Switzerland: Alpine Adventures and Swiss Charm
Swiss Alpine Enchantment: Where Dreams Become Reality
Spanning over half of Switzerland’s surface area, The Swiss Alps cover a land of varied geology and cultural influences, of which the result is a county extremely rich in some of the best food, wine, history, scenery and outdoor pursuits in the world.
Switzerland, where to begin? A storybook land riddled with castles, wooden chalets and the purest blue lakes and waterfalls imaginable. One only has to catch a glimpse of the soaring snowy peaks to conjure up the image of skipping through alpine meadows, carving through deep, fresh powder snow and the wondrous taste of the smoothest milky Swiss chocolate...
Interlaken is a town well geared up for the constant stream of tourism which comes its way. From sky-diving to rock-climbing you can do it all here, or nearby. Interlaken is a great place from which to explore the beautiful surrounding area. There are excellent train and bus links to Alpine regions such as the Jungfrau region, the Kandersteg national park, the towns of Thun and Lucerne, and the fantastic Valais region. The latter being accessed easily (though somewhat expensively) by car-carrying train through the Lötschberg tunnel.
The traditional and quaint Hotel Alpina is a rustic delight for those looking for midrange to budget hotels. The rooms were large with wood-panelled walls and beams. There was also a balcony with a view of the main street and some beautiful alpine peaks beyond. Breakfast provided. Address: Hauptstrasse 44, Interlaken, BE 3800.
Not far from Interlaken, and directly on a bus route, are the Caves of St Beatus. A prehistoric settlement, this 1km warren of mysterious caves full of stalactites and stalagmites is a must-see for anyone into natural history. The location of the caves affords fantastic views over the beautiful blue Lake Thun. They are located just off the main road which hugs the rocks above Lake Thun.
Another nearby natural gem is the area of Lauterbrunnen (follow signs to Wilderswil – five minute drive). This divine spot features a lush green valley in summer, with over five long waterfalls gliding down the vertical rock either side of the valley. Trummelbach falls - a stunning and powerful waterfall writhing and frothing inside the rock is a feature well worth seeing, for a small fee. Walkways and a lift take you up into the crevasse where the waterfall can be seen, and of course heard. Bring waterproof clothes.
HotelsHotel Emmental is a great hotel with reasonable prices. It has much Swiss charm and if you’re lucky you’ll get a room with a fantastic view of the castle.
Address: Bernstrasse 2, 3600 Thun, Switzerland
You won’t find Cailler chocolate on the shelves at Tesco! This gem is something Switzerland doesn’t internationally export, so to experience the true velvety smooth texture of the many varieties of Cailler chocolate visit the Cailler factory at Broc, Near Gruyeres. Part of Nestle, this brand of Swiss chocolate is even more refined and of higher quality which is probably the reason the Swiss keep it to themselves. The museum visit includes a chocolate tasting experience!
A great walk to catch wondrous sights of the beautiful blue-toned Oberer Gletscher (glacier) can be done if you catch the bus from Grindelwald to Oberer Gletscher. From the bus terminal follow signs to the glacier and there is a small tourist area with a pay toll. After paying a small fee, you start the climb up the mountainside on the wonky log stairs which add to the sense of achievement upon arrival at the top (don’t worry there is a good handrail either side). The climb takes around 30 to 40 minutes and once you reach the glacier viewpoint there is a rocky area and a swinging bridge over a ravine. The views are fantastic down into the frothy water (summer/spring) and the views of the glacier and surrounding scenery are breath-taking.
Zermatt is famed for its year-round skiing, lively après ski scene, and, of course the Matterhorn. The only vehicles you will see in this car-free resort are the tiny electric ski mobiles which transport skiers and their equipment. Zermatt has some excellent shops for buying all things Swiss, from cuckoo clocks and Swiss army knives to slabs of chocolate, there is a wealth of choice for gifts and souvenirs.
For excellent veal or beef bratwurst with a slice of ciabatta bread (the correct meat-bread ratio for the perfect hot dog) head down the main high street, and somewhere on the left (about 50 yards from the station) there is a little outdoors stand - bratwursts sizzling, hot drinks brewing…
Due to its altitude, the skiing at Zermatt can be year-round. Skiing in Zermatt is excellent for experts and intermediates. Summer skiing takes place on glaciers at usually more than 3000m of altitude. At this heady height make sure you wear sun cream when skiing as the sun’s rays penetrate through the air far more fiercely.
The Matterhorn is visible at the end of the town by the river. This is at the opposite end of the town to the station and therefore an excellent excuse to wander through the shop-lined streets. There is excellent hiking in this area which also affords sublime views of the Matterhorn. If you can, stick around for sunset as the light casts eerie glows over the summit and transforms the fantastic mountain, highlighting it in a different way each day.
Saas Fee, Valais
Address: Unter den Bodmen, 3906 Saas-Fee
Off the E62 after Visp, the 19 snakes around the Alps of the Italian border and comes across various pretty Alpine towns and villages, eventually reaching a small town named Fiesch. In the sunlight under the gigantic Eggishorn, walks around Fiesch are simply divine and the stunning alpine scenery offers a diverse range of breath-taking views. Skiing in Fiesch is often possible well into April due to the altitude. The cable-car runs from the station in Fiesch all the way to the top of the Eggishorn where , on a clear day you can enjoy sublime views of the vast Aletsch glacier below. The cable-car stops half way up the mountain for the ski resort which has a great range of pistes for intermediates, a great children’s area and beginners’ skiing also.
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