|Welcome to Switzerland
Being a relatively small country, it is easy to fit pretty much all of
what Switzerland has to offer on one page, rather than divide it up
into cities or regions. So here goes.....
The quaint village of Davos....it's snowing!
We skiied Klosters for two days and had a great time. Wide open runs,
although a little icy with no recent snow, perfect weather, and fine
places for lunch (bratwurst with rosti, which is sort of like fried,
mashed potato with bacon). The skiing is immediate (but challenging
enough for us!) with red and blue runs mostly. The top is reached by
gondala in about 30mins depending on crowds and a one-day lift ticket
is 61 CHF (about 40 euro). The best part is a 14km trail all the
way back down to Klosters , where you instantly kick off the skis and
grab a beer or gluwein to warm you up.
Nicki and Gibbo in Davos
After leaving the ski fields and Zurich behind, we headed to other parts of Switzerland to see what it has to offer. First stop, just for a day & night, was Lucern. Like Zurich and many other places in Switzerland (including Montreaux which is coming up next), Lucern is on a pristine lake that is surrounded by mountains. As you can see in some of the photographs, the city has 'old, worldly Swiss charm' with many old but renovated buildings that are used for residences and offices. A long way from the moden skyscrapers found in many other cities. Switzerland is known for it's financial institutions and watches, so you see a lot of gold plaques on buildings with the names of banks, next door to a store loaded with Rolex and Tag Huer watches.
Lucern is a place to wander. Around the lake, or on it with
many cruises offered in summer, through the cobbled streets and moden
performance hall next to the main railway station (which is also very
modern, surprisingly), through some of the ancient churches, or up a
very small hill to see the dying lion carved into the rock to honour
those soldiers killed in battle. All in all, a very easy city to walk
around and, unless you use it for day-trip elsewhere, you can see the
place in a day.
Nicki and Belinda in Lucern
The lakeside town (not city) of Montreaux is not your usual tourist destination. However, we chose it because 1) we had heard that a lot of conferences take place there and you don't have conferences without 'side attractions' for the delegates, 2) it was a good point for which to explore Geneva and Lausanne, and 3) they speak French so we could practice. Upon arrival, we found it to be very picturesque, with an apparantly well-known casino (which we visited for dinner one night but were overcome very quickly by the cigarette smoke!), but fairly quite and not as upmarket as we thought. Our hotel was a short taxi ride from the train station and right on the lake, so it offered amazing views from the rooms. The hotel was one of those that would have been very grand in its day, with high ceilings, antique furniture and fittings, and lounges where you would take tea and gaze out onto the lake. Comfortable but a bit dated. It did offer free movies during the visit though so after an early dinner (it was winter so you tend to go out around 6pm) you could come back to the room and watch a movie for free, instead of the normal hotel charges of 10 euro. In addition, Nicki was sick one day so was confined to bed and a few videos to pass the day (Gibbo visited Lausanne that day - see below).
Montreaux was nice and
fitted our purposes. Although winter, the days were clear and the views
spectacular. Splendid for walking in and out of town along the lake.
It's Switzerland, so nothing is really very cheap, even in the
off-season. Many places were also closed (especially on Sundays!) but I
suspect it's very lively in the springtime onwards.
The beautiful Lake Geneve from Montreux
Sunset on Lake Geneve
The small lakeside town of Montreux
Most of Lausanne seems to be built on the side of a steep hill (leading away from, surprisingly, a lake) and from the train station up to the main part of the city, it could be hard going. If you were driving, you'd want to ensure the handbrake works for those hill starts! The main reason (for us) to visit Lausanne is it's the home of the Olympic Games, although it has never actually hosted one in more than a hundred years, and has the offices of the IOC and a fanscinating Olympic museum. The museum is alongside the lake, so pretty easy to find, and directly downhill from the train station (although it's a good 'climb' back up). If you're interested in the Olympics, then the museum is a must. It has wirtten information and some equipment from every single summer and winter Olympic Games, including medals and torches. There is also a great range of videos and models of planned Olympic infrastructure that never quite passed the test (or the country lost the bid!). Aim on spending a good couple of hours in the museum, depending on what temporary exhibition is featured. When Nicki visited in 2000, it was the Tour de France, but this time it was all forms of sailing. Great for sailing enthusiasts, but not that exciting for cyclists.
One of the most stunning aspects of going to Lausanne is the train ride from Montreaux. Sit on the correct side (left if going there, right when coming back) and you experience 30mins of uninterrupted lake views, with much of the trip seemingly going along the shoreline. The city of Lausanne features some beautiful apartments and offices, and like all cities, there is clearly an upmarket area where wealthly bankers live. Overall, the city itself is quite affluent, but the shopping area is just the same as any other European city. Not that much more for tourists, but again, good for a day trip.
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