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Tips and Advise for visiting Switzerland by Road to Travel Inc.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

St. Gallen: the city of history, opera and embroidery

Nestled in a valley between Lake Constance and the Appenzell Alps, the buzzing university city of St. Gallen is a great destination for culture and history buffs. 

St. Gallen was founded in the early 7th century when the Irish missionary monk Gallus who set up a hermitage here. For many centuries the city played an important role as an educational and cultural centre in Europe. From the 18th century, St. Gallen also became famous for its elaborate embroidery with the industry still going strong and supplying embellished fabrics to some of the biggest fashion houses in Europe.

St. Gallen
The Old Town is a maze of charming narrow streets and beautiful squares. Here you can admire a typical feature of St. Gallen’s architecture, oriel windows that adorn the old houses built by rich resident some centuries ago. 

The city’s most famous landmark is the Baroque Cathedral of St. Gall, which is part of an old abbey complex declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1983. Step inside the church to admire the vibrant décor with elaborate stucco, intricate carvings and an impressive organ. The Abbey Library houses one of the world’s richest medieval libraries with almost 170,000 documents some of which are over 1000 years old. The library’s Baroque hall is an overwhelmingly beautiful example of whimsical rococo style, the most spectacular in Switzerland.

St. Gall Cathedral
Near the abbey, you will find the Mühleggbahn, a self-service funicular that will bring you up the hill for stunning vistas over St. Gallen and Lake Constance. In summer months, you can enjoy a swim in the splendid art-nouveau Dreilinden-Weiher open-air pool while admiring views over the city.

Every summer the city hosts St.Gallen Festival, an open-air classical music bonanza when the Abbey courtyard is transformed into an opera setting. Another great event that is worth a visit is St.Galler Genusstag (Indulgence Day) held in September. At this large food market you can indeed indulge and gorge on some of the best produce from the area such as cheese, cured meats, jams and many other delicacies.

Photos via Flickr by: Stephan Ohlsen, JJ Hall.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The best festivals to visit in Switzerland

Switzerland has it all: excellent hiking trails, world-class ski slopes, great spas, upmarket shopping. The list can go on. In case you need another excuse to visit the country, here are the best festivals in Switzerland that attract visitors from across the globe.

International Balloon Festival
International Balloon Festival, Château-d'Oex

Château-d'Oex is not only famous for its excellent ski slopes. Its unique microclimate makes it the perfect place for … the International Balloon Festival. Colourful hot air balloons fill the sky above the picturesque Swiss resort every years in January. Teams from over twenty countries compete with pilots demonstrating their skill and precision in navigating the balloons. Spectators can also take a flight above the beautiful Pays-d'Enhaut valley. 

World Snow Festival, Grindelwald

Every January, for six days, the charming village of Grindelwald turns into a winter wonderland with masterpieces created from snow. Teams of international artists chisel enormous blocks of snow into animals, mythical creatures, abstract forms. Anyone can vote for their favourite team in the Public Choice category. During the World Snow Festival Grindelwald fills with buzz and excitement. If it gets too chilly outside you can pop in to any bar or restaurant for a glass of hot wine or hearty fondue.
Montreux Jazz Festival
Montreux Jazz Festival

The biggest jazz festival in Europe has been running in July on the shores of Lake Geneva since 1967. Some of the biggest international names in music participate in the festival that attracts almost 200,000 spectators. Over the years, it has become a multicultural music with all genres played at venues across the city, from hip-hop to acid jazz, techno to indigenous African bands. 

Yodel Fest, Brig-Glis 

The largest folklore event in Switzerland, the Federal Yodel Fest (Eidgenössisches Jodelfest) is close to the Swiss heart. Every three years (the next festival takes place in June 2017) yodel groups from across the country gather in the pretty town of Brig-Glis to show off their yodeling skills dressed in colourful folk costumes. Yodeling, a special vocal technique with rapid pitch changes, has been part of the local culture in the Swiss Alps for many centuries and is widely popular in rural areas. If you want to see Switzerland beyond its glossy touristy side, this is a great event to learn about the country’s rural traditions.

Photos via Flickr by: Ricardo Hurtubia, Katia Herrera.

Exploring the Swiss Wine Route

Just 30 minutes from Geneva, high above the lake sprawl 800 hectares of the historic terraced Lavaux vineyards (Terrasses de Lavaux). In the area between Vevey and Lausanne you can taste excellent wines and sample hearty local dishes while hiking or riding a train between picturesque winegrowing towns on the Lavaux Vineyard Trail. 
Lavaux Vineyards
Lavaux has been known for its winemaking traditions since Roman times. However, the steep terraces with vineyards as we see them today were built by local monks in the 11-12th centuries. If you fancy a comfortable ride from one wine cellar to another, you can hop on the Train des Vignes, Lavaux Panoramic or Lavaux Express that run through the Lavaux vineyards. Hope off at one of the stops to taste wines, eat in charming family-run mini-restaurants called pintes and take short walks among the vines. Another leisurely way of exploring Lavaux is by a boat that stops in the towns of Rivaz and Cully on the shore.

If you are feeling up to it, you can hike along the Lavaux Vineyard Trail, wondering from one village to another. For a full day of hiking, take the Discovering the Terraces of Lavaux route (Grand Traversée de Lavaux) which runs from Ouchy to Chateau de Chillon Castle between Montreux and Villeneuve. In September, when grape harvesting starts, you will see many other fellow hikers along the trail and locals in the vineyards. 

St. Saphorin
There are many shorter scenic walks, such as from St. Saphorin to Chexbres or Cully to Riex. The views of the Lake Geneva, the Alps and the endless terraced vineyards are breathtakingly beautiful here. Each village has several wine cellars open for tastings, restaurants and bars. In the medieval St. Saphorin you can admire characteristic winegrowers' houses from the 16th-19th centuries and an excellent Michelin star restaurant Auberge de l'Onde serving local delicacies. The delightful village of Chexbres is often called the balcony of Lake Geneva for its magnificent views of the area. Cully has a picturesque old town centre with many historic buildings. 

The wine route is suitable for all levels of fitness but if you get tired of walking you can always hop on the train or boat to head back as all villages and towns are very well connected.

Photos via Flickr by: Laurent Bernier, Patrick Nouhailler.