattended Self-Service Village Shop, meaning there is no one running the shop; you take what you want and you leave money in the locked container. I was quite shocked by this idea because I would understand the concept in a small local town where tourists don’t visit, but in an area where crowds of tourists pass by, it was an unknown concept to me.
Coming into Switzerland, one of my goals was to have a picnic consisting of local meat, cheese, bread, and beer; and this was the perfect town to do it in. As I was walking up the road, there was a sign for a meat and cheese shop. The sign eventually led me directly inside a family’s house with a refrigerator full of products for sale. This is where the cultural shock hit; inside the refrigerator were eggs, cheese, milk, and an exposed container of Swiss francs, that anyone could steal! Not only that, I was literally in a family living room with furniture and personal belongings around me. I bought a stick of meat from the fridge and left a 5-franc coin in the container. I got my cheese from a local farm in Seelisberg, where a nice man probably gave me 20 samples of cheese, all aged for varying periods of time. Lastly, we found a bar in Gimmelwald where we bought bread and beer, then snacked on a balcony overlooking the Alps with other locals. The weather was constantly changing between rain and sunshine, which helped with my homesickness of Seattle.
In addition to Gimmelwald, I also visited Bern, Interlaken, and Lucerne while I was in Switzerland. I can definitely say Gimmelwald was my favorite part of Switzerland. The people, food, efficient transportation, friendly cows, and exquisite views were memorable!