10 Things We Bet You Don’t Know About Switzerland

With Martha Chapman

Members of the Swiss team enjoying the authentic barley soup

How it’s made: treats comprising French butter biscuits with crispy rice and Swiss chocolate

Evelyn Lafone and Ursula Beamish-Mader of Switzerland Tourism

Quick, when we say Switzerland, what comes to mind? Alps? Chocolate? Cheese? Cuckoo clocks? Heidi?

There are without a doubt some Swiss stereotypes, but there’s a lot that’s surprising about this compact, clean country. For starters, their summer tourism season is at least as big as their winter sporting season. Who knew?

Thanks to an event hosted this week by Switzerland Tourism and 40 Swiss travel partners, Open Jaw is now sharper than a Swiss army knife on all things Swiss. Put on your Alpine hat and lederhosen (surely another Swiss cliché) and read on!

  1. Switzerland has just added its first Hop-On-Hop-Off bus service, in Basel, and equipped with a glass roof. Or for a unique view of the city, you can make like a local and swim the Rhine River here. They load up their waterproof backpacks and even take lunchtime swims.
  2. If you stay just one night in St. Moritz you can receive a mountain railroad access pass for free!
  3. Yes there is golf in Switzerland. The Golfhotel Les Hauts de Gstaad & Spa is near Gstaad’s 18 hole course (imagine the views!) and offers a package including 4 nights accommodation with breakfast, 4 dinners and 3 rounds of golf at 770 Swiss francs (about $1,000 Cdn – the franc is currently worth about the same as the US$).
  4. Watches are making a big comeback as fashion statements and status symbols. Clients can learn more at the International Watchmaking Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the biggest watch and clock making centre in the country.
  5. The longest tunnel in the world, the 57 km Gotthard tunnel, has made travel between Italy and Switzerland even easier. And there are rail as well as road routes.
  6. Speaking of getting around, the Swiss Travel Pass includes travel by train, boat and bus, including those famed Post Buses.  The pass is priced from 250 Swiss francs.
  7. The mayor of the laid-back capital Bern is a member of the Green Party and has declared that the water in the Aare River here is “like champagne: fresh, pure and clean”.
  8. Wildlife watching is a growing sector and Switzerland (in a wink to Africa) has its own “Big Five” including the gopher-y marmot.
  9. There’s good year round lift between Canada and Switzerland with AC offering daily service from YYZ to ZRH and YUL to GVA and Swiss between YUL and ZRH.
  10. And yes, the chocolate is very very yummy. That stuff they sell in your local variety store will never taste the same.

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