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Archive for switzerland

Thunder in the Valley

By Linda Tancs

Switzerland’s Trümmelbach Falls drain glacier meltwater from the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. Europe’s largest subterranean waterfalls, they’re located in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, often called “the valley of 72 waterfalls.” Thanks to the glacier ice melt this time of year, over 5,000 gallons of water per second can thunder and roar through the interior of the Jungfrau down into the valley. The entire course of the cascades is accessible underground by lift, galleries, tunnels, paths and platforms. If you’re going to “Trümmelbachfälle” by train, go via Interlaken (SBB/BLS/Zentralbahn) toward Lauterbrunnen (BOB). A bus will take you from there to the “Trümmelbachfälle” bus stop.

The Longest Staircase in the World

By Linda Tancs

The benefits of stair climbing reach new heights (no pun intended) at the Niesen, a mountain peak of the Bernese Alps about 40 miles south of the Swiss capital, Bern. Long prized by painters for its near-perfect pyramid shape, fitness gurus will be equally enchanted by the opportunity to participate in the Niesen Treppenlauf, a fat-burning (if not vertigo inducing) 11,674-stair climb adjoining the funicular, the longest staircase in the world. It’s not for everyone, though. In fact, only 500 folks will get the chance to participate in the annual event held each June. For everyone else, check the timetable of the trains to Mülenen and the funicular to the summit. Hiking paths are also available.

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.

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.

A Tour de Suisse

By Linda Tancs

The scenery from Lucerne to Locarno is just as dramatic as the telling of the legend of Switzerland’s William Tell.  No wonder, then, that a rail journey between these two destinations is named the William Tell Express.  Beginning with a three-hour boat cruise on Lake Lucerne (host to the storybook Chapel Bridge), the panoramic train trip begins at Flüelen, winds its way through the Reuss Valley, traces the Gotthard line and meanders through picturesque villages en route to Locarno.  Forget about the apple shot.  On this journey you’ll find the money shot for sure.

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