Essays about life in Italy, traveling in Italy, and more
One of the great things about hiking in Switzerland is that you never have to go to the trouble of packing lunch (just like walking in England). Just head out in the morning and you know you will come across a restaurant on your hike. Usually there is a restaurant at the top of any mountain ride. These tend to be the better restaurants - because they get the most people and can get their supplies easily. Along the trail you come to simple restaurants at the farm houses. They may offer a few simple food items and coffee. One place we stopped on the Brunni-Pfad was a few tables outside the house and a restaurant counter area in their kitchen. Coffee was a spoon of instant Nescafe and hot water from a thermos. There was one type of pastry. I don't think they had electricity.
Some hikes take you to small villages where there will be restaurants. The hiking maps indicate where there are restaurants.
These restaurants are set up for the ski season, but are also open in the summer as well. Sometimes by October they will have closed. When we hiked in Kandersteg in October, we saw closed restaurants during the week, but they were open on the weekends. Sometimes there are signs posted at the top of the mountain ride letting you know what restaurants are open on the trails.
For meat eaters you will have a good choice - sandwiches, sausage, schnitzel. For vegetarians the only choice might be rosti (potatoes - plain, with cheese or with fried egg). You can also get drinks and coffee.
Example store opening hours: Migros in Engelberg:
Sample Prices of Things
Prices from August/September 2003. 1 CHF equals $0.70 USD.
Gasoline: Unleaded 1.325CHF/liter, diesel 1.335CHF/liter
Taxi: From airport to Zurich hotel - 51CHF (plus a tip)
Books: Paperback novel - 18.00 - 19.00CHF
Hiking Maps: 15.00 - 20.00 CHF
Hiking Boots: 240.00CHF (good quality Lowa brand)
Cow bells: 19.20CHF for medium sized bell in a hardware store
A Few Thoughts about Switzerland
We have spent a lot of time in Switzerland: 2 months in summer 1988, 2 1/2 weeks in 1996, 4 weeks in 1997, 2 weeks in 2000, and 2 1/2 weeks now. One thing I am noticing being in Switzerland this time is that everything appears pretty "normal" to me - that is, I am used to being here and doing things here and it is hard to remember what is different from how we do things in the US. I have to bring myself back to that "beginners mind" to write the Switzerland sections for the web site (okay, a grandiose term - but you know what I mean).
This normal-ness that I feel does not mean that on this trip I did not end up in the supermarket checkout line with unpriced vegetables - no matter how much time I spend in Europe, I always do that at least once.
Why do people dislike Switzerland?
Many people do not like Switzerland. We love Switzerland - because we get our perfect vacation here - lots of walking in the countryside and charming small towns to visit. (We also get that from England, and England is better for us because the season is year round. In Switzerland you really only have from June to September - and you can hit lots of rain and cold during that time. Even snow.) Here is my defense against some of the common criticisms:
Switzerland is too neat; even the mountains look "mowed" - Yes the mountain meadows look mowed because they are. Every patch of grass and field is used for hay for the animals. The field across from us in Grindelwald is very steep (looks like a 45 degree slope to me) and the owner has it cut and is collecting the cuttings for hay for his sheep. In the summer you see the farmers and their families doing the "haying". It is a wonderful site to see. Some of them build beautiful structures of the hay, to let it dry. One year we were here in July, during a time of heavy rains. The day the rain stopped, everyone was out in the fields cutting the grass. "Make hay while the sun shines."
Switzerland is like Disneyland - Swiss towns can appear to be perfect looking - but they are preserving the old beautiful buildings and the new ones are built in a way that fits in with the look of the mountain town. They don't have much land to build on, so the houses are huddled together in the villages, leaving the surrounding space for farming. Also, the cog railway trains look like toy trains, but they are really marvels of engineering. Using the cog system, these trains go up and down slopes that would be impossible with a full sized, regular train.
The Swiss colluded with the Germans in WWII - Yes, they did. But everyone loves to go to Germany and they were the Germans in WWII. At least the Swiss didn't vote the Nazis into power.
That quote about 1000 years of civilization and you get the cuckoo clock and chocolate - The Swiss can be proud of their country and what they have achieved. The standard of living is high, the Swiss are hard workers, the country works well. They haven't declared war on anyone, they live in a somewhat ecological way (better than we manage in the US), they support their small farms and the farming way of life. They maintain the incredible system of hiking trails throughout the country.
The Swiss are anal retentive - They are well organized and used to doing things a certain way - that is for sure. But they are friendly, are well set up for tourists, you can depend on the gondolas working and running and the hiking trails are the best looked after trails I have seen anywhere. We can benefit from their organization of things.
The Swiss are not friendly - I don't think this is true. The German language as spoken by the Swiss is even more guttural and brusque sounding than when spoken by Germans, so it can seem that they are not friendly by the sound of the words. We have met friendly people and unfriendly people everywhere we have traveled. The Swiss seem friendly to me.
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