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Majestic Switzerland
Posted: 27 September 2008
Auhor: Samuel Dallon

Introduction
Renowned for its fine chocolates, exquisite timepieces and picturesque landscapes, Switzerland is probably Europe’s premier vacation destination. It is best described as heavenly- quaint hillside villages nestled amongst the magnificent Swiss Alps with emerald rivers trickling down to glassy, sparkling lakes. Touring this beautiful country on your own is a breeze, with the local transport system boasting European efficiency at its best, and offering a variety of modes to get between destinations at reasonable cost. SwitzerlandIf that wasn’t enough, scenic railways and coaches abound that give you the effortless pleasure of touring specific mountain ranges and landmarks.

Getting Around
Public transport is by far the best way to enjoy the sights and sounds of most European cities. In Switzerland, rail travel offers the perfect combination of comfort, convenience and efficiency. The SBB (Schweizerische Bundesbahnen) offers tourists a multiday saver pass (other options are available, check the SBB website for details). With one card you can enjoy travel on virtually all public transport modes including rail, bus and tram. Additionally the pass includes various discount vouchers for guided tours and most cable car rides (and those are plentiful). The SBB online trip planner provides a comprehensive search facility that allows you to plan your journey step by step, with departure and arrival times exact to the minute.

Excursions
A very popular excursion and on well worth doing is that to the famous Jungfraujoch peak, consisting of a three-tier scenic rail trip on the Jungfraubahn. Nicknamed the top of Europe, Jungfraujoch has the highest cogwheel railway station in all of Europe, at an altitude of an astounding 3454m. Taking approximately 5 hours for the return trip, the excursion commences at Interlaken, a quaint tourist town with astounding scenic beauty reminiscent only of regal fairytales. On to the town of Lauterbrunnen Switzerlandalong crystal clear spring valleys, he next leg is the first true cogwheel of the journey. Bring enough memory cards for your camera; most people tend to keep their fingers on the shoot button as the train meanders steeply through the gorgeous Swiss Alps. You may then choose to stop at the town of Wengen; here you can enjoy a bite to eat, let the kids enjoy sled rides amongst the many snowy banks, or to do some shopping for additional snow gear(rentals are also available if you’ll only ever do this once in a while). O to Jungfraughch, where you can step out and take a few pics at Europe’s higest point. Mind the cold though; its freezing almost any time of year and hits the -20’s (C) in winter – so if your’e not accustomed to the cold you’d probably last only a few minutes! Trains are frequent out of Jungfraujoch and stop at around 5pm in winter, weather permitting. The trains are all heated with ample space for skiing equipment; and for those just enjoying the ride, enlarged frost-free windows allow you to take in the Swiss peaks in all its glory. Of course there are other very beautiful mountain ranges that can be enjoyed, such as Mount Pilatus and Mount Titlis. Cable cars will take you to the mountain peaks but you should always check on the day if they are operating since this depends on weather conditions (even on a crystal clear day strong winds might prevent the cable cars from running).

Quick Info:
Languages: German, French. English is well understood by most locals. Dining: A multitude of restaurants and pubs can be found where you can indulge in multicultural or traditional cuisine; however international fast food chains are strangely quite scarce, even in Geneva which attracts millions of foreigners annually. However, local fast food joints are generally of a very good quality and offer typical western dishes such as pizza’s, burgers hot dogs and the like at reasonable prices. Don’t forget to try the local specialty, Bratwurst and Sauerkraut with a pint of lager.

Summary
The highlights of Switzerland can be fully enjoyed in week’s visit, and cost effectively using the very efficient, clean and organized Swiss public transport system. This author did a comprehensive trip starting at Zurich, then to Berne, Interlaken and finally to Geneva in a couple of days. From each ‘node’ a unique and exciting tour can be organized very simply using the SBB online travel planner. It really helped to stay at hotels located closer to or within shopping malls (such as the Holiday Inn in Berne or the Radisson in Geneva) since public transport was right at the door, plus access to fast food, restaurants and supermarkets. A great getaway, a must if panning a trip to Europe, bit on the pricy side, but if you’ve ever imagined what heaven might look like, the countryside and vast mountain ranges of Switzerland would probably come closest.
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