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Archive for switzerland

A Ten-Year Wait in Baden

By Linda Tancs

The Swiss spa city of Baden hosts the largest municipal folk festival in the region known as Badenfahrt. It’s held once every 10 years and, judging by the 1 million or so visitors, worth the wait. This year’s festivities take place from Aug. 18–Aug. 27, featuring theater performances, concerts, parades and fireworks over the Stein Castle ruins. Every festival has a motto; this year’s theme is “Versus,” celebrating the many facets of city life embracing the old and the new.

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A Swiss Shortcut

By Linda Tancs

Switzerland’s Gotthard Base Tunnel (not to be confused with the original Gotthard scenic line) entered into full service yesterday. Decades in the making, the rail tunnel is the world’s longest, stretching for 35 miles. It’s also the deepest, with over 6,500 feet of rock between the tunnel and the earth’s surface in some places. This engineering marvel provides an efficient shortcut through the Alps, paring an hour off the travel time between Zurich and Milan, Italy.

On the Water’s Edge in Geneva

By Linda Tancs

The annual Geneva Lake Festival in Switzerland takes place from August 4 to August 14. The event will feature dozens of food stalls, a parade, a carnival and concerts. Don’t miss the fireworks display on August 13 that will illuminate la Rade, the landmark water jet on the lake.

World’s Steepest Cogwheel Railway

By Linda Tancs

A feat of engineering, the cogwheel railway system was invented by Colonel Eduard Locher-Freuler in the 1880s. It enabled gradients of up to 48 percent and made possible the construction of a railway up Switzerland’s Mount Pilatus. Eliminating the need for a tiresome ascent on foot, the system started out in 1889 as a steam coach and was later electrified in 1937. From Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm, the world’s steepest cogwheel railway gives visitors to Lucerne a bird’s-eye view of lush meadows carpeted with Alpine flowers, sparkling mountain streams and imposing rock faces.

Culture for Connoisseurs

By Linda Tancs

A small city in northwest Switzerland, Basel is big on culture. Art lovers acknowledge that every year during the giant Art Basel fair. Situated on the Rhine (a scenic plus), Basel also happens to have the highest concentration of museums in the country (numbering 40 or so), including Basel Art Museum, the museum devoted to the iron sculptor Jean Tinguely, the Fondation Beyeler and the Museum of Cultures. Foodies flock there as well for local treats like traditional Basel honey cake. Today marks the start of the city’s carnival (the largest popular festival in Switzerland), Fasnacht. The festivities begin every year at 4:00 a.m. on the Monday following Ash Wednesday with the “Morgenstraich,” when all the lights in Basel go out and a colorful  procession through the city streets begins. The party will continue until exactly 4:00 a.m. on Thursday.

The City on Three Hills

By Linda Tancs

You’d expect a hillside city with lake and mountain views to provide stunning panoramas. And Switzerland’s Lausanne does not disappoint. Home to the International Olympic Committee, this city on the shores of Lake Geneva offers amazing views from a series of viewing points accessible through a downhill stroll. Start at the top of Sauvabelin Tower, a wooden tower offering views of the lake as well as the three major landscapes: the Savoy Alps, the Jura and the Plateau. And who could resist the almost mythic view from the Hermitage, combining the lake, mountains, cathedral and St. Maire castle. From the Flon footbridge to the esplanades, the city’s natural wonders are unveiled every step of the way.

Many Fountains

By Linda Tancs

Many fountains.  That’s the translation for Switzerland’s valley town, Lauterbrunnen.  Located in the Bernese Oberland (Bernese highlands), there is indeed plenty of H2O in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.  One of its most famous exhibits is the Staubbach Falls at the edge of the village.  The spectacular cliffside plunge, one of the highest free-falling waterfalls in Europe, is the inspiration behind Goethe’s poem, Gesang der Geister über den Wassern (Song of the Spirits Over the Waters).  Just as impressive is Trümmelbach Falls, a series of ten glacier waterfalls thundering through the Jungfrau with a spill rate of 20,000 liters per second, accessible only in summer via tunnel lift (something to look forward to next year).  In all, there are 72 waterfalls in the valley.  May the force be with you.

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