My husband and I went to Switzerland last year. It was not a county on my bucket list. When the opportunity arose, I jumped at it and I’m glad I did. If you have never thought about visiting Switzerland, think about it. Here are a few reasons why you should put it on your bucket list.
1.Swiss people are multilingual. Almost everyone speaks English, along with several other languages. No sooner will you mutter a “hello” and the locals will seamlessly glide right into English. By the end of my trip, I simply said, “English please” to anyone speaking German and they willingly obliged. As an added bonus that will make your life infinitely easier, most restaurants have menus in English. You don’t even have to ask for one. As soon as your waitperson hears you speak, he will give you the menu in your language. Spoiled American? Yeah, a little bit. But it made our trip so much easier and they truly don’t seem to mind.
2. Swiss people are incredibly hospitable. Whether it is because they know how important tourism is to their country or because they live in one of the most beautiful natural settings in the world, they are kind and accommodating to foreigners. One passerby saw my look of confusion while I was lost in the train station. He stopped to ask if he could help direct me. Danke!
3. Where else can you hear someone play the alphorn?
4. The Swiss franc (CHF) has a higher exchange rate than both the Euro and the British pound. American dollars can be easily exchanged at many train stations for a small fee. You may exchange your Francs back to dollars for free before you leave.
5. Trains, busses and boats, oh my! The public transportation system in Switzerland will get you anywhere you want to go, including other countries. A flex pass can be purchased for 3, 4, 8 or 15 days to be used within a month. This pass allows you to utilize the train, bus and waterway system with no additional charge on the days you use your pass. You simply write the date on your pass and all transportation is included for that day. The pass will also get you into museums on those days. If you choose to go on tours, such as a tram to Jungfrau, be sure to use your flex pass for 25-50% off the ticket price. You need to have your passport with you when traveling.
6. The SBB app for the Swiss Federal Railways system will make travel in Switzerland easy for even the most directionally challenged traveler. This free app asks you for your starting and ending destinations. It then breaks down each leg of your travel step by step. It will tell you the train platform, which stop you will get off and if you need to get on another train or bus. It will also show you, in real time, where you at along the route. You can buy tickets through this app and receive notices of travel changes or delays.
Translate, a foreign language app is helpful for translating any language into English. Like most translation apps, you can type in the words to be translated. However, Translate also lets you hold your phone over the words you need translated and it will change those words to English right before your very eyes. Technology meets wizardry. It’s fun to use.
7. You can brush up on your German, French or Italian! Traveling through Switzerland is like spending the day at Epcot’s World Showcase. Switzerland is in the heart of Europe. It is bordered by Germany, Austria, France and Italy. When you travel to the southern part of the country, Italian is the main language. A day trip to Bellinzona will not only promise a lovely day looking at castles, it will make you feel like you stepped right into another country. Head west toward Lake Geneva and you can practice your French while touring vineyards in the Lavaux wine region. Of course, if you want to hop on the train and actually go to any of the bordering countries, you can do that too.
8. As if the beauty of the lakes, fields and mountains was not enough, the buildings in Switzerland will also take your breath away. Castles, churches and homes that line the streets of lovely towns like Lucerne and Interlaken have been around for centuries. These amazing structures have stories of their own. Be sure to stop and look at the carvings so painstakingly created before power tools could simplify the job. These buildings are part of the art Switzerland offers.
9. The Swiss Alps, of course. The reason most people visit Switzerland is for the beauty of the country. Standing in town surrounded by 360 degree views of the most grandiose mountains is reason enough to visit. Several large lakes throughout the country glisten in front of the mountains in the background. You don’t have to be a skier to be drawn to the unparalleled beauty offered in every town. A visit to Jungfrau will put you at 12,642 feet above elevation. Not only will you feel on top of the world, (it is touted as “the top of Europe”) you will get a rare experience to wander through the ice cave deep in the mountain itself.
Whatever your reason for going to Switzerland, the beauty, people and musical sound of many languages will leave you wanting to return.