Food, Wine, and People

When eating fondue, delicate red wine is best.

Another little Swiss secret is rosti. To the untrained eye, this may look like a giant potato pancake, but it includes sweet onions and delicate spices, fried to perfection. The best way to enjoy this is in someone's kitchen, homemade by someone's mother, who's been mixing and flipping them for years. But you can get very adequate substitutes from restaurants in every Swiss town.

Switzerland is the little, big country of central Europe. The dramatic landscapes are ever-changing. From shimmering lakes, to towering mountains and everything in between. You'll pass by cliffside vineyards, quaint little villages, and marvels of modern engineering at every turn as you blow through tunnels and bridges that cross vast canyons of rugged rock. Along the drive on the highway from the Ausfahrt to the sortie parts of Switzerland you'll pass by French, German, and Italian speaking provinces. In regards to the Swiss locals you'll find a French or Savoyard joie de vivre in Geneva, an austere but straight-out-of-the-box approach to life in German Zurich, and then contrast all of this to the vibrant, lively energy that locals exude in the Italian regions of Switzerland, such as in Ticino. Comparatively a tiny, landlocked country to neighboring nations, Switzerland has remained in tact and undisturbed throughout the 20th century. There is a bond that unites the cantons of Switzerland that may not be noticeable at first glance, but it's strong stuff...perhaps the benefit of a cheese and potatoe diet!

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The Littlest Travelers

Take the little ones to little Geneva-a giant scale model of the city at Maison Tavel, or to the swimming, tobogganing, horseback riding, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and bowling at St. Moritz and other Swiss resorts.

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European Swizterland0Travel0Guide

· First Things First
· Where to Stay
· Getting Around
· Getting Around Switzerland
· Around Switzerland
· Food, Coffee, and People
· Musts
· If You Have Time
· The Littlest Travelers

First Things First

Strangely enough, there's some truth to the picture-perfect image of Switzerland that most of us have had from childhood. This land of mountains, lakes, picturesque villages, incredible chocolate, and on-the-dot punctuality isn't an exaggeration...it's a reality! You'll find that everything from the Jungfraujoch to the giant flower clock in Geneva really exists.

The unit of currency in Switzerland is the Swiss Franc (CHF). Prices below are expressed in U.S. dollars for convenience; check the rate of exchange prior to your arrival in Europe. Most signs and other public information is bi-lingual, the two primary languages being German and French. Although English is very common, knowing some French will get you on the best graces. German is handy, but remember the Swiss speak a slightly different version of German. Italian is useful too, in the south and around some lakeside resorts. Romansch, the fourth official language of the country, is widely spoken, but it's tough to find a phrase book.

Where to Stay

The Swiss take hospitality very seriously, and even the least expensive hostels and pensions will be clean, and the service superb. You would have to go out of your way to stay in a dive or a shack. In the larger hotels, especially in the resorts of Zurich and Geneva, expect to pay a little bit more for just about everything. Accommodations can really vary in style and decor as well. You'll find everything from homely, comfortable chalets in the mountainous regions, to the ultra modern or minimalist hotels of Geneva or Zurich.

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Getting to Your Hotel

...In Zurich
Arriving in Zurich is very convenient. Trains depart for downtown directly from the airport. After you've collected your bags and have gone through customs, head 2 floors down into the sub-ground level. Here you will find the train's departure platform. Fares downtown are about $8 each way and the trip takes about 20 minutes.

Arriving at the train station, say Tag! to Zurich's easy-to-use public transportation system. Trams, buses, and a few boats take locals and tourists to all parts of the city. A schedule and guide to how to buy tickets and which ones are best is available at the airport and train station. And don't forget to pay a visit to Zurich's old town. It's an underrated area that's rich in midevil history.

Taxis in Zurich are extremely expensive. In most cases, the limit is four people. For a ride from or to the airport, if this is your preferred mode of transport, try to find the appropriate number of tourists to get up to the maximum and split the cost. Locals won't do it with you. They take public transport.


...In Geneva
Geneva's Cointrin Airport is compact, tidy, and easily manageable. To get into town, take the train to the main rail station, which leaves the airport every 10 minutes or so and costs only about $8 each way. Since it's a short distance, a taxi is only about $20, but there may be a small additional charge for extra riders. Arriving by train at Geneva Cornavin station, you'll be in luck. All of Geneva's public transportation is "hubbed" at the rail station. Consult the cheerily decorated schedules and pick up a block of tickets for the comprehensive bus network.

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Getting Around Switzerland

With one of the most extensive rail networks of any European country, Switzerland boasts more than 800 public transportation stops and more than 3 million passengers each year. If you're traveling to more than one destination in Switzerland, consider a Swiss Rail Pass. It's valid on all trains, including postal buses as well. These buses service every little village in Switzerland. Train travel is the way to go as the system is more timely and precise than a Swiss made watch. You can purchase a Scenic Train Pass, entrance onto the Glacier Express, Golden Pass, or Chocolate trains from www.raileurope.com.

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Around Switzerland

Aside from the centuries-old castles, picturesque lakes, rustic villages, bustling city centers, amazing shopping, unique recipes, and friendly (and might we add darn good looking) people, there are things about Switzerland that are really one-of-a-kind. Traveling around this rich country, you just can't miss a few things:

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Musts:

Zurich: Although it has the reputation of an icy financial center, Zurich is a favorite of many repeat travelers to Europe. Switzerland's largest city rests on the banks of the Limmat River beside the deep, shimmering Lake Zurich.

Geneva: Explore the old town, the famous fountain, and the incredible shopping of the most international city in the world. Then get ready for your jaw to drop once you view the Jet d'Eau (that big fountain you can see from everywhere). It's possible to take a guided tour of the United Nations (check with the concierge for times and tickets), and you can always gorge on plenty of chocolate!

Lucerne : If you don't make it for the famous International Music Festival held each year in late summer, you'll still be charmed by the old town, which rests peacefully aside the River Reuss, as well as the truly one-of-a-kind Kapellbrücke.

Lausanne: One of Europe's most curious art collections is stored at the Musee de l'Art Brut in Lausanne, along with the Olympic Museum, the fine Palais de Rumine, and Switzerland's most inspiring Gothic cathedral.

St. Moritz: For 3,000 years, Europeans have flocked to the legendary curative waters of St. Moritz. Today, the sleepy town is a haven for the rich and famous.

Bern: Switzerland's beloved capital sometimes hides in Zurich's shadow, but it comes alive with an astounding collection of Modern art, a café culture known throughout the country, and shopping that rivals Zurich and Paris. It's been declared a UNESCO world heritage site and is also the home of the Paul Klee Museum. Albert Einstein developed the Theory of Relativity here.

Basel: Meandering around the old town of Basel, split rather delicately by the Rhine, will put you in the path of the impressive Rathaus, the 12th-century cathedral, and excellent Museum of Fine Arts, and more, in one of the nation's most progressive cities.

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Maybes:

Grindelwald: Grindelwald has done more to develop groomed winter hiking trails than any other community in the Alps. At any given time, the village streets may be teeming with young daredevils carting their neon-colored boards and more mature walkers with their backpacks, walking sticks, and small sleds.

Montreux: The most popular resort on Lac Lèman, Montreux is blessed with a uniquely balmy microclimate that allows palm trees to survive the Swiss winter! These unusual conditions make Montreux a garden spot at its lower altitudes, even though grand mountains tower just above.

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