The thing that strikes me the most about Switzerland when I arrived at the airport in Zurich is how calm and orderly everything is, or at least it seems so.
Not to the point of being sterile, but the calm was encouraging after my various trips this past summer to other European countries. Granted, I was arriving in October after the season was over by European standards, but the calm immediately put me at ease.
(A calm and orderly day in Zurich)
I boarded a train from Zurich to Geneva where my journey would begin. The train station is located in the Zurich airport so there were no worries about catching a cab, finding a car or even getting lost. Everything is easy in Switzerland and, for the most part, the trains ran on schedule every time.
Arriving in Geneva I crossed the street to my hotel, unpacked my bags and took a walking tour of the city. The first night in Switzerland I had dinner at a traditional Swiss restaurant where I ordered fondue, a must on any visit during the cooler months of the year.
While Geneva is well known from an international standpoint, I enjoyed the fact that it was the city where Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley and Lord Byron spent a famous summer resulting in Mary Shelley’s writing of the novel Frankenstein. The summer home is still standing and you can see the exterior, however it is a private residence and not open to visitors.
(A breathtaking view of Chillon Castle)
The countryside is amazing around Lake Geneva and both Byron and Shelley enjoyed spending time on the lake. In fact, Lord Byron even rowed to Chillon Castle where he wrote his name on a pillar that you can still see today. I decided to take the train to Chillon myself and see what all the fuss was about.
The Castle is impressive. There is much history on the spot where the castle now stands as it was occupied as far back as the Bronze Age, then occupied by the Romans. In fact, by the 11th century it was already being rebuilt and enlarged. If you are anywhere near Chillon, this is a must. Being a castle junkie I have been to quite a few and this was definitely one of my favorites. If you take the train from Geneva to Montreux you can catch a train right to the castle – the return to Montreux is every hour.
Castle of Chillon
After leaving the castle my next stop was Interlaken where I toured the city and found it to be quite lovely, a great destination in the summer or the winter. The highlight of Interlaken is Jungfraubahnen. You have probably seen or heard of a mountain called the Eiger from one of the James Bond movies. The Jungfrau, standing 13,642 feet, is one of two sister mountains next to the Eiger. The mountain has an incredible observatory, restaurant and ice palace on top. Known as “the top of Europe,” it is rightly named. Take the entire day and don’t hurry, a relaxing train ride up to the top is the way to go (by way of the Jungfrau railway) and definitely have lunch in the restaurant – it was one of the best meals I had while in Switzerland.
It was getting a bit chilly as I moved on to my next stop in Lucerne. Again, I stayed in a hotel directly across the street from the train station.
A tour of the city includes the covered bridge called Spreuer Bridge built in 1408. In the 1600s there were 67 paintings added to the inside of the bridge representing the “Dance of Death.” The other “must see” in Lucerne is the Lion monument called “The Dying Lion of Luzern.” It was built out of natural rock in memory of the heroic death of the Swiss mercenaries at the Tuileries in 1792. The lion speaks of sadness and it is a breathtaking sight built into the side of the rock.
(An impressive visage of Topojungfrau)
From Lucerne I headed back to Zurich for the night and enjoyed a tour of the city and a look at the Protestant churches that abound there. When in Zurich, stay in the old section of town where the cobblestone streets or home to excellent shops, restaurants and bars on every corner.
Zurich is an excellent starting point for a trip to Switzerland, or like me, work your way around the country by train and end up back in Zurich for a few days before heading home.
French, German, Italian and English, depending on where you are in the country.
Red Cross Museum in Geneva
17, Avenue De La Paix
+41 22 748 95 11
Best way to get to Switzerland is Swiss – there is no other choice in my opinion. The flight attendants are helpful and friendly and the food is even good.
I departed from Los Angeles and flew direct to Zurich, however Swiss has departures from many U.S. cities.
The best way to get around Switzerland is by train. Buy a Swiss pass and travel as often as you like for the designated amount of days on your pass. It gives you a chance to be spontaneous because you jump off and on trains without having to continually buy tickets.
Where to Stay
+41 33 826 76 76
(Right across from the train station)
Hotel Monopol Luzern
041 226 43 43
Rita Cook lives in Los Angeles and is the editor of Premier Bride magazine. She also has a romance novel coming out this winter called “Angel’s Destiny”.
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