• Valerie Fortney

Five tips for travellers in Switzerland

Updated: Feb 26

While wine is something that Switzerland isn’t famous for outside its borders, that’s changing with recognition at such prestigious events as the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards, where Swiss winemakers took home three Platinum awards and eight Gold medals. Still, there are many other hidden gems to be found in the country dominated by mountains, crystalline lake waters and verdant valleys. Here, a few things to help kickstart your Swiss experience:

1. Best getting around, hands-down: Of course, when you are in a place with an undying dedication to precision, order and punctuality, you’re sure to find one of the world’s best transportation systems, whether that’s trains, buses, cable cars or boats. The Swiss Travel Pass, which comes in a variety of forms depending on time needed and with discounts for youth, also includes free entry to more than 450 Swiss attractions as well as other handy features like same-day luggage delivery between 46 Swiss locales (www.sbb.ch).

2. Oh, the food’s great, too: While there’s wine from all over the world at Swiss restaurants, there’s also an international menu at countless restaurants. After you’ve had your fill of chocolate and cheese fondue and the plentiful varieties from the country’s master cheesemakers, you’ll want to try the French selections of La Brasserie de Montbenon, a raucously fun establishment in Lausanne, which serves up mouth-watering Escargots du Mont d’Or and an Entrecote de Boeuf dish that you’ll talk about for years.

3. Get your body moving: If you find yourself hankering for a day or weekend visit to one of the world’s most famous mountain regions, you can’t go wrong with booking a guided tour with octogenarian Edelbert Kummer. Through his one-man business, the native mountain son guides visitors on a variety of trails backdropped by three world-famous peaks, the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. In this UNESCO World Heritage site that covers 823 square kilometres, trekkers can visit the Alps’ largest glaciated area, the Great Aletsch Glacier its star attraction. And if cycling is your sport, the country boasts more than 8,000 kilometres of bike routes, while many rail stations offer bike hire (go to myswitzerland.com for more info). Of course, Switzerland is world famous for its skiing and other mountain sports, with top places like Zermatt, Wengen and Gstaad.

4. Or just lie around: After all that drinking, eating and exercising, the Swiss love nothing more than a good spa visit. The Romans first discovered the mineral-rich hot springs of the Alps, and for centuries now people have made the pilgrimage to the hot springs towns and high-end spas. In the town of Leukerbad alone, a scenic two-hour train ride from Montreaux, more than a quarter million visitors come each year to experience Europe’s largest thermal waters. Visitors to the Lavaux Terraces can also pop into Clinique La Prairie in Montreaux for a caviar facial and four-handed massage.

5. And last but not least, mind your manners. You can toast all the good wine with everything from “Sante” and “Proscht” to “Salute,” depending which region of the country with four national languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh. Make sure you look your fellow toaster in the eye when you clink glasses, and shake hands when greeting and saying your farewells.

All photos copyright Valerie Fortney

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