The Dozen Best Kept Secret Swiss Travel Tips For North Americans

by Jules Older


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
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Living With What Is No Longer Mine

by Bethany Ball

While walking across the Mont Blanc Bridge in Geneva this spring, I saw a beautiful, chic young girl saunter by. The bridge, dividing the two centers of Geneva, is the perfect place for people watching. It's long and the walkway is narrow. The foot traffic is swift. Audis and BMWs and buses buzzed by, carrying bankers and watch executives from the old city to the new, or maybe to the Alps to rest and relax.

photo via Flickr by Jonathan ZiapourWhen I saw this girl walking past me, I had my usual response. Appreciation mixed with a little envy and curiosity: where did she get that gorgeous scarf and where could I find one just like it? Would I achieve the same affect if I wore the same clothes as she did? My son and my husband were tagging along behind, my husband trying to console my son who was crying. He was jet lagged and wanted to go back to the hotel where a magnificent box of Legos, bought as a gift by his grandfather, was waiting.

At the moment that I saw the beautiful girl, I was furious with my son. But the sight of her had buoyed up my sagging, jet lagged spirits and brought something else into focus: beauty and beautiful objects and youth. Perhaps it was because I was there with my son, now six years old. There was no pretending anymore that I could ever be as young and carefree as that girl. Or that any outfit I put on would transform me into youth. That world belonged to her now, not to me. My world was just behind me, dissolving in sniffles. I reached my hand out to my son and he ran and grabbed it gratefully. He was six years of my new reality, condensed in the form of an intelligent and sensitive young boy.

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