Thursday, January 17, 2008

Enchanting Switzerland

Just arrived home from Switzerland and I am already missing it. Switzerland with all its scenic beauty,cow bells and marvelous and ever-ready to help people. One of my husbands friend had already been to Switzerland and he provided us with a tour plan for four days. We had four days and there was so much to do and see. We tried to squeeze in everything that we could. Instead of staying at a hotel in Inerlaken (it was suggested by our friend and all the Indian crowd invariably land there). Interlaken is in the center of Switzerland, so it can be made base for the tour, but my husband had already talked to his friend in Lausanne and we stayed there for our trip.Lausanne is the Olympic Capital since 1994. It is home to the Olympic Museum, the most visited site in Switzerland. Bjart Ballet of Lausanne is world-famous. From what I have seen of Switzerland, I can say that every inch of this country is beautiful, not only the landscapes but people too. It is also worth mentioning that the Swiss people don t talk in English but that won t be a problem if you want some help. They always try to help strangers. I got a rude shock and back to reality message on board the N2 bus from London Victoria station. A drunkard started using abusive language with a lady with a child, saying she wasn t a good mother. The baby started crying.The lady asked the driver to throw the man off the bus but got no reaction, ultimately she herself had to get down earlier.Then the guy turned his attention at Ananya, who was blissfully sleeping through all the clamor, but thankfully nothing untoward happened. THINGS TO DO: For adventure sport enthusiasts, Switzerland is a gold mine.You can go trekking on beautiful alps,river rafting, ice skiing, skating, cycling on mountains. Switzerland has a cycling tradition which is not generally seen in London. Swiss trains even have special space provided for cycles.I saw double decker trains for the first time here.There are 3300 km (2046 miles) of well-marked interlinked trails, most of which offer easy cycling. Bicycles can be hired at most railway stations and at many other locations. Those hired at stations can then be returned to any station at the end of the tour. Lakes such as Lake Geneva, Lugano, and Neuchtel offer sailing, water-skiing and canoing. Rowing can be done on Lake Zürich. hiking is a national passion in Switzerland, and hikers are very well catered for. Approximately 50,000km of trails lead through all kinds of terrain in this spectacularly beautiful country. We went to Rhein falls on the first day.It is a photographer s delight.We had luggage with us and there was no place to put it. So we had to drag it with us all the way up and down the stairs. While coming back to the platform we found out that the place where people were depositing their belongings for a ride in boat was very near to platform.Advice: If you have luggage with you then go down to the left from platform,its hardly 50 meters.The person who takes care for the luggage charges 1 frank per suitcase. SHOPPING: Chocolates: Swiss chocolates are world famous.They give good competition to Belgian ones. My husbands colleagues at office had demanded that he get them swiss chocolates. We thought of buying them at duty free shops at Geneva airport but all the shops had already closed except one, (our flight was at 9.50 pm) The shop that was opened had very expensive brands but we had to buy them anyways. Advice: Buy chocolates from supermarkets like Coop or Migros. Frey is a good brand and not heavy on the pocket as well. Teuscher (try the champagne truffles) and Sprngli are for fat wallets. Swiss Army Knife:This knife has a blade as well as various tools, such as screwdrivers and can openers. The term Swiss Army knife was coined by US soldiers after World War II, as they couldn t pronounce its original name, Offiziersmesser .. Cow Bells: Of varying sizes, these cowbells are a great hit among Indian tourists.Hindi movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaenge has this scene where Kajol and Shah rukh khan argue over who got first to the shop to buy the cow bell. I also bought one but smaller and more cute. Watches: Rollex, Omega,TagHeuer, Swatch, Mont Blanc, yes all these brands are swiss. Cuckoo Clocks: Its not a Swiss product, but cliches are stronger than fact.the cuckoo clock has nothing at all to do with Switzerland. It was invented in the Black Forest of southern Germany in 1738, the area which is still the center of their production. Cheese: It is said that anyone can make the holes but only swiss can make the cheese.Hard cheese, soft cheese, cottage cheese, cheese made in mountain chalets, cheese made in valley factories, cheese shaved into rosettes, cheese boxed in red pine, cheese melted in wine to make fondue, hot cheese dribbled over potatoes to make raclette...and what not. Some Interesting Facts About Switzerland: Many celebrities have made Switzerland their home.Boris Baker lives in Schwyz, in central Switzerland. The great Irish writer James Joyce moved to Switzerland from Paris because of the War. French actress Isabella Adjani settled in Geneva. Charlie Chaplin lived for over 20 years in Switzerland. Roger Moor, the man who incarnated James Bond has lived in Crans-Montana since the end of his acting career. Former Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher has been living in Switzerland since 1996. Bollywood Connection: On an average, 25 Bollywood movies are shot in the picturesque backdrops in switzerland every year. Switzerland was first used as a location by Indian filmmakers in the 1960s, when Raj Kapoor and Shakti Samanta ( both reknowned Indian film directors) went there to shoot Sangam and An Evening in Paris respectively. In 2002, leading Bollywood director and producer Yash Chopra was conferred the Swiss Filmfare Award by the Switzerland government for his role in promoting the country as a preferred location. Switzerland is also home to the huge Nestle food company. Punctuality:Not surprisingly for a country that is known for making clocks, the Swiss have a near-obsession with being on time, trains are never late. Tour Information Tickets: No need to feel hassled if you missed your train and now stranded on platform.Ticket counters at every station will give full detail (printed on small leaflets)of the timing, number of train, platform no,trains to be changed and at which station to go to your destination. You can easily plan your journey with the help of these small leaflets. Geneva is no tourist paradise: Tourists expect a lot here in the international capital of Switzerland, but Geneva doesn t match to those expectations. Our last day was reserved for Geneva. We reached there around 4 p.m. Geneva is the costliest city in Switzerland. We got on a ride on city train, similar to the one at Lucerne but were fooled. The train only circled round and round in the botanical garden, never allowing us any glimpse of the city. There are private bus tours which will take you to the offices of a horde of international organizations.but Other than the Saturday flea market in Plain de Plainpalais, where you can hunt for that rare music record, there is nothing to do in this small city. The United Nations building, that neighbors other international organizations like ILO, WTO, and UNHCR, is a desolate structure.But like Lucerne, Zürich and Lausanne, you can take a streamer here too and spend four hours enjoying the scenery. Swiss rail pass gives access to all ferries and streamers. CHAO There is a lot to write and share, but for now I wind up here. Let s meet some other day and discuss Switzerland over a bite of chocolate.

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