Written by Wildcat Dianne on 14 Apr, 2012
When I stayed with my friend Monica near Biella, Italy, I got to sample some great Northern Italian food including the staples of pizza and pastas. But the funniest and most interesting part of this traveler's first time trip to Italy was sampling an…Read More
When I stayed with my friend Monica near Biella, Italy, I got to sample some great Northern Italian food including the staples of pizza and pastas. But the funniest and most interesting part of this traveler's first time trip to Italy was sampling an Easter treat called the Columbi.
The first time I had the Columbi, it was at Ristorante Ioris on Easter Sunday. After a gazillion courses of great food, I was ready to surrender to the food gods but I remembered my late beloved Nana always saying, "I always leave room for dessert!" Knowing I would need to be taken out of the restaurant in a wheel barrow I anyway put any ideas of diet to death and indulged. The Columbi is an Easter one-layer angel food cake that is flavored with lemon and almond extract. It is topped with sliced almonds and confectioners sugar. You see it in restaurants and in grocery stores throughout Italy at Easter time. I enjoyed the Columbi and didn't have to be carted out of the restaurant in a wheel barrow.
Easter Monday is also a big holiday in Europe, and Monica, her husband Luca, son Alberto, and I were invited to Luca's family for dinner. Luca is from another small village near Biella in Piedmonte, and he grew up near an old church that I took pictures of before going inside his mother's house for dinner. Luca was honored an outsider took pictures of his church, but I love old churches and architecture and take pictures of them all of the time. After feasting on antipasti and ravioli and other goodies, it was time for dessert. Wondering if I was going to need a second seat for my flight to Amsterdam later that week, I once again succumbed to the Columbi that Luca's mother put before us. Oh boy! Once again I enjoyed the Columbi very much, and picked at some almonds that were left on the serving plate. Both Monica, Luca and his family noticed my enjoying the Columbi and commented on it.
The night before I left Italy for The Netherlands, Monica and Luca said they had a little present for me for my birthday that was three days away. It was a big bag and inside was, you guessed it, a Columbi from the local market in a box. I laughed about it and Monica and Luca said it would be something for me to enjoy when I got to the Netherlands for my birthday. Now the fun part was lugging that on the plane without damage or confiscation from security like they do here in the airports.
After a train ride from Biella to Novarra and a bus to the airport in Milano in my suitcase, I get to the check-in desk at Milano Malpensa and the girls at the desk opened my bag to make sure I had nothing illegal in there. They got a good giggle after seeing my Columbi, and I told them my birthday was in two days and it was for me to celebrate the day Italian style.
The Columbi made it to the Netherlands in one piece but it was flattened. I offered some of it to my friends for my contribution for dessert, but my friend Monique, who is diabetic, told me to save it. I shared half of it in Germany before sealing it up in a bag for the trip home to America where the remaining pancake of Columbi was consumed by Mom and me and probably the six dogs.
So that is the tale of the Traveling Columbi for you.
Written by Wildcat Dianne on 07 Apr, 2012
On the way to Colmar and Strasbourg by train, we had to stop in Breisach, Germany to take the bus into France. Why do you ask, "how come you didn't take the train all the way into France instead of having to take the…Read More
On the way to Colmar and Strasbourg by train, we had to stop in Breisach, Germany to take the bus into France. Why do you ask, "how come you didn't take the train all the way into France instead of having to take the train then the bus to France?" History is responsible for the reason why one has to travel from Freiburg, Germany to France this way, and it will be explained later on in this journal entry.
Breisach is a small town of about 16,500 people in the Baden-Wurtemburg region of Germany. In the old days it was known as Altbreisach, but now it is formally known as Breisach-an-der-Rhine since it is located on the Rhine River. Breisach dates from Celtic times when it was run by Celtic princes and the name Breisach is Celtic for "breakwater." This little city on the Rhine has been through centuries of war, occupation and changes in owner ship starting from Celtic times. The Romans occupied Breisach and called it Brisacus.
During the 13th Century, the Munster of Breisach, St. Stephenmunster was constructed in the Romanesque style of architecture and remains the main attraction of Breisach today. During the 16th Century, Breisach was a stronghold of the Holy Roman Empire and remained the city's main owner for the next three centuries. That was when Breisach wasn't under French attack. The first French attack on Breisach occured in 1638 and after 10 years of war and French occupation, Breisach was given to France in 1648 and was under French control for the next 49 years. In 1697, Breisach was returned to the Holy Roman Empire as terms with the Treaty of Riswick (Riswjk). The War of Spanish Succession began shortly after this and once again in 1703, the French occupied Breisach for another 11 years. Then the Treaty of Rastatt returned Breisach to Holy Roman Empire control until the Austrians annexed the city in 1790. During the French Revolution and wars between France and German states, Breisach suffered damage from the battles that occured there. Breisach was finally returned to German hands for good in 1805 when it was annexed to the state of Baden.
Now to answer your question about how history affected how one can travel from Freiburg, Germany to Alsace, France. In March 1945, the Allies began their final push into Germany by crossing the Rhine River at the French border. Breisach suffered about 85% destruction during this time and that included the rail lines. The French side of the Rhine River and its rails suffered serious damage and never was able to rebuild its rail lines into Germany. So that is why I had to travel from Freiburg to Breisach and then take a crowded sweaty bus into France and Colmar from there.
But I made the best of my little layover in Breisach by walking the streets and checking out the little shops and taking pictures of St. Stephenmunster. There was a little fair going on in Breisach that day for the local wineries but I was too early to sample any wines, but I did discover a knitting store on Breisach's main street and went inside to browse around. I found a beautiful turquoise cotton yarn that changed into several shades of light and dark turquoise and grabbed four skeins of it. The shop's owner showed me some ideas for knitting with this yarn, but to this day I haven't been able to figure out what to do with this yarn. While it was outside on the back porch in a container, my puppies Remy, Dustin and Dewey thought it would make a great toy to play with and one skein is scattered through the back yard. Oh well. Some day I will make something with my Breisach German yarn!
Except for the St. Stephensmunster and some fairs, there is not a lot to see in Breisach, but it is worth a short trip whenever you are heading into France via Freiburg.
Written by Wildcat Dianne on 21 Jan, 2012
My last day in Europe in 2011 culminated with a day trip to Basel, Switzerland, the third largest city in that little mountain country and is located at the French, German and Swiss borders. It was the only place I visited during my short…Read More
My last day in Europe in 2011 culminated with a day trip to Basel, Switzerland, the third largest city in that little mountain country and is located at the French, German and Swiss borders. It was the only place I visited during my short visit to Switzerland, but I can say "I've been there, done that!" and got my Swiss flag for my collection to prove it.
Basel is a city that dates from Ancient Roman times, but archeologists have discovered evidence that the Celtics had lived there at one time before the Romans arrived in the area. When the Romans came to the Basel area around 374 AD, they named their newest settlement Augusta Raurica and they had built a castle where the Basel Munster now stands. Basel's strategic location along the Rhine River made the city an important shipping mecca along with a place where merchants could gather and several guilds were established.
In the 12th Century, many Jewish people settled in Basel and funded the money for the only bridge over the Rhine River. The Jewish people of Basel had a good life until the 14th Century plague that swept most of Europe for the previous two years hit Basel in June 1349. As it happened in other European cities, the Jews of Basel were blamed for bringing on the plague and several of them were arrested, tortured, and eventually executed by the guilds of Basel.
Basel has always been a city of neutrality but in 1499, it had been plundered during the Swabian War. The Treaty of Basel ended this war and gave the city of Basel exemption from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian's taxes and splitting them from the Holy Roman Emperor. Basel became part of the Swiss Confederation as its 11th canton in 1501 and was the only canton asked to join instead of being forced into the confederation. Reformation hit Basel in 1529, and Basel then became a Protestant state and the Munster went from becoming a Catholic church to a Protestant one.
I enjoyed my short visit to Basel and enjoyed the scenery and walking the narrow cobblestone roads that go through the city. It has not lost a lot of its old-world charm. But it was an expensive city to visit to me as is most of Switzerland. I was searching for a place for lunch where I could experience some Swiss cuisine but many of the restaurants who had menus outside their establishments cost a mini fortune. So I was content to get a open-faced mozzarella cheese, basil and tomato sandwich at one of the little bakeries in downtown Basel and enjoyed a little picnic on the stairs leading up to the Basel Munster. It was a great way to people watch and enjoy the sunny warm Swiss day.
Trains are the best way to get to Basel and there are several of them that leave Freiburg and other cities nearby. Remember that Basel, Switzerland is not part of the European Union, so it's advisable to exchange your Euros or Dollars for Swiss Francs and then if you have money leftover when you leave Switzerland, you can switch back to the currency of your choice. If you are looking for a little taste of Switzerland in a short period of time like I did, Basel, Switzerland is the place to go.
Written by Jodeci527 on 08 Dec, 2011
The last stop on my month long trip was Lucerne, Switzerland. This is the city where visitors must pass through in order to visit Engelberg and Mount Titlis. There were accommodation options in Engelberg, but the prices were a bit unreasonable, so we stayed in…Read More
The last stop on my month long trip was Lucerne, Switzerland. This is the city where visitors must pass through in order to visit Engelberg and Mount Titlis. There were accommodation options in Engelberg, but the prices were a bit unreasonable, so we stayed in Lucerne where better deals could be found.After arriving on the train, we got out at the station and to our surprise, a full blown carnival was taking place. I'm talking about the kind of carnival with almost every ride imaginable, food concession stands and loud music. We decided to locate our hostel (The Lucerne Backpackers) for the night, and return for a night of fun, and to grab something to eat for dinner.Following the instructions from the website, it took us a while to locate our hostel. We were lucky enough to be aided along by friendly locals who took pity on two lost tourists in the cold. The temperature was the lowest that we had experience all through Europe, to the point that we could see our breath as we spoke. Thankfully, with their help, we made it to our hostel, and checked in.After receiving our room keys, we went straight to our room to drop our bags. We booked a twin room, and it was quite acceptable if you judge it from European standards. As opposed to American standards, rooms in in Europe tend to be on the small and basic side, unless you are checking into a very large and posh hotel, and willing to pay over 100 euros. Our room at the Lucerne Backpackers set us back the equivalent of 30 euros only.Our room had two comfy looking twin beds, bedside tables and a table with two chairs in the corner. There was also a glass door which led out to our own mini balcony overlooking the town. If it wasn't for the cold weather, we probably would have spent at least an hour, simply sitting outside and enjoying the view.However, we were hungry and ready to try out a few rides at the carnival. We bundled up and left the hostel, returning to the train station. This time however, we walked along a path which ran adjacent to Lake Lucerne. There were ducks and a few swans in the water, and we saw a few men with fishing poles trying their luck off a couple of small deserted piers. We soon arrived at the carnival, and immediately started to search for food. We found a hot dog concession stand, which had some very large hot dogs for 7 Swiss Francs. We ended up buying two each and some soft drinks, then found a bench by the lake to have our dinner. Seeing that we just ate, we sat for a bit and did and watched the locals while we allowed our meal to digest. Heading on an amusement park ride immediately after eating is never a good idea.After about an hour, dusk was setting in, so we headed over to the first ride which we wanted to try. It was a large swing which threw you high into the air while flipping you over! Within no time, we found out that most rides were 5 Swiss Francs each. Quite expensive, but considering the cost of other means of entertainment, we didn't complain. After the first ride, we got an adrenaline rush, causing us to go through two other rides before slowing down.Finally, when we were leaving to head back to the hostel, we noticed a Haribo candy stand. This is my favourite candy brand, so I ran over and ended up buying a pound of assorted candy. The price wasn't bad, at 3 Swiss Francs per pound. I was definitely now a happy camper, and arrived back to my hostel safe and sound. It was a great evening, and a perfect ending to my trip to Switzerland.Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 25 Jun, 2011
If You Have Time in Switzerland, Make Time For These Watchmaking Museums...From the moment I arrived in Geneva, the Swiss reputation for watchmaking became inescapable. Elegant signs for luxury watches greet the arriving travelers walking from their plane through the corridor to customs and…Read More
If You Have Time in Switzerland, Make Time For These Watchmaking Museums...From the moment I arrived in Geneva, the Swiss reputation for watchmaking became inescapable. Elegant signs for luxury watches greet the arriving travelers walking from their plane through the corridor to customs and baggage. Shops throughout the city offer temptations to purchase all kinds of watches from an elegant Rolex to a colorful Swatch. Trains arrive precisely on the scheduled minute displayed by the huge Mondaine clocks which hang prominently in all the train stations above the train platforms. And, a sightseeing tour of Geneva would be incomplete without a visit to the famous Horloge Fleurie, the flower clock made from some 6,500 colorful plants covering its 16-foot-wide surface. As this route through the Swiss watchmaking industry continued, I visited two magnificent museum collections.When I entered the Patek Philippe Museum (www.patekmuseum.com), I immediately felt underdressed for the occasion in my casual jeans and orange fleece jacket. Also, my feeling toward the Seiko watch on my wrist would never be the same. The museum reminded me of the jeweler’s shop where you are seen by appointment only. The jeweler unlocks the door to let you enter and security quietly watches from a discrete distance. The same feels true at the Museum where it seems like a privilege to enter and security is nearby, but nothing is for sale. The contents housed here are priceless today.On four elegant floors linked by a grand stairway, the museum displays large collections of Genevan, Swiss, and European horological art, enamels, music boxes, and portrait miniatures dating from the 16th to 19th centuries. Exhibits feature creations from Patek Philippe, one of Geneva’s more venerable watchmaking companies. The collection in the Patek Philippe Museum can only be described as jeweled masterpieces. As, I wandered around, I felt appreciation for the complicated innards of the watches, reverence for the intricate lifelike portrait miniatures, and amazement at the moving parts of the music boxes. Transfixed, I continued to return to one particular watch pendant. I was drawn hypnotically to see the delicate opal casement and enjoy the play of shimmering colors characteristic of my favorite stone, the opal. It was the one priceless piece that I will forever desire as my own. Photos are not permitted in the Museum so I have pictures to post. Let me simply say that this museum is worth seeing; and if you visit, dress a bit nicer than I did. It is precisely a one-hour and fifty-seven minute train trip from Geneva to La Chaux-de-Fonds (www.chaux-de-fonds.ch), Switzerland’s highest city rising at 1,000 meters in the Jura Mountains. After Geneva and Lausanne, it is the third largest city in the French-speaking part of the country. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, La Chaux-de-Fonds became the center of the Swiss watchmaking industry. Today, this city has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its horological culture and related town planning of intermingled housing and watchmaking workshops. The city is also home to the second museum worth taking time to visit. The International Museum of Watch Making, with a local name the Musée International d’Horlogerie (www.mih.ch ), is a showcase for the history of timekeeping arts. The museum houses over 4,500 exhibits, including 2,700 watches and 700 wall clocks. It is considered to be among the most comprehensive watch and clock museums in the world.The unusual assortment of clocks impressed me the most about the International Museum of Watch Making. Each design tested the limits of imagination and innovation. Clocks not only give the hour, but tracked astrological positions of stars. A sundial when reaching a certain hour fired miniature cannon. Ornate mantel clocks held cameos and golden sculptures of cranes. Smaller watches of gold and encased with jewels were once a wealthy person’s proud possession of artistic perfection. And, outside the chiming of a 20th century carillon clock made me wonder about the marvelous mechanical innovations to come in Swiss watchmaking. Photography is permitted in this Museum without use of a flash. Patek Philippe Museum7 rue des Vieux-GrenadinesPlainpalaisGeneva, SwitzerlandMusée International d’HorlogerieRue des Musëes 29La Chaux-de-Fonds, SwitzerlandClose
Written by manatwork on 04 Apr, 2011
My first visit to Europe was almost 20 years ago, and it was Zurich that I came to love the most at that time. I still do. I went back to Zurich 3 years ago for the Annual Summer Street Parade. Comparable to Berlin's Love…Read More
My first visit to Europe was almost 20 years ago, and it was Zurich that I came to love the most at that time. I still do. I went back to Zurich 3 years ago for the Annual Summer Street Parade. Comparable to Berlin's Love Parade, the Street Parade is one of the largest techno parties in the world.Kelvin, an old friend of mine who lives in Zurich, greeted me at the arrival hall in Zurich Airport. After he handed me the keys to his apartment, he left for his job at the airport. His apartment is at Kempfhoweg, which is about 30 minutes walk to the city center. It is a beautiful apartment with a large outdoor veranda good for barbecue. The same day I took a walk along the Limmat River toward the city center. Nothing much has changed in Zurich. But I noticed a few new Starbucks establishments in the city. Bahnhofstrasse is the main shopping area in Zurich. The residents enjoy one of the best qualities of life in the world, and here, you'll find the latest luxury and international brands as well as major departmental stores such as Jelmoli and Globus for the general affluence where shopping is their favorite pastime. Uniquely Swiss-made are the fine chocolates, cheese, Swiss Army knives, watches, embroidery and handmade clocks.On the top floor in Jelmoli, you'll find delicious cuisines which are self-service and charge by weight. It's a good way to enjoy an afternoon lunch without breaking the bank.Kelvin and I went shopping (again!) the next day. We took a walk to Old Town, a cobblestones streets with many specialty and antique shops adding to its charm. The three old churches in Zurich are clustered around this area: The Grossmünster ("great minster"), Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady) and St. Peter's Church. St Peter's Church is the oldest. It has the largest clock face in Europe with the minute hand 12 feet long! After a day of walking, we went home on the tram.Public transportation is extremely popular here, and it is one of the bests in the world. Here, you find S-Bahn (local trains), trams, and buses. Tickets are purchased on vending machines which are located at every stop. Like most cities in Europe, ticket agents occasionally check the passengers with valid tickets. If you do not have one, you pay a fine. That night we stayed in to watch the opening of the Summer Olympics 2008 in Beijing. Zhang Yimou choreographed the spectacular opening sequence. It was an eye opener to the rest of the world. China is finally here to stay.The following day was the Street Parade. We went out early to Odeon Cafe off Bellevue. A popular hangout among locals, Odeon Cafe has a classic art-nouveau interior with outdoor sittings as well. The cafe was already packed when we got there. Crowd was jamming the streets, and people were dressing up to their favorite characters. It reminded me of Halloween in America. Parade of floating trucks moved slowly along the road by Lake Zurich with people dancing and drinking with techno music blasting away from the speakers on each truck. After hopping from one place to another, we finally ended up back at the apartment for a barbecue. And to end the night, we proceeded to the bar to drink. It was fun as we bumped into some old friends that I have not met in years.Zurich is a leading global financial center in the world. Most of the research and development centers are concentrated in Zurich. According to several surveys, Zurich is constantly ranked among the wealthiest cities in Europe with the best quality in life. I can't think of anything unsatisfactory about the city. As I left the city the next night to Ljubljana, I was already looking forward to my next trip in Zurich.Close
Written by karly07 on 29 Jul, 2010
When we were planning our holiday to Switzerland this year, we had planned to stay in the car free town of Wengen, on the other side of the valley from Murren, which would in deed be closer to the very famous and much visited attraction…Read More
When we were planning our holiday to Switzerland this year, we had planned to stay in the car free town of Wengen, on the other side of the valley from Murren, which would in deed be closer to the very famous and much visited attraction of the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe, bringing you to the 'Top of Europe' as it is widely advertised as. What made us stay in Murren however were the reviews of a fabulous little chalet (Chalet Fontana) in Murren, which was very reasonable value in a very expensive country like Switzerland. We were travelling by train, so getting to Murren wasn't particulalry troublesome for us, in terms of finding the right place to leave your car. There are two main ways of getting to the little town starting from Lauterbrunnen at the bottom of the valley. We opted for the BLM, the mountain railway system, which in fact is composed of two parts - a large cable car which takes you part of the way up, which then coordinates (time wise) with the train which takes you the rest of the way up. hte other way to get to Murren, is to take the train from Lauterbrunner across the valley floor to Stechelberg, and then get the cable car up to Murren. Both are very easy to use and regular. These cable cars are large in size, and if you are carrying luggage, you can simply wheel it on board. The two arrival points in Murren are at either ends of the town. There are two main streets in Murren, an upper one and a lower one. Our hotel was on the lower street, which is the busier of the two. If you arrive by train, it will approx a 5 to 10 minute walk before you are really in the heart of the town, as it is quite spread out for such a little place. There are ample amounts of cafes offering rosti's (a large hash brown style dish) cheese fondues, as well as other cuisine (including a chinese) along the lower street, and most of the larger hotels have their own restaurants as well. Prices range from reasonable to expensive in terms of both lodgings and eateries. There are also plenty of little shops in the town, most of them selling winter skiing gear, but also some small souvenir shops (a little tacky), as well as a COOP supermarket and bank. It may be a car free town, but you still need to be careful as you walk around. There are plenty of little electric vehicles buzzing around, although you really do feel as if the air is so pure and clean in the town, especially being so high up in the mountains. One of the best thigns about the town, are unsurprisingly, the views. Not matter where you are in the town you can't get away from the amazing views of three great peaks of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Nowhere else in the world would you be able to either stay in reasonable priced lodings or have a reasonably priced dinner with those amazing views. You would usually be charged an arm and a leg for views like that on your doorstep. There are obviously therefore, numerous places in the town from which you can photograph these great views. Murren is also a haven for walkers, nearly every other person in the summer season has a walking pole (or poles) in their hand. This is a big place for hikers, and understandably so. There are numerous trails to follow, all well signposted, depending on both yoru fitness, you available time, and what you would like to see. It is also worth asking the locals, as our accommodation host was able to tell us additional paths to take us past some other wonderful sights. I suppose the difficulty with Murren comes when the weather isn't so good. We were incredibly lucky, and blessed with two hot, sunny days with pure blue skies, and so we could choose whatever we wanted. However, if you arrive in cloudy, wet weather, you won't get the views, so it is hardly worth paying to go the Jungfraujoch or schilthorn, and you might not want to walk as much, without the stunning scenery. There is a town swimming pool which you can use, and apart from a little bit of shopping, it may be a struggle to fill your days. There is little to be done however, and we read someone that the locals are very knowledgeable about the weather conditions because their livelihood depends on it, so it is worth asking them. If you want to get away from everything, and be somewhere with complete peace and quiet, fresh clean air, spectacular views, walking trails and just relaxation, then you should head for Murren. It is really the image that many have of Switzerland and the Swiss Alps, and it comprises everything anyone who visits the Swiss Alps wants.Close
Written by karly07 on 21 Jul, 2010
A large percentage of visitors to Switzerland will use the Swiss trains to see around this beautiful country rather than hiring a car. The guide books are full of praise for the Swiss transport system, its efficiency and its wide ranging connections. The…Read More
A large percentage of visitors to Switzerland will use the Swiss trains to see around this beautiful country rather than hiring a car. The guide books are full of praise for the Swiss transport system, its efficiency and its wide ranging connections. The difficultly sometimes however is choosing the right swiss train pass, and I know we deliberated over this for sometime, before purchasing a 15 day swiss pass. This was the first time we had ever relied solely on train to tour a country. Here are some tips about travelling in Switzerland by train. 1. Before you leave home, print off some train timetables from the SBB website, which will give you lists of possible connections, including the expected business of the train as well as the number of changes that you will need to make to get to your final destination. You are unlikely to know all of your travels before you leave, but it is wise to print the information about those that you do know about. It is also very wise to print off your very first intial journey train timetable, as we found that it took us a little while to get to grips with how the trains worked. For example, we were arriving at Geneva airport, and planned to get the train from the airport into the city centre, so in advance we had printed off the various times that would coordinate with the arrival of our flight. Now the airport train into Geneva is probably one of the easiest, in that all the trains are just sitting there - but if you going beyond Geneva for your first night, you really need to know what platform to go to etc. You can purchase timetables in advance, but you would be wiser to print out some of your own, and then pick up in many of the larger train stations a little timetable booklet for the connections in that region. Or, you can go to the ticket office and ask them for the connections, but there are usually long queues, and with some more irregular trains you wouldn't want to miss connections and have to hang around for the next one. In the train stations there are also boards up with arrival and departure times which we learnt how to read after a day or so, but none of this is easy when you just arrive, and especially if like us, you don't use the train regularly in your home country. 2. If you are travelling with luggage, do we aware that there is not a lot of room for large bags. We had two large luggage bags since we were on holiday for two weeks. There is plenty of room above the seats (like an aeroplane) for some smaller bags and smaller cases, but not for large bags/suitcases. There is also some room underneath the seats, between seats, but these spaces are filled quickly, especially when the train is busy. We sometimes just loaded our bags on the seat in front of us. Some of the more modern trains have luggage shelves but it is dependent on how modern the train is. If we were to do our trip again via the trains, we would invest in larger rucksacks, that we could simply carry on our back, rather than suitcases that have to be pulled around, because it is also worth noting, on a lot of trains, there are narrow steep steps onto the carriage, and it is difficult to pull up suitcases. It is much easier if you can just walk on to the carriage with a rucksack. One more thing to remember is that a lot of the smaller stations will only have steps that will take you up and down to the platforms, meaning more pulling of suitcases. Some larger stations like Geneva have ramps. 3. When you get to Switzerland, set your watch to the clock at the first Swiss train station to finf yourself at. The vast majority of the time, the trains will leave at exactly the time stated such as 10.07. On rare occasions the trains leave late, usually because they have arrived late, but they really don't hang around. We missed only one connection whilst there. The train left at exactly the right time but somehow seemed to get behind, and we were five minutes late. The connecting train does not wait, even though we were actually only one minute over the time it was due to depart. In saying that, we just went to the ticket office and found another connection. 4. Be prepared for the lack of air con in most trains. We were in Switzerland during a very hot spell of weather. Some of the more modern trains were cooler, particularly the double decker trains, but all of the older trains were very very hot. They had windows to pull down but no air seemed to get in the carriage. 5. You need to keep you wits about you when travelling on the train. Stops will not always be announced in English. In fact, they were rarely announced in english, outside of the main cities. In the lugano area (the Italian speaking area of Switzerland) train announcements are made purely in Italian, no french or german either. 6. Make sure you get on the correct class carriage. Like a lot of people we opted for second class to travel. We did walk through a first class carriage, and yes there was more leg room and luggage room, but is it really worth paying the extra for? We didn't think so. The first class carriages are marked with a the number 1 that is in yellow. The second class carriages are marked with a 2 and are in green. On the platform there will be an overhead sign, with information about the destination and some of the stops, but it will also tell you the sections for 1st and 2nd class, so you know where to stand on the platform to be ready. EG. 2nd class was very often in sectors C&D, so you can head down to that particular area of the platform to be ready for the arrival of the train. 7. Always have your ticket or swiss travel pass handy. There are inspectors on most trains, and they will issue spot fines if you are found to have no ticket or pass. 8. When you are purchasing your swiss travel pass and weighing up the advantages of the different types of pass, bear in mind the full cost you will pay for a train ticket. We were originally only going to take the swiss pass for 8 days, since we were going in to Italy for the last few days of our holiday. However, when we priced how much it would cost for our final journey from Italy back to Geneva airport, it was going to be over 300 CHF for the two of us. Now, it worked out so much cheaper to extend our pass to 15 days, even though we weren't able to use it is Italy. So it really is useful to weigh up everything but dashing in to buy a pass. It is also worth adding in all the extras, particularly if you are getting the Swiss pass. We must have saved a small fortune, from half price cable cars and funiculars to free tranport on Lake Geneva CNG boats and Lake Lugano boats. 9. Finally, always make sure you know what platfrom you have to get to when you are making connections. These will be printed on timetables, but when you come off a train, there are usually between 5 and 8 minutes allowed for you to catch your next train, but this may involve havign to go under the rail lines to get to the platform on the other side of the track, it is rarelya matter of just strolling to the next train. Be prepared to move fast!!All in all, travelling by train in Switzerland is a good way to go, particularly since the country is so well connected with rail. It is a more economic way as well, especially if you are going to be moving about a lot, no need to pay tolls or petrol, and some of the towns are car free anyhow, so you will have to leave you car at the car park and pay not only for it, but also for your train ticket into the town. The trains are reliable and efficient, and the only thing, as I said, that we would do differently, is take large rucksacks rather than drag suitcases onto trains. We were very pleased that we had toured Switzerland this way and would recommend it!Close
Written by fizzytom on 02 Jun, 2010
Geneva has a public transport system that matches its status as a major European city and, what’s more, it’s completely free to visitors staying in any of the city’s hotels, hostels or campsites. That’s right, when you check in at your accommodation you’ll be…Read More
Geneva has a public transport system that matches its status as a major European city and, what’s more, it’s completely free to visitors staying in any of the city’s hotels, hostels or campsites. That’s right, when you check in at your accommodation you’ll be issued with a travel pass that can be used on all public transport within the Geneva region and which is valid for the duration of your stay, including the day of departure. If you arrive at Geneva’s Cointrin airport you can take a ticket from the machine in the baggage collections hall which will get you into the city centre free of charge. Cointrin Airport is just one stop from Cornavin train station in the heart of Geneva. All trains departing the airport will stop at Cornavin, regardless of their final destination. The journey lasts just a couple of minutes, so don’t get too comfortable. Departures to and from the airport are frequent and the station is right inside the airport terminal building so you don’t have to trek far with your luggage. While visitors may find that they can navigate the city on foot, it may be the case that using public transport will help make the most of the time available, especially during weekend trips. The city is well covered by a network of efficient and regular trams and buses that are a pleasure to use. Wheelchairs users and parents with pushchairs can use some of these vehicles and, when space allows, pedal cycles can also be carried. If you don’t have a free travel permit (perhaps you are just passing through for a day), you can buy your tickets from news-shops and kiosk, from the vending machines at bus and tram stops, or, in some cases, directly from the driver (on services offered by Unireso, this is not permitted). If you are paying cash, when purchasing from the machines, you have the option of paying in Swiss Francs (CHF) or with Euros. Daily cards are available and naturally represent better value than single tickets which are valid for one hour (and with which you can make changes during that hour).There are four tramlines and numerous bus routes. Tickets are valid for buses, trams or the boats (known as ‘mouettes’) that ferry passengers between little docks at the eastern end of Lake Leman. These tickets are not valid for the larger boats that sail from Geneva to the other cities that lie further round the lake. To visit Mont Saleve, which is in France but gives terrific views over Geneva and Lake Leman, you can take a bus which terminates close to the border. A five minute walk brings you to the cable car which lifts you to the summit of Mont Saleve. If you are using cash, don’t forget to take some Euro with you. Close
Written by AnythngArt on 08 Mar, 2010
Although most people associate Davos, Switzerland, with the World Economic Forum held here annually, Davos’s first claim to fame is its role as the largest ski resort in Europe. At more than 5,000 feet in elevation, it is also the highest. That means that Davos,…Read More
Although most people associate Davos, Switzerland, with the World Economic Forum held here annually, Davos’s first claim to fame is its role as the largest ski resort in Europe. At more than 5,000 feet in elevation, it is also the highest. That means that Davos, Switzerland, is a great location for all winter sports even during years with warmer winter seasons. True winter in Davos generally begins in December, and the winter season usually runs to April, with March being the best month for skiing.Location and Historical ImportanceThe founding of Davos dates back to the Middle Ages, and the influence of the Rhaeto-Romans, whose presence in the modern day is most closely felt in the local dialect spoken and in the local dishes still served in the area. Today, Davos in part of the Graubunden Canton, in the far southeastern section of Switzerland, and Davos is located about 100 miles southeast of Zurich.Paired with its twin city, Klosters, it’s a ski mecca for tourists around the world. In the middle of the 18th century and into the 19th, it was recognized by European doctors as an important microclimate, suitable to dealing with health issues, such as tuberculosis. Sanitariums were built, and many famous people came to Davos, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and most importantly, Thomas Mann, who penned "The Magic Mountain," in which Davos, Switzerland, figures prominently.Skiing and Other Winter SportsIn the 1970s, Davos again attracted a strong following, this time for its slopes, and it has continued to flourish as an area not only for skiing, but speed skating, hockey, and any other number of winter sports activities. Its six main ski areas include the exemplary Parsenn-Weissfluh (with its descent from more than 9,000 feet at Weissflungipfel to 2,600 feet at Kublis), a challenge for every good skier.Not only are there challenging slopes for experienced downhill skiers, there are incredibly beautiful valley trails that make it the number two spot for cross-country skiing in Switzerland, after Engadine.Davos also offers plenty of opportunities for snowboarders, tobogganing, and ice skating. Those looking for good half-pipes will be in their element at Jakobshorn, while families are likely to be more comfortable at Pischa, Madrisa, and Rinerhorn, with their "kid friendly" orientation. In addition to all the standard winter snow sports, there are also ski tours, mountain trips led by guides, glacier hikes, and of course, plenty of ski schools for novice skiers.After Hours: Eating and DrinkingLike every area in Switzerland, Davos has its traditional dishes that identify its location. In the case of Davos-Klosters, the food specialties harken back to ancient times. The Rhaeto-Romanish influence can be seen on local menus in the form of "pizokels" (buckwheat gnocchi), "plain in pigna" (baked potato casserole with ham and bacon), "capons" (chard-wrapped dumplings), and "nusstortes" (walnut cake). The most famous specialty of the region, however, is "bundnerleisch" (an air-dried beef whose taste is influenced by the pure mountain air. Travelers can see the process in action by visiting the Brugger Family business in Parpan or seeking out a tasting at Hatecke (a luxurious butcher shop) in Scuol.Another place worth visiting in the area is BierVision Monstein in Davos, the highest-altitude brewer of beer in Europe. After touring the brewery, travelers can sample the famed Monstein beer along with some of the local specialty dishes of the region.Other great places to eat in the area include the restaurant at the Hotel Walserhof in Klosters and Walserhuus Sertig in Davos. Both serve gourmet meals in beautiful traditional settingsHotelsWhile there are hundreds of lodging options in the Davos-Klosters area, two stand out for their unique historical importance and charming accommodations.Hotel Schatzalp in Davos was named the "Historical Hotel of the Year for 2008" by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos). Built in an Art Nouveau style, it opened in 1900 as a sanitarium and is described in Thomas Mann’s book, "The Magic Mountain." While it has been remodeled extensively since then, it retains its beautiful architectural grace with stunning views of the Swiss Alps. To top all that off, it is also surrounded by the Alpinum Schatzalp, a botanic garden that contains more than 3,000 species of alpine plants.Most insiders, however, recommend staying in Klosters, away from the buzz of Davos. For those looking for the VIP treatment, Chesa Grischuna is the perfect place to rest your head. Designed by a leading Zurich architect, Hermann Schneider, in 1938 it is a beautifully blended mix of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary art. So popular with international movie stars in years past, it gained the nickname "Hollywood on the Rocks." Yet, there’s nothing rocky about its service or accommodation.Davos-Klosters may not impress like Gstaad or St. Moritz when skiers name drop great European locations for enjoying their winter vacations. Yet, for those looking for an endless choice of winter sports activities, great food, luxurious accommodations, and most of all stunning vistas on their way down the slopes, Davos can’t be beat!Close