Tips For a Magical Switzerland Vacation

Mar 02, 2014 Avatar Hilton Smith Hilton Smith

For most of us, life seems to be getting busier with more to process each day. With unpredictability added to the mix, you have even more to worry about. Consider Switzerland in the heart of Central Europe for your next holiday and you will be cured, at least temporarily.

This is a beautiful, fascinating country with breathtaking scenery, clean air and water and magical cities with more than the comforts of home.

The numerous clock towers of Zurich are more than decoration; this is a country that would be lost without time pieces. Precision and organization are key to social well-being here and you will find little obvious stress because of it.

I have warmed up to Switzerland over the past few visits partly because of this. Everything works very well, including the extensive public transportation system with trams, trains and ferries. A Swiss Pass will get you all of this.

In over a dozen train rides, one train was two minutes late and elicited a almost emotional apology for the delay. The rest left to the minute.

My latest trip in mid February was a quick trip to Zurich and Lucerne via Swiss, non-stop from LAX on their Flt 41, and a return on United via Washington/Dulles.

Swiss was excellent in economy with row 30K as the best economy seat, exit row window with unlimited leg room. Returning on United I flew Business/First Zurich-IAD with a young and attentive crew and very good service. In several recent international flights, I feel United has made improvements especially in attitude and dining.

I stayed in Zurich for two nights at one of the most unusual hotels I have ever experienced.

The Widder in Zurich, a 5-Star hotel, is about 500 meters from the main train station on a wonderful pedestrian shopping street, reflective of the centuries of history here. The seven buildings are crafted together with irregular hallways and a step or two up or down as you go. The interiors are modern and design oriented, but the ceilings and walls have been preserved for their historical value.

Every room is different. I was assigned a large, modern junior suite with glass and leather furniture including a large desk, sofa, chairs and even a fully adjustable bed with remote controls. A B&O sound and video system complimented the comfort. The bathroom was surrounded by green marble, dual sinks and separate shower and Jacuzzi tub. In contrast, the main room’s walls were painted frescos from 1650 with depictions of violent battle and torture scenes reflecting a not so placid Swiss history. The hotel service was impeccable, even down to free batteries for my camera which suddenly needed them.

Zurich offers museums, shopping, scenery and a array of dining choices, especially in the Old Town.

Walking is the best way to get around and discover the town, using pedestrian streets and narrow passages which all look so amazing with history and ancient architecture.

One day I was off to Lucerne, a mere 45 minutes along a mostly scenic rail route, arriving right next to Lake Lucerne and snow covered mountains. Here I inspected the famous Palace Hotel just on the other side of the lake, with breathtaking views of the mountains and an array of room designs from Art Deco to modern. I highly recommend it for its location and charm.

The highlight of the day was a visit to the Swiss Transport Museum just a short walk from the hotel. This an amazing facility with a campus-like feel. Buildings devoted to rail, automobiles and aviation dominate the center.

A huge rail building houses historic steam engines, trams, rail coaches and working trains such as tunnel boring machines. The auto building houses pristine, vintage cars several floors high starting from the 1920’s. The aviation building focuses on commercial aviation including the history of Swiss and its predecessor Swissair. One amazing exhibit includes two outside jewels. One is an actual DC-3 which was the workhorse of aviation for decades. The other is a Convair 990 Coronado which is a four-engine jet from the 1950’s, at one time the fastest commercial plane in the world. You can actually walk through the plane, a time warp from decades ago.

Switzerland offers so much for the leisure traveler in innovation, outdoor beauty, a rich and deep history and reliable, extensive transportation. Incorporating this compact and amazing land can only enhance your next European vacation.

Hilton Smith