Born in a multicultural household, I was fortunate to start traveling from a very young age and quickly grew to love it. I appreciated the diverse insight it offered into multiple lifestyles and cultures.
I was also strongly influenced by my mother’s love for travel and linguistic skills. (Unfortunately, I only inherited the first.) All throughout my childhood, I continued to explore many places but never expected that would lead to my current profession as a television producer and travel show host.
In the latest season of Follow Alana, I explored Switzerland, a fascinating country with a strong alpine culture and tons of adventurous activities.
Over the course of 13 episodes, Follow Alana Switzerland highlights native Swiss traditions like watchmaking, cheese, the origin of the fable Heidi, the country’s horses and llamas, Swiss National Day, and skydiving, zip-lining and biking down the mountainside, but below were five of my favorite activities.
The Mürren Via Ferrata
If you’re feeling adventurous, I would definitely recommend exploring the Via Ferrata in Murren. The 2.2 km journey is made up of flat land hiking trails, metal rods along the side of the mountain, a zip line, tall ladders, and tight rope and suspension bridges.
As via ferrata enthusiasts know, you are clipped in the whole way for safety, but the wide range of terrain can make it a little nerve-wracking for some people. For me personally, I enjoyed the thrill of the steep heights and the freedom the magnificent views offered.
As a lifelong vegetarian, I had to visit the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, Haus Hiltl, built in Zurich in 1898. With over 100 vegetarian and vegan dishes from all over the world available buffet style, it is a must even for non-vegetarians. There’s also a shop inside the restaurant so you can buy the ingredients to make delicious meals at home too. I returned to eat there several times during filming breaks and there was a different buffet every time.
Hiking with Saint Bernards
You can’t think of dogs in Switzerland and not picture a Saint Bernard. As the national dog of Switzerland, these gentle giants are built to scale mountains and have been used across the country to rescue lost travelers.
While in Switzerland, we visited Barryland, the Saint Bernard Museum in Martigny, where you can meet the dogs as they run around the premises and watch them play in their outdoor enclosure. I was lucky enough to hike up the mountain with three Saint Bernards who were incredibly calm, attentive, and sweet.
Rhone Glacier Ice Grotto
I have never seen the effects of climate change as vividly as I did with the glaciers in Switzerland. The Rhone Glacier Ice Grotto in Glestsch allows you to walk through tunnels within the glacier and the lines of the blue ice are like paintings surrounding you.
Despite the stunning beauty, it’s hard not to notice the ice around you melting and tents covering the top to try to slow the process.
We even had to pause production on the show for a bit because a new lake had formed along our path that hadn’t been there just 10 days before. Looking at old photos on-site revealed a stark glimpse of how quickly the glacier was melting.
Old Town Zermatt
One of the key themes that kept coming up throughout my time in Switzerland was how the Swiss maintain tradition to pass on and teach future generations. The old town in Zermatt was a perfect example. Nestled at the foot of the Matterhorn, you can find the old wooden houses with flower beds that reflect the way the town’s ancestors used to live.
Our guide taught us about the unique architecture that was not only beautiful but practical – built to avoid mice from coming in and also allowed enough space for grassy areas for the animals.
The above are just a few highlights from my time in Switzerland. It is a fascinating country with a rich culture, stunning landscapes, a unique political system, and four official languages despite its small population size! There are an endless number of topics to explore in this small country nestled in the alps.
Author Bio: Alana Nichols is a TV host, producer and speaker. Born in Taipei to an American mother and a Taiwanese father, Nichols entered the world with an extremely rare form of deafness. Her parents found a physician in Australia who – despite enormous doubts – agreed to perform an experimental cochlear implant surgery. Today, Alana aspires to use television as a vehicle to tell stories and be a catalyst for positive change. You can view her Swiss adventures on Follow Alana Switzerland on digital platforms including iTunes and Google Play. Follow along on this and future adventures at @followalana on Instagram and www.followalana.com.