The New York Times’ 2019 list of places-to-visit includes Vevey, the Swiss town which holds the UNESCO-recognised traditional festival Fête des Vignerons. The festival has been organized since 1797 by the Confrérie des Vignerons (Brotherhood of Winegrowers). It can be celebrated only five times in a century at the most. 2019 will witness the festival after a gap of 20 years since it was celebrated in 1999. This will be the 12th edition of the festival and will run from July 18 to August 11. If a trip is long overdue and you have been wondering where to go, Switzerland it is. Imagine, you could tell stories to your grandchildren, snuggled in your lap, how you took a plane (well, it is the 21st century and we can’t ride a horse there even if we wish we could) to a fairyland and attended a five-times-in-a-century spectacular Winegrowers festival.
Lake Geneva and towns along its shore
One of the biggest lakes in Western Europe and Switzerland’s largest lake, Lake Geneva, or Lac Léman, lies on the northern side of the Alps on the border between Switzerland and France. Witness some striking scenery on your visit with Swiss Jura Mountains on one side and on clear days, the shimmering snow-covered peak of Mont Blanc beaming from the other side of the border in France. The largest cities on its shores are Geneva and Lausanne and some famous towns are Nyon, Montreux, Morges, and Vevey. The prominent city of Geneva boasts of more than 200 international organizations, including the European seat of the United Nations and the international headquarters of the Red Cross, which has earned the city the name of ‘peace capital’. Nestled amongst gleaming snowcapped mountains, it is placed right where the Rhône falls into Lake Geneva. The lakeshore is bordered by lush gardens, parks, and promenades. Dreamily stroll around the old town appreciating the historic buildings. A famed landmark is a fountain, Jet d’Eau, which shoots water to the height of 150m in the air. You can enjoy international acts hosted at the Opera House and the Grand Théâtre.
Montreaux is another well-known town on the shores of Lake Geneva famous for its annual Montreux Jazz Festival. The lakefront is surrounded by luxurious hotels, well-maintained lawns adorned with rows of flowers.
Chateau de Chillon
There are seven pillars of Gothic mold, In Chillon’s dungeons deep and old, There are seven columns, massy and grey, Dim with a dull imprisoned ray. The popular historic island castle left such an impression on Lord Byron during his visit back in the summer of 1816 that he wrote the narrative poem, The Prisoner of Chillon. The castle has been inspiring artists, such as Lord Byron, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Victor Hugo, for centuries. Located between Montreux and Veytaux, the castle has been a summer retreat, a fort, and a prison during its time. Enjoy beautiful paintings from the 14th century; wander into the deep vaults, parade halls, and well-preserved bedrooms. Check out Lord Byron’s name etched out on one of the columns by him!
Don’t miss the beautiful city of Lausanne. Walkthrough the hilly streets of the medieval town taking in the breathtaking views with the Alps in the backdrop and the surrounding lake. Don’t forget to visit the spectacular Gothic cathedral—Lausanne Cathedral.
The small town near Lausanne has the beautiful Château de Morges Castle with four museums. Innumerable pretty yachts line the 17th century Port de Morges. Breathe in the amazing view of the lake with Savoy Alps in the background while you walk down the promenade curving along the shore extending from the castle to Vertou Park.
This charming town is one of the ‘pearls of the Swiss Riviera’. It houses the headquarters of Nestlé and its Alimentarium, a fascinating nutrition museum. It was here that popular comedian Charlie Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life. Chaplin’s World, a museum dedicated to the legend, is a must-see for Chaplin fans.
The vineyards of Lavaux are located between Lausanne and Vevey. These stunning vineyards have been thriving since Roman times and still make some of the most delicious wine in Switzerland. They stretch for almost 30km along the lakeshore and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The train ride to Jungfraujoch, at an elevation of 3,454m, and the Top of Europe building, with its observation terrace and Sphinx Observatory, is the most spectacular experience in the captivating Bernese Oberland. The Great Aletsch Glacier, Europe’s longest glacier and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, starts at Jungfraujoch. The scenic Grindelwald glacier village is the gateway to the Jungfrau region and is great for skiing in winters and hiking in summer. It acts as a base for mountain climbing up the intimidating North Face of Eiger Mountain, one of the world’s toughest climbs. The alpine meadows of the village are astonishingly heavenly and you can take cable cars to reach the picturesque lookouts—the Grindelwald Glacier and lakes. It was here, when cloaked in snow, that Star Wars and Bond movies were shot.
One of the most popular mountain destinations in the world, St Moritz is the host of two winter Olympics. Indulge in all kinds of winter sports right from snowboarding, bobsledding, skating, and skiing to tobogganing on the famous 1.2km stretch of natural Cresta Run. In summer, you can enjoy hiking, biking, glacier skiing, and various water sports. You can’t possibly miss the famed picturesque train ride on the Glacier Express between Zermatt and St Moritz in the Swiss Alps. Allegedly the world’s slowest express train, it lets you sit back and be mesmerized by the entrancing views as the train snakes through tight curves, narrow valleys, 291 bridges, and 91 tunnels for eight magical hours.
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You might question what Swiss food is, if not cheese and then some more cheese. What is known as Swiss cuisine has heavy influences from German, French and North Italian cuisine based on Swiss cheeses, potatoes and traditional ingredients which were easily accessible to the earliest Swiss Alpine farmers. Cheese Fondue is the iconic Swiss dish wherein you dip bread cubes in mouthwatering melted cheese (gruyère and Emmentaler) mixed with garlic, white wine, and kirsch/cherry brandy, and is served in the traditional earthenware pot called ‘caquelon’. Then there is Raclette which is melted creamy cow-milk cheese, a bit nutty-flavored, served with Gschwellti/jacket potatoes, pickled gherkins, onions, and bread. The exotic-sounding Älplermagronen, yet again with cheese, is a type of gratin with macaroni, cream, onions, and potatoes with stewed apples served on the side.
Rösti is a flat cake made of parboiled seasoned potato in butter/oil. Crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside, every mouthful would fill you with a strange satisfaction. And who doesn’t know about the Swiss chocolates? As if you would forget to buy them in hordes! The crisp clean air, glistening white mountain peaks, charming quaint little medieval towns, luxuriant gardens, historic vineyards, massive glaciers, centuries-old castles, and the gorgeous lake. The fairy tales you read in your childhood set in breathtaking landscapes, live them. Visit Switzerland. Sweet dreams are made of this.