Switzerland: It all started with an apple
An April The Wall Street Journal article touted a three-day sample of Switzerland’s charms using a special rail pass. It also inferred that things run like clockwork in that Alpine country. Having personally sampled Swiss efficiencies and maintained a bank account there, I would concur.
Switzerland is landlocked, walled in by some of Europe’s highest mountains. This really helps with wars; they’ve not suffered one since 1815. Legendary William Tell’s splitting the apple on his son’s head is generally regarded as a seminal event, facilitating the confederation of 26 Swiss cantons (states) into nationhood. Zurich is its largest city.
Swiss quality of life is among the world’s very highest, as is its cost of living. There are no inexpensive vacations here. Among the most independent people on the planet, the Swiss are polyglot, hybrids of German, French and Italian genes and culture. It is also a land of breathtaking beauty and sophistication. I have spent time in Zurich and Lucerne in years past, but also overnighted in gasthofs in valleys full of cows, cheesemakers and people who yodel. For the travel gourmet, Switzerland has it all, especially luxury accommodations in principal cities.
Zurich is the financial center and hub of business. Like a Swiss watch, with Teutonic efficiency, it embodies the national culture in every aspect. Want to get urban small and intimate? Lucerne or Lugano should be your destinations. Lucerne has always captured my heart. Its 14th century wooden bridge (the oldest in Europe) crossing the river Reuss has been a picture on many chocolate bars. Take a steam-driven paddle wheeler across the lake and cable car up Mount Pilatus with its 48% gradient – a genuine cliffhanger experience. Old Town remains an architectural delight, all the better to view close up and conveniently accessible only to pedestrians. Local hotels and restaurants offer a broad spectrum of hospitality that will please all but perhaps a few billionaires.
Lugano is an Italian-flavored treat, perched nicely along the periphery of a lake of the same name. Forty-five minutes from Lucerne through the new St. Gotthard tunnel, many Swiss find it ideal for their summer holidays. Lugano’s parks and lake promenade are spectacular with endless floral displays. There’s a funicular up Mount San Salvatore. Then there was James Bond, who, in the opening scene of GoldenEye, jumped off the 220 meter Verzasca Dam. Though not advised for the average tourist, the river below it courses down-valley, making for a series of swimming holes, picturesque bridges and waterfalls cascading through small towns, winding up in Lavertezzo, an urban work of art in itself.
Geneva and Basel are well worth visiting, as is Davos, a picturesque Alpine mountain resort that hosts the world’s glitterati in its annual meeting of global economic leaders.
To visit Switzerland is to visit a location like Singapore. Imagine a place where things work pretty well, politicians are generally respected, and risks of all kinds are at a minimum. Save your travel dollars for a visit to this astonishing nation. You might even consider opening a Swiss bank account while there. Swiss currency, like its position in the international orbit, is rock solid.
By Joe Gschwendtner; courtesy photos