There are many ways to see a country but Rotaract Round Trips are second to none. Travelling on a Rotaract Round Trip means being shown around by the locals and sharing experiences with people with whom you already have a common bond through membership of Rotaract. Therefore, I was very grateful and excited to be chosen to participate in the 2015 Swiss Rotaract Round Trip along with Muge from Turkey, Trim from Kosovo, Thomas from Canada and Antonis from Cyprus. Vivianne of the Limattel club, Johannes of the Zurich club and the entire committee did a wonderful job of organising a week jam-packed with unique Swiss experiences and sightseeing opportunities.
The nine-day trip began in Switzerland’s most populated city, Zurich. Daniela welcomed the group into her home for alpen macaroni, which is pasta with cheese, potato and apple sauce. Afterwards we went with our Rotaract hosts to a popular open-air bar near the river and enjoyed the laidback atmosphere.
During the trip I learned that bircher muesli is a Swiss invention. Uncle Toby’s long lost brother Maximilian Bircher-Benner invented muesli in the late 19th century. He encouraged people to eat fruit, vegetables and nuts and exercise more, so I think Max would have been very impressed that the trip involved plenty of hiking up mountains and swimming in rivers.
The biggest hike we did was from Zermatt to Flualp. After fuelling up on Italian food, we hiked through the forest, across meadows, over rivers, through Helm’s Deep and past glaciers to flualp. The spectacular Matterhorn (aka Toblerone Mountain) served as not only a beautiful backdrop but also a powerful reminder that there are much more difficult hikes we could have been doing!
Our accommodation during the trip was generally with host Rotaractors but one night’s accommodation was particularly memorable. In Lucerne the Blue Balls festival meant that there was literally no room at the inn, so we slept in a barn at Mierscappel. While we were taken aback at first, Vivianne assured us it was a Swiss tradition and it ended up being one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had.
Another highlight of the trip was the castle Chateaux Chillon near Lausanne as it is like nothing I have seen before. I felt like I had either stepped back in time or into a Disney movie. That evening we enjoyed dinner at Cafe Bellini with local Rotaractors, followed by salsa dancing.
To escape the heat in Neuchâtel we took pedalboats out onto the lake. There is now dead kangaroo at the bottom of Lac du Neuchâtel as I shared around some kangaroo jerky and it did not taste nice at all, so some people spat it out. I guess I should have tried kangaroo jerky before I gave it to people, but I like kangaroo and I like jerky so I figured it would be ok. To any Australian Rotaractors who go on a round trip in the future, don’t take kangaroo jerky!
The biggest surprise of the trip was when a generous Rotarian and pilot, Rolph, unexpectedly took us for joy flights over Grenchen. We flew 500 feet above the mountain ridge and could see where people do traditional Swiss wrestling, the factory where BMC bikes are made for Cadell Evans and the Swatch factory whose workers are always on time. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience.
During our stay we tried many foods including raclette, brezels, bratwurst, fondue and lots of cheese, bread and ham. For our last dinner in Switzerland we had a barbecue in an absolutely magical setting by the river in Basel. The Rotaract club was kind enough to organise a Patrouille Suisse fly-by as a finale to our trip.
The end of a round trip is bitter-sweet as you have made new friends but you don’t know when you’ll see them again. I am hopeful that in the future we can organise another round trip in Australia (Perth hosted one five years ago) and share our country with international Rotaractors. If anyone wants to find out more about Rotaract trips, go to https://www.facebook.com/
–Melissa Pilkington , Formerly of the Rotaract Clubs of Mount Lawley and Subiaco,
Past DRR, past club secretary, past club president