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Trip Report My delightful sampling of Switzerland’s gems, with many thanks

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I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Switzerland!

Rather than offering a blow-by-blow account of my trip, I’ll note my final itinerary, review what I liked least and most, and then offer some observations to thank those who so generously offered their advice as I planned this trip. I’ll be happy to answer questions at any point.

Basic info: 

• This was a 30-day trip during which I used a Swiss Pass. 

• I’m a solo independent female traveler.
• I planned this trip with an eye to maximizing the diversity of my experiences in Switzerland.
• I would not recommend my itinerary to anyone else: This was a plan very specifically tailored to my interests and travel style. It was certainly not an itinerary geared toward relaxation or leisurely exploration!

The itinerary I actually followed was:

Day 1: Arrive in and begin exploring Geneva (night in Geneva)


Day 2: Explore Geneva a bit further, visit Lutry and walk through some of the Lavaux vineyard terraces (night in Lausanne)
Day 3: Explore Lausanne; move on to Montreux (1st of 2 nights in Montreux)
Day 4: Visit Rochers-de-Naye, Glion, and the Chateau Chillon; take a boat to Lausanne; dinner in Vevey (night in Montreux)


Day 5: Take the train to Gstaad (just to see the scenery en route), spend a very brief time in Gstaad (since I was there), move on to and explore Gruyeres, visit the chocolate factory in Broc, walk from Broc to Gruyeres (night in Gruyeres)
Day 6: Move on to and visit Fribourg (night in Fribourg)


Day 7: Visit the Latenium (outside of Neuchatel) and Solothurn on my way to Basel (1st of 2 nights in Basel)


Day 8: Explore Basel 

(night in Basel)
Day 9: Finish my visit to Basel then move on to Lucerne—the only place in Switzerland that I had already visited (night in Lucerne)


Day 10: Leave for Ascona, stopping in Bellinzona on the way (1st of 2 nights in Ascona)


Day 11: Enjoy the views from Cimetta, hike from Lavertezzo to Brione in the Valle Verzasca; take the train through the Centovalli as far as Verdasio and roam around Rasa; return to Ascona (night in Ascona)
Day 12: Visit the Isole di Brissago, Ascona, and Locarno; move on to Lugano (1st of 2 nights in Lugano)


Day 13: Hike down Monte San Salvatore to Mercote; visit Lugano and Gandria; walk the Sentiero dell’Olivo (night in Lugano)
Day 14: Take the Bernina Express as far as Pontresina and then go to Mustair (night in Mustair)


Day 15: Visit the Convent of St. John, move on to the Lower Engadine and visit Schloss Tarasp, walk from the castle to Tarasp-Vulpera, move on to Guarda (1st of 2 nights in Guarda)


Day 16: Explore the Lower Engadine: Walk from Guarda to Ardez, visit Lavin, Scuol, and Sent (night in Guarda)
Day 17: Move to the Upper Engadine; visit Diavolezza; night in Pontresina (1st of 3 nights in Pontresina).
Day 18: Visit the Val Bregaglia: Take the bus to Soglio, walk to Castasegna 
and then through Bondo to Promontogno; return to Pontresina (night in Pontresina)

Day 19: Walk from Muottas Muralg to Alp Languard; explore Pontresina (night in Pontresina)
Day 20: Go to Bern, taking a train through the Albula Pass (1st of 2 nights in Bern). 

Day 21: Explore Bern
 (night in Bern)
Day 22: Go to Thun, visit Thun and the castles in Hilterfingen and Oberhofen, return to Thun by boat and then go to Wengen (night in Wengen)
Days 23: Paraglide (tandem) from Grutschalp; then, because the trail from Kleine Scheidegg to Mannlichen was closed, I went to Mannlichen, walked to Gipfel and back, took the cable car to Holenstein, walked to Brandegg, visited Grindelwald briefly, and then went to Lauterbrunnen (1st of 3 nights in Lauterbrunnen)
Days 24: Walk from Grutschalp to Murren, visit Schilthorn, take cable cars through Gimmelwald and Stechleberg and then go to Trummelbach Falls; walk to Lauterbrunnen (night in Lauterbrunnen)
Day 25: Take a boat to Brienz with a stop at Giessbach Falls; visit the Ballenberg Open Air Musuem, shop for wood carvings in Brienz, return to Lauterbrunnen (night in Latuerbrunnen)
Day 26: Visit the Alpine Garden on Schynige Platte and then move on to Stein-am-Rhein (night in Stein-am-Rhein)

Day 27: Visit Winterthur and, after dinner, move on to Zurich (1st of 3 nights in Zurich)
Days 28-29: Explore Zurich (nights in Zurich)
Day 30: Flight to the US


As I said, not a plan for someone who wants a leisurely experience! But it sure did give me a nice sample of some of Switzerland’s diverse gems.

What I liked least:
• The costs (even though expected)!
• The lack of options to buy wine outside my hotel or a restaurant after 18:00 or 19:00 in many places I visited (or at least an inability to do so at a location near my hotel), so I ended up paying way too much--but at least I could buy it, so I won’t complain too loudly.
• Being unable to get an "ear" for the language, because there isn't just one language and because I could hear people from many, many countries almost anywhere I went. In many places, there were speakers of so many different language groups – and not just European languages, but Asian and Indian and Arabic languages – that I felt a bit like I was in some kind of Tower of Babel. (The ability of the many Swiss people who interact with tourists to not only speak multiple languages, but moreover to speak them well and to switch with apparent ease from one to the other, is truly awesome.)
• The extremes of the weather I experienced, from the unseasonably cold weather that greeted my arrival in Geneva to the insufferably hot foehn that joined me on my visit to Ballenberg. (But OMG I was fortunate – my time in the Ticino was glorious, as was the vast majority of my time in Graubunden and in the Bernese Oberland!)
• Hotel maids who took away the extra towel that I had specifically requested.
• The seeming impossibility of finding platform 4 at the Zurich train station.
• Hotel rooms in which the electrical outlets were not readily accessible.
• Getting unexpectedly drenched as I walked from Gandria to Castagnola, falling in a mucky pasture during a rain-drenched walk near Gruyeres, and sinking hip deep into a snow field before I found the right path to the dry part of the Panaramaweg from Muottas Muralg. Definitely not among my favorite moments!
• The stampeding cows that “welcomed” me to their hillside on a cold, wet day when all that separated them from me was what seemed like a very, very thin piece of twine tied to insubstantial bits of widely spaced wooden stakes. I have no idea what made them decide to stop, but I sure am glad they did!
• Poorly marked trails. Seriously! Almost without exception, the trails I walked were so well marked that even the angle of the sign was precisely aligned with the path. So the two exceptions I encountered—places where I came to an unmarked intersection—were decidedly unsettling. Of course, it only took a few steps in each case to realize that what had seemed like an alternate path wasn’t really a path at all….
• The effort and energy it took to run from side to side of the many trains I took through breathtaking scenery. I swear I walked more on some of those trains just going from window to window than I do on some whole days in my normal work-a-day world!
• Unforgivably good chocolate. Really, it should be a crime.
If it isn’t immediately obvious, I’m having difficulty coming up with things to put in my “least-liked” category.

What I liked most:
OMG, where do I start?!?
• The wildflowers that seemed to adorn every field in every place I visited, from the just-emerging alpine flowers in the Upper Engadine to the full glory of wildflowers abloom in the Lower Engadine, so thick the fields seemed to glitter with color….
• And planted flowers, too, and the scents of lilac and honeysuckle and rose that beckoned from parks and yards throughout the country….
• Panoramic scenes of snow-capped mountains barely kissed by high, white clouds floating against brilliant blue skies, with forests and flower-bedecked fields layered below, and maybe a rushing river or a stunningly still lake in the valley floor, all with the sounds of a waterfall or cows and cowbells and birds, even a cuckoo here and there, and the freshness of the air…. And even if this description could apply to any number of places I saw, each was distinct, and each held its own special features, and even if I can't articulate the differences, I treasure my memories of each of the different awesome and breathtaking vistas I was fortunate enough to see.
• Waterfalls large and small, in the open or in the caves/slot canyon of Trummelbach Falls, permanent and ephemeral (as the spring thaw allowed meltwater on what I believe was the Eiger -- toward which I was walking -- to burst through whatever had been blocking it; I occasionally heard a resounding, echoing explosion and then saw a waterfall begin high on a rock wall, followed soon by a series of cascades below, all growing and then thinning, and then ceasing within the mere space of 15 minutes or so), and paragliding (in tandem) first above and then to and fro in front of the magnificent Staubbach Falls and watching the ever-changing Staubbach Falls while sipping wine as dusk settled over the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
• The ghostly snow fields of the Jungfrau seen by moonlight from Wengen and the Milky Way and brilliant clarity of so many stars in the night skies that I glimpsed in so many parts of the country.
• Charming towns with painted or sgrafittoed houses, or intricately carved wooden gables and balconies, or oriels and windows with painted shutters, or ancient stone and wood hay lofts; each town complete with flower-boxes and churches with incredibly tall, slim bell towers and fountains (whether simple or ornate) offering indescribably tasty potable water….
• And the fountains in cities, too, whether medieval or modern, and the cobbled streets and squares with their markets and city gates and walls and bridges and terraces and churches and so many different ways in which the history of each town and city revealed itself through its layout and architecture….
• Covered wooden bridges with flower boxes and lake- or river-front promenades and the swans and ducks and coots swimming nearby….
• Museums and castles that document the lives of their former residents at various points in time, or how those lives changed over time. Special kudos to the awesome Latenium, which not only has an outstanding display of the prehistory of the area, but moreover does so in a building that brings the carefully landscaped exterior into the museum itself....
• Some incredible collections of art, including any number of small museums that each held more than a few outstanding pieces, and the chance to see masterpieces by everyone from Holbein to Hodler, and being able to visit many museums without crowds ….
• The pride that museum staff took in their collections, whether devoted to art or history or marionettes or whatever and the labors of love that were evident in the placement of every object in the Toy Museum in Riehan and the attention given to children at the paper mill museum in Basel….
• Magnificent frescos, from the incomparable series at the Convent of St. John in Mustair through the recently restored brilliance of those at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Bellinzona to the cubist-like depiction of God in the parish church of Lavin and so many more….
• The stained glass, from medieval masterpieces through the Chagall and Giacometti windows of Zurich’s Fraumunster….
• Public art -- sculptures dotting city corners or waterfronts and Tinguely’s Fasnacht fountain in Basel and the fountain of the woman with her umbrella and water-filled shopping bag in Fribourg and the modern art installations along the trail in the Valle Verzasca and the many ways in which the Swiss have made art a part of their environment…
• The diversity of what I experienced – different landscapes and different styles of art and architecture and differences in the ambience from region to region and different flowers and birds and so much more….
• Including diverse animals: Not just cows and goats, but also ibex grazing on the edges of the Panoramaweg and horses with their foals and so many different kinds of chickens….
• The cheeses and breads and wines and fresh fruits and vegetables and the markets in which both flowers and produce were so beautifully displayed and OMG I ate well on this trip!
• The incredible ease of transportion, and the opportunity to ride just about every manner of public transportion that exists. SBB’s web-site provides an astonishing amount of helpful information, allowing me to plan effectively well in advance. (I really like to plan my trips!) I loved the day-after-next luggage forwarding option, and I also took advantage of locker options at many stops. My kudos to people associated with public transportation in Switzerland – I was treated with courtesy and patience by every one of them.
• The many small details at hotels that can make a bit difference when traveling: sinks with drains that could be stopped; wash cloths; fluffy and incredibly comfortable comforters, huge pillows, and (of course) absolute spotlessness….
• And last, but certainly not least, the kindness of so many people I encountered along the way! The woman who chased me through a train station to give me a scarf I had unknowingly dropped. The staff of the tourist information office in Lucerne who laughingly worked together to figure out that the bird I was trying to identify was a taucherli (coot). The bus driver in the Val Mustair who, noticing that I was taking a million pictures, stopped at a lookout point and told me I could have a minute to get off and take pictures. The woman at a museum in Winterthur who called every other museum in that city to alert them to be on the lookout for me after I inadvertently left my driver’s license there, and the staff of all the other museums who followed through with me as soon as they saw me. So many others….

I came home exhausted, but also energized and enlivened and enriched by my experiences. It was, indeed, a trip to remember!

Still to come: Some comments on the ways that each of you who contributed to my planning made this trip even more special than it would otherwise have been.

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    wow. What an incredibly wonderful trip you had! You visited some of the very best places, and you got to experience/hike the best things.

    Thank you so much for writing this detailed, unique, and informative report! While I love any detailed trip report, I love the things you noted -- art, human connections, etc.

    I will have to comment on the stampeding cows -- I've also experienced that and also was scared!! In my case, there was no fence to separate them from me, and they came thundering at me along a trail. Luckily, I wasn't alone, and the very experienced hikers who were also on the trail knew how to deal with it -- just yell and raise/flap your arms. I've always thought I was a real sissy to be afraid, so I'm happy to learn I'm not alone!

    Looking forward to reading more!

    s

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    Hi, swandav -

    > What an incredibly wonderful trip you had! You visited some of the very best places, and you got to experience/hike the best things.

    Indeed! I feel incredibly fortunate to have made this trip.

    > I .. have to comment on the stampeding cows -- I've also experienced that and also was scared!!

    I’m so glad to learn that it wasn’t just me, swandav! I’m sorry you had to deal with a similar situation, but it is good to know how one should respond, should any of us ever find the need!

    In my case, I had more or less passed the nearest cows, delighting in the muted sounds of their bells, when I noticed that the sounds were becoming louder and more energetic. And louder. And more energetic. And even more so! I wasn’t sure what to do, but decided (rightly or wrongly) that I should continue on as calmly as I could, without looking back or speaking aloud. But as the bells sounded even more loudly -- QUITE loudly, I finally looked back, seeing the cows trotting toward me – oh no!!! As the crescendo of cow bells began to make me really, REALLY nervous, the cows passed me and lined up in a row, faces toward the trail, just to my side. And that’s when they stopped, almost perfectly still, staring at me as I walked by them. For someone who has always lived in cities, it was a decidedly interesting (AKA slightly terrifying!) experience.

    Here’s to all survivors of stampedes by Swiss cows!!!

    And a note to self: Next time, yell and raise/flap arms!

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    I like your style kja. I wish I had your energy (and your penchant for poetry)!

    We're considering a trip to the Engadine (both upper and lower trying to choose one base in each) in early December, postponed from earlier this year. I'm still so confused...is there one place you'd recommend over another (yeah I know, it's winter so will be an entirely different experience).

    <Unforgivably good chocolate>

    Music to my ears!

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    <<• The stampeding cows that “welcomed” me to their hillside on a cold, wet day when all that separated them from me was what seemed like a very, very thin piece of twine tied to insubstantial bits of widely spaced wooden stakes. I have no idea what made them decide to stop, but I sure am glad they did!>>

    Someone has never encountered an electric fence. ;) I assure you, if you touched that "twine," you'd understand why the cows have learned not to come into contact with it. They must have thought you had a feed sack with you.

    I'm planning a Switzerland trip in 2015, so I enjoyed reading your report.

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    > Melnq8: Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m not sure that anything I can say will be particularly helpful in deciding among potential base locations. As you note, you’ll be there in winter, but I was there in summer. And I only stayed in one place in the Lower Engadine and one place in the Upper Engadine, so I can’t compare places. I can say that I adored Guarda and thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Hotel Meisser. If you decide to stay in Guarda, please note that the town is high above the train station. Many – but not all – trains are met by a little bus; otherwise, it would be a long uphill walk. (I think it was signposted at 40 minutes.) If you want to check on the schedules that do connect to the bus in advance, when using the sbb web-site, specify “Guarda, cumün.” For the Upper Engadine, I was well satisfied with my decision to stay in Pontresina (at the Hotel Rosatsch), but again, I have nothing against which to compare it. Several Fodorites are experts on the Engadine, so you might get more useful information if you post separately. Enjoy!

    > Ingo: While I agree that anyone can expect to enjoy a trip to Switzerland, I am absolutely certain that my trip was much, much better than it might have been as a direct result of the input that you and others gave me. It wasn't just a good trip, it was a really GREAT trip! :-)

    > twk: Hmm, an electric fence would explain a lot. Sure wish I’d thought of that, particularly because every time I passed a pasture with cows after my “stampede” experience – and it was a common experience -- I did so with frisson of fear. I’m glad you enjoyed my report and am sure you will enjoy your time in spectacular Switzerland.

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    Hi kja -- Fascinating and unique report. I've been to many of these places. Thanks for bringing the beauty of these regions back to mind.

    Menq8: I agree with kja that Hotel Meissner in Guarda is a place you should consider for your winter visit. It's a lovely hotel in the most charming village. They also serve dinner and offer half board, which is convenient.

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    > susan001: Fresh from my trip, my memories of the beauty of what I saw are still vivid and powerful and inspiring. It's nice to think that my words might have revived some of the images of what you (and others) saw -- and to realize that others will similarly revive my memories in the future. :-)

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    I promised some comments on the ways that each of you who contributed to my planning made this trip even more special than it would otherwise have been -- here they are! My trip was infinitely better than it might have been because of the invaluable insights that so many of you generously shared with me.

    I’m not going to try to thank all of you for each and every thing you said on my various planning threads. Instead, I’m going to try to thank each of you explicitly for (just) one way in which your input made a difference. Sometimes, several people mentioned the same thing; although I only note one person’s recommendation, I hope you realize that I’m thanking all of you who mentioned that thing. And please understand that my gratitude goes far beyond these limited acknowledgements!

    Turning to each of you in alphabetical order….

    ALadyInLondon – As you said, Zurich is a beautiful city, and I was glad to have two days to see its highlights. I’m sure I would have enjoyed more time there, but as you suggested, two days were enough to see the things I most wanted to see.

    artsbabe -- I had thought I would skip Lausanne’s Collection de l'Art Brut because I feared that it would seem exploitative to me. But you and others spoke so highly of it that I reconsidered, and I’m so glad I visited it! I found it very special and very well worth my time; I did NOT think it exploitative.

    asps – I had many, MANY occasions to say “delicious” and “wonderful” while in Switzerland, and greatly appreciated that you ensured that I could do so in Rumantsch when appropriate.

    catcrazyaf – I share your love of Lausanne’s waterfront! I stayed in that part of town (in Ouchy) and enjoyed several pleasant strolls through the flower-filled park there.

    Dukey1 – I ended up not taking the Glacier Express, so I can’t compare routes, but I certainly understand why you enjoyed the Bernina Express – OMG what glorious scenery! (I greatly appreciated your comments on St. Gallen, too, but in the end, concluded that I didn’t have time to do it justice. Next trip….)

    dutyfree – Being braced for high costs was helpful -- I may have become weak-kneed, but didn’t actually pass out, upon seeing any of my bills!

    goldenautumn – My travels through Switzerland were much more enjoyable than they might have been because I included several boat journeys, such as my brief ride on the Thunersee. SO beautiful and relaxing!

    greg -- I took to heart your comments about gateway cities and, as a result, I allowed myself much more leisurely visits to Geneva (when I was jet-lagged) and Zurich (by which time I was defintely a bit tired) than I might otherwise have done.



    gruezi -- I can easily see why you love the Lower Engadine (what a glorious place!) and the Hotel Meisser provided a perfect place to start and end each day in the area. I honestly don’t know how it is that I have had the great good fortune to see the world from Guarda’s doorstep. I know that I have been very, very lucky.

    HappyTrvlr -- Pontresina served my needs for the Upper Engadine quite well – lovely place, isn’t it? I wasn’t able to enter the church on the hill above the village – St. Katherine’s? (I’ll have to check) but I enjoyed that church’s cemetery … but why so many very old markers that suggested a seafaring demise? Any ideas?

    Ingo -- it is REALLY hard to select a single thing for which to thank you -- you gave me so many excellent ideas! The tip I’ve decided to note especially was to visit Rasa, which I found absolutely charming and OMG, it is spectacularly situated, isn’t it? I don’t think Rasa would have come to my attention if you hadn’t mentioned it.



    isabel – Although I was very fortunate to experience good weather while in the Bernese Oberland, having plans for day-trips in the area gave me greater confidence that I would use my time in the area well.

    joannyc – I didn’t visit Yvoire (although it sounds lovely), but I did take a boat ride on Lake Geneva shortly after my arrival – delightful! 

The rain hadn’t set in yet, so I had some wonderful views of Mont Blanc and other parts of the eastern portion of the lake. What a great start to my trip!

    LucyLemonade – As you suspected, I thought the MUDAC well worth a visit – the temporary exhibits were interesting and the permanent collection held some wonderfully memorable pieces. And the woman at the ticket desk couldn’t have been nicer.

    mrtaz49 -- The Valle Verzasca was stunning and quite different from any of the other places I visited. I’m so glad I visited it!

    neckervd -- The nut torte at the Furnaria Giacometti in Lavin was, indeed, delicious!

    Nonconformist -- As you predicted, I found the Ballenberg Open Air Museum very much to my liking. Even the foehn couldn’t prevent that! Did you visit the thatched houses? Awesome!

    PalenQ -- Of your many very helpful suggestions, I’m singling out for particular praise your recommendation of the train through the Centovalli. Since it wasn’t a line that I would have traveled to get from one point to another on this trip, I hadn’t considered it – until I noticed it on one of your lists of favorite train rides. I see why you put it there! 


    robindon -- I wasn’t going to stay in Wengen until I saw your pictures. I’m very glad that I ended up spending a lovely evening at the Hotel Edelweiss. 



    sam94123 -- I didn’t make it to all the places you recommended, but was glad that I added a few moments in Gstaad once I realized that doing so might work within my overall plan.

    schuler – The Ofenpass is (I believe) the place where my bus driver through the Val Mustair let me off to take pictures – what a gift! As you say, that road through that valley is magnificent. 


    swandav2000 – Among your many informative comments, you brought Glion to my attention. I hadn’t planned to visit it, but the alpine garden at the Rocher de Naye was closed, so I spent only a few minutes at the snow-bound station. I decided to spend my “extra” hour in Glion. How I loved the little arcaded terrace of the church at the cliff’s edge! 



    Swisster -- While in Fribourg, I did indeed go down that steep hill to the basse-ville, where I greatly enjoyed the old and very well preserved buildings, as well as a wonderful small museum with an impressive collection of puppets and marionettes from around the world. Worth every step of the long walk back up that steep hill!

    tower – Your pictures inspired me to make sure I stopped in Grindelwald to see it’s glacier – awesome!

    undergrace – As I prepared for my trip, I was not at all surprised to see many recommendations for the tour of the Maison Cailler and its tasting room. Of course, I loved sampling the chocolate (☺ ), and like you, I was very favorably impressed by the automated tour that covered the history of chocolate and how it is made.



    WhistlerNorth – I found Thun charming – especially its covered bridges, but also its streets and castle and art museum. Easily worth a few hours!
    


    Many, many thanks to all of you for your comments and suggestions and critiques. If I left any of you out, please forgive me and let me know! I learned so much from this Board and know that my experience of Switzerland was immeasurably better than anything I could have experienced without your help. Thank you so much!

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    <<And a note to self: Next time, yell and raise/flap arms!>>

    Good to know as I will be traveling to Switzerland in September.

    Question:
    How difficult is it with regards to the train stations getting from one platform to the next? And where is platform #4 in Zurich? Where does it take you? I will need to find the train from the airport to HB and then onto Wengen. Like you, I am a HUGE planner and do not like leaving anything to chance.

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    ➢ Neckervd: Thanks! The weather might not have been ideal, but I refuse to complain. I was incredibly fortunate to have had nearly perfect weather when it mattered most to me. Even the worst of the rainy days had some moments that were clear, so I got to see stunning vistas even in the places where I encountered rain. And all that rain made for very full waterfalls and high, rushing rivers and green, green hills….

    ➢ catherinehaas: In general, I found it quite easy to maneuver through Switzerland’s train stations, including the one in Zurich, and in general, the signage was excellent. Most of the larger stations I was in had elevators or escalators to connect levels, and those that didn’t had ramps in addition to stairs, so getting from platform to platform was not difficult. But I honestly can’t tell you where Zurich’s platform 4 is – I never found it! I had reached the Zurich train station a little later than I would have preferred on the day of my flight home. Upon consulting the departure board, I was pleased to see that an IC train that would stop at the airport was leaving within 10 minutes from platform 4. I looked and looked and as the minutes ticked away, and as I began to get nervous, I realized that another IC that would stop at the airport was leaving just minutes later from a different platform. That was easy! I doubt that you’ll have a problem. Everything else was easy to find and there was an SBB information desk very conveniently located by the arrivals/departures board at the Zurich station. There is a small army of staff at the Lauterbrunnen station who will help you find your train to Wengen. As you probably already know, you can get schedule information, detailed information about the platforms involved, and even station maps on the SBB website. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how easy it will end up being. Enjoy!

    >suitheadcase: You are absolutely right, there is still SO much to see! I am well aware that I merely sampled some of Switzerland’s gems. And I am so glad that I was able to do so!

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    kja,

    Thank you so much for your kind words to me, and to all the other regular posters here. It's so gratifying to see someone take in all the advice and to use it all for a wonderful trip. I'm so glad you got to Glion to enjoy those stunning views -- one of my favorite hotels is there, the Hotel Victoria. Dinner and after-dinner drinks on its terrace is a memorable experience.

    For catherinehaas:

    Here is a link where you can download a pdf map of the Zürich station:

    http://www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/am-bahnhof/railway-stations/shopville-railcity-zuerich.html

    On the right-hand side of the page, click on "downloads" and you'll see the link to download the map.

    But platform #4 doesn't "take" you anywhere; there are many, many trains that arrive and depart from that platform, so at different times of the day a train on platform #4 could be going to Basel, to Montreux, to Winterthur, to Lugano, etc.

    Just use the rail site at

    www.sbb.ch

    and enter your information

    From Zurich airport
    To Wengen

    Once the connections come up, click on the plus sign (+) to the left of each connection to see all the details. Then, all you need is to get to the proper platform at the proper time -- and also make sure you get into a carriage appropriate for the class of ticket you bought (2d class, 1st class, etc).

    Have fun as you plan!

    s

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    kja - really sweet for you to methodically thank everyone - very very sweet! You are still enjoying that trip - the great thing about traveling for me is that the enjoyment never stops after a great trip!

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    . Then, all you need is to get to the proper platform at the proper time -- and also make sure you get into a carriage appropriate for the class of ticket you bought (2d class, 1st class, etc).>

    to Wengen and be sure to see which half of the Interalken-Osat to Lauterbrunnen/Grindelwald train you board on the same platform in Interlaken - that train splits half way up with one part trundling onto Grindelwald and the other to Lauterbrunnen, where you change to an even tinier train to Wengen.

    At Zweilutschinen - where the train splits - I always see folks currying from the wrong half to the right half after being told my conductors they were on the wrong part - thing is that these trains are often full so they may have had to stand for the rest of the way to Lauterbrunnen.

    Check at Interlaken to see that the train car you are boarding has Lauterbrunnen on its outside.

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    > Melnq8: I'm glad you found my comments useful!. FWIW, let me note that with all the research you've already done (at least some of which I read while planning my trip), I wonder what additional information you are seeking.


    > PalenQ - It is my pleasure to let people know that their comments made a difference! And you bet, I am still enjoying this trip - as I am still enjoying the many that preceded it! I spent a great deal of my life thinking that I would never be able to travel, no matter how much I wanted to do so. Since traveling has become an option for me, I have savored every trip! And as you say, the enjoyment never stops and (so far) no picture erases or replaces another -- I have an awesomely growing bank of memories from my travels!

    OMG I am SO fortunate to be able to travel!!!

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    kja...as in all of your reports, you are a true artist, painting the picture that makes one feel he/she is there alongside you. Where to next, friend? If you haven't seen Maroc, I hope you decide to do it.

    stu

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    > stu, thanks for that incredible compliment! I love the idea that I might have brought even a small part of what I saw alive for someone else! Morocco is on my list of high-priority places to see, but I think my next trip may be to another part of the Orient.... In any case, I refuse to give the matter serious consideration until I finish unpacking from this trip!

    > catcrazyaf, my trip WAS lovely! Even in a brief visit, I came to understand at least a part of your love for Lausanne. When I asked for suggestions of what to cut from my initial itinerary, several people suggested Lausanne. I am so glad I kept it in my plans! May our memories of this lovely city stay with us for the rest of our lives -- or until we get to go back. :-)

  • Report Abuse

    A couple I know will be visiting Lausanne in the near future and asked for my comments. Since I have aleady typed this information out for them, I can’t think of a reason not to add it to my trip report. A word of warning, though: I wrote this summary for people who I have known for a very long time and who I know share many of my interests. People with other interests might easily find my comments off base. Still, I hope I provide enough information to help those with varying interests.


    Geneva

    Things I did in Geneva:

    • A steamboat ride along the western part of Lake Geneva. The one I chose took about 1’40” and was very pleasant, offering great views of Geneva and the Jet d’Eau, Mont Blanc, etc. You have options for several different rides of different lengths; some include meals.

    • Duke of Brunswick’s Mausoleum – just a place to stop along the Quai du Mont Blanc. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it, but if you are in the area, it’s worth a few minutes.

    • Jardin Anglais -- pleasant enough, but in honesty, I’ve seen nicer public parks / gardens. And it’s flower clock -- people really “write home” about that? Well, I would have hated to not see it for myself.

    • Geneva’s Old Town – IMO, well worth roaming around. Be sure to poke you noses into the Hotel de Ville’s courtyard, etc.

    • Cathedral St. Pierre -- Like many churches in this part of Switzerland, the cathedral was stripped of much of its ornamentation during the Reformation and so can seem quite plain. But a few details remain, even if you have to look for them. And it houses a more recent chapel – the Chapelle des Macchabees – that I found very beautiful.

    • Connected to the cathedral is an archeological museum that I found quite interesting. It has a little video showing the history of the site and various exhibits of excavated artifacts. It is housed in excavations under the cathedral, so you can see remnants of the various buildings on the site as you walk through it.

    • Maison Tavel, which is (as I understand it) Geneva’s oldest house. It shows what the home of a wealthy citizen of the town was like and also exhibits various artifacts related to city life. I thought it very well laid out and easily worth an hour or so.

    • The Promenade de la Treille is a lovely park-like esplanade with some very old trees that overlooks the Parc des Bastions. Not much to see, but very pleasant.

    • The Parc des Bastions. It was at the entance to this park where I first noticed how dearly the Swiss love their outdoor chessboards. I saw MANY such chessboards, with people of all ages playing and many others watching. (One of my favorites was in Lugano, where an old-ish man was playing with a very young boy – it brought back wonderful memories of my grandfather.) The park has a long wall with inscriptions to, and austere reliefs of, various people who were central to the reformation. There were very few people around that wall, perhaps because it was incredibly cold the day I was there, leaving an odd impression of barrenness that contrasted strongly with the liveliness by the chessboards at the park’s entrance.

    • Carouge, a small neighborhood that was granted in the mid-1700s to the King of Sardinia and so has buildings in a Sardinian style. It is pleasant, but I’m not sure I would recommend making the time to visit it unless it is convenient or unless you have some special interest. I went after it was too late for me to visit other things that were on my list, and I enjoyed its easy-going vibe and public art.

    • The Musee d’Art et d’Histoire – If not my favorite of the museums that I saw in Switzerland, this museum does count some excellent works among its various holdings and is, IMO, well worth at least a few hours. I thought its exhibits of local traditions / crafts / local history (e.g., a recreated room) among its best exhibits, and I thought its archeological collection held some impressive pieces. It has some noteworthy works of art as well.

    • Russian church very near the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire. I stopped by it and was able to enter briefly, but was quickly shooed out because a wedding was about to begin. If you haven’t seen a Russian Orthodox church, it might be worth seeking out. Otherwise, I would suggest that you visit it only if it fits in your schedule.

    • A few open air markets, a very small one at the Place de las Navigation and a somewhat larger one not far from the Clock Tower. I’m not sure if either was a daily market.

    Things I skipped in Geneva, even though I am sure I would have enjoyed them:
    • The Palais de Nations,
    • The Musee de la Croix-Rouge, and
    • The Musee de la Reforme.


    Lausanne

    Things I did in Lausanne:

    • A walk through the Lavaux vineyards to the east of Lausanne. I began with a brief walk through Lutry – a very pleasant little lake-side town (even if seen while being drenched with sleet!) – and then climbed up the hill to the marked walk through the vineyards. I took my time despite the weather and turned back down toward the lake when I saw the sign for Cully, about 1’15” later. My aim was to have a pleasant walk through the vineyards, which I did despite the unseasonable experience of nearly unabated sleet and rain while walking by snow-covered fields. I did not stop at any wineries or tasting venues, although some were open. I believe one can time one’s walk to include such stops, and there is also a little tourist train that you can take around the area with several tasting stops. Because of the weather, my views across the lake to the mountains was often obscured, but OMG, the views I did glimpse, whether of the lake and mountains or of the shore to the east or west, were stunningly memorable! I reached Cully at about 6 p.m. on a Saturday evening and, although I walked around just a bit, I didn’t see any place to stop for a glass of wine or coffee or anything else. Maybe I somehow missed the right corner, but I soon concluded that it would be to my advantage to ensure that I was positioned to catch the next train back to Lausanne. I would have liked a more pleasant way to spend the better part an hour waiting for the next train back to Lausanne than just sitting in a cold space, but at least I was out of the wind, and, I otherwise truly enjoyed my walk through the vineyards!

    • Ouchy market – a relatively small market surrounded by leafy trees near the Ouchy waterfront – a pleasant way to spend a few moments if you are in the area.

    • Walk through Old Town. I enjoyed my exploration of the Old Town, and especially liked the area behind the cathedral along the Rue Cite Derriere and thereabouts.

    • MUDAC, the Musée de design et d'arts appliqués contemporains: It has a very small, but noteworthy, collection of ancient Chinese and Egyptian art and a number of changing exhibitions of decorative arts, which I believe are generally shown along with selections from its permanent collection of decorative glass and other objects. Well worth an hour or so IMO.

    • Cathedrale Notre Dame. Do not miss the glorious south portal! And leave some time for the rest of it, too!

    • Musee Cantonale de Beaux Arts. There was a special exhibit here when I was in town, with none of the permanent collection on display. I enjoyed what I saw (Alex Katz and Felix Vallotton).

    • Musée cantonal d'archéologie et d'histoire, in the same building as the Musee Cantonale de Beaux Arts. It’s small; I thought it well worth a visit.

    • Collection de l'Art Brut. VERY interesting and impressive! I almost didn’t go because I thought I would find it exploitative. I did not! I spent several hours there and was very glad that I visited it.

    Things I skipped in Lausanne, even though I am sure I would have enjoyed them:
    • Fondation de l’Hermitage, which was (regrettably) closed while I was there.


    Montreux

    Things I did in (and from) Montreux:

    • Cogwheel train to the Rochers de Naye. The scenerey was stunning and the technology fascinating. (It was, I believe, the first cogwheel train I rode.) I had planned to visit an alpine garden at the top, but it was closed because of an unseasonably late snowfall.

    • Glion -- a little town about halfway along the train ride from the Rochers de Naye to Montreux. I remembered that someone had recommended it, and since I had extra time, I decided to stop there. I enjoyed roaming around and especially enjoyed a little cliff-side church with a wonderful terrace overlooking Lake Geneva.

    • Chateau de Chillon. I reached the chateau by a funicular from Glion and then a short walk along the lovely lakeside “Chenmin Fleuri.” I was very glad to spend a few hours at the chateau and thought the audioguide worth renting.

    • Steamboat from the Chateau to Lausanne. I thought the ride – especially the part through the easternmost end of the lake – quite beautiful. It was interesting to see the Lavaux vinyards from the lake, but I found that stretch a bit less scenic.

    • A stroll through Vevey (just outside of Montreux). Charming!



    Gstaad

    (I visited Gstaad en route from Montreux to Fribourg.)

    • I walked the main road and visited its little church, spending a total of about 20 minutes in Gstaad. I decided to visit Gstaad on my way from Montreux to Gruyeres primarily because I had heard that the scenery along the train route from Montreux to Gstaad was lovely – and it was! And since I could get to Gruyeres at a time that met my needs by going on to Gstaad and then backtracking a bit, and since I had enough time to get off the train and walk through Gstaad, why not? I’m glad I stopped in Gstaad, if for no reason other than it confirmed my suspicion that it was not a place that I wanted to spend much time – too touristy for me, even off-season, and too high-end. It is lovely, though! I’m glad I had the chance to walk through it and see some of its beautifully carved wooden chalets.



    Gruyeres

    Things I did in (and from) Gruyeres:

    • Walk the charming main street.

    • Chateau de Gruyeres – I thought it well worth an hour or two and thought the audio-guide worth renting.

    • The Centre International de l’Art Fantastique, which was within the Chateau and covered by the same ticket. Worth whatever time you choose to give it – I thought some pieces truly intriguing; others, not so much.

    • Cailler chocolate factory in nearby Broc – interesting, with lots of tasty treats. The visit includes an automated display of the history of chocolate and how cacao is turned into something delicious that was better than I expected.

    • Walk from Broc to Gruyeres – very pretty scenery on a misty day, although I got scared out of my wits for a few moments by the sound of rifle shots before I realized that there were coming from a nearby shooting range, was drenched by a chilling rain, and spent some terrrifyng moments during which I though a herd of stampeding cows was going to run me over – and they came frighteningly close! Slipping on the muddy trail and falling into the “mud” (it wasn’t really mud – it was a pasture … do I need to be more explicit?) rounded out my experience. OMG! But it was very scenic, and as a city-girl, I really can’t complain about my lack of knowledge of country life. I’m glad that my time on foot in Switzerland included a walk through this landscape, which was quite unlike anything I saw elsewhere.

    Things I skipped in Gruyeres that I probably would have enjoyed:
    • The little chapel along the walking trail from Broc to Gruyeres – a chapel near the end of that “memorable” walk. Although it was open, taking advantage of the opportunity just didn’t seem right!
    • Maison du Gruyere, because I had seen cheesemaking before.
    • H.R. Giger Museum.
    • The Tibet Museum.


    Fribourg

    Things I did in Fribourg:

    • Market at Place George-Python. If you like markets, I thought this a good one!

    • Walk around the Old Town. Fribourg was not the most delightful of the Swiss cities I visited, but that could be because it was overcast and rainy for most of my day there. I’m sure that affected my experience, not only because of dreary chilly moments, but also because others were not out enjoying its public areas as they might otherwise have done. Fortunately, it cleared up later in the day. Rain or not, I liked being in an Old Town that wasn’t overrun by tourists.

    • Musee d’Art et d’Histoire. I thought this medium-sized museum’s collection impressive for the quality of its exhibits: The displays aren’t all that extensive, but there are some truly wonderful pieces! Well worth a couple of hours IMO.

    • Franciscan Church. Worth a few minutes if you are in the area. I probably would not have gone out of my way to see it.

    • Espace Jean Tinguely – Niki de Saint-Phaelle. Neither of these artists is among my favorites, but I thought this small museum provided a good overview that helped me better appreciate and understand their work. I was glad that I was not the only person who literally had a laugh-out-loud moment while there! Well worth a visit.

    • Basilique de Notre Dame – Like the Franciscan Church, if you are in the area, it is IMO worth a few moments.

    • Cathedral St. Nicholas. Some lovely Art Nouveau windows and a very moving chapel. WELL worth seeing.

    • Pont de Zaehringen for great views of the area.

    • Walk to and then around the lower town and its squares and bridges – charming! WELL worth the long walk back uphill. ☺

    • Augustinian Church. It was being renovated when I was there, so parts were off limits. I thought it was worth seeing, even though there was much work yet to do.

    • Musee Suisse de la Marionette. Small museum with marionettes and displays related to puppetry from around the world and a curator who clearly LOVES these items. I enjoy this kind of thing and was very happy I saw it.

    • Views from the rue des Alpes. ☺

    • Grande Places Tinguely Fountain. I was not impressed.


    Things I skipped in Fribourg, even though I’m sure I would have enjoyed them:
    • The Gutenberg Museum
    • The mechanical clock of the Hotel de Ville.


    Outside of Neuchatel – the Latenium

    (I visited the Latenium en route from Fribourg to Basel.)
    • The Latenium is a museum of prehistory. I thought it outstanding, not only for its collection, but also for its setting and the ways the architect and curators used both inner and outer space for the exhibits. I spent a few very enjoyable hours here. If you choose to visit it, the stop to enter into the SBB web-site is “Hauterive NE, Musée d'Archéol”


    Solothurn

    Things I did in Solothurn:
    (I visited Solothurn en route from Fribourg to Basel.)

    • Walk around the Old Town, by the river, and other bits outside the Old Town itself. I thought it very pleasant and was glad I had the time to roam a bit. Don’t miss the Clock Tower and do step a ways outside the city gates a bit in each direction.

    • Kunstmuseum. Small, but some very memorable pieces. IMO, well worth an hour or so, and more if the temporary exhibits are of interest to you.

    • Jesuitenkirche. Worth a few moments, especially if you are a fan of Baroque church interiors.

    • St. Ursenkathedrale. I’m not generally a fan of the Baroque, but I thought this cathedral an example of Baroque at its best. Do visit it if you can!


    Bern

    Things I did in Bern:

    • Bern Historical Museum. Wonderful! Plan on at least several hours. Don’t miss the exhibits of the statuary from the Munster, or the tapestries and textiles, or …!

    • Walk along the riverside park from Bern Historical Museum to Baren Park – pleasant and worth considering if it fits your schedule.

    • Baren Park – not as disturbing as I expected.

    • Rosengarten – Whatever is or is not in bloom, this park offers memorable views over the city. When I was there, few roses were evident, but there were iris in full bloom and some flowering shrubery offered glorious colors. I particularly enjoyed seeing the ways that people found to enjoy this park – chatting from perches on the balustrade, picnicing, playing on the lawns….

    • Botanical Garden – Lovely! More about flowers and less about public space than the Rosengarten.

    • Kunstmuseum: Well worth a few hours IMO. The displays varied in their appeal to me, but there are some stellar pieces and the collection has noteable depth in several areas.

    • Walk around Bern’s Old Town – if you like markets and medieval fountains and public squares, you’ll be happy! Many city streets were dug up while I was there as part of a public works project, and I still loved it. Bern was one of my favorite Swiss cities! ☺

    • Munster: I was a bit disappointed by the entryway, but perhaps only because I had seen the originals of most of the large figures below the tympanium at the Bern Historical Museum the day before. The larger figures on the current Munster seemed to me more like mannequins than statues – they lacked the expressiveness and accessibility of the originals, qualities that had survived the years and elements and that had deeply impressed me at the museum. (Thank goodness the originals are in a safe place where people can see them!) The much smaller figures on the tympanium itself are, as I understand it, original, and they were awesome – such incredible attention to detail! As for the interior of the Munster – wonderful! Plan on enough time to give a close look to any number of wonderful features.

    • Munsterplatform – great views, nice opportunities to glimpse people enjoying themselves. Cement pingpong tables in a public space – what a great concept!

    • Zytglogge – Fascinating clock tower, but the mechanical display was at best OK.

    • Zentrum Paul Klee (a bit outside of town): I must admit that I did not like the pragmatics of this museum: Audio guide information could only be accessed by approaching close to the wall by the piece being described, and then, although one could walk away from the wall once the recording had been accessed, the (taped) curation went on and on and on…. I ended up using it for only a few of the pieces that most intrigued me. Staff at the time I visited were surprisingly unhelpful (quite unlike anywhere else I visited in Switzerland), and I ended up losing a chunk of time as a result of their lack of attention and misinformation. And I didn’t find the setting of the museum all that interesting. Nonetheless, it is an incredible collection of Klee’s work, and so I give it a thumbs-up despite these difficulties.

    • Walk through the Nydeggbrucke area. A nice area, worth visiting briefly if time permits.

    • Bundesplatz: I thoroughly enjoyed watching kids run through the fountain of this large square. Go through the building’s passageway for a wonderful view over the river.

    Things I skipped in Bern, even though I’m sure I would have enjoyed them:
    • Tour of Zytgloggeturm. To my regret, I JUST missed the entry time for the tour of the interior. Sounded fascinating to me!


    Thun +

    Things I did in and around Thun:
    (I visited Thun en route from Bern to Wengen.)

    • Walk around town, including walking around its two covered and flower-bedecked wooden bridges, its shopping streets, and its town hall area. VERY nice!

    • Schloss Thun – worth an hour or so if you have time. The views from the tower are lovely and there are some exhibits that I thought interesting (but nothing particularly special).

    • Kunstmuseum – when I was there, this small museum had a special exhibit on Auguste Macke, which I thoroughly enjoyed. None of its permanent collection was on display.

    • Schloss Hunegg. If you are interested in the opulence that could be part of the Art Nouveau style, this is your place! A beautiful and very upscale residence cum museum.

    • Schloss Oberhofen. Stunningly delightful building in a beautiful setting, with some very interesting examples of different styles of interior design. IMO, worth visiting.

    • Steamboat from Oberhofen to Thun. Very pleasant!



    I hope this information is helpful and remain willing to answer any questions.

  • Report Abuse

    kja, thanks for the additional posting. There are lots of useful bits of information in there, and I suspect we share some of your interests too :)

    One question...how long/difficult was the walk from Broc to Gruyeres? How much uphill or downhill would you guess there was?

  • Report Abuse

    @ china_cat -- As I recall, the walk from Broc to Gruyeres was on the order of an hour or hour+15 minutes, maybe a bit more. There are two routes, one by the river (which would be mostly flat) and one that is mostly flat, but goes just a little way up a hill and then back down, but if you want to end up in the part of town by the castle, then the end of either walk will be uphill for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Sorry I don't recall more precisely! The photo in the upper left corner might give you a sense of what the climb is like:
    http://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/gruyeres.html
    or maybe this picture:
    http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Chateau-De-Gruyeres-Gruyeres-Fribourg-Canton-Switzerland-Posters_i2934686_.htm

  • Report Abuse

    That's a very good summary - great idea, very helpful.

    Had to chuckle when I read this in the Solothurn section:

    > St. Ursenkathedrale. I’m not generally a fan of the Baroque, but I thought this cathedral an example of Baroque at its best.

    Maybe you enjoyed this cathedral because it's not Baroque, but early classicistic style? ;-)

  • Report Abuse

    Well, now, that’s embarrassing! :-( I guess I should trust my own aesthetic sense more than what I read: “The bright, soaring wedding-cake interior has a riot of intricate stucco covering the white stone walls that is typical of the lavish late Baroque era in which the church was built” (the Rough Guide, which I had with me). Guide books I had used when planning my trip refer to “the Baroque Cathedral of St. Ursus…” (Frommer’s), “this imposing Baroque building…” (Michelin Green Guide), and “Architect Gaetano Matteo Pisoni restrained himself with the classical Italianate façade of Solothurn’s monolithic 18th-century cathedral but went wild inside with a white-and-gilt trip of wedding-cake baroque” (The Lonely Planet). Of the guide books I used in planning my trip, only Eyewitness identifies it as Neo-Classical, althouth it also refers to Baroque influences. (If my copy of Fodor’s covers Solothurn, I can not now locate the section.)

    In any case, I regret any misinformation I provided and thank ingo for the correction. And whatever the style, I did like it's interior much more than I have liked the interiors of other churches that are in whatever that style is!

  • Report Abuse

    BTW, I wonder if ingo thought I meant the exterior of St. Ursenkathedrale? If so, let me be clear: I did NOT mean to suggest that anyone should visit this façade. I didn’t even find it memorable enough to capture it in any of the nearly 100 photographs I took during my short time in Solothurn (although I did take one close-up of an exterior detail that I found somewhat interesting just to mark, for myself, my entry into this church). My recollection, confirmed by what I have now looked up on google and google images, is that I thought this facade lacked elegance. Just my opinion. I'm not an expert, and haven't meant to suggest that I have any expertise in these matters.

  • Report Abuse

    And OMG, I forgot to note that what I provided in my last post were my comments on destinations I visited that were WITHIN 2 HOURs, by public transportation, of Lausanne, which is where my friends will be based for the conference they plan to attend.

    If they -- or any of you -- ask for further details, please be prepared to deal with the consequences (which could include more of my wordy remarks)!

  • Report Abuse

    No, I knew you meant the interior. It really is early classicistic - actually the first church in that style in Switzerland. I am surprised all your guide books have it wrong. Must be the language :-) My (German language) German and Swiss guidebooks all say it's classicistic style.

  • Report Abuse

    Well, that would explain a number of things, wouldn’t it?!? :-) It is disconcerting that so many of my guidebooks provided the same incorrect information, but I appreciate that you have taken the time to correct it, ingo. Thank you!

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