THE SNOW MUST GO ON

CHRIST­MAS IN SWITZER­LAND OF­FERS SO MUCH, AND PLANS TO EX­PE­RI­ENCE THIS SPE­CIAL TIME ARE COM­ING TO­GETHER LIKE CLOCKWORK

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE / ESCAPE - WORDS: ANN RICKARD More at myswitzer­land.com

Reg­u­lar read­ers will know my love for Switzer­land. I’ve been lucky to visit of­ten, but never in the win­ter. That would be the ul­ti­mate travel ex­pe­ri­ence. The snow crunch­ing be­neath boots and sit­ting pret­tily in the fir trees, the fairy lights, the Christ­mas mar­kets, the warm­ing fires … oh … please. I’m plan­ning a Swiss win­ter one day and with the help from the ex­pe­ri­enced and ef­fi­cient peo­ple at Swiss Tourism, I’ve come up with a few tips to make things run smoothly, even though ev­ery­thing in Switzer­land al­ready does run as smooth as a Swiss watch. Here’s what I’m go­ing to do: Buy a Swiss Travel Pass be­fore I go. It gives un­lim­ited ac­cess on all of coun­try’s pub­lic trans­porta­tion, in­clud­ing buses, trains and boats, and up to 50 per cent off moun­tain rail and ca­ble ways as well as free ac­cess to more than 500 mu­se­ums. Also, if I am in­clined to take the grand­chil­dren (not on the agenda yet), they travel for free when ac­com­pa­nied by an adult us­ing the pass. One of the most in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ences you can have in Switzer­land is to take in the sights via a panoramic train jour­ney. For ex­am­ple, the Bern­ina Ex­press goes from Chur to Ti­ra­nom, cross­ing 196 bridges and through 55 tun­nels. The Golden Pass Line goes from In­ter­laken to Mon­treux; the Got­thard Panoramic Ex­press links Lucerne with Ti­cino via a boat and train jour­ney. The Glacier Ex­press is the world’s slow­est ex­press train ride be­tween Zer­matt and St Moritz. I’m also go­ing to rug up and get out and hike. The Swiss love their nat­u­ral sur­rounds and out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. While win­ter will bring spec­tac­u­lar scenery, so will spring, sum­mer and au­tumn. There are end­less trails around the moun­tains, lakes, hills and pas­tures. A hike will give you in­sight to the nat­u­ral as­sets of the coun­try that may oth­er­wise be missed. There is more than 65,000 kilo­me­tres of marked trails across the coun­try cater­ing to all lev­els. Mu­se­ums are never bor­ing in Switzer­land. In a coun­try two-thirds the size of Tas­ma­nia, it’s home to more than 900 mu­se­ums. That’s one mu­seum per ev­ery 7500 in­hab­i­tants. More than half of these are free with the Swiss Travel Pass. Un­like many mu­se­ums around the world, most of the Swiss mu­se­ums are in­ter­ac­tive, fea­tur­ing the lat­est high-tech in­no­va­tions. From art, his­tory and tex­tiles to sports, trans­porta­tion and tech­nol­ogy, there is a mu­seum for ev­ery­thing. Eat­ing in Switzer­land is var­ied and thrilling. Switzer­land has four dis­tinct lan­guages, re­gions serv­ing up equally dis­tinct flavours - Swiss Ger­man, French, Ital­ian and Ro­man­sch. Within these re­gions, dishes will vary be­tween towns, cities and vil­lages. That goes for cheeses and wines, too. The Em­men­tal and Gruy­eres cheeses, for ex­am­ple, come from two dif­fer­ent lan­guage re­gions and fea­ture very dif­fer­ent tex­tures and flavours. As with wines, most can­tons pro­duce their own wines, so ac­com­pa­ny­ing any lo­cal tra­di­tional dish with some lo­cal drops will give one the full ex­pe­ri­ence. Per­haps the most im­por­tant thing in Switzer­land is to know when to visit a moun­tain peak. The best time to as­cend any moun­tain is early in the day, prefer­ably by mid-morn­ing, be­fore clouds form ob­struct­ing the views. The high­est moun­tain rail­way in Eu­rope is the Jungfrau­joch, at 3454m, ac­ces­si­ble via In­ter­laken and Kleine Schei­degg. What are we wait­ing for? Start plan­ning.

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