by Jules Older
- Moisturize! Moisturize! While every cheap North America motel provides hand lotion and conditioner, even the better Swiss hotels may not. Bring your own or buy some in Switzerland.
- Conquer the duvet. Your Swiss bed will come with a duvet. Though loved by Europeans, I loathe it. It’s always too hot, and you can't peel off layers in the night. Swiss sleepers solve this by opening a window, throwing out a leg (out from under the duvet, not out the window) and, if they're still too warm, getting out from under and snuggling up to it. Maybe you'll succeed where I've failed.
- Learn what “on time” really means. You think it means within five minutes of the specified hour. In Switzerland, it means you missed your train. Or bus or ferry or paddle wheeler or tram or the plane home. These are the people who invented the wristwatch. Punctuality is a prime virtue, well ahead of purity of mind and spirit (see 5. below). When they say the train leaves at 9:02, don’t show up at 9:03.
- Get fit before you leave home. Compared to the ever-expanding North Americans and despite all that cheese and chocolate, Swiss are rail thin. Why? They walk everywhere, including up long flights of stairs. On my last trip, two 76-year-olds — one a female art collector in Lucerne; the other a male tour guide in Bern — beat me up flight after flight. And I'd been skiing all winter.
- Expect to be puzzled. On Swiss television, 10 p.m., Channel 33, stands a woman with a mike in hand. She has an intensely thoughtful look, a furrowed brow, and she's writing feverishly on a blackboard. The woman is wearing a miniskirt. And nothing else. The next morn, my Swiss friend Michelle explained it to me, but I’ll leave that surprise as a way for you to make Swiss friends of your own.
- Go public. You can get anywhere and everywhere in Switzerland by public transport. Trains leave directly from the airport. They are beautifully timed to hook up with other trains, which are perfectly timed to meet buses, boats, even mountain trams. Everything runs like, well, a Swiss watch.