June – July 2022: Switzerland. At long last, we took the Swiss Trip! When I retired in March 2020, hiking in Switzerland was near the top of my bucket list, behind only Greece. We arrived in mid-June in 2022.
The Alps is summer are a wonderful thing. The weather is pleasant, and the views stunning. Blue lakes under verdant green valleys, grey cliffs springing upward, trailing with abundant silver falls, and snow-capped peaks supporting azure skies and puffy clouds.
Switzerland is actually a confederation of 26 cantons (states) that among them speak four different official languages. French, German, Italian and Romansh. To avoid internal conflict, their official name is Latin: “Confoederatio Helvetica“, Helvetica being the Roman name for the region. Switzerland is not part of the EU and have their own (very stable) currency, the Franc (CHF), which is worth about $1.04 currently. They have maintained a firm policy of “armed neutrality” since the 1600s. They have, however, adopted the EU’s Russia sanctions given the war against Ukraine.
Our Month in Switzerland
Our first order of business in Switzerland was getting personal with the Alps. We hiked the Matterhorn, Lauterbrunnen Valley, and Interlaken. No tents, hostels, or mountain huts – we prefer a hot shower at the day’s end! Next, we hit the iconic cities of Davos, Zurich, Lucerne, and Bern in a whirlwind. Along the way we worked in side-trips to Liechtenstein (one of the smallest countries in the world) and Friedrichshafen, Germany to ride a Zeppelin!
Finally, we grooved at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Remember the song “Smoke on the Water?” No one burned down the gambling house this year (thank goodness; our apartment was next door).
“Switzerland would be a mighty big place if it were ironed flat.” — Mark Twain
In our month, rambled all about Switzerland. For most visitors, the rail system is a wonderful way to get around. Given our extended time, we needed a car. The map below shows our route. We entered from Chamonix, in France.
Highlights of the Trip
Some highlights of the trip are below, with more travel bytes to follow.
The Matterhorn – probably the world’s second most iconic peak (the first being the one at the beginning of every Paramount Picture!)
Over millions of years, glaciers calved off three sides of the rock, leaving the unique “horn”.
We had great weather, and were able to hike different trails each day. We were happy to use the gondolas and rails UP, and hike DOWN.
Bern – Einstein had his “miracle year” here in 1905, publishing four papers that rocked the scientific world and formed the basis of modern physics.
A the time, he was working as a lowly patent clerk, and everyone said “who is this guy?!?”
Here he and I are discussing matters. While I judge things relatively, he energetically insists that some things are constant. Maybe given space and time, I will understand.
Tour de France – Wout Van Aert of Belgium surges in the last 300m, moving from 7th place to win the stage!
We traveled to Lausanne for the Stage 8 finale, crowding into a space right at the line to witness a thrilling finish.
The following day, the race swooshed right by our door in Montreux as they started Stage 9, giving us another intimate view of these incredible athletes.
Zeppelin! – Zeppelins where pioneered in Friedrichshafen, Germany, across Lake Constance from Switzerland. By Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, of course!
Goodyear’s blimps are made in partnership with Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei (DZR, the original Zeppelin company).
The flight and views were amazing. The museum has reconstructed passenger sections of the Hindenburg, along with the history of lighter than air travel.
Liechtenstein – visiting the Princely Wine Cellars of the Prince of Lichtenstein (that’s a mouthful).
Lichtenstein is one of the world’s smallest countries, and still has a monarchy and ruling Prince. They share some government functions with Switzerland, their neighbor.
Lichtenstein is more known for collector stamps than wine, but it was quite good, though not available outside the country. Sonia, our host, was wonderful.
Montreux – our stay coincided with the famous Montreux Jazz Festival. It was serendipity; they didn’t have a confirmed schedule or line-up when we booked.
The free, open-air shows were great. One of our favorites was Scottish singer Callum Beattie. We hope to see him again in Brittan!
The 4-mile-long lakeside promenade, adorned with flowers and sculpture, is a destination in itself.
If you are interested in a similar trip, the attached PDF itinerary is an excellent place to start, with sites, links to information, and some hotel recommendations.
For more about this journey, check out our related Travel Bytes below!