Beyond cheese, chocolate and cuckoo clocks, lies the contemporary Switzerland, land of four languages, once-in-a-lifetime journeys, heart-racing Alpine pursuits and tantalizing urban culture. Switzerland offers ravishing landscapes of green pastures, hiking trails, views of glacier-encrusted Alps, glittering lake shores and pea-green vineyards. But it also has an urban edge: medieval towns, and uber-cool cities filled with world-class modern art. Switzerland is dotted with impressive castles, but also craft beer breweries, new-wave restaurants and relaxed waterfront bars with Alpine views, mountain chalets brightened with red geraniums, folk fairs, and the alp-horn concerts. It’s also a culinary celebration filled with gooey cheese, velvety chocolate, and air-dried meats which provide a flavorful culinary background, spiced with the unexpected encounters with modern aesthetics, contemporary art and fresh-faced design.
The Alps are pure magic. They are what defines Switzerland and with a good reason. Looking up to the mountains as dawn breaks, the higher peaks are like a painted backdrop against a pale, cloudless sky, and as the temperature rises and the valleys get the sun, the villages and towns start their bustle, with their sounds carry through the clear Alpine air. The geography of Switzerland is what gives the country its sporting backbone and makes its people so outrageously outdoor-oriented.
With meandering rivers, soaring Alpine mountains, towering viaducts and winding tunnels, Switzerland is perhaps one of the best European countries to journey through by train. The trains are comfortable, many with extended windows, allowing to take in large sections of the surrounding scenery, but as the saying goes, they "run like a Swiss clockwork".It’s hard to find a famous mountain in Switzerland without a rack railway or cable car to the top. Some are primarily for sightseeing, some serve ordinary residents...
It is hard to leave Switzerland without dipping into a fondue (from the French verb fondre, meaning "to melt"). The main French contribution to the Swiss table, fondue entails a pot of gooey melted cheese being placed in the center of the table and kept on a slow burn while dinners dip in cubes of crusty brad using slender two-pronged fondue forks. If you lose your chunk in the cheese, you buy the next round of drinks or, should you be in Geneva, get thrown in the lake. It’s traditionally a winter dish, and the Swiss tend to eat...
In the early centuries after Christ’s death, as the Roman Empire headed towards slow collapse on a diet of rough wine and olives, the Mayans in Central America were pounding cocoa beans, consuming the product made with them and even using the beans as a system of payment. A millennium later, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés brought the first load of cocoa to Europe, in 1528. He could not have anticipated the subsequent demand for his cargo. The Spaniards, and soon other Europeans, developed an insatiable thirst...