Saturday, 25 May 2013

Guest Travel Blog - Summer Travels in Switzerland with Tina Hartas

Welcome to another guest blogger. This time its the turn of Tina Hartas from the great blog site "Trip Fiction". She is showcasing the beautiful, mysterious country of Switzerland. Tina's blog hosts numerous books with a travel theme. If you, like me, loves travel and books, you'll love it.

Hello Tina and thanks for joining us :)

Last Summer we based ourselves in the small resort town of Leukerbad, Valais, just off the Rhone Valley, a couple of hours from Geneva airport and situated at 1300M to over 2000M. We used this is our base to travel around Switzerland, and it proved to be a real eye-opening and positive trip.

To start with, we were amazed by the glorious weather. We discovered that many of the little places dotted around the country have their own little micro-climates and have as many days annual sunshine as resorts along the Mediterranean coast, which is really astounding. In fact, Leukerbad’s tiny neighbouring village, Albinen, is the sunniest place in the whole of Switzerland.  Thus, in the Summer months it can be wonderfully hot during the day, yet cool at night. It might still be snowy on the peaks yet it is truly resplendent with lush meadows at lower altitudes (absolute eye candy).

Leukerbad has year round thermal baths, and believe me, there is nothing more delightful than lying in a bubbling pool, outside, looking at beautiful scenery (of which, of course, there is lots!) and having all the stresses and strains soothed away by hot swirling waters.
Thermal Baths at Leukerbad
From Leukerbad we moseyed down into the valley and picked up the Glacier Express which trundles over to St Moritz, and again, the scenery is stunning, truly chocolate box, and truly Alpine.

During our meanderings across the country, mainly using the Swiss Rail System, we never actually came across an actual Alphorn, but the Swiss are clearly hugely proud of tradition: they use Alphorns and weathered old men in Alpine gear  (yes, Lederhosen and Badger Brush hats and oftentimes sitting alongside huge truckles of cheese) in many of the advertisements up and down the rail system. And the railways are, of course, super efficient, (unless the train originates in Italy, and then it can be a very different story, as the Swiss like to impress upon you!).
The Italian part of Switzerland is a dream, hot and palm fringed in Lugano, or beautifully olde worlde. with Italianate style in Locarno. Going north, there is Lucerne, with its old bridge, the Kapellbr├╝cke (which incidentally is the most visited monument in Switzerland, and is a delight, particularly when it is garlanded with fragrant flowers and lit up at night); and Zurich, which is a low-key, world city, with a fabulous art gallery and easy living along the lake and river (the Bahnhofstrasse is the most expensive shopping street in the whole of Europe, apparently).

The downside at the moment is, of course, that Switzerland isn’t the cheapest location on the tourist trail. However, the supermarkets are on a par with pricing in other European countries and the rail system offers discounts to tourists, so a visit doesn’t have to break the bank. And for our own trip-planning we found to be really helpful with suggestions and booking.

As a really wonderful add-on to any destination - and of course this is the raison d'├¬tre for TripFiction -  we always take a couple of books that enhance our trip (in addition to travel guides) that are set in and evocative of location and these books can add a really new and interesting perspective on the locale. This time we took an eclectic selection:

The Chef by Martin Suter, set in Zurich and St Moritz
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Swisswatching by Diccon Bewes
Swisswatching is a particularly great book to take with you on a visit to Switzerland, the author has a wonderful style, and he really introduces his readers to his adopted country, with historical, factual and some very quirky and interesting insights (you will note, for example – as we can attest – that a high proportion of women in this small land-locked country wear red shoes…go figure. Is it patriotism to the Swiss red flag, an attempt to escape from conformity, perhaps….? Many theories abound…)
Thank you Tina for a great blog post. I'm sure that will have tempted many to want to make the journey to this beautiful country.