So much has been written about Switzerland in the past, so many superlatives used to describe it, that one may well be pardoned for doubting whether the reality will not fall short of these glowing descriptions. Yet the fact that people of absolutely opposite points of view unite in praising Switzerland should cause one to hesitate before rejecting the truth of their statements and ask what is the charm of this country which exerts such an attraction on such diverse types. The answer would seem to be “its diversity.” There are the majestic Alps with their crowns of eternal snow and green valleys nestling between the mountains; there is the Swiss Riviera where the vegetation is semi-tropical and oranges and lemons bear fruit in the open; there is the glorious Lake of Lucerne, which no painter dare reproduce in its natural colouring lest he be scoffed at; there are the big industrial towns, such as Zürich, Geneva and Berne, where can be found examples of the finest modern architecture as well as buildings of great antiquity. But one can go on enumerating the charms of Switzerland for ever without exhausting their variety.
The great advantage Switzerland has over most other countries is that her appeal is equally great all the year round. In spring the alpine meadows are masses of flowers, and for those who adventure higher there is laid open a wonderland of alpine flora unique to Switzerland. In summer the weather is ideal, and in most of the resorts there is fine bathing and facilities for most modern sports and excursions, both on foot and on the exceedingly fine mountain railways. Autumn is the time of the grape harvest, and in some parts of Switzerland there are vintage festivals which are very interesting. Finally, in the winter, the whole aspect of the country is changed and the incredible colours of the summer scene are toned down by a mantle of snow which yet, in itself, contains all those colours, and the sun catching the minute crystals can draw forth a magnificent blaze of colour. Small mountain villages which in summer are deserted, even the local villagers going into the mountains with the cattle, become busy winter sports centres, full of a jostling crowd of merry holiday-makers.
This, then, is the reason for Switzerland’s popularity as a tourist centre: that it does not matter at which time of the year one goes: that one can choose high or low altitudes according to one’s preference: that one can stay in a fashionable, cosmopolitan resort which offers every luxury, or in quieter towns and villages more truly representative of the country. The choice of the venue of his holiday must depend on the individual taste of each holiday-maker, but sufficient information is given in this article to enable him to arrive at a decision.
The mass of the Jura mountains runs from the north to the west of Switzerland, roughly parallel with the range of the Alps, in which are the highest mountains in Europe. Between these two ranges lies a green plain in which are all the important towns of the country and which is fringed by the great lakes. On the south side of the Alps is the Canton Ticino which borders on the Lombard plain and is distinctly Italian in character.
The principal languages spoken in Switzerland are French in the cantons of Vaud, Neuchâtel, Geneva, Fribourg and Valais; Italian, which is spoken only in the Ticino; and German, which is spoken in all the other cantons and is the principal language of the country. Besides these three principal tongues there is the dialect of Ladin, spoken by the peasants in the Engadine and which is said to go back to Ligurian. In the Grisons, the local dialect is Romansch, which is derived from early Latin, whilst the dialect spoken in German Switzerland is derived from the original roots of German with an admixture of Latin, and is far removed from modern high German. The English traveller need not be deterred from visiting Switzerland, even if he knows no language other than his own, as in every hotel of any standing the staff speak English. For the traveller wishing to get off the beaten track, a knowledge of either French or German is desirable, according to the district visited.
The question of expense is a vital one when planning a holiday, and Switzerland has, unfortunately, gained the reputation of being an expensive country to visit. When, however, the tourist traffic, which is one of the principal industries of the country, fell off as a result of the high prices, it was realised that something must be done to recapture this very valuable “import.” The result is that it is now possible to visit Switzerland at a cost ranging from less than £1 per day (including rail fare), and some tourist companies are offering most attractive “individual tours,” which include season tickets on the lake steamers and mountain railways and, in fact, allow you to pay for the whole cost of your holiday, including such things as visits to lidos and kursaals, before leaving England. For the novice who does not know his way about, this method of travel is by far the most economical and most practical, whilst the experienced traveller can travel far afield by a judicious combination of the trips on the mountain railways and excursions from the various terminal points. Those fortunate people who have several weeks at their disposal can, by combining several of these tours, see a really amazing amount of the country. It is advisable to make one town in each district one’s headquarters, planning excursions from this and, wherever possible, the return trip should be by a different route than the outward journey. It is also best to plan the whole holiday systematically, proceeding by natural stages, but always allowing a certain amount of elasticity for breaking away from the schedule to explore inviting parts of the country that are encountered en route.
Before launching on to a description of the various districts, a brief outline of the history of Switzerland may interest prospective visitors.
Remains of prehistoric man have been found in the caves in the Jura mountains and several other parts of Switzerland, and it is believed that the earliest known inhabitants of the country were nomads during the paleolithic period about 6000 B.C. There are remains of lake dwellers of the neolithic period, particularly at Meilen on Lake Zürich, which are amongst the earliest relics of man in Europe. There are some interesting ruins near Grandson which seem to indicate that these early inhabitants of Switzerland belonged to a druidical religion. With the dawn of recorded history, the tract of land now forming the Swiss Republic, but then known as Helvetia, becomes the scene of a continual ebb and flow as the various tribes spread over the confines of their own countries. A race of Celts from the upper Danubian valley invaded the country, facing the Ligurians further south, and from these Celts (400 B.C.) are said to be descended the inhabitants of the French-speaking cantons. The history of the next few centuries is very vague, except that legend tells that St. Beatus, an Irish monk, introduced Christianity about the first century A.D., and there are many legends connected with his name. During the time of Julius Caesar Helvetia was an ally of the Roman Empire, and there are traces of the Roman occupation to be found in several places, as well as in the place-names. About the sixth century there was an influx of Burgundians into the south-westerly part of Helvetia, and it is from that period that French became the prevalent language in these centres. About the same time, the Franks and the Alemanni poured into the northern part, and many of them settled permanently. Although there is nowadays a considerable amount of inter-marriage, the Germanic type, tall, fair and of powerful build, is still very noticeable. At the same time the Ostrogoths invaded Rhaetia, under the great Theodoric, and settled there. From this time onwards Switzerland, although nominally a part of the Holy Roman Empire, becomes a battleground for various powers that wish to annex it and, as a result, much oppression was practised. This finally became so unbearable that the three cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden formed a league about 1250 to free themselves from the oppressor, and this association culminated in the episode (1307) which the name of William Tell has made famous. These three cantons formed the nucleus of the present Swiss Republic, which derives its name from the first one. From this time onwards, canton after canton joined the original league or made pacts with others for mutual defence against the oppressors until, in 1648, the Peace of Westphalia gave Switzerland her political independence. Just before this, the Reformation which was sweeping across Central Europe had also caused much strife in Switzerland, where Zwingli was its chief protagonist and had in great part contributed to the eventual independence of the country.
Very little of interest to the foreigner happened until 1815, when the Congress of Vienna determined the boundaries of Switzerland at their present-day limits and also fixed its perpetual neutrality, by virtue of which Switzerland enjoys a unique position in Europe. During the War it was the base for the International Red Cross, as well as being fertile ground for the intelligence services of the combatant nations. Switzerland was the only logical, in fact the, inevitable choice, for the seat of the League of Nations, and has been the scene of many important scenes in post-War history.
There are several routes to Switzerland, the main ones being via Dover-Calais, whence there are through services for the Grisons, Bernese Oberland and the Rhône Valley, or Dover-Ostend with through-connection to Bale. The latter route, while involving two hours more on the water, lasts only three or four hours longer while being considerably cheaper, and there are special trains run by a co-operative movement representing the Swiss hotels—the Swiss Hotel Plan—on which the journey takes practically the same time as by the short sea route. The railway system in Switzerland is very fine, but it is necessary to make numerous changes for practically all centres except those on the main line to Milan or the Grisons. For this reason it is actually more advantageous to travel to Bale and change there, as there is a very good train service all over the country from that city, and during the holiday season numerous special trains are put on for popular centres.
In Switzerland is found some of the finest railway engineering in the world, and the Gotthard tunnel and Jungfrau railway are achievements of which any nation could justly be proud. The Swiss railway system is all-electric, and it is of interest that the wide use of electricity throughout the country, which obviates smoke and fumes from coal fires, is one of the causes of the singularly pure air. The railway carriages are built with particularly large windows so that the panorama can be enjoyed to the full.
If you approach Switzerland via Ostend, the last big station before Bale is Mulhouse, which, until 1815, was Swiss, but now belongs to France.
It has been our endeavour to arrange the information in this article in order to form a round tour covering the whole of Switzerland, but the point of approach and subsequent route can, of course, be varied to suit individual tastes. It is impossible to touch upon more than the principal centres, and to mention more than a few of the attractions of each, but the visitor should, after deciding on which part he will visit, take one of these districts and explore them at his leisure as some of the loveliest parts are those that do not gain several or even one star in guide-books.
On Bale station there is a very fine buffet, and the traveller need have no hesitation in eating there. If there is a wait of any time before the next train Bale—also known as Basle or Basel—is well worth exploring. It is very old, dating back to Roman times, and was a very important town during the Middle Ages, when it played a leading part in Swiss history. Bale itself is situated on the Rhine, which soon afterwards leaves Switzerland, and the eleventh-century minster which is situated on a bluff overlooking the river offers a magnificent view from its terrace across the Rhine to the Black Forest. Near the minster is the university, which was founded in 1460, and amongst its professors have been Erasmus and Nietzsche. Another building which attracts much interest is the Gothic town hall in the market-place. This is all the visitor can see if he has only an hour or so to spare, but it is well worth while spending a few days in the city, roving through the old streets where many quaint houses can be found. Although once a walled city, there are now only three of the gates left. Bale can also serve as the starting-point for many excursions, including one by motor-boat to Augst, the Augusta Rauracorum of the Romans, where there are interesting remains.
From Bale the railway runs through Rheinfelden, where some of the town walls and towers are still standing. For some time the line runs practically parallel with the Rhine, but branches off at the junction of the Aar, proceeding to Baden. This is a well-known spa and was popular as far back as the fifteenth century. An old history book tells us: “… the baths were most crowded at an early hour in the morning, and those who did not bathe resorted thither to see acquaintances with whom they could hold conversation from the galleries round the bathrooms, while the bathers played at various games or ate from floating tables. Flowers were strewn on the surface of the water, and the vaulted roof rang with music, vocal and instrumental.” All of which sounds most modern. There are a number of interesting excursions to various castles and villages near Baden. Our way now leads us to Zürich, the commercial capital of the country. This is one of the oldest towns, not only in Switzerland but in Europe, and the earliest settlement on the spot dates back to prehistoric times. The monastery was founded in the seventh century and was at one time very powerful. The river Limmat flows through Zürich and behind the quays on the right bank are some picturesque old streets and also the cathedral where Ulrich Zwingli, the great reformer, preached. In the Kirchgasse, near the cathedral, can be seen the house where Zwingli lived. Zürich became the refuge of many English people who fled from the persecution of Mary Tudor and settled there permanently. Another church worth visiting is the Fraumünster on the opposite side of the river.
Zürich has played a very important part in the history of the Confederation, which it joined in 1351, and has always been one of the most powerful cantons. Many historic meetings have taken place at the old town hall. There are also many fine modern buildings, including, the Stock Exchange and the Tonhalle (concert hall). Even though the traveller may wish to avoid museums, we recommend a visit to the Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum), which is unique and contains much of interest. Zürich also has numerous fine shops.
It is a convenient centre from which to explore the surrounding country. The nearest point of interest is the Uetliberg, just outside Zürich, which can be ascended by mountain railway from Selnau, but energetic people can walk up from Giesshübel. The view from the top, embracing the Black Forest, the Jura, the mountains of Appenzell and the high peaks of the Bernese Oberland, is well worth the effort. Other excursions can be made to Wädenswil and further along the shores of the lake to Lachen, which is at the entrance to the charming Wäggi valley.
Einsiedeln can be reached either from Pfäffikon or Wädenswil, and is a place of pilgrimage for thousands who go to pray to the “Black Virgin,” who was brought to Einsiedeln by the hermit Meinrade and set up in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary about 948. This has since been rebuilt and is a very striking edifice. Einsiedeln is also a suitable centre for mountaineering and for winter sports. From Pfäffikon we cross the lake to Rapperswil, where there is a fourteenth-century castle and some even older buildings. At Meilen, further along the lakeside, were found remnants of prehistoric lake dwellings. We now continue to Zürich, where we get on the train for Schaffhausen, which is frequently referred to as “the Nuremberg of Switzerland.”
This is a fine example of a medieval town with houses with turrets and gabled roofs, clustering close together, all dominated by the grim castle on the hill. The view from the river is exceedingly picturesque. Some of the houses still have paintings on the outside, and much of Schaffhausen is still quite unspoiled. A visit should certainly be paid to the cathedral, which was built about 1100. The bell in the cloisters, which was cast in 1486 and bears the inscription “Vivos voco, mortuos plango, fulgura frango” (The living I call, the dead I bewail, the thunderbolts I break), inspired Schiller to write his Lay of the Bell, which Longfellow rendered into English. From Schaffhausen a ride on the tram brings us to Neuhausen on the northern bank of the Rhine just above the famous Rhine Falls. One of the finest views of the falls can be obtained from the grounds of the Castle of Laufen, and the white, foaming cascade of water which is 340 feet wide and 100 feet high is an overwhelming sight. Galleries and footpaths have been provided to enable the falls to be watched from close at hand, and the refraction of the sunlight through the waterspray is unbelievably beautiful. Returning to Schaffhausen, we journey by lake steamer along the Rhine to the Lake of Konstanz. We cross the lower lake, which narrows to the width of a river before we reach the lake proper, which is about 10 miles wide, The northern shore is German and the southern Swiss, with the exception of Konstanz which is German. However, this town has played an important part in Swiss history and, apart from this, is worth a visit for the sake of its old buildings and quaint streets. From 1414 to 1418 it was the venue of the Council of Constance, which was convened in order to reform the Church, as at that time there were three anti-Popes and the whole edifice of the Church was tottering. One of the acts that has brought opprobrium on the Council is the condemnation of John Huss to the stake, in spite of the fact that he had been granted a safe conduct.
From Konstanz we can proceed by train to Landquart, but for those who have time there are many interesting places to visit on the way. From Romanshorn a branch line leads to St. Gall, at which one of the oldest Swiss monasteries was founded about the seventh century. The abbots of St. Gall have been very warlike, and the abbey was at one time very wealthy and a great power in the land. The arrogance and craving for power of the Abbot Leodegar precipitated a civil war in the seventeenth century in which about 150,000 Swiss fought against each other. The Peace of Aarau was finally concluded but not accepted by the abbot, who went into permanent exile. There are some fine specimens of old books and illuminated manuscripts to be seen in the library by those who are interested in such things. From the chalets around St. Gall comes some of the finest Swiss embroidery.
From St. Gall the railway goes to Herisau in Canton Appenzell. Here the chalets present a most picturesque appearance and the outsides are painted. The population of Appenzell is most pastoral, and the men and boys in the villages go up into the mountains with the herds in the spring, staying there the whole summer in the Sennhütten, whilst the women stay behind and do the field work. At dusk the Alphorn may be heard ringing from the mountains when the oldest herdsman sends out the call to prayer. The Appenzellers have fought sturdily for their independence and can tell many stories of victories against overwhelming odds. They were amongst the first to shake off the Austrian dominion. In Appenzell, too, can be found one of the most picturesque of Swiss costumes, consisting of full skirt and a tight, dark bodice, which is open at the front to reveal a high-necked underbodice lavishly trimmed with lace. A long lace apron, cuffs and wide collar, also of lace, complete the costume. On her head the Appenzellerin wears two black lace fans, which are sometimes decorated with flowers. From Appenzell an electric railway runs to Weissbad, which is an ideal starting-point for many excursions. From here one can proceed to the Meglisalp and thence to the summit of the Säntis, from which the whole of Lake Constance can be seen. Another excursion is to the Wildkirchli, an ancient hermitage near which prehistoric remains have been found and from which a subterranean passage leads to the Ebenalp. From Appenzell we can rejoin the main line at Altstätten, which then follows the Rhine valley as far as Coire (Chur) with the little Principality of Lichtenstein on the east. We pass Bad Ragaz, a well-known spa in the valley of the Tamina, which leads to the gorge of Pfäfers where there is a gorge filled with steam from a hot spring gushing out of the rock. This spring was discovered in the eleventh century and has been used for curative purposes since 1365. In the early days, patients were lowered into the gorge on ropes!
From Landquart we take the Rhaetian Railway and start our exploration of the Grisons; this territory was in ancient times known as Rhaetia. This part of Switzerland has a character entirely of its own and consists of about one hundred and fifty valleys all running off at different angles, and the scenery of the Grisons is of an amazing variety and beauty. Here are to be found lofty mountains capped with snow which tower over valleys both wild and pastoral in their character. Here, too, can be found abundant coniferous forests which cover the flanks of the mountains and at the edge of which nestle the villages. Every valley of the Grisons is different to the others, and rare indeed is the visitor who does not succumb to their spell.
The name of Rhaetia is said by Livy to be derived from one Rhaetus, the chief of the refugees from Tuscany. During the fifteenth century there were three leagues in Rhaetia, which had been formed by the natives in order to free themselves from the foreign overlords; the Zehngerichtenbund or League of the Ten Jurisdictions; the Lia de Ca Dé or League of the House of God; and the Lia Grischia or Grey League, which has given the canton its present name (Graubünden). The Grisons have been the scene of many battles with the Austrians, the Milanese and Spanish. The Leagues were victorious and gained the independence of their canton and also gained some territory from the Duchy of Milan. The Grisons are best known to winter sports enthusiasts, and contain some of the finest ski-ing country in Switzerland, notably the famous Parsenn fields. However, the Grisons are also very beautiful in summer, and are very suitable for walking tours and mountaineering.
Our first stop is Klosters, which lies at the head of the Prätigau Thal, and from which a full view of the Silvretta group is obtained. The slopes around Klosters are thickly wooded. Many delightful walks can be made from Klosters to various valleys up to the foot of the great peaks. During the winter Klosters is a popular resort, and has very fine snow conditions as it is sheltered both from the northeasterly winds and also from the Föhn, a warm wind which brings thaws. Klosters is the terminal point for the three-mile-long Laret-Klosters bobsleigh and toboggan run, and is also the starting-point for many ski-ing trips, including one to the Parsenn-Furka, whence the ascent is made to the summit of the range dividing the Prätigau and Schenfigg valleys.
This would seem to be an apt place in which to say something about winter sports in general. Amongst those who have never been, there is an erroneous impression that the weather is very cold and that shoals of warm clothing are needed. Quite the contrary is the fact. During the day the rays of the sun are very strong, and a few weeks suffice to give the skin a strong, healthy tan. Many ski-ers soon shed their outer wrappings and carry on in short-sleeved shirts or jumpers. The essential equipment is a ski-ing outfit (skis and ski boots can be hired very cheaply), a wind jacket, strong shoes or boots and thick socks. In the evenings, as soon as the sun goes down, there is a decided drop in the temperature, and it is then that it is necessary to wrap up, particularly when leaving the hotels, which are all very well heated. The novice need not be deterred from trying our winter sports. At all resorts of any size there are qualified ski-ing instructors, and a week is usually sufficient to enable one to keep one’s feet and manage the skis fairly efficiently. Skating, too, can be learned very quickly. In most centres the big hotels admit guests at the smaller hotels free of charge to their dances, or else a small charge is made. A winter sports holiday can be had to suit all purses, from a very modest, but equally enjoyable, one in a small mountain village where there is no organised social life and one has to make one’s own amusement to the de luxe, cosmopolitan life of the fashionable resorts of the Engadine and the Bernese Oberland. When choosing a resort for one’s holiday, more particularly in the winter, it is advisable to ascertain whether the visitors to the hotel chosen are mainly English, as on this depends a great deal of the enjoyment of the holiday, as it is in the hotels that the parties are made up. Unless one can converse very fluently in French or German, the visitor who finds himself in a hotel mostly frequented by such nationals is apt to have a dull time.
From Klosters the Rhaetian Railway carries us on to Davos. This resort consists of the two villages of Davos-Dorf and Davos-Platz, which are about half-an-hour’s walk from each other. Davos first became known as a spa for consumptives, and many of the invalids who were cured remained to enjoy the sports and recommended Davos to their friends. It was here that Robert Louis Stevenson stayed for some time and wrote a number of his “Essays of Travel.”
In Davis-Dorf is a magnificent ice rink with an area of 7[sym]1/3 acres, and here, too, is the station of the Parsenn Cable Railway which goes up to the Weissfluhjoch and gives access to some of the finest ski-ing territory in Switzerland. From the Platz we can take the Schatzalpbahn up to the Schatzalp, whence the ski-er can approach the Parsenn via the Strela. In Davos-Platz is the old town hall which was the Council House of the League of the Ten Jurisdictions. Some people consider Davos rather depressing and choose some of the smaller resorts in the vicinity, but it should be mentioned that most of the consumptives stay in sanatoria, and that an hotel catering for normal winter sports visitors will not take invalids. From Davos the line runs along the Landwasser valley and then enters the gorge of the Züge. Soon afterwards it crosses the Landwasser river on an imposing viaduct and, in fact, the whole of the railway system in the Grisons represents a remarkable feat of engineering.
At Filisur we branch off on to the Albula Railway and enter the Albula valley. Here lies Bergün, a quaint village with unique houses combining the characteristics of the German and Italian styles of architecture, and designs are painted round many of the windows. Bergün is becoming popular as a winter sports centre; the scenery here is dominated by the Piz d’Aela, and offers some fine climbing during the summer. From Bergün a railway climbs up to Preda, where it enters the 3½-mile Albula tunnel. On emerging at the other end, at Bevers, we are in the Engadine, which is the celebrated valley in which some of the most exquisite scenery is to be found. During the spring and summer, the meadows are a mass of flowers, and no description can do justice to the effect of the flower-studded meadows running up to the slopes of the blue-green wooded hills, with white villages or isolated chalets dotted about and behind it all, the varied shapes of the mountain giants, with snowy peaks and the glaciers sparkling in the sun and darker patches where the snows have melted. A truthful description would sound forced and over-coloured, but those who have seen the Engadine in its springtime glory may well agree that thus would appear the flower-spangled fields of Elysium, and that the noble dead might well be content to roam here for ever. Here are found not only the edelweiss and the gentian, but also the alpine rose and forget-me-not, the Rhaetic poppy and many other varieties not found elsewhere.
During the winter the aspect of the country is entirely different, and the nearest description one can give of the mountains, now wrapped entirely in snow, of the bare trees weighted down by snow and hoarfrost, of the chalets and houses blanketed in white, is that it all resembles a masterpiece of the confectioner’s art in sugar. The prevailing colour is white, but there is variety in the blue shadows and the lights flashing from the icicles. In the Engadine was made the “White Hell of Pitz Palü,” and those who have seen this film will have some idea of the magnificence of the scene. From Bevers we can proceed to Zuoz and along the lower valley of the Engadine to Zernez. Here is the entrance to the Swiss National Park, an animal sanctuary and flower reservation; here we can stroll at our will and may see the elusive chamois and also find many flowers that have become extinct in other parts of Switzerland owing to the over-eagerness of collectors. The next station on the line is Süs, the terminal point of the Postauto route to Davos-Dorf via the Flüela Pass, but this road is only open in summer, when it offers a pleasant alternative to the motorist.
All over Switzerland there are good motor roads, and the country is ideally suited for a motoring holiday. However, it is always advisable to enquire beforehand whether the road selected is open at the time, as on the higher roads, particularly over the passes, there is the possibility of their being impassible owing to snow, avalanches, or other such contingencies. A good motoring map showing the various motoring roads and stating whether they are first class or mere tracks can be obtained, and a special concession is made to the foreign motorist, to whom a refund is made when he leaves the country on the petrol purchased in Switzerland.
Beyond Süs the line goes on to Tarasp-Schuls-Vulpera, a group of villages where there are some valuable mineral springs. These villages are very old and unspoiled, and Schuls-Tarasp is becoming known as a winter sports centre.
Proceeding from Bevers in the opposite direction we come to St. Moritz via Samaden and Celerina. Here we arrive at the real “playground” of Switzerland. Lying at the head of the St. Moritzer See, the village is in a glorious position and has many attractions for the sports enthusiast, including the famous Cresta run. St. Moritz itself, however, is frequented mostly by the wealthy cosmopolitans who are more interested in the social round than sports, and to whom it is more important to be seen at winter sports than to participate in them. Here you can indulge in a hectic round of pleasures, here you can buy the latest Parisian creations or the newest perfume at fantastic prices; you can sample the most newly invented cocktail and listen to the hottest jazz; here you can be photographed in your most attractive outfit, and you can, if you wish it, actually skate, and even ski; but you will be in the minority and will be paying far more for your sports than if you stay at the surrounding villages which give access to the same marvellous ski-ing country.
From St. Moritz there is a string of beautiful lakes, along which are situated the resorts of Campfer, Silvaplana, Maloja and Sils Maria. Both the two last-named are very fine centres for an enjoyable, not too exhausting holiday. From Maloja, which is the highest point in the valley, there is a motor service along the Val Bregaglia to Chiavenna (Italy). This is a most interesting journey, as the character of the country becomes more and more Italianate, and there are pronounced differences between the vegetation of the upper and lower portions of the valley. From Silvaplana there is a Postauto service to Coire via the Julier Pass, which is open all the year round if snow conditions permit. Lenzerheide, which is popular both in summer and winter, lies on this road. Off the road, in the heart of the mountains, lies Juf, the highest inhabited village in Switzerland, at an altitude of 6,900 feet.
Proceeding south from St. Moritz we come to Pontresina, and here the Engadine is at its loveliest. From here there are innumerable excursions, one of the chief being up the Roseg Valley to view the Roseg and Morteratsch glaciers on the flanks of Piz Bernina. Fine views can be obtained from many of the peaks, the dominant feature of the landscape being the massif of the Bernina. There is not a single walk that will not bring its reward in the shape of fresh beauty revealed. Pontresina is becoming very popular for winter sports as it offers facilities for ski excursions of all grades of difficulty. In summer embryo mountaineers can join the “Tourenwoche” at Pontresina, where they will receive instruction by qualified Swiss guides and be taken on easy or difficult climbs according to their proficiency. Let me here advise all mountaineers, even if experienced, not to attempt any but the simplest climbs without a guide. To do this is not an admission of inefficiency, but merely common sense, as the guide, who is a native of the district, knows it thoroughly, and has been trained in mountain craft from earliest childhood. Before he is given his guide’s badge with its distinctive white cross he has to pass searching practical and theoretical examinations, and with him you are safe. He knows the local weather conditions, the difficulty of the various ascents and what to do in emergencies. Those who have never climbed before need not hesitate thinking of the difficulties. The tuition given in the various mountaineering schools is very efficient, and even a simple climb—besides the joy of achievement—brings one superb views of country unspoiled by the works of man, across wide sweeps of mountain and plain, and the mighty peaks have quite a different aspect to their appearance from the valleys.
From Pontresina the Bernina Railway ascends to the Bernina Pass, 7,645 feet, then dropping to Alp Grüm, whence can be seen the Palü glacier and the Poschiavo valley with its lake.
We now have to retrace our steps to St. Moritz, where we travel by the Swiss Federal Railway to Coire, but before reaching this town we descend at Thusis, which lies at the entrance of the Via Mala—the evil Way—the most celebrated gorge of Switzerland. The entrance to the gorge is guarded by the two ruined castles of Ehrenfels and Hohen Rhätien, and after passing through the tunnel called the “Verlorenes Loch” we emerge into the canyon. A motor service runs at the top of the cliffs, which are vertical and 1,600 feet high, and crosses the abyss twice on bridges from which a fine view can be obtained. Beyond the second bridge is a staircase hewn out of the rock, by which the intrepid traveller may descend to the bottom of the abyss. Here the Rhine thunders along in a stormy fury and the sound re-echoes from the walls and fills the gorge with a terrific clamour. The whole sight is awe-inspiring and somewhat terrible. Proceeding onwards, we reach Splügen, whence we can see the Zapport glacier, which is the actual source of the Rhine.
From Splügen one road leads over the Splügen Pass to Chiavenna, in Italy, through some very wild scenery, in which there are few chalets as there are frequent avalanches. The other road leads over the Bernadino Pass to San Bernadino, which is becoming known as a winter sports centre. From here we could proceed by an electric railway to Bellinzona and the Swiss Riviera, but as we have not yet finished exploring the Grisons, we must return to Thusis and rejoin the main line train as far as Reichenau. From here the Postauto takes one to the villages of Flims-Fidaz and Flims-Waldhaus, which lie on the edge of the valley among pine and larch woods, in the depth of which is the beautiful, dreamlike tree-encircled Lake of Cauma. These hills have been formed by a landslip in prehistoric times, and rambling along their wooded slopes many clear pools, which make delightful bathing places, will be discovered. From Reichenau the Disentis line runs through the Grisons Oberland, in which lies Ilanz, one time the capital of the Lia Grischia, and which still has some quaint old houses.
From Disentis the Furka railway proceeds to Sedrun and Andermatt, but this journey is not particularly interesting, so we will go on to Coire from Reichenau. This was the Curia Rhaetorium of the Romans, and much of interest will be discovered on a ramble through the streets. Parts of the cathedral date back to the eighth century. From Coire there is a railway to Arosa, where there are several sanatoria, and which is also a favourite winter sports centre.
From Coire we continue and retrace our steps to Sargans, where we branch off to Wallenstadt on the Wallensee, a narrow strip of water with the mountains running right down to its shores. The line continues along the Seeztal, alongside the lake to Weesen, which is a suitable spot to select as one’s headquarters for exploring the district. There is a branch line up the Linthal to Glarus, the capital of the canton.
From Weesen the main line continues to Wädenswil, the junction for Einsiedeln which we will take, continuing beyond Einsiedeln to Arth-Goldau, where we change over to the St. Gotthard Railway for Brunnen on the Lake of Lucerne. This is a popular lakeside resort and situated at what some people regard as the finest end of the Lake of Lucerne, or the “Lake of the Four Cantons.” But this is a controversial point and every fresh view of the lake so lovely, every bay has its own attractions, that each has its own champions. The lake is surrounded by mountains of singular beauty, chief amongst which are Rigi, Pilatus, the Bristenstock and the Stanserhorn. Delightful villages nestle in every bay, and any of these are suitable as headquarters during a stay in the district, as there is a very fine lake steamer service connecting them all. On some tours a free season ticket is given for an unlimited number of journeys on the lake steamers and the mountain railways, and the holiday maker who has one of these will not be able to exhaust their possibilities in a week’s or even two weeks’ holiday. Added to this they give free admission to the bathing beaches of which there are many all round the lake.
Returning to Brunnen, we are in the heart of the Tell country. Facing Brunnen, on the other side of the lake near Seelisberg, is the Rütli meadow where, in 1307, Werner Stauffacher of Schwyz, Walter Fürst of Uri and Arnold vom Melchtal of Unterwalden, each with ten companions, took the oath to help each other in their stand for freedom, which was eventually to culminate in the establishment of the Swiss Confederation. The town of Schwyz has given the Republic its name, and it can be reached by railway from Brunnen. Here can be seen the “Bundesbrief,” the Treaty of Federation, which is to Switzerland what Magna Charta is to England. At Brunnen begins the famous Axenstrasse, which is hewn out of the rock itself and has many apertures which allow of many magnificent views over the lake. Along the shores of the lake rises the sheer precipice of the Axenstein, at the foot of which is the Tell’s Platte, on to which Tell leaped from the boat in which he was being taken to Küssnacht.
Farther along we come to Flüelen and then to Altdorf, which is said to be the scene of Tell’s famous exploit with the apple. More than any other part of the country, the Lake of Lucerne district is ideal for holidays all the year round. In the spring the crocus and narcissi come out in their thousands, following the retreating snows on the mountains. In May and June the meadows are dotted with coloured flowers, and throughout the summer there is an ever-changing variety.
Practically all the surrounding mountains can be ascended by mountain railways; Rigi from Vitznau, and from the summit there is a fine view of the Jungfrau; the Stanserhorn from Stansstad and Pilatus from Alpnachstad. During the summer the climate is not too hot and the bathing beaches are delightful places in which to lounge about for hours. The church spires are everywhere a characteristic feature of the landscape, as are the weather-browned chalets which nestle on the hill-sides.
Lucerne itself consists of the new town, on the River Reuss, with its modern white hotels, and the old town on the hill, which is very picturesque. There are several very old bridges, notably the Spreuerbrücke on which is a chapel with frescoes of the “Dance of Death,” and the Kapellbrücke which connects the old water-tower, of which hundreds of people must have seen photographs, to the mainland. Rigi is now becoming a popular winter sports centre, and a new 10-km. long ski run has been constructed from Rigi down to Arth-Goldau.
An electric railway runs from Stansstad to Engelberg through pleasant valleys, farms and orchards. Forming a background on either side are pine woods, and ahead looms the domed summit of the Titlis. At Wolfenschiessen there are some delightful old chalets, and 6 miles farther on we reach Engelberg, which is a favourite winter sports centre for English visitors. One of the chief sports here is curling, the national game of Scotland, which was first introduced into Switzerland in 1882 by a Scot.
Engelberg itself lies in a village surrounded by meadows and has magnificent views of the surrounding mountains, chief of which is the Titlis with its mantle of eternal snow. Nearby is the great waterfall of the Tätschbach and the Trübsee Lake, which can be reached by mountain railway. In the winter this is the point of departure for ski runs and snow conditions are generally very good. During the summer it is the starting-point for important ascents, including the Urirotstock, Titlis and Spannort. Of interest, too, is the Benedictine Abbey, founded in 1120 by Konrad von Seldenbüren. Legend tells that walking over the meadows he heard angels singing accompanied by St. Cecilia on her lute, hence the name Engelberg, “Mount of the Angels,” and in his devotion he built the monastery on the spot where he was when he heard the heavenly choir.
I have not mentioned one half of the delights of the Lake of Lucerne district, but trust that I have said enough to induce the traveller to spend some time discovering it for himself.
From Stansstad we board the steamer for Fluelen in order to take our seats on the Gotthard Railway. This is one of the major feats of railway engineering in the world. Boring was commenced in 1872 and the work completed by 1880, the line being opened for traffic in 1882. By 1924 the electrification of the line was completed, the power used being delivered from the River Reuss, the Lake of Ritom and the Fossbach Falls. The whole of the Gotthard line runs among magnificent scenery, and it is a continual pleasure to look out of the windows of the train. All the great peaks can be seen, and at one point a high bridge crosses the Kerstelen Gorge where a foaming stream plunges down towards the valley. After passing through tunnels cut in the Bristenstock in order to protect the line from avalanches, the train winds its way upwards in spirals, recrossing the Meienreuss three times and altogether twists so much that the traveller becomes dizzy and is bewildered by finding the same landmarks on different sides, all the time altering their relative altitudes considerably. The Gotthard Tunnel is entered at Göschenen and continues over a stretch of 9½ miles to Airolo. The old Gotthard road used before the tunnel was cut is still in existence, and many people prefer to travel over it in motor-coaches in order not to miss any of the scenery.
It is said that Charlemagne was the first to make the road safe for pack mules, but it is almost certain that it was used by travellers even before his time. If we travel by road we also see the hospice which has in the past provided shelter for many belated travellers. Once the train emerges from the tunnel we are on the southern slopes of the Alps in a country of entirely different character. From here the Alps lead down in a steady slope which culminates in the Lombard plain and, belonging as it does by geographical configuration to Italy, the vegetation and architecture becomes steadily more and more Italian. Although here, at the mouth of the St. Gotthard, we still see mainly conifers, it will not be long before these give way to chestnuts, which in their turn are replaced by figs, vines, mimosa, camellia, and other sweet-flowering shrubs. No longer do we see the weather-beaten chalets to which we have become so accustomed, but instead the villages are all white with a few houses built of coloured stones, and among every cluster of dwellings we see the campanile or bell-tower of the churches.
The train proceeds along the lovely Val Levantina. Waterfalls plunge downwards rapidly into the river Ticino, which has given the canton its name. Many pleasant days can be spent in this valley; the thing that will strike the stranger as odd is that he will only see women working in the fields, as the men of this district are practically all employed in the hotel industry, which occupies them away from their homes all the year round except in the winter season. There are no fields in the English sense of the word, but cultivation is carried out on small banked-up plots of earth as the ground itself is too sloping for sufficient depth of earth to be maintained on it.
Heavy loads are carried by the women in the Gerla, a deep conical basket; this is fastened on to their backs with straps, and it has a very large capacity. Piora, Ambri-Piotta and Rodi Fiesso in the upper part of the valley offer good facilities for ski-ing and skating for those who require a quiet time, and it is always possible to vary a holiday in these villages by taking a trip down to Bellinzona or even the lakes.
Another station in the Val Levantina is Giornico, and it was here that in 1478 600 Swiss led by Frischhans Theilig donned their skates and defeated 15,000 Milanese. As a result of this overwhelming victory the Duchy of Milan ceded for ever to Uri the Val Levantina and the Val Brugiasco, provided that a wax taper weighing 3 lb. was given to the cathedral of Milan each year. The country people speak Italian, and many of their customs date back to the time when the canton was actually part of Italy, but their allegiance is all to the Confederation, and they are as good Swiss as their brethren beyond the Alps.
At Biasca the Val Melsolcina joins the main valley and is very similar in scenery to those at Mesocco. There is a very fine ruined castle perched on a crag, and this makes a most imposing picture. Below Biasca the valley widens and at last we come to Bellinzona, the capital of the canton. The town is built round three small hills, each of which is crowned by the ruins of a medieval castle; in these used to live the Governors of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, who used to rule the district.
The upper portions of the Lombard Lakes Maggiore and Lugano—although usually called the Italian lakes—lie in Swiss territory and were ceded to Switzerland in 1512 by the Duke of Milan, together with Valle Maggia and Mendrisio, and the whole of this territory was ruled by the Cantonal Governors. The character of Bellinzona is purely Italian. Here will be found old houses with shady arcades and balconies. Everywhere the slender campanili of the churches soar into the sky offering a marvellous contrast between its deep blue and their dazzling whiteness; fascinating old palaces can be found and many a dim alley entices the wanderer away from the main roads.
Throughout the Canton Ticino will be found typical Italian houses with arched porticoes and roofed balconies in which refuge can be taken from the mid-day heat; many are built round courtyards, and it is not an unusual sight to see cobs of corn strung along the arches, as these are taken to show the prosperity of the family. This, too, is the country in which grape is cultivated everywhere, and a great deal of the labours of the country people is concerned with vine culture.
From Bellinzona we will go first of all to Lugano, the situation of which may be compared with Naples, lying as it does in the curve of a bay on a lake, the blue waters of which would challenge comparison anywhere. White hotels stand along the lake side and at one end of the bay rises the symmetrical dome of Monte San Salvatore, whilst at the other is the pyramid of Monte Brè. Both these mountains can be ascended by funicular railway and offer fine views.
In Lugano violets and primroses will be found in bloom in January, and later in the year such flowers as the camellia, mimosa, and oleander bloom profusely, whilst the orange blossom fills the air with its indescribable fragrance. The older part of Lugano is very interesting and here will be found many arcaded streets in which the traders set out their wares. Market day is every Tuesday, when the peasants come to town wearing their native costume and display their colourful goods on benches in the Piazza del Independencia. The market closes at noon, after which the women hawk their goods from house to house. The chief products of the Tessin are pottery, woven materials and woodwork, which reach a high and artistic level. On the hill stands the cathedral of San Lorenzo, whilst in the town itself is the church of Santa Maria degli Angioli, in which there is a very fine fresco of the Crucifixion by Luini. The visitor need not stay in Lugano itself but can select an hotel in the suburbs, the most beautiful of which are Castagnola and Paradiso.
From Lugano many excursions may be made by lake steamer, and here again the season ticket facilities on the steamers and mountain railways offered by the Swiss Hotel Plan make a thorough exploration of the district possible, as otherwise fares would absorb a very considerable amount of money. There are many fascinating walks, notably to Gandria, a quaint village on the lake side; it is built on the side of a very steep hill so that the houses appear to be perpendicularly over each other. Most of the streets in Gandria are steps hewn out of the rock! Facing Lugano on the other side of the lake is Monte Generoso, the last high peak of the alpine range. A fine rack railway takes us to the summit, where there are several large hotels which are patronised mainly by the big industrialists of Upper Italy. The view is a magnificent one. To the south lies the Plain of Lombardy, and on a clear day the spires of the Milan Cathedral may be seen. At the base is Lake Lugano, whilst Maggiore and Como lie on either side. To the north lies the central chain of the Alps, with the Monte Rosa and Mont Blanc prominent in the west, stretching across the panorama to the mountains of the Grisons, and their eternal snows make a piquant contrast to the semi-tropical vegetation of the lake valleys.
Another excursion is by tram to Cadro-Dino, whence Lugano can be seen nestling on the borders of the lake; from Dino the tram continues to Tesserete, from which many pleasant walks can be taken. One leads by a small mountain path to an old Capucine monastery in the heart of the wood, the monks of which brew a special liqueur from cocoa beans which is called ratafia; if you are lucky the monks will give you a drink of this ambrosial liquid whilst you are resting. There are restaurants all along the lake in which musicians play Swiss music. At the end of September the vintage festival is held in Lugano and the streets are then most picturesque, as kiosks are erected everywhere in which enormous quantities of grapes are for sale; there is singing and dancing in the streets, and at night there are festival plays for which singers from Milan are engaged.
From Lugano we return to Bellinzona and then proceed to Locarno on the shore of the upper part of Lago Maggiore. Locarno is more sheltered from the winds than Lugano, and palms, cork trees and eucalypti are to be seen everywhere; the gardens of the town are a veritable mass of sweet-smelling, luxurious blooms. Everywhere around Locarno lie hills that ascend to the mountains, and the trees change from olives and figs to fir and pine, which in their turn disappear as the glaciers are reached. This will give some idea of the variety of scenery and temperature to be found in the neighbourhood of Locarno. The town, of course, has become famous because it is there that the Security Pact Conference was held and a treaty signed which so recently has been occupying all our thoughts. The old and new intermingle, and it will be found altogether delightful.
There is a fine bathing lido bordered by fields and woods, as is the Lido Agnuzzo, the bathing beach at Ascona, a nearby village. The favourite excursion is to the old monastery of the Madonna del Sasso, which is perched on a cliff high above the town. There is much of interest here, but for a closer description I would refer the reader to a book on Locarno by Mr. T. E. Jessop, which can be obtained from most of the tourist offices in Locarno.
In this book will be found much valuable information about Locarno and the surrounding valleys. At Ascona there is a delightful nine-hole golf course, and many may prefer this village to Locarno itself. Another delightful excursion is to Ponte Brolla at the mouth of the Valle Maggia. A bridge spans the deep gorge down which the river Maggia tears in a white rage. Here there is a restaurant where the local inhabitants may be observed playing Bocce, a form of bowls, and the visitors are frequently invited to join in. The tables are made of logs, the whole place is very charming and the wine is served in pottery cups which are made in the neighbourhood.
Near Ascona is the Monte Verita, where thirty years ago there was founded a nature cure settlement. The property has recently been acquired by a wealthy German who has built there an hotel combining the latest style of architecture most harmoniously with the prevailing Italian style and in which his fine collection of objets d’art, including paintings by modern masters, is used to ornament the rooms and galleries. Vegetarian cooking is specialised in and huts and chalets in the park-like grounds of the hotel may be rented for any length of time.
From Locarno many trips can be made by lake steamer to various resorts on the lake; one of these is to Brissago, well known throughout Switzerland for the cigars which are manufactured there. The steamers also continue on to the Italian part of the lake, and a visit should certainly be paid to the Borromean Islands and to Stresa in Italy.
We now take the Centovalli railway, which runs along the beautiful valley of the same name, continuing until we arrive at Domodossola on the Italo-Swiss frontier, where we can change on to one of the express trains which run through the Simplon tunnel (the longest tunnel in the world—over 12 miles—which was opened in 1906) and proceed as far as Montreux on the Lake of Geneva, but there are many places en route at which we must linger. On emerging from the tunnel we are at Brigue, which is an important railway junction. From here we can travel on the Lötschberg line, which after leading through the Lötschberg tunnel leads on to Kandersteg in the Bernese Oberland. However, as we shall be going to the Oberland later on, we will, instead, take the Furka line and ascend the Rhône valley to Gletsch. Here the view is dominated by the tremendous Rhône glacier which seems to stream into the valley in a mass of ice, and it is well worth while proceeding a bit on the road to the Furkahorn in order to get a full view of this unique icefall. We will now return to Brigue, but will stop at the interesting places en route.
Our first break is at Fiesch, which is a charming village in the midst of flowery meadows. From here, the most frequent excursion is to the summit of the Eggishorn, which gives a fine view of the Aletsch glacier as it descends from the Jungfrau; from here too we can see the plateau known as the Concordia Platz, from which are started most of the important climbs in the Bernese Oberland. Near the Eggishorn is the Märjelen See; the western shore of this lake is formed by the glacier itself; lumps of ice are always breaking off from this and can always be seen floating in the lake. There is very little to attract us at the remaining stations, and so we will carry right on to Brigue, where we will now stop for a while. The town is a good starting-point for a trip to Belalp, from the summit of which we get another view of the Great Aletsch glacier and also of the Finsteraarhorn. From Brigue we can travel by motor along the Simplon Pass, which is beautiful. We ascend to the summit by way of Napoleon’s Bridge and some fine woods to Simplon. We get some fine views on the way, and if we continue past the village of Simplon we come to the hospice; from here the road descends to Iselle at the southern mouth of the tunnel.
On our return to Brigue we must proceed down the Rhône valley, which seems to divide the Alps in two. Coming as we do from the Tessin on the other side of the Alps, the contrast in vegetation and architecture strikes us most forcibly. Here we have once more the weather-browned chalets and the campanile has given way to the church spire. Although most of the bigger stations on the line have names in both French and German, we are in French-speaking Switzerland, in the canton of Valais. At one time the Valais was part of France, having been seized by Napoleon, but the Congress of Vienna restored it to Switzerland. The next station to Brigue is Viège or Visp, where branches off the line for Zermatt, which lies in the Nicolaital. Magnificent peaks rise on either side as we ascend the valley; there are the Dom in the Mischabel group, the Rothorn and the Weisshorn, the Dent Blanche and, towering above them all, the Matterhorn, the monarch of the Alps.
From here too we can see Monte Rosa, the highest peak in the Alps (15,217 feet), which actually stands in Italian territory. From Zermatt, ascents can be made by the experienced mountaineer of almost all the great peaks, but for those who shrink from the exertion of these climbs there is the electric railway which goes up the Riffelalp, the Riffelberg to Gornergrat from where there are really fine views of the glaciers and the alpine giants. Here too is fine ski-ing country, and the beauty and grandeur of the high Alps in their winter dress is never to be forgotten. On our return journey we reach Stalden, which lies at the entry of the Saastal, which also is very lovely, but is overshadowed by its more famous neighbour, the Nicolaital. A motor road is being built along the Saastal, but is not yet completed, and visitors to any of the villages along this valley either have to tramp or hire a mule. These animals are also used to transport the mail, and it is very interesting to watch the arrival of the mule-post.
First of all we reach Saas-Grund, and from here we have the choice of two ways up to Saas-Fée, either the mule track which leads over the bridge which spans the Saas torrent, or by foot along the Kapellenweg which leads up to the Hohen Steige where there is a lovely white chapel. On this path are a number of white shrines which are very unique. Twisting between pine woods, with the thunderous roar of the torrent in one’s ears and with magnificent views over the valley, it is well worth the effort of making the ascent and a delightful, if quiet, holiday can be spent in the village.
We now continue along the Rhône valley and pass Leuk or Loèche; north of this town, in the valley of Dala, is Loèche-les-Bains, a spa which was known to the Romans and which lies in magnificent country at the foot of the Gemmi Pass. The next town along the line is Sierre, the chief town of the district, which, even in Roman times, was a favourite resort for the Patricians. Here, wherever we go, on hills crowned with ruined castles and modern villas, we find an abundance of vines. Muscat, Malmsey and Rèze are the chief products of this district. Sierre is the junction for Montana-Vermala, which lies on a sunny plateau, facing south, and giving an extensive view over the numerous peaks of the Alps. There are many pretty lakes, surrounded by pine or larch trees and delightful glades. Owing to its fine position and good air, there are a number of sanatoria for consumption at Montana, but it is also a favourite holiday resort all the year round. From Montana there is a motor-car service to Crans s/Sierre, which lies in a beautiful natural park. In summer the visitor has the advantage of using the fine golf course and also the aerodrome at Montana, whilst in the winter there is some very good ski-ing in this district.
Immediately opposite Sierre is the entry to the Eifischtal, which is very narrow, but one of the finest valleys in the district. Vissoie is the capital of the valley and is a good centre for walks and excursions. From here the road ascends to Ayer, and then we finally reach Zinal, which is a favourite mountaineering centre for this district. The village itself lies in the midst of green valleys. On the left lies the Morning glacier and in the background the solitary peak of the Bessos, which can be seen all over the valley.
From Zinal the mountaineer may proceed along various “traversées” to Zermatt, Gruben, Evoléne and Les Haudères, and there are a number of great peaks to be conquered which are reached from the club hut of Constanzia.
From Sierre we come to Sion, the capital of the Valais. The surrounding vineyards are regarded as being amongst the finest in Switzerland; it is interesting to learn that the introduction of the vine into Switzerland is credited to Charlemagne. Sion itself lies on two hills; on one, Tourbillons, are the ruins of an old castle, built in 1294 and destroyed in the fire which ravaged the town in 1788. On the other hill is the old castle of Valère, where can still be seen some of the ancient methods of defence, such as catapults and also an old handmill. Notre Dame de Valère, the church of the fortress, has been rebuilt and contains the cantonal museum. The site of the church was originally that of a pagan temple. The church was for some time the principal church of the See, but this function was later transferred to the cathedral, built in the fifteenth century. Sion lies at the mouth of the Val d’Hérens, which is very interesting. A little way from Sion is Mayens de Sion, where there is a quaint old chapel set amidst vast forests.
Farther along the valley we come to Evolène, where there are some very old houses in the ancient Valaisian architecture; here too can be seen some of the old costumes of the Valais, which the women wear on Sundays. At one fork at the end of the valley is Arolla, with Mont Collon as a background. Here there are many glaciers, but the village owes its fame chiefly to the Swiss stone pine forests, the “arole” to which it owes its name. This pine is becoming increasingly rarer and Arolla is one of the few places where it can be found. The village is a favourite spot for the mountaineer.
Leading into the Val d’Herens just after Mayens de Sion is the Val d’Hérémence, in which can be seen the Pyramids of Euseigne, which are one of the freaks of nature. These pinnacles arise from a terminal moraine and each point is protected by a stone, which was left there by nature. We must continue on our journey and arrive at Martigny, where the Rhône valley makes a sharp bend to the north-west. Near the market-place in Martigny is the Monastery of St. Bernard, the parent house of the famous Great St. Bernard Hospice on the Pass.
Martigny is built on the remains of the Roman town of Octodurum, but there is little left to suggest its antiquity. On a hill nearby are the ruins of the Château de la Bâtiaz, which are said to be partly Roman. From Martigny-Bourg, we can go by train or by motor along the Entremont Valley. At Sembrancher we can branch off down the Val de Bagnes; here rich meadows cover the lower slopes and there are numerous hamlets. As we proceed up the valley past le Chable, the scenery becomes wilder. Passing through the village of Lourtier we must continue on foot; the road becomes steeper and ascends above the falls of the Dranse and we get a fine retrospective view of the Dent du Midi. Soon after the falls the space widens and we come to a small plain where there are small black chalets and a few white hotels. Fionnay lies at the meeting-place of several valleys at the foot of the Grand Combin, and some fine ascents can be made from here, notably up La Ruinette, le Pleureur and Mont Avril.
If we continue up the main valley from Sembrancher we come to Orsières, whence a motor road leads up the Cattogne hill-side, and we finally come to the lovely Lake of Champex. At one time this was one of the most secluded spots to be found in Switzerland, but there is now a group of hotels on the lakeside, testifying to the growing popularity of the district. Various climbs can be made from here, that up Mont Cattogne being one of the most attractive, as from the summit the view reaches as far as the Lake of Geneva. Pursuing our way up the Val d’Entremont from Orsières the road winds up the flank of Mont Brun and, passing through Liddes, we reach Bourg St. Pierre where, in the inn, we can see the chair in which Napoleon sat down to breakfast before crossing the Pass to Italy.
Now the road winds steadily upwards, through ever wilder country and numerous gorges until we reach the Cantine de Proz. From here the ascent is made through the Pas de Marengo, so called in commemoration of Napoleon’s battle, through the desolate Combe des Morts, till at last we reach the famous hospice on the Pass. The hospice was founded about the tenth century, and the dogs kept there have become famous for their work in rescuing travellers who have strayed from the path or been overcome by the cold. Even now the dogs still go out at sunrise and sunset to search for lost travellers. Just beyond the hospice is a small lake besides which is a stone marking the Italian frontier. At Bourg St. Pierre we can see another interesting stone outside the church, which marks the twenty-fourth Roman mile from Martigny.
We have to return by the way we have come as far as Martigny; another excursion is up the Trient Valley. At Salvan we come to the wild, romantic gorge of the Trient which tears along between the hills. At Finhaut we come to a plateau on which lies the picturesque village. There are many fine walks in this valley which is of rather stern character. The next stop, Chatelard, lies on the bank of the Eau Noire and is very beautiful. The railway continues to Chamonix, but as Chatelard is the last stop in Swiss territory, we must retrace our steps.
From Martigny the railway continues alongside the Rhône and passes the village of St. Maurice, which is one of the oldest settlements in the valley. The abbey at St. Maurice is known to have been in existence at the end of the fourth century and is the oldest one in Switzerland. Here was quartered the Theban Legion under the Centurion Mauritius, after whom the settlement was renamed when he and his troops had been massacred for their loyalty to the Christian religion. After St. Maurice we come to Bex, the junction for Gryon, Chesières, Villars and Bretaye, all of which are fine winter sports centres, more particularly Villars. The village is in a delightful position on a sunny plateau in front of a pine forest, through which a tiny mountain stream runs in summer. There is a fine view, including the Diablerets, the Dent aux Favres, the Grand and Petit Muveran, the Dent de Morcles and the Dent du Midi.
A rack railway takes you up the Chamossaire to Bretaye, from where one of the finest views in this part of the country is to be obtained. Bretaye also offers a suitable start for a numberless variety of ski tours. The skating rinks at Villars are among the best in Switzerland, and while a number of English visitors are to be found, the atmosphere is mainly international. Fêtes are held on the ice, and the picture made by the skaters, all holding chinese lanterns and the innumerable coloured lights glowing against the snow, is fairylike. Villars is a very lovely place and well worth a visit. Before reaching Bex the railway branches off to Monthey at the mouth of the Val d’Illiez, in which Champèry is the principal village, lying at the foot of the Dent du Midi and the Dents Blanches.
In the summer many fine climbs can be made from here, while in the winter there is ski-ing and skating in plenty. The peasant costume in the Val d’Illiez is very unusual. During the week the women wear long trousers and a waistcoat, whilst on fête days and Sundays they wear knee-breeches with embroidered braces, a short waistcoat and a red kerchief on their heads.
The railway continues from Monthey to Bouveret on the shore of Lake Geneva. From here there is a line to Geneva along the lakeside, passing through Evian-les-Bains and Thonon-les-Bains, but as these spas lie on the French side of the lake we will not stop there, but continue straight on to Geneva, world-famous as the seat of the League of Nations. Geneva is so old a city that the date of its foundation is not known, but it was already a town of considerable importance in Roman times. Geneva stands at the foot of the lake, on both banks of the Rhône, and wide boulevards and fine quays line the riverside and radiate in every direction. The chief aspect of Geneva is modern and the League of Nations Palace on the Quai du Mont Blanc is one of the finest modern buildings in the town. Although Geneva was the last of the twenty-two cantons to enter the Confederation it has always played an influential part in Swiss history. During the Reformation it was very much to the fore; Calvin lived and preached there and became the virtual dictator of the town. It is due to his influence that the interiors of so many churches in the canton are austere and bare. A city of enormous wealth, Geneva is an important commercial centre. In 1864 a convention was held in Geneva which resulted in the foundation of the International Red Cross, and Geneva may now be said to be the capital of the world.
The harbour of Geneva is very fine, and in it can be seen the picturesque craft similar to the Mediterranean feluccas which are not seen on any of the other Swiss lakes. We get a marvellous view across the lake of the Salève mountains, the Alps and Mont Blanc. Although the Salève actually lies in France, it can easily be ascended by mountain railway, and from the summit there is an extensive view of the lake, the Alps and the Jura. Geneva is the home of the watchmaking industry, and a collection of Geneva watches can be seen at the History and Art Museum.
I do not propose to take you on a conducted tour of Geneva, for you can obtain all the information you want from the Official Enquiry Office at 3, Place de Bergues, which is maintained for the purpose. In spite of its predominantly modern character, Geneva also has its old part, the Cité, which clusters round the cathedral, and here we realise a little just how old Geneva is. The cathedral was built about the twelfth century, but has been spoiled by later additions. Next to it you will find the Chapel of the Maccabees, of which John Knox was the Pastor of the English Protestants from 1556 to 1558, and even to this day services of the Church of Scotland are held here in summer. Between Geneva and Lausanne lie a number of small villages which all seem to cluster round old castles. The most famous of these is Coppet, where lived Necker, the Finance Minister of Louis XVI. His daughter, Mme. de Staël, inherited it from him, and here she held many of her brilliant salons which were attended by most of the literary celebrities of the Continent. On this part of the lake lies Nyon, the Roman Noviodunum, which is well worth while exploring as it still contains many medieval characteristics. Part of the old town walls are still standing. From Nyon we take the train for St. Cergue, a delightful little resort at the foot of the Dôle, the second highest peak in the Jura. St. Cergue is famous for its view of the lake and mountains on the farther shore.
We now come to Lausanne, the capital of the Canton of Vaud. Lausanne is built on three hills, and the best way to see it for the first time is from Ouchy, the harbour of the town. From here one sees first the flowery slopes, then the houses clinging on the hill-side and above the red roofs of the houses are flung the arches of the great bridges and viaducts which connect the hills, while some of the lower houses are connected by tunnels. The apex of the picture is formed by the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which stands on the highest hill.
If we ascend to the town by the funicular and gaze over the lake from the cathedral, the view is simply magnificent. The cathedral is by many people considered to be the finest church in Switzerland, and although the various parts were built at different periods it forms a very harmonious whole. It seems to be the focal point of the town and all the streets and curious covered stairways seem to lead to it, somewhat as all the streets in Montmartre seem to end at the Sacré Cœur. Near the cathedral is the Château St. Maire, built in the fourteenth century, from the terraces of which there is a fine view over the town, the lake and the mountains on the French side of the lake.
There is a considerable foreign colony living in Lausanne, but the local life can best be seen on the Wednesday and Friday of each week, when the peasants of the surrounding villages come into town in their costumes, which lend a note of colour to the proceedings. Above the town is a fine park, with restaurants and a lake. This site was once densely wooded and legend has it that it was once the home of Belin the Sun God and Healer. Among the famous people who have lived in Lausanne is Gibbon, who completed the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire there, as well as Dickens while he was working on Dombey and Son. Lausanne is very proud of its eighteen-hole golf course, which is one of the finest in Europe.
From Lausanne to Montreux there is an almost unbroken line of white hotels fringing the lake front, as this is by far the finest portion of a lake which is nowhere anything less than beautiful.
Next we reach Vevey, which is the principal town of the district and is of great antiquity, being built on the site of the Roman town of Vibiscum. Vevey offers many modern amenities while still retaining the characteristics of a Swiss town of the Middle Ages. From here we can travel on the funicular to Mont Pélerin and go on to the pretty village of Blonay with an old castle*. Life at Vevey is quieter than at Montreux and visitors who do not wish to stay at an ultra-fashionable resort would do well to make Vevey their headquarters for the Lake of Geneva. All the lakeside resorts can be reached by steamer and by train, and the country behind the town offers many lovely walks. Montreux itself can be reached in half an hour, so that there is much to recommend Vevey. Near the town is the village of La Tour de Peilz, literally “the tower of pelts,” and it is said that at one time the old castle round which the houses cluster was roofed with skins.
Along the lakeshore from Vevey to Villeneuve the scenery becomes even more beautiful, if this be possible, and the trees come right down to the water’s edge in many places. We now come to the three towns of Montreux, Territet and Clarens, which are practically one. Montreux-Territet is a fine modern town, offering every facility for pleasure. The promenade runs along the lakeside for nearly 5 miles and there are many pleasant cafés in which to rest. As everywhere, the hills rise in the background, merging into the higher peaks of the mountains and villages can be seen on the slopes, whilst across the lake lies the panorama of the great snow-clad peaks. The visitors at Montreux are a cosmopolitan crowd and life here is distinctly fashionable. The tennis courts are reputed to be the finest in Europe and there is also a golf course not far from the town.
In the casino-kursaal we can dance, have light refreshments and watch various types of entertainment. From the lakeside can be seen the cleft which the Rhône valley makes in the shore on the opposite side, and it seems to fade away into the blue distance, while above it hovers the Dents du Midi, with clouds screening part of it. In the Bay of Territet we must pay a visit to a building which is the goal of every visitor, the famous Château de Chillon. There can be but few show places which so truly merit the numerous stars bestowed on them by guide-books. In a marvellous state of preservation—parts of it were erected in the eighth century—Chillon is intensely picturesque, no matter from what angle it is seen. It has had a chequered career and is known mainly because it was here that Bonnivard, a patriotic Swiss friar, was imprisoned by Duke Charles of Savoy in 1526. After being captive there for ten years he was released when the castle was taken by the Bernese. Byron’s poem, the “Prisoner of Chillon,” was inspired by the story of Bonnivard. The castle was then inhabited by the Bailiffs of Vevey, but has been uninhabited since 1733. The interior does not disappoint and ranges from the quaint wooden balconies in the courtyard to the grim torture chamber. We can also climb up to the roof of the main tower, whence we get a view of the lake framed by the towers of the castle, and one that we will not easily forget.
Returning to Montreux, if you are able to visit it during the first week of June, you will be able to participate in the famous Narcissus Festival. This carnival is usually held on the first Saturday and Sunday of June, and rivals the fetes of the French Riviera. Crowds pour into the town; first there is an excellent entertainment, then a procession of beautifully decorated cars which is followed by a battle of flowers and confetti. At night there is a Venetian Fête on the lake and a firework display. The whole lakeside is illuminated and the hotels are also decorated, so that Montreux takes on a most festive appearance. But the pièce de résistance for me is not so much the fête in the town as the narcissi themselves, in whose honour it is held.
The hills and meadows behind Montreux are covered so closely with the white blossoms that they give the illusion of a snowfall. They are lovely at Les Pleiades, which is reached from Blonay, but the finest displays are on the meadows near Les Avants, above Montreux. If you start out from the village and wander into the meadows beyond, or, better still, take the rack railway up to the Col de Sonloup and then work your way downhill, you will very soon find yourself in the midst of the flowers, and the perfume—which impregnates the air—will come wafting towards you as you step out of the train.
If you stand on top of the hill and look down, you will see a fairy-like scene which it will be rare to equal anywhere. The down slopes in every direction are covered with the white narcissi, and where the bouton d’or is mingled with them, there seem to be gold streaks among the silver. Deep blue-green pines form a contrast to the prevailing white, while far down in the valley you can see the brown chalets almost hidden among the masses of pink and white bloom of the fruit trees. The shadowy flanks of the mountains seem to have their bases in snow, and on the peaks of the higher ones there is real snow that is scarcely whiter than the fields. And over all, glorious sunshine, not polluted by fogs and smoke particles, and a sky of deepest blue. A scene unsurpassable in loveliness you would say. Yet that same sun—still very warm, if not quite so hot as now—in winter shines down on these hills and valleys when they are all white with snow, and the blue of the sky is then repeated in the shadows. The trees are stripped of their bloom, but the hoar frost and snow have converted them into delicate white traceries.
This is fine ski-ing country, and the winter sports enthusiast might debate whether it is not more lovely now than in summer. A winter sports holiday at Les Avants offers the advantage of being able to run down to Montreux whenever one wants a change, to visit a cinema or do some shopping; conversely, one can stay in Montreux and ascend to Les Avants for the sports, or else to any of the other sports stations near the town, such as Glion and Caux. The latter particularly is lovely, and is worth a visit in summer as well. Caux is the starting-point for the Rochers de Naye, the highest point in the district, whence there is a fine view. From Caux itself one can see practically the whole of Lake Geneva. In all these centres there is every variety of winter sport, ice hockey is played, and there are evening entertainments in the larger hotels.
Before we leave the Lake of Geneva there is one other place in the district which should be mentioned, and that is Leysin, which is reached by railway from Aigle. Here in the sanatoria are carried out the most miraculous cures of tuberculosis. Leysin itself has a very high average of sunshine and, even in January, attains nine hours a day. The air is wonderfully pure and smoking is prohibited in order that it shall not be polluted. By its position the village is sheltered from north winds, and the sun is utilised to effect a cure even of advanced cases. As the patients gradually recover they take up sports, and many stay for some time after they have shaken off the dread disease in order to regain full strength. There are schools for the children who have to stay for some time, and it is amazing to the visitor to see them sitting in the sun with barely the minimum of clothing. Leysin itself is privately owned, and the only people there besides the natives and the invalids are relatives or friends of the latter.
Of more interest to us is the line which runs from Aigle via Le Sépey to Diablerets in the Les Ormonts valley. Diablerets offers fine opportunities for ski-ing, and a bobrun is constructed on the Col du Pillon road along which, in summer, we can drive to Gstaad. There are many fine walks in the valley and there is also the ascent of Les Diablerets to tempt the climber in summer.
We must now bid farewell to the lake and go on our way to the Bernese Oberland. Our route is one of the most beautiful in the whole country. We take a train of the Montreux-Oberland-Bernois line and first of all pass through Les Avants, then through a tunnel under the Col de Jaman into the Upper Valley of the Sarine, which leads us to Montbovon, the junction for Gruyères, an exceedingly picturesque village. If we have time we can continue on the same line to Bulle and Romont, a really remarkable medieval town. However, the Oberland calls so we will continue in the main-line train to Rossinière, a small winter sports centre. Here starts the Pays d’Enhaut, a picturesque, unspoiled valley of rather less rugged character than most Swiss valleys, with mountains rising on either side. Château d’Oex, our next stop, is the most popular holiday centre in the district and is a charming spot in summer.
The surrounding meadows are very luscious and rich in flowers and a considerable number of red and white cattle will be seen browsing. These cattle are unique to this district and to the Simmenthal, which adjoins the Pays d’Enhaut, as in the remainder of Switzerland the cattle are mostly dun coloured. In winter Château d’Oex becomes filled with visitors, mostly continental, particularly for the Fête de Nuit, a carnival which is held each season.
After Château d’Oex we reach Saanen and then, at Gstaad, we have arrived in the Bernese Oberland, the mecca of sports enthusiasts and mountaineers. The Oberland stretches from Gstaad to the Haslital and contains such world-famous mountains as the Jungfrau and her two eternal attendants, the Mönch and Eiger. Here are to be found great glaciers whose movement is so slow that it has to be calculated at the rate of inches per year; here are some of the quaintest and oldest towns in Switzerland, conjuring up visions of the romantic Middle Ages which, alas, were mostly times of strife for the Swiss as the great lords and feudal barons were bitterly opposed to the freedom of the cantons, and the German, Austrian and Burgundian overlords were eager to retain possession of Switzerland. Here too are the two lovely lakes of Thun and Interlaken, which are unique for their background of the snow-clad alpine giants.
Only a few years ago Gstaad was an unspoiled village; it lies in a fine position at the converging point of the three valleys of Turbach, Lauenen and Gsteig, all of which contain many delightful walks.
Switzerland is essentially a land of rivers, and it is very rarely that one finds a district in which there is not, at least, a small brook. Around Gstaad there is some good trout fishing in the numerous small mountain tarns. Everywhere around Gstaad are thickly wooded hills; charming as it is in summer, it is in winter that it is seen at its best. Its unspoiled freshness has gone, for it has become a very popular centre. During the winter is held the “Cours Hippique”; horse jumping is a feature of this event, and many of the crack riders of the Swiss Army enter for it. Ski-kjöring races—in which the ski-er is drawn by a horse—are also included; this sport comes from Norway and was first introduced into Switzerland in 1906. Gstaad offers a very large variety of ski-runs, and there are quite a number of accessible mountains in the neighbourhood, including the Wildhorn, Egli and Hornberg. Skating too is very good, and the largest rink has an area of about two acres. Gstaad can also be reached by train from Spiez, and this is the more direct route from England. Saanenmöser, the next stop, is a small winter sports centre; after it we come to Zweisimmen, the chief town of the Simmen valley. There are many pleasant walks, both long and short, in this neighbourhood, also some easy ascents to the Rinderberg, Hundsrück and Spillgerten. From Zweisimmen there is a railway line to Lenk, where there are sulphur baths. Numerous waterfalls rush down amidst steep cliffs and overhanging glaciers, and the whole scene is dominated by the Wildstruble mountain; the seven torrents tearing down from the Plaine-Morte and Raetzli glaciers have given the Simmen valley its local name of “Siebental” (valley of seven). The energetic walker can reach Sion in the Rhône valley about ten hours after leaving Lenk and would have to cross the Rawyl Pass.
In the other direction from Zweisimmen the train runs through the Lower Simmen valley. Here the chalets are larger than in other parts of Switzerland, and in Erlenbach, one of the villages in the valley, they are amazingly large. After Erlenbach we cross the Kirel river and come to Oey-Dimtigen, whence there is a branch line to Grimmialp. During the winter the journey has to be made by car or by sledge. Grimmialp is one of the cheaper resorts for winter sports, frequented mostly by Germans, and is suitable for people who do not care for crowds, but require sports only, for which there are good facilities. From Erlenbach we come to Wimmis, where there is a fine tenth-century church. The next station is Spiez, an important railway junction. From here the trans-continental trains continue to Milan. Many years ago, when Rudolphe II, King of Burgundy, lived at Spiez Castle with his queen, it was known as the “Golden Court” and the country around the castle was named the “Golden Air.” In the thirteenth century there lived at the castle Heinrich von Strättligen, a famous troubadour, who sang the praises of the country and some of whose verses are preserved in Heidelberg University. The castle is now open to the public. A pleasant excursion from Spiez is to the Niesen, which is ascended by a cable railway. From the summit there is a wonderful view of the Lake of Thun, the Kander Valley and the great ring of peaks, which includes all the giants of the Oberland and the Alps. Our way must now take us along the main line as far as Frutigen, where the Enstligen Thal joins the Kander Tal.
At the head of this valley lies Adelboden, a popular winter resort, particularly for curling, which is reached by bus from Frutigen. Adelboden is the highest commune in the Bernese Oberland, and most of the chalets are very old. In the church will be found frescoes depicting the “Last Judgment,” which were painted in 1423. There are some excellent ski-runs, the principal of which is the Hahnenmoos field, which is amongst the finest in Switzerland. In spring the Hahnenmoos is a mass of violets and other vernal flowers. On the opposite side of the valley rises the Bonderspitze, on the slopes of which a very fast ski race is run each year. The sight of the ski-ers flying down the mountain side, with clouds of flying snow behind them, is terribly thrilling, and at times it really seems as if they have left the ground. The valley itself is still very unspoiled and many old customs have survived among the peasants.
Continuing from Frutigen we travel through the valley of the Kander to Kandersteg, a small village at the entrance of the Lötschberg tunnel. After leaving Frutigen the train climbs a hill and then crosses the valley by means of an enormous viaduct. At Kandergrund the valley becomes narrower and we reach Blausee Mitholz station. The Blausee is a small lake, of a marvellous deep blue and so clear that at the bottom can be seen logs, covered with algae. The reason for the colour is not known and it is said by some authorities that the algae cause it.
After Blausee we pass through a series of tunnels and cross several bridges, till at last we come to Kandersteg, which has always had a considerable amount of tourist traffic, as it is the last stopping-place before the ascent to the Gemmi Pass. The way to the pass is by a track leading through a glen past the Dauben See; it used to be the main route to the Rhône valley from the north, until the Lötschberg tunnel was built. It can be reached from Kandersteg either on foot, or else you may travel to the summit in an odd, two-wheeled cart, called a “Gemmi Wägeli”; the descent to the Rhône valley may only be tackled on foot. The whole journey is well worth the effort for the sake of the wild and magnificent scenery.
Kandersteg is surrounded by famous peaks, such as the Blümlisalphorn, Doldenhörner and the Balmels. It is famous for the flower, displays in spring, and numberless varieties of spring and Alpine flowers will be found here. One of the most attractive walks is to the Oeschinen See, a lake which is embraced by rocks and mirrored in it are the peaks of the Blümlisalp, the Fründenhorn and Doldenhorn with their waterfalls. The mountaineer will find many peaks to ascend, and besides those already mentioned there are the Weisse Frau, Wilde Frau, the Wildstrubel, and many others.
As Kandersteg lies on a large plateau, several miles long, it is possible to go for easy walks on this without having to do any strenuous hill climbing. During the winter Kandersteg is rapidly gaining popularity and is the home of some of the finest Swiss ski-ers, but owing to its relatively low altitude, snow conditions cannot always be relied upon.
On our way back to Spiez, we will leave the train at Reichenbach and take a car or sledge, according to the season, to travel up the Kiental. The scene is dominated by the Blümlisalp group, where the river Kien has its source. Numerous smaller valleys join the main one, and many of these are worth exploring; they are completely unspoiled and foreigners rarely visit them but go to the more famous valleys of the Oberland. After the town of Kiental we proceed to Tschingelalp, whence the road climbs by steep curves past a number of waterfalls and the weird “Hexenkessel” (witches’ cauldron), where the water bubbles as if it were veritably being heated and some potent brew prepared. Griesalp itself consists only of the Kotel Kurhaus Griesalp and a few chalets, and is a perfect place in which to spend a holiday in summer or winter. There are a large number of interesting climbs on all the peaks in the district and it is possible to get to Mürren by way of the Sefinenfurgge, or else one can make one’s way to Kandersteg over the Hohtürli Pass. Here we are amongst the finest Alpine scenery, and the whole of the Bernese Oberland is as lovely in spring as in winter, but with a very different kind of beauty.
In order to avoid the return journey to Spiez we will cross the mountains to Mürren, which is perched on a terrace of the Schwarzgrat, whence there is an almost perpendicular drop to the Lauterbrunnen valley. The altitude of Mürren is so great that it lies on a level with the glaciers and upper peaks, and it is no unusual sight to find masses of gentian on the slopes near the village. Here we get a marvellous view of the Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger and of the other big peaks, the Schwarzmönch, Gletscherhorn, Ebnefluh, Mittaghorn, Grosshorn, Breit-horn, Tschingelgrat, Gspaltenhorn and Bütlassen. As in all the rest of the canton, there are good walks; one is to the Blumenthal or Valley of Flowers, which is one of the finest spots for a display of Alpine flowers throughout the district, and prominent among them all are yellow pansies, which grow in such masses that the meadows appear to be covered with yellow sheets. Chamois are protected in this neighbourhood and can occasionally be seen bounding from crag to crag. Mürren is a popular winter sports centre. The famous Arlberg-Kandahar ski-meeting is held there every other year, and in these races the ski-ing “aces” can be seen at their best. A funicular railway climbs the Ållmendhubel, from which there is a ski-jump and also the start of a bob-run, on which the “Bob Derby” is held each year. Mürren, too, is one of the main centres for curling; there is something for almost all tastes, and there are very few people who will not be pleased with Mürren. Next we descend the valley to Lauterbrunnen, which lies near the Grütschalp. Everywhere near the village are mountain torrents and waterfalls, of which the Staubbach is perhaps the most famous. It is a fine veil of water which drops almost noiselessly down in front of a precipice 1,000 feet high, and is so ethereally lovely that it has inspired many poets, including Goethe and Byron, to write poems.
A complete contrast is offered by the wildly foaming Trümmelbach Falls on the opposite side of the valley; after tearing through a wild gorge and passing through a subterranean passage, the water drops about 100 feet and then dashes out through a small hole in the rock with such tremendous force that it strikes the opposite rock face before falling down a deep chasm and escaping into the valley. Underground galleries have been built, so that it is possible to view the falls from a very close range, and this sight is most weird and terrifying.
The peasants in the Lauterbrunnen valley produce hand-made bobbin lace, and in spring and summer the women can be seen sitting at the windows or in the doorway, busily working away.
From Lauterbrunnen it is not far to the village of Wengen, which is situated on the wall of the Männlichen, facing the Jungfrau. Brown chalets are dotted about on the green meadows at the base of the slopes, above which rise the gleaming tiers of the great glaciers, culminating in the snow-covered peak with its blue shadows. The Jungfrau can be seen in all her glory from any of the meadows near Wengen, while next to her rises the white cone of the Silberhorn. From Wengen the Alpine Glow is seen in its full splendour. As dusk draws nigh, a soft orange glow spreads over the upper snows; the colour gradually deepens and creeps lower and lower until the whole of the slopes are bathed in it. Deeper it grows and deeper, ranging from orange to crimson, the sky darkens to purple and becomes studded with stars. Suddenly the glow fades and disappears, and the contrast between these turbulent colours and the moonlight-flooded landscape in its quiet mood of silver and grey with velvety black shadows is eerie.
Wengen is surrounded by beautiful peaks which shelter it almost completely from the north wind. The Wengernalp Railway opens up miles of snowfields for ski-ers. There are the slopes of the Jungfrau and the Eiger, the Männlichen and the Scheidegg. At Water Station, on the Wengernalp Railway, the ice run begins. A short walk brings one to the top of the 3 mile long run down to the village; at the top there is a jolly crowd waiting their turn for the down run, and the scene is made vivid by the brightly coloured sweaters and scarves.
From Water Station the train continues to ascend until it emerges above the tree line and we get a view of the valleys deep below, while all around us are snowy slopes and greenish-blue glaciers. At Wengernalp station we disembark for the snow run, which joins up to the ice run lower down. The ski-ing slopes here are “nursery” slopes, i.e., for beginners. The train continues up to the
Scheidegg Pass, whence the experienced ski-er can start out on many thrilling runs. From Scheidegg starts the Jungfrau Railway, which is the highest in Europe and a marvellous feat of engineering. This line is only open in the winter when the snowfall has been poor, and even in summer it is advisable to make enquiries as to weather conditions before starting on the journey, else, instead of the eagerly anticipated view, one may see only a wall of fog.
From Scheidegg the line proceeds towards the Eiger glacier, near which is Eigergletscher station, where a team of Polar dogs is kept in order to maintain communication with the upper parts of the line in the event of weather conditions causing a stoppage or else for runs on the glacier. A little beyond this station the train enters a tunnel in the Eiger and a stop is made at Eigerwand, where a branch tunnel has been bored in the rock. As we step out of the train we see a shaft of light breaking through the opening, and we can walk along the tunnel until we reach the aperture, which is the centre of the wall of the precipice; the opening is closed with glass and as we look through we see the village of Grindelwald far below us; the view stretches above the neighbouring peaks as far as the Jura and the Vosges mountains.
From Eigerwand the tunnel continues upwards through the Eiger and the Mönch (this circuitous route was adopted in order to reduce the gradient) to the next station, Eismeer, where there are a restaurant, post office and observation gallery, all hewn out of the rock. From the gallery we look down on the glacier, all twisted and warped with deep chasms, where the shadows deepen to an unearthly green and the thought of being trapped in one makes us shudder. The great ice mass is travelling so slowly that the movement is imperceptible to the eye. The view gives on to Grindelwald, on to the Fiescherfirn, with its deep crevices, the Schreckhorn, and other peaks. A small tunnel leads down to the glacier face, but this can only be used in summer.
At Eismeer we change on to another train for the last stretch of the journey to Jungfraujoch, 11,342 feet above sea-level. From the station a gallery leads to the open air, and the difference in the atmospheric pressure is very noticeable, and quite an effort is entailed in walking to the mouth of the tunnel. Here we come out into the brilliant sunshine, but the rock walls around us are coated with ice; it is interesting to learn that a summer ski meeting is held at Jungfraujoch every July, and this event is one of the most important in the Oberland.
The Jungfraujoch Plateau forms a saddle between Jungfrau and Mönch. There is a hotel here, which is the highest in Europe, and there is also a cheap hostel for climbers, as this is the starting-point for climbs of the Jungfrau, Fiescherhorn, Eggishorn, and other mountains.
The Sphinx tunnel leads out on to the glacier, and near it is an observatory and weather station. The view from the plateau to the north embraces the Jura, the Black Forest and the Vosges mountains, while we also get a marvellous view of the Aletsch, the greatest glacier centre in Europe, which moves at the rate of 14 feet a year.
On our descent from the Jungfrau we can continue by the other branch of the Wengernalp Railway to Grindelwald. We pass over the Scheidegg Pass on our way and get one of the finest views of the valley. The dominating peak here is the Wetterhorn, a striking mountain the sides of which rise sheer from the lower pastures to an eminence of about 2 miles before culminating in a sharp, tilted pyramid. At its base lies the Ober Grindelwald Glacier. The whole character of the Grindelwald valley is grimmer than that of the Lauterbrunnen Thal. Grindelwald itself lies at the foot of the Wetterhorn and straggles up the slopes of the Schwarze Lütschine to the base of the Faulhorn. The village is extremely old and it is known that a church was built there in the twelfth century. Grindelwald is a paradise for ski-ers, offering ascents of the Grosse Scheidegg, Faulhorn, Schwarzhorn, Männlichen, Lauberhorn, Kleine Scheidegg and Eiger. Many of the finest Swiss ski-ers and ski-ing teachers are natives of the village, and they are found all over Switzerland. There is also an exceedingly fine bob-run. In summer there are beautiful walks throughout the district. From the Waldspitz one can see across the intervening crags to the ridges and clefts of the Schreckhorn, Finsteraarhorn and Fiescherhorn. Here, in May, we can see masses of mauve and white crocus growing on the slopes and almost touching the snow line, and as this recedes fresh flowers shoot up almost immediately. Later on the slopes are covered with mauve soldanellas, the blue gentian, variously coloured primulas and other flowers too numerous to mention. Here, too, the mountaineer comes into his own and there are many Alpine club huts. It is possible to walk from Grindelwald over the Grosse Scheidegg down the Rosenlaui Thal, which is very lovely. Here the Wellhorn, an imposing mountain, towers over the forested slopes, while next to it the Rosenlaui glacier descends in great steps. The other wall of the Wetterhorn is seen far above, while the bed of the valley is a delightful green. Here are ancient nut-brown chalets and again a wealth of wild flowers. The Rosenlaui Valley leads on down to the Haslital which it joins at Meiringen, the chief town of the valley. The peasants of the villages, apart from farming, are mainly occupied with wood-carving and weaving. Most of Meiringen was destroyed by fire in 1892, with the result that most of the town is new, but there are a few old chalets remaining. The chief attraction of Meiringen is the proximity of the Aare gorge, a great chasm nearly a mile long, through which the river Aare flows just before it enters the town. A path is carried along the cleft and from this it is possible to look down into the gorge and also up to see the rocky walls converging, and at times they almost touch. Proceeding south we come to the Handeck Falls, where the Aare drops 150 feet. Beyond is the Grimsell Pass which leads down into Gletsch. Another popular excursion from Meiringen is to the Reichenbach Falls.
From Meiringen we can take the Brünig Railway to Brünig, whence it leads on via Lungern and Sarnen to Lucerne. Brünig itself is gradually becoming a popular resort, and the villages above it on the slopes of the Hasliberg—Hohfluh and Reuti—offer winter sports for those who prefer a quiet resort. We will now go from Meiringen to Brienz, a village lying on the north shore of the Lake of Brienz at the foot of the Brienzer Rothorn, from the summit of which a fine view can be obtained of the lake and the Alps.
Brienz is the centre of the wood-carving industry in this district, and some of the work of the peasants is of distinctly high quality. From here we can take a steamer to the opposite side of the lake to view the Giessbach Falls. Here the water pours down a total height of 1,300 feet in a series of fourteen cascades, through richly wooded slopes and charming meadows until at the last cascade the water leaps into the lake itself. The best way for us is to travel by lake steamer to Interlaken, which lies between the two lakes of Thun and Brienz. This town is a fashionable centre and is particularly suitable as headquarters in summer from which to explore the Oberland. Here are fine bathing beaches on both lakes; shops where all requirements are catered for and where one may purchase the hand-woven linens, embroideries and carvings of the Oberland peasants. At the kursaal there are given symphony concerts, operettas, gala balls, dances and firework displays. One of the great attractions of Interlaken is the Tell Festival Play, which is held throughout the season in the open air on the Rügen. The stage is natural and uncovered so that the sky can be seen and the song of birds as they settle on the trees adds to the verisimilitude of the action; but the auditorium is roofed. The text used for the play is that by Schiller. At the end of May the Hirtenfest (Festival of the Shepherds) is held in Interlaken, and the country people then come into the town in their quaint old costumes. Innumerable excursions can be made from Interlaken on foot, by car, train or boat and there is so much to see that the lakes of the Oberland can be visited many times without their possibilities being exhausted.
There is the fashionable promenade of the Höheweg, whence can be obtained one of the finest distance views of the Jungfrau; there is Heimwehfluh with its shady views, commanding an outlook over both lakes; there is the Schynige Platte which is reached from Wilderswil by a rack railway, and from where there is a magnificent view of the Alpine giants; there is St. Beatenberg on the slopes of the mountain from which there is an exceedingly lovely panoramic view of the blue lake, the green slopes of the hills with their inevitable background of white mountains. Below the village are the Beatushöhlen, a natural tunnel through which a subterranean stream flows; stalactites hang from the roof and glitter in the light from the electric bulbs which have been fitted to allow the caves to be visited, and small waterfalls trickle along murmurously.
These caves are reputed to have been the home of a dragon who devastated the land around until it was finally overcome by St. Beatus—the Irish saint who is credited with the introduction of Christianity into Helvetia—and drowned in the lake; there is the Harderkulm which can be reached by funicular, and it is not unusual for ibex to be seen near the summit of the Harder or the Augustmatthorn. These animals are reared in the Ibex Park near Interlaken and later set free on the mountains.
Our best way to explore the lakeside is to travel by train along the lakeside towards Thun. The next village is Merligen, where in September is carried out the ceremony of “Kästeilet” (cheese division). All the cheese produced in the valley during the summer is stored and, at the Kästeilet, divided into equal portions for all the dairymen and cattle owners in the district.
Next we come to Gunten, where a motor-bus service starts for Sigriswil, another good centre for walkers. After Gunten comes Oberhofen, which lies on a bay. The castle of Oberhofen is a well-known show place and is built on a spit of land jutting out into the lake. One solitary tower rises from the blue waters and is joined to the main building by a covered bridge. After Oberhofen comes Hilterfingen with an old church dating back to 930, and finally Thun, which is on the banks of the Aar about a mile from the lake.
Thun has a very medieval appearance and is built round a hill on which stand the old Zähringer castle and the church. From the Brändlisberg near the town one can obtain a magnificent view over the lake, with the red roofs of the houses in the foreground. Saturday is market day, and in the morning the country folk come in, many with their goods in carts drawn by dogs, and wearing their picturesque costume; the whole scene, with its colour and movement against the setting of the old Bällizstrasse, transports us back to the Middle Ages. From Thun we can go for a pleasant walk to Heimberg, where Swiss pottery is made.
Proceeding up the Aare we come to Berne, which is not only the capital of the canton but of the whole Swiss Federation. Berne was originally a small, unimportant village, but in 1191 Berchtold V von Zähringen commissioned Cuno von Bubenberg to surround the village with walls in order that he might have a stronghold from which to protect himself against his enemies. Von Bubenberg laid out the walls to take in a larger part of land than the village itself, and the inflow of nobles who were in league with von Zähringen soon made of Berne a town of importance. One of the old city gates is now the Zeitglockenturm; on this tower is a remarkable clock; when it strikes the hour a procession of little figures, including the bear—the heraldic device of Berne, which appears in shields and on fountains all over the town—pass in front of the vividly coloured dial. Near by is the Käfigturm or “Cage Tower.” The houses have high gables and many of the streets in the old part are cobbled and flanked by shady arcades. Old fountains play in the streets and the housewives still fill their buckets at them. In the quarter of An der Matte, below the terrace of the minster, the oldest part of Berne, the women can be seen washing their clothes in the street in the stream which flows through the Mühlenplatz. Though this part is now a slum, it is well worth a visit because of its picturesqueness.
From the minster terrace we get a view of the roofs of the town and the gorge of the river across to the mountains of the Oberland, and the three peaks of Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger can be discerned quite clearly. Near the Nydeck Bridge is the old bear pit, where the Municipality has kept bears since 1513. Berne will fascinate and delight everybody who visits it, and the modern buildings, of which the Federal Palace (the seat of government) is the principal one, do not disturb the charm of the town.
From Berne we will go to visit Fribourg, another very old town which lies in the valley of the Sarine. The tower of the church of St. Nicholas is a prominent landmark in the town, and in the interior of the church are quite a number of interesting things, such as the fifteenth-century choir stalls. The organ is said to be the largest church organ in the world and have a very fine, sweet tone; the recitals given on it during the summer are well worth attending.
Opposite the old town hall stands an ancient lime tree, which legend says has grown from a sprig which was planted on June 22nd, 1476, after the battle of Morat—in which the free Swiss inflicted a severe defeat on the Burgundian troops under Charles the Bold. The sprig was brought to Fribourg by a young soldier who had run all the way from Morat to bring the good news and who collapsed and died as soon as he had gasped out his news. It is peculiar that although French is spoken in the upper town, the language of the lower town by the river is mainly German.
The quarter of the Auge, by the river, is one of the oldest in the town and here we can see the old wooden Pont du Berne which was constructed seven hundred years ago. Not far away is the modern suspension bridge which spans the river in a high arch and everywhere the modern bridges form a piquant contrast to the old houses.
From Fribourg it is not far to Estavayer on the Lake of Neuchâtel, where there is a fine old castle. Yverdon, at the head of the lake, was for many years the home of Pestalozzi, the famous educational reformer, who taught in the school there.
Travelling round the other side of the lake we reach Neuchâtel, and from the hills behind the town it is possible on a clear day to see the whole range of the mountains from Mont Blanc to the Bernese Oberland. Neuchâtel is the centre of the Swiss chocolate industry as well as of the watch industry; in the valleys of the Jura the watchmakers can be seen working away in the windows of their chalets. Most of them specialise in one part only and the whole watches are then assembled in the big towns, of which Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds are the principal ones. The chalets of the Jura are somewhat different to those in other parts of Switzerland and their roofs are higher, without the width that is found in the Valais. Near Le Locle are the falls of the Doubs. Another pleasant excursion from Neuchâtel is to the Val de Travers, where one of the interesting sights are the natural asphalt supplies. Near the village of Noraigue, in the same valley, are great precipices, down which the river Arense leaps in wild falls.
From Neuchâtel the main line runs to Bienne, another centre of the watchmaking industry. In the Lake of Bienne lies the Isle St. Pierre, where Rousseau lived for many years. In the valleys that lie behind Bienne we can find many beautiful wild flowers, and as this part of Switzerland has not become a popular holiday centre, varieties will be found here that have become extinct elsewhere. From most of the high points we can see the range of the Alps which traverses the whole of Switzerland, and the panorama is very impressive.
After Bienne comes Solothurn or Soleure, the capital of the canton. The fortifications were built by Henry the Fowler in the tenth century as a protection against the raiding Magyars. It is very interesting to find that it was this German monarch who established the class of burghers—the third estate—in Switzerland, and conferred many privileges on the town under his rule, which placed the burghers on an equality with the nobles in. many respects. Some of the old gates of Soleure are still standing, and strange old buildings can be seen, but most of the town has a modern aspect. From Soleure we can reach Basle either via Délémont or Aarau, so that this is the last stage of our journey, through a country that is beautiful beyond description and fascinating in all its different aspects.
The Swiss themselves are a simple, kindly people and do everything in their power to make the visitor comfortable. No other country is so suitable for a holiday at any time of the year, and rare indeed is the person who has not—after the first visit—returned to Switzerland again and again, each time just as eagerly, knowing that a holiday here will be one in every sense of the word and that he will come home feeling refreshed by the marvellous air and after the wholesome change.