Switzerland in 3 minutes with Tracey
Where did you go?
Switzerland for 8 nights. Zurich, Lucerne, Engelberg, Montreux, Interlaken, Chamonix (France), Geneva, Chexbres, Gruyere, Annecy (France).
What season did you travel?
It was late Spring (early April) – so just outside their peak season. The air was still crisp and it made for a really lovely time to visit. The flowers were just coming out. Although, I suspect that any time of year is just magnificent in Switzerland.
What were some of your highlights?
Gosh, there were so many things that I loved about Switzerland. In terms of things to do and see…
Even though it was late Spring, the mountains are high enough to still allow people to ski well after the end of winter. Of course, the runs aren’t as long as they are in winter, but it makes for a really diverse travel experience to be able to paddle board and ski in the same week in the same country. In fact, whilst I was there, we met a group of Italians who’d skied over for the day – as you do.
I think my favourite part of the trip was Lucerne. The town itself is known for its preserved medieval architecture, sits amid snowcapped mountains on Lake Lucerne. Its colorful Altstadt (Old Town) is bordered on the north by 870m Museggmauer (Musegg Wall), a 14-century rampart. The covered Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), built in 1333, links the Aldstadt to the Reuss River’s right bank.
The best part of Lucerne for me though was the Lion of Lucerne. It’s huge and carved into a sandstone rock wall above a pond. That was to commemorate the Swiss guards that were massacred during the French Revolution in 1792. It’s such a beautiful, yet mournful sculpture and it’s amazing to see how it was carved out of the rock. I just stood there and looked at that for a long time.
And shortly before that, I’d wandered across Chapel Bridge – the covered bridges (there are actually three structures), where centuries ago (1600’s) a painter created 158 paintings depicting events from the town’s history during the Counter-Reformation. And the town’s council members of the time were allowed to add their coat’s of arms to the images. Despite suffering from a fire in the 90’s, it’s still a beautiful piece of history that you just don’t see anywhere else. The longevity
of the history in Europe was a constant reminder of how young modern Australian history really is.
Be sure to take a horse and cart tour of Engelberg – it’s stunning. And if you’re up for something a little different, book a tour through one of the dairy farm houses. It’s a bit of a mind-boggling combination of centuries-old old-school farming and modern innovation. If you’re lucky, your farm host might even treat you to a Raclette cheese experience – accompanied by some warming schnapps.
The old town of Gruyere is another amazing place to ponder and look through. Everything is centred around an old fortress and all the streets are made of cobblestones so they don’t allow cars there. As soon as the doors of the bus opened you could smell the cheese and chocolate. There are English speaking tours for the Maison Cailler chocolate factory – so make sure to book that in. Through the tour they explain the chocolate making process. And at the end of the tour, you can taste as much as you like of the chocolate. That was very tempting!
Did you discover any hidden gems?
Oh my, yes! Annecy. It’s like a little Venice – albeit with alps in the background. Many of the houses are built over the lake with canals between them. Lake Annecy feeds into the Thiou River. Annecy is known for its Vieille Ville (old town), with cobbled streets, winding canals and pastel-coloured houses. Overlooking the city, the medieval Château d’Annecy. once home to the Counts of Geneva, now contains a museum with regional artefacts such as Alpine furniture and religious art, plus a natural history exhibit
Although actually, it’s not in Switzerland, it’s just across the French boarder. But it was so stunning, it was worth the little detour. We were there on a Sunday and Sunday’s are seen as a ‘family day’. Although many of the shops were closed, there were plenty of places to grab a bite and people watch along the water. Of course if you felt like being more active, you could play on a paddleboard or pedal boat.
Where there any surprises along the way?
Yes absolutely! Several. The first was it was just so diverse. Although it was one country, it felt like three or four. One minute people were speaking German, we were looking at German signs, eating quite Germanic food. But then two hours down the road, it felt like you were in France. And then in some places it felt like you could be in Italy with the breathtaking terraced vineyards.
And the second was that it was just not what I expected. You expect ‘pretty’ views. But, everywhere you look just takes your breath away. It is picture postcard perfect – every single minute. You feel like you’re in the middle of an airbrushed postcard.
The colour of the water around Interlaken. It’s so strikingly green – almost crystal green.
Who would you suggest Switzerland as a destination for?
Actually everyone. I know quite a few people will have done the whistle-stop tour of Switzerland on a bus tour at some point, but there’s just so much to see, you can’t possibly do it justice in just a day or two.
I could take my kids to Switzerland and they wouldn’t be bored. There’s plenty of adrenaline activities or activities if you’re a couple seeking some romance. And it’s foodie heaven – especially for cheese and chocolate (the Swiss aren’t known for their chocolate for nothing!) and there are some wonderful wineries to explore too.
But also, for people my parents’ age, it’s easy to get around. Train travel is simple, almost everyone speaks English, and it’s so safe – I’d be confident having my parents travel around Switzerland.
Do you have any final hints and tips to share?
- Make sure you take walking shoes. It’s a truly magnificent place to wander and people watch.
- My best tip is to take a tour – it’s the best way to find all those out of the way things that you might otherwise miss. And they’re great at explaining history and background to the sites. I did and I’m so glad I did.
- Be sure to make time to see the United Nations in Geneva.
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