Klosters, is an Alpine ski village, in the Prättigau Swiss tourist area, in southern Switzerland, below Liechtenstein. Its full anme was Klosters-Serneus, after the municipality in which it finds itself, but it's now, just Klosters. There's the Dorf (Village) and Kloster Platz (Place), and some small settlements. It's also famous for celebrities and especially, as the Royal family’s resort of choice. There's even a cable car, named after the Prince of Wales. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem any more exclusive or expensive than the rest of Switzerland, bearing in mind that Switzerland always burns a large hole in your wallet anyway. Apparently, it specialises in 'discreet luxury'. Also fortunately, the Royal family aren’t here.
I'm with friend Lenka instead. And we've travelled 93 miles in a bus from Zurich, the nearest international airport.
Ski areas include the Madrisa, also home to the Madrisa Land Adventure Park, and the whole of Davos (six miles to the north), which is connected to Klosters by the Gotschnabahn cable car. I’ve skied in Davos before, on a day trip from Italy (there wasn’t any snow in Livigno where I was). There’s the famous mountain railway, which is fun to ride - a different experience - and the slopes are wide, cruisy and attractive. Unfortunately, at the weekend they can be appealing to a lot of folk, so descent then can be a little stressful, unless you don’t mind how many Germans you take out, whilst emulating Franz Klammer.
Crowds are a good excuse to retreat to the mountain huts and indulge in Tiroler gröstl (a sort of bacon, potato and onion left over fry up with a fried egg on top) or one of the delicious melted cheese concoctions on offer.
In the village there are cuckoo clock shops, as well as the predictable designer gear – skiing or otherwise. The, there's the Nutli-Hüschi Folk Museum, in a cute 16th-century wooden house. It exhibits artifacts depicting life in the Alps and village over the last two hundred years. The chalets are pretty and the bars elegant and surprisingly quiet. Very different to raucous Austrian après ski. But there's usually someone for us to chat to.
Read more about Switzerland here.
Paul, who I met in Australia, was posted to Basel, so I went to visit him for a weekend. We hired a convertible Mercedes and drove round Switzerland with the top down, Moby blaring, and Paul shouting ‘Nice arse’, at assorted astonished young men, as we shot by.
German speaking Basel is Switzerland's third largest city (after Zurich and Geneva) and unexpectedly interesting. I thought it would be like Zurich - full of banks and gnomes, but it turns out to be Switzerland's cultural capital, with 40 odd museums and the country's oldest university. There's the Rhine, washing through the centre and crossed by turreted bridges. It has a medieval Old Town, centred around Marktplatz, You can't miss the sixteenth-century, red-sandstone Town Hall, with its amazing frescoes. The twelfth-century Gothic cathedral contains the tomb of Dutch scholar, Erasmus. And there are modern sculptures enlivening the office buildings.
Switzerland is beautiful, the mountain air chilly and invigorating, and the weather unpredictable. We loop south from Basel, past Berne. Switzerland doesn't officially have a capital, but Berne is usually considered to take that title. The Federal Assmebly meets there. Towards Interlaken. There are stunning views across teal blue Lake Thun. Schloss Spiez is beautifully located on its shores. It's a good place to stop for refreshment.
Now we are in traditional resort land, the mountainous Bernese Oberland region, of central Switzerland. Old timber houses, swathes of emerald green in the alpine meadows. This is where the tourists come to hike and ski. On the far side of Interlaken - The Brennersee. The town sits nicely between them - that's how it got its name.
Meandering south (and up) The Eiger, the Wetterhorn and the Jungfrau mountains all make distinctive cameo appearances. The velvety curving valleys are sprinkled with wooden steep roofed chalets and dappled cattle, just like the Milka adverts. The Murrenbachfall, at 417 metres, is the tallest waterfall in the country.
Back east and north to Lucerne. It's popular with tourists - it's charming and situated on another gorgeous lake - so is usually busy, but today, there is a festival on. The bars are uncomfortably rammed and the famous wooden bridges, over the River Reuss, are solid with people, bikes and balloons. The most famous bridge is The Chapel Bridge. It's named after the nearby St. Peter's Chapel and is covered, with interior paintings dating back to the 17th century. It is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe. The little boutiques, just as you would have expected, offer cuckoo clocks, chocolate and hats with feathers in them.
Time for a saunter in Zug. This is an especially delightful little town. It's really colourful, with yet another historic centre, windy streets and the gorgeous Landsgemeindeplatz, the main square on the lake, of the same name. This town dates back to the early 13th century and the Counts of Kyburg. There's an ornate tower gateway in the walls, an astronomical timepiece, a late gothic town hall and St. Oswald’s church, with a stripy patterned roof. Not to mention the carefully manicured beach, or the casino.
The views across the Alps and lake are of course, stunning. And the town's website boasts that it has the world’s most beautiful sunset.
And back to Basel. Very satisfying, and completed with Swiss efficiency.
Read more about Switzerland here.
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