By Jack Nuclkes: UW-Madison Undergraduate who is on an IRES Neutrino Astrophysics Internship in Sweden in Summer 2016.
We left Stockholm at 7:00 a.m. on a Friday morning, each toting a backpack stuffed with, among other necessities, water, bread, peanut butter, canned tuna, and fresh socks. During the next 24 hours, four trains carried us to Switzerland. We sped through the Swedish countryside to Malmö where we hopped on a commuter train to Copenhagen. To reach the European mainland, the next train rolled onto a ferry and we cruised across the Baltic before continuing on to Hamburg, where our steady southward progress was interrupted by an agonizing three hour wait for the night train to Basel. At precisely the minute it was scheduled to leave, a faded, rusty, tin can of a train screeched to a halt at the platform where we were waiting.
We spent the next ten hours in a blurry purgatory, half-sleeping at best between the screams of toddlers and the strange lights that flashed through the window of our compartment. However, the next morning, as we ate our breakfast on a bench in an empty Basel train station, we unanimously agreed that the journey was worth it. We were in Switzerland.
Two more quick trains took us to Lauterbrunnen, a small farm village in an alpine valley that felt quintessentially Swiss. Surrounded by cliffs, waterfalls, and with views of snowy peaks, we wandered around and enjoyed the scenery. Church bells filled the air intermittently as cows grazed in the fields and wispy clouds floated along the clifftops. In the afternoon, we headed north to Bern, the Swiss federal city. We strolled through the flag-lined streets, snapped photos of the turquoise Aare River, and admired the statues and architecture. As the sun began to set, we returned to the train station to begin our journey back to Scandinavia.
To get home we repeated our trip from Stockholm to Basel in reverse. Feeling the effects of having not showered three days, we sat tiredly and watched the scenery out the window of the trains slowly change from the farm fields of Germany to the windmills of Denmark and finally to the rocky soil and pine trees of Sweden. At close to midnight on Sunday, we reached our apartment, feeling grateful to be home but even more-so, glad to have been to three new countries and the Swiss Alps.