Stunning scenery, efficient public transport, fondue and glaciers – this is why you need to visit Switzerland.
Wendy Fernandes is a regular visitor to Switzerland. She has been to the European nation at least two or three times a year for the past twelve years.
“I go primarily to visit family but I also love the country because you feel so safe travelling there, everything is clean and well organised and it’s breathtakingly beautiful,” Wendy says.
Switzerland is a small nation, at 41,277 sq km it would fit in New South Wales ten times. But don’t be fooled by its size. It is incredibly diverse.
“Visiting Switzerland is like experiencing three European countries in one as the German-speaking, French-speaking and Italian-speaking areas all have their own unique ambience,” Wendy says.
Lucerne is one of Wendy’s favourite cities. This compact city sits on the shores of Lake Lucerne and is known for its medieval architecture. It’s here you will find the lion monument carved into a rock and the Swiss Transport Museum.
“The lake is beautiful with picture box wooden pedestrian bridges crossing it,” Wendy says. “You can do boat trips on the lake, it has a pedestrian-only central shopping street and lots of cafes and restaurants.”
In Zurich, you’ll find an attractive old town mingled with as modern shopping streets. Daily guided walks (in English) leave from the train station in the centre of town.
Zermatt is in the French-speaking part of the country and is home to the dramatic Matterhorn mountain.
“It’s a year-round resort and thanks to the glacier one can ski for 8 months,” Wendy says.
“In the summer there are wonderful walks to suit all abilities with guides available for the more challenging hikes. The town centre is full of places to stay and eat and has a vibrant atmosphere.”
If you’re going to Zermatt, Wendy says you should walk across the Charles Kuonen bridge. At 494m is the longest in the world.
What you will really love, Wendy says, is the trains. Swiss trains are known for their efficiency and for the stunning scenery of the countryside they pass through. The Glacier Express is perhaps the most famous Swiss train. It connects Zermatt and St Moritz in the centre of the Swiss Alps. Glass roofs offer jaw-dropping views of the mountains.
The Chocolate train links Montreux and Broc-Chocolat and the Golden Pass train runs from Luzern to Interlaken and Montreux.
“Travelling is easy and public transport operates 352 days a year, runs like clockwork and covers the whole country,” Wendy says.
“When buying a ticket at the station they will give you a print out of times/platform numbers and any changes required.
“You can buy various train/ boat /bus passes such as the Swiss Travel Pass for 3,4,8 or 15 days. If you are visiting for longer the Half Fare card on the trains is valid for 30 days.”
If you are travelling by car and using the motorways you need to buy and display a Vignette for CHF 40.
Australians travelling to Switzerland will appreciate the excellent coffee. Swiss food is wholesome, always homemade and nourishing.
“Try Fondue (bread cubes dipped in hot cheese), Alpermagronen (a bake of cheese and potatoes served with apple puree), Birchermeusli (a breakfast dish of oats soaked overnight and then mixed with forest fruits, yogurt and cream), Raclette ( a type of cheese heated to melting point and then dripped over potatoes and pickles) and Rosti which is almost the national dish being potatoes thinly grated and then pan-fried in butter until crisp and golden,” Wendy says.
“Wash any of the above down with white wine (which the Swiss keep to themselves) or fresh apple juice.”
What more could you ask for? No wonder she keeps coming back.
Here are Wendy’s quick tips for Switzerland must-sees:
* The large lakes – Geneva, Constance, Lucern, Zurich, Neuchatel and Lugano to name but a few.
* Mountains – Matterhorn, Pilatus, Rigi or Jungfrau
* Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen
* Interlaken for chocolate-box views, walks and mountain flowers
* Parade of the cows dressed in flowers as they are brought down from the Alpine Pastures in October
* Fireworks and bonfire displays to mark Swiss National Day on the 1st August
* Sunday is still a day of rest in Switzerland. Shops are closed and no one hangs out washing or mows their lawn. Trains, boats and buses run as usual.