Switzerland: Somebody Has To Do It

Fall 2007 CSANews Issue 64  |  Posted date : Oct 17, 2007.Back to list

Autumn has not always been my favourite time of the year. I've never been much of a fan of winter and the "r" months meant that short days and frosty ice and snow were just around the corner. But since becoming a snowbird, all of that has changed. Now I can relax and enjoy nature's crispy fall mornings accompanied by her painted canvas of colourful trees, knowing that family gatherings and Christmas will soon be here. And after greeting the new year, it's off to the sunny South without an icicle or snowflake (hopefully) in sight!

But there's another reason I've grown fond of the fall. October is when the Society of American Travel Writers' annual conference takes place. As professional members, fellow CSANews writer Gordon Garrison and I (and our wives, of course) head off to whatever country is hosting that year's venue. And this is what I want to share with you in this issue of CSANews – some of the sights that we enjoyed at a spectacular Swiss conference which we attended several years ago.

Switzerland is a rich travel destination – full of warm and friendly people, lakes and mountains, and historic towns and castles. It's also full of food and, as most of you know, I travel on my stomach. The fresh milk and rich, creamy Swiss chocolate made this conference outstanding!

After flying into Zurich and taking a train via Bern, we arrived at one of the flatter parts of the country, the Pays de Neuchâtel. Neuchâtel is Switzerland's clock capital and we were invited to visit the exclusive watch manufactories of Parmigiani and Ebel. At both, each watch is handmade –often by the same craftsperson from beginning to end – an exquisite process.

Watches and clocks mean "timepiece museums" and we visited several medieval church tower clockworks at La Chaux-de-Fonds, and at the ancient walled towns of Fribourg and Murten/Morat.

Tasty and fresh food is the universal language of Switzerland. Breakfast always started with a huge bowl of fresh whipped cream to pour over muesli; lunch was often grilled fish, freshly caught in a nearby lake; and dinner…was always a banquet, sometimes including roasted or grilled meat, but always accompanied by local cheeses. Dessert, of course, always included the country's famous rich milk chocolate. During the day, our media tours often included the sampling of more food. One morning, we even enjoyed behind-the-scenes tastings at the famous downtown Zurich chocolatier, Confiserie Sprüngli.

Dairy products reign there. At daybreak, we often heard the tinkling of cowbells in the meadows below our hotel window…a relaxing way to greet a new day of Swiss adventures. Interestingly, we attended a formal reception in the town hall at St. Moritz, and servers circulated with trays of cold Swiss milk in tall glasses; quite different from the usual alcoholic fare at such events, and very refreshing.

Incidentally, we noticed a complete absence of obesity (and dieting) in Switzerland; everybody walks and nothing seems to be on level ground. I purchased a pair of Swiss walking poles and still use them on a daily basis. They provide very effective exercise for the upper body and shoulders when used in the Swiss manner.

During our visit, we criss-crossed Switzerland by train, the best way to enjoy the diverse and magnificent scenery. Railway travel is very comfortable and extremely efficient. Make sure that you are at the station on time. Ten seconds late and you will see the rear of the train you wanted to catch, departing down the silver tracks.

From Bern to our conference host the Kulm Hotel in St. Moritz; from the ancient hilltop castle village of Gruyère to the mountain spa village of Scuol; from the strassen of modern Zurich to the complete ancient Roman town of Augusta Raurica near Basel, my camera was constantly clicking away at spectacular scenery. So sit back and enjoy the accompanying photos from our Swiss travels.

Dave Hunter is the award-winning author of "Along I-75" and "Along Florida's Expressways" the quintessential guides for those driving to and in Florida. With his researcher wife, Kathy, he enjoys travelling with history, gathering unusual and mysterious local stories.

Related links
Swiss Tourism
What Dave Ate!