Switzerland Tours: Your Friendly Neighborhood Alps
Switzerland has my name written all over it. At least the village of Biffig does. In traditional style, my family name Imboden is painted in curlicue letters on most of the chalets in town, right under the window boxes that overflow with bright red geraniums. My grandmother came from that speck of a place below the Matterhorn, and she used to tell me stories about riding a buggyup the mountain to school and then sledding home at the end of the day. Yes, I always thought she was exaggerating, but now I’ve seen that it was all true on Classic Journeys Switzerland tours. Living on an incline, the Swiss have a wonderful way of making a molehill out of the mountain next door, living normal lives in just about the most abnormally beautiful settings you could dream up.
The best place to see what that means is in the Bernese Oberland region where the mountains are exactly what you want them to be: jagged and taller than the clouds. They’re natural photobombs in every view. Imagine how it must be to have peaks like the Jungfrau, Eiger and Mönch as real-life screen savers in the background of everything you do.
Of course, the first farmers who put down roots in Mürren weren’t there for the views. When they left their valley, they might as well have been traveling up to a different planet. Even today, the village is too high to reach by car. (It takes a cog railway and cable car for you to get there.) While you gape at the landscape, you also have to wonder about the people for whom an almost unreachable meadow was plenty of compensation for the isolation it entailed.
That vibrant green grass and clean fresh air still matter in the 21st century. You can actually taste what I mean at my favorite alpine dairy farm. They not only milk the cows you see dotting the hillside. They also make the cheese that melts into the fondue that you dip into with fresh-baked bread. A few meadows down the valley, our friends Hugo and Angelika have added goats and llamas to their herd. A visit with them always includes lunch cooked outdoors over a wood fire. As an added benefit, our llama trek provided the 10,000 steps for the day that took away any guilt in taste-testing more than my share of the luscious, locally produced chocolate.
What appeals to me most is that amidst all of that natural awesomeness, human connections matter to the Swiss. A lot. The heartfelt greetings you get from farmers and villagers make you feel like family. The cordial and quiet hospitality that Swiss hotels lavish on you is second to none.
Of course, you can’t help but gasp at the sights. The thunder of Trümmelbach Falls is incredible to feel through the soles of your feet. It’s mind-blowing to eat lunch on top of an alpine peak in a revolving restaurant made famous by James Bond. The crunch of ice under your spikes as you walk on a glacier is an experience you’ll never forget. Ambling through wildflowers on the shores of a calm, high-altitude lake is just as unspeakably peaceful.
Even if you don’t have any Swiss genes of your own, you’ll love discovering the ingenious ways the Swiss people live in a world where the vertical is as common as the horizontal. In Switzerland, the scenery blows you away, and the people draw you in.