On June 17, 2022, my family and I set off for the small but mighty country of Switzerland. We prepared for eight days of magnificent mountain views serenaded by the tinkling of cowbells and medieval church chimes. The experience ended up exceeding our expectations, as enchanting European cities often do.
I planned to record my trip through illustrations and journaling, so I packed only portable painting supplies, as I knew many hours would be spent on trains. As a watercolor artist, I prefer water soluble media, but I wanted to avoid the hassle of tubes and palettes that require drying time and storage. Instead, I opted for only water soluble pencils because they may be applied dry and blended later. The decision would prove to be beneficial.
I am a serious fan of Derwent’s water soluble products in general, but the pencils and Inktense blocks are especially versatile when it comes to creative applications. They can be used as traditional pencil tools and then activated by water, but they may also be used as a portable palette. Often I use a watercolor brush to get pigment from the pencil tip, exactly as I would an individual paint pan, thereby giving myself hundreds of color options. I ended up packing all of my water soluble pencil collections. (Complete packing list and product details shared below.) And while it may seem cumbersome to travel with over a hundred pencils, Derwent’s Carry All bag solves that issue with elastic straps and mesh pockets for accessories. Additionally, I brought two pencils wraps for daily adventures. See photos below for packing advice.
PACKING LIST – PENCILS AND BLOCKS
- Inktense Pencils, Set of 72 – Link HERE
- Inktense pencils have all the vibrancy of Inktense Paint Palettes, except there are 72 colors! I used these to capture all the green rolling hills, turquoise lakes, colorful wildflowers, and tasty treats in Switzerland. They are vivid, blendable, and permanent once dry.
- Watercolor Pencils, Set of 12 – Link HERE
- I always like to travel with some traditional watercolor media. These watercolor pencils are easy to control and perfect for plein air painting. I also find that this set of only 12 pencils blends well to give me far more color options.
- Graphitint Pencils, Set of 24 – Link – HERE
- Graphitint pencils are my go-to for natural drama. These have water soluble graphite mixed with pigment, so you get a slight shimmer and dimension when applied. These were especially helpful as I captured the shadowed rocky, snowy mountains and medieval city buildings.
- Tinted Charcoal, Set of 24 – Link HERE
- These are not necessarily considered to be a water soluble pencil, but I use them in such a way. These pencils have just a bit of pigment mixed with traditional charcoal, making them perfect for capturing the natural shades found in the world around us. I find that applying these with water allows me to blend shades and helps to keep my final artwork from smudging.
- Inktense Blocks, Set of 24 – Link HERE
- Inktense blocks are exactly like the pencils, but the shape and size allows you to make boldly textured marks. They are fun and loud and pair perfectly with all other Inktense products.
PACKING LIST – ACCESSORIES
- Push Button Water Brushes – Link HERE
- When using water soluble media, you obviously need a paintbrush. These brushes hold water in the handle, eliminating the need for a cup. I found these to be especially handy while painting on trains.
- Pencil Wraps – Link HERE
- I traveled with pencil wraps so that I could easily take up to 30 pencils with me on a daily hiking journey. These canvas rollable wraps have elastic bands that securely hold individual pencils. The fabric is tough, so it packs well and protects your art accessories.
- Derwent Carry All – Link HERE
- I think this was my favorite Derwent item overall because it made travel so easy. I was able to protect my 72 Inktense Pencils, 12 Watercolor Pencils, 12 Line Makers, 24 Blocks, erasers, towels, and paint brushes in this single canvas bag. I recommend purchasing this item to transport your art tools. It changed the way I pack.
- Derwent Art Pack – Link HERE
- I brought the art pack simply as an additional pocket for #2 pencils, extra erasers, and random accessories. This is small enough that I could pack in inside the Carry All.
- Line Makers, Black Set of 6 – Link HERE
- I needed markers that had a wide range of nib size for drawing and writing. This set of line makers worked perfectly for both. They are permanent once dry, making them a valuable tool to use alongside water soluble media.
- Line Makers, Color Set of 6 – Link HERE
- As you journal, there’s no reason not to add some extra color! These markers are also a great way to add very fine, brilliant detail to paintings.
THE JOURNEY – OUR ITINERARY
Every item listed above was used to record our memorable adventure through Switzerland. The video shared below shows how each journal page was created, and our daily itinerary attempts to highlight each location. Some things can only be truly appreciated in person, but these illustrated journal entries will forever help to keep the moments fresh in my mind. I hope they encourage others to visit Switzerland as well.
-Day 1 – Saturday – Arrive in Zurich and travel to Lucerne
On Saturday, we landed in the busy and beautiful city of Zurich. The Swiss trains are so convenient and easy to navigate. In fact, we didn’t even have to leave the airport to reach our train. With the use of our SBB Pass, which I highly recommend, we were able to get to Lucerne (Luzern) in about one hour. Upon arrival, we walked a short 1 km through the old town cobblestone streets and checked into our hotel, The Tourist City and River Hotel.
Lucerne is simply a gorgeous city known for its history and storybook setting. The Kapellbrücke walking bridge was built in the 1300s, and we strolled over it as we walked to find dinner. We took time to walk the city and appreciate the paintings and details on the buildings and the sounds of the Reuss River rushing by. We also made our way to the Lion Monument, a beautiful and emotional relief sculpture that honors the Swiss guards killed in the French Revolution.
-Day 2 – Sunday – Explore Lucerne and Mount Rigi
We woke in our quant hotel and started the day in traditional European style with the very best croissants. I spent the morning painting by the river and watching the ducks. Our hotel backed up to the Museggmauer, the old city wall which included nine lookout towers. You can walk along the wall and get an understanding of how the city felt in the 1400s.
Then, we made our way to the train station and took a cog train (a train that climbs mountains!) to Mount Rigi. This is a popular hiking destination with views of Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug, and Lake Lauerz. After hiking, we took the ferry back to Lucerne and visited the Rosengart Museum. We ended the night with a comforting meal of spaetzle and a nighttime walk through the city.
-Day 3 – Monday – Travel to Interlaken
Again, we awoke to the best European breakfast and then packed our bags to embark on another train ride. Along the way we filled our water bottles in the famous Swiss fountains. Upon arrival in the adventurous city of Interlaken, we noticed the skies were filled with parachutes —Interlaken certainly invites adventure seekers! Our very comfortable hotel, the Alphorn Hotel Bed and Breakfast, was just a short walk from the train station.
We meandered through town and found the funicular that takes visitors to the top of Harder Kulm located at 1322 meters. From there, we could see the Jungfrau glacier. Many hikes depart from the summit, offering tourists experiences of all difficulty levels. These hikes will lead you into the alpine forests where you can feel completely alone with nature.
-Day 4 – Tuesday – Day Trip to Gimmelwald
Gimmelwald is the most beautiful village located in the Canton of Bern. From Interlaken, you can take a train, cable car, and cog train to reach this quiet mountain town. It sits at the base of the Schilthorn, which one can summit on foot or via additional cable cars. The James Bond 007 museum was placed at the top to commemorate filming and offer visitors a lookout point.
After summiting the Schilthorn, we hiked from Gimmelwald to Murren along a walkable path through picturesque farmland. A stop at the Mountain Hostel for a drink and views is a must. The walk exposed us to the wildflowers, snails, and grasshoppers thriving among Switzerland’s hillsides.
-Day 5 – Wednesday – Day Trip to Bern
Bern is a canton in Switzerland, but it is also the name of the capital city. Originally built in the 12th century, it is incredibly well preserved and immediately transports visitors through time. Sandstone buildings line the cobblestone streets of the UNESCO listed Old City. Church bells chime on the hour, and you can walk right up to the Zytglogge, also know as Einstein’s clock tower that altered the way we think about time in the universe. Even better, you can view the clock tower from Einstein’s own apartment.
From the Old City, we made our way to the Cathedral of Bern and then to the Bern Historical Museum, which houses the best array of tapestries that I have ever seen. Our evening finished off with another easy train ride back to Interlaken.
-Day 6 – Thursday – Travel to Geneva with a stop in Gruyères
In the morning, we left for the medieval town of Gruyères, known for its cheese and fondue. A hiccup with the travel route led us to a surprise stop at a castle and summer market. (The perks of getting lost in such a dazzling country!) Gruyères is now known as a tourist destination. The perfectly preserved medieval village is overlooked by the Gruyères Castle, which was constructed in the 1200s. After feeling like royalty as we explored the castle, my family finally bonded over fondue tasting.
Near the train station we took an opportunity to tour a Gruyères cheese facility. After another easy train ride, we arrived in the city of Geneva and checked into Le Jour & La Nuit, a charming bed and breakfast situated on a family-owned property. The inviting owner helped us find our way to the Old Town in Geneva, where once again, we were amazed at the historical sites.
-Day 7 – Friday – Geneva
Every single morning was filled with the most mouth watering pastries. After indulging at the B&B, we prepared to indulge more on a chocolate tour. Specifically, we did this with a company called Chocolate Flavours Tour, and the experience was worth far more than what we paid. The tour included a boat ride and three hours of walking to more than five different chocolatiers. I had the richest hot chocolate and most decadent truffles that I’ve ever had in my life. The history that accompanied the tour was above and beyond what we expected.
After the tour, we continued to explore Old Town, purchasing pastries and quiche along the way. We wandered through the Art Museum, found the original city wall, watched swans swim on Lake Leman, and tried Genevan wine. It was the perfect Swiss evening.
-Day 8 – Travel back to Zurich
We woke on the last full day of our trip and set off to Old Town in Geneva one last time. After engaging in Geneva’s sweetest offerings, it was time to learn about its deepest history. So, we went to St. Pierre Cathedral. While the church itself is a site of awe, what lies beneath is a surprising treasure, complete with Roman ruins hidden deep under the floor. Do not leave Geneva without witnessing this exhibit.
Finally, we went to the United Nations and walked the Botanical Gardens. Feeling fulfilled, we hopped on a three hour train ride back to Zurich for one more evening walk around a historic city. The 25Hours Hotel offers a very nice but quirky and creative stay, perfect for a final rest before catching a flight out in the morning. The rooftop terrace overlooking Zurich made for a fitting farewell.
Every trip comes to an end, but the memories last forever, as long as we can remember. I am glad to have taken the time to record the sights of Switzerland through the practice of journaling. If you are considering illustration tools for a similar purpose, I recommend trying all of the travel-friendly products that I used on this trip. Check out the video below to see what we experienced and how I painted the views. Happy traveling and happy journaling!