Here is something new for me- I am enthusiastically recommending a travel destination to you, a country actually…Switzerland!
I have travelled a lot over the last 30 years, probably not as much as many of you but certainly more than most people. Much of this travel has been to exotic and magical places and almost all of it has been nature-based travel- to me, cities are something you fly into and then leave as soon as you can. All the places I have gone to I have liked and some I have really liked but each destination has come with both good points and bad as you would expect. Some have great locations but getting there is difficult or uncomfortable. Some aren’t particularly safe. Some countries don’t like Americans. Some countries are full of hassles and some are great in some places and not so great in others. This, of course, could all be said of the U.S. as well.
I’ve got nothing to say but positive things about Switzerland. Understand I was there for only a week but from what my long-time travel eye saw I was very impressed. Here is what I liked about it:
It is very clean- no trash blowing about, no obvious grime, even the public transportation is spotless.
Speaking of which, the public transportation is phenomenal. As far as I could tell, you can take public trains, busses, trams, cog railways, cable cars and bikes to anywhere you want to go. Get off your international flight, clear customs, walk to the train station in the airport and go anywhere in the country. Mass transit in Switzerland is how mass transit should be everywhere (this statement is probably true for all of Europe but I haven’t traveled enough to say for sure).
The people are friendly and they are used to annoying, prying tourists. I wouldn’t call them Bhutan happy but they are approachable and they don’t mind cameras, at least where I was.
And finally, the country is simply stunning. The rolling green valleys topped by towering glacier-capped Alps are too much to believe sometimes. I was repeatedly surprised to look up into the clouds and see a mountain top peak out. What is a mountain doing up there? And in Switzerland, chances are, you can get up there and see the mountains first hand.
I went to the Berner Oberland, about one hour south or Bern and two hours west of Zurich.
The area is huge and criss-crossed by lifts, trams, trains, bike trails and hundred of miles of hiking trails. You can take a cog railway up to 13,00′ and cable car up to 11,000′ and ski lifts and other cog railways for tens of miles to tiny villages or up scale ski towns or to the top of any number of passes and walk or while your hours away.
Most of the Berner Oberland is at or above tree line so views are unimpeded and endless. All of this area is topped and bounded by three magnificent mountains- the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau (the ogre, the monk, in the middle, and the young girl- the monk is protecting the girl from the ogre) (try to keep up!). Spend a hour on any trail and you will have the place to yourself, well, yourself and a herd of bell-wearing Swiss cows. And many of the trails have little restaurants and sleeping huts along them for a mid-hike rest or snack.
Do I sound enchanted? I am! No car necessary, magic where ever you look and photos galore! Get ye to Zurich, jump on any train, get off shortly, wander anywhere and then send me a postcard of where you end up. The only catch is that you may never come back.