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Guide Swiss Seasons: Travels

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Swiss Seasons: Travels by Michael Kiefer. New and used travel stories about Switzerland by Michael Kiefer. Travel writer Michael Kiefer skis with witches in Belalp, does spas and winter sports in St. These stories appeared in different form in TravelGirl New and used travel stories about Switzerland by Michael Kiefer.

These stories appeared in different form in TravelGirl magazine and The Arizona Republic, where Kiefer is a staff reporter, and on the website www. Get A Copy. Kindle Edition , 30 pages. More Details Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about Swiss Seasons , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. Sep 18, Whistlers Mom rated it really liked it. The Swiss are so perfect at being perfect. It's disgusting. I don't usually read books by professional travel writers. Maybe it's just envy, but I don't enjoy reading about someone traveling for free while the rest of us poor souls have to fork out.

I suppose that the owners airlines, hotels, etc.

Switzerland, the Complete Tour

I'm not suggesting that professional travel writers don't des The Swiss are so perfect at being perfect. I'm not suggesting that professional travel writers don't deserve to live. We're all God's children. I'm simply pointing out the financial realities of the situation. But it's about Switzerland which I love and the author writes well and entertainingly and seems like a good-natured, likable guy. The small numbers and letters along the bottom show you where you can board the train. The letters indicate the zone you should stand in, and the numbers indicate the class.

The class 1st or 2nd is indicated by a "1" or "2" on the side of the car, these correspond with the numbers on the sign. All Swiss trains are non-smoking — this is also indicated on the side of car, as well as inside. Luggage can be stowed above your seat or in between! Given that hardly nobody makes a reservation in Switzerland, it is perceived to be rude to place the luggage on seats or between the seats so that other travellers cannot take a seat—especially in quite occupied trains! Then expect some strong stares by other travellers or even to be asked in a rather rude way to move your luggage somewhere else.

During busy periods, people often stow large luggage or skis in the entrance area in between cars. This is usually fairly safe, but use common sense! The variety of trains is bewildering at first, but is actually quite simple. All trains have a one or two letter prefix, followed by a number, for example RE, IR Only the prefix, the destination, and the time of departure are important. There are also a number of narrow gauge railways that don't fit this classification that supplement the buses in the hinterlands, such as the line from Nyon to La Cure or the line from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen.

You can bring your bicycle on almost every train and some Postbuses in Switzerland, with two provisos: you must have a ticket for it available from the ticket machines, CHF18 full-fare for a day pass , and you must get on at a door marked with a bicycle. Check the time table for every single connection and train you intend to use: if you find an icon with a stroke-through bycicle, then their self-service loading transfer is not allowed.

If you find an icon with a bicycle, then a reservation is compulsory mainly for journeys with Postbuses and international train connections [21]. In Switzerland nearly all railways run electrically but it is possible to find many steam railways such as the Brienzer Rothornbahn or the Furka Railway for instance. There are many interesting mountain railways of all types. In Switzerland most electric trains get their power from a single phase AC network at 15,V, This network uses its own powerlines run with 66kV and kV, which have, unlike normal power lines, a number of conductors not divisible by 3.

Most powerlines for the single phase AC grid of the traction power grid have four conductors. Railway photography is permitted everywhere provided you don't walk on forbidden areas without permission. As good as the Swiss train system is, if you have a little time, and you only want to travel miles, you could try purchasing the world's best footpath maps and walk miles a day over some of the most wonderful and clearly-marked paths, whether it is in a valley, through a forest, or over mountains. There are more than 60,km of well maintained and documented hiking trails [22]. The trails are well-planned after a number of centuries, why not?

There are plenty of places to sleep in a tent but don't pitch one on a seemingly pleasant, flat piece of ground covered by straw--that's where the cows end up sleeping after a lazy day of eating, and they'll gnaw at your tent string supports and lean against your tent sides. And definitey don't do this during a rainstorm! You could even send your luggage ahead to the next abode and travel very lightly, with the necessary water and Swiss chocolate!

If you like cars, Switzerland can seem like a bit of a tease. They feature some of the greatest driving roads in the world, but can literally throw you in jail for speeding, even on highways. Especially between Geneva and Lausanne there are speed cameras every 2 km, so use your smartphone GPS to alert you of speed camera locations which is technically illegal or, better yet, don't speed. Speed cameras are ubiquitous on and off the highway all across Switzerland, within towns and outside of towns.

Red light cameras also exist at many major intersections. Driving with foreign license plates may or may not help you avoid tickets. Driving is the best way to see such a wonderful country with outstanding roads, particularly the countryside. In Switzerland, speeding is not a violation of a traffic code but a criminal offence, if you fail to comply there is a good chance that an international rogatory will be issued and you will have to go to court in your home country.

Failure to comply can result in a warrant being issued for your arrest by your home country. Also, starting from , Switzerland banned all GPS appliances with built-in speed cameras databases as they are equipped with "Radar Detectors". According to some GPS navigator producers, remove the Swiss radar database while driving in the country as the police may give you a fine and impound your device even if it is turned off and placed in the trunk of your vehicle!

Trailers must have a separate vignette. Avoiding the motorways in order to save the toll price is generally futile; the amount is well worth it, even if you are only transiting. A vignette must be stuck to your windshield in order to be valid! Failure to possess a valid vignette is punishable by a CHF fine and a requirement to purchase a vignette immediately total fine of CHF. Sharing vignettes is, of course, illegal and subject to the same fines as not having one.

When is the Best Time to Visit Switzerland?

Vehicles larger than kg have to pay a special toll assessed through special on-board units that is applied for all roads, not just the motorways. Certain foreign-registered vehicles such as campers, buses, and trailers have the option of paying a lump-sum daily toll ranging from from CHF 3. Major roads are indicated with blue signs and white letters , while for minor roads the signs are white with black letters. Whilst driving "a wee bit too fast" is common on motorways, people tend to stick pretty closely to the other two limits.

All Seasons Travel

Fines are hefty and traffic rules are strictly enforced. If stopped by the police, expect to pay your fine on the spot. The blood alcohol concentration limit is 0. As in every country, do not drink and drive , as you will lose your license for several months if you are cited and a heavy fine may be imposed.

Since 1 January , motorists in Switzerland are required to switch on their headlights or daytime running lights while driving during the day or risk a CHF40 fine. Driving is on the right side of the road everywhere in Switzerland, just like in most of Europe. Be aware that the priority to right rule exists everywhere in Switzerland on any street, if not indicated otherwise: at all intersections, priority is given to the driver approaching from the right except when driving on a road with right of way indicated by a Priority Road German: Hauptstrasse, French: route principale, Italien: strada principale sign yellow diamond with a broad white border [25].

One exception is when merging into traffic circles roundabouts , where priority is given to the drivers being within the roundabout. But this is no exception to the 'priority of right' rule, since the street signs indicate that the vehicle entering a roundabout does not have priority. Pass on the left, not on the right, on motorways as well. When passing , do not cross any solid white lines or double lines; only cross dashed white lines. When completing a passing manoeuvre or changing lanes or direction for any reason , you must signal with your vehicle's right indicator before you re-enter the right lane.

You are not allowed to pass trams normally only on the right side at a tram stop , if there is no passenger island on which pedestrians can wait. If a pedestrian wants to cross the road on a respectively marked place pedestrian crossing: yellow stripes on the street , then any car approaching must stop and give priority to the pedestrians. This is a general law valid anywhere in Switzerland, but especially applicable for tram stops.

Do not stop on a pedestrian crossing, even during rush hours. You must always immediately give way to police , ambulances , fire engines , and buses pulling out have priority. Veloland Schweiz has built up an extensive network of long distance cycle trails all across the country. There are many Swiss cities where you can rent bicycles if that is your means of traveling and you can even rent electric bicycles. During the summer it is quite common for cities to offer bicycle 'rental' for free! Cycling in cities is pretty safe, at least compared to other countries, and very common.

If you decide to bicycle in a city, understand that in most cities you will share the road with public transport. Beware of tram tracks which can get your wheel stuck and send you flying into traffic, of the trams themselves which travel these tracks frequently and may scare you into getting stuck into the track as just noted , and the buses, which make frequent stops in the rightmost lane. Besides the main types of transportation, the adventurous person can see Switzerland by in-line skating.

There are three routes, measuring a combined plus kilometres designed specifically for in-line skating throughout the country. They are the Rhine route, the Rhone route, and the Mittelland route. These are also scenic tours. Most of the routes are flat, with slight ascents and descents. The Mittelland route runs from Zurich airport to Neuenburg in the northwest; the Rhine route runs from Bad Ragaz to Schaffhausen in the northeastern section of the country.

Finally, the Rhone route extends from Brig to Geneva. This is a great way to see both the country-side and cityscapes of this beautiful nation. You will find tips for refreshing adventures on the water, breathtaking trips into nature, thrilling train journeys, cultural treats and top events, great accommodation offers — and much more. These centers are properly staffed with impartial, knowledable and 'tourist friendly' people. These centers have local maps and many other useful brochures. There is no sugar-coating: Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to buy stuff in with exception of electronic and informatic devices which are usually cheaper than in the rest of the EU.

This is due to a confluence of several factors, not least of which include high minimum wages, limited real estate, and the perceived superior quality of the goods being produced. Switzerland is not part of the European Union and the currency is the Swiss franc or Franken or franco, depending in which language area you are , divided into centimes, Rappen or centesimi.

This is symbolised internationally and throughout our guides with CHF placed immediately before the amount with no intervening space. However, many places - such as supermarkets, restaurants, sightseeings' box offices, hotels and the railways or ticket machines - accept euro and will give you change in Swiss francs seldom in euro, only if they have it in cash. A bill or a price-label may contain prices both in francs and in euro.

Usually in such cases the exchange-rates comply with official exchange rates, but if the exchange-rates is not market at the counter, ask for the rate. Changing some money to Swiss francs CHF is essential. Money can be exchanged at all train stations and most banks throughout the country. Therefore it is recommended to use cards or smaller euro bills. Switzerland is more cash-oriented than most other European countries. Some establishments smaller boutiques, but fewer than before do not accept credit cards so check first. When doing credit card payments, carefully review the information printed on the receipt details on this can be found in the "Stay Safe" section below.

All ATMs accept foreign cards, getting cash should not be a problem. One centime coins are no longer legal tender, but may be exchanged until for face value. Two centime coins have not been legal tender since the 's and are, consequently, worthless. Banknotes are found in denominations of 10 yellow , 20 red , 50 green , blue , brown , and purple francs.

They are all the same width but vary in length and feature a variety of security measures. Holey moley! Have you ever wondered why Swiss cheese, known locally as Emmentaler, always has those distinct holes? Bacteria are a key part of the cheesemaking process. They excrete huge amounts of carbon dioxide which forms gas bubbles in the curd, and these bubbles cause the holes. Ski and tourist areas will sell the other kinds of touristy items - cowbells, clothing embroidered with white Edelweiss flowers, and Heidi -related stuff.

Swiss people love cows in all shapes and sizes, and you can find cow-related goods everywhere, from stuffed toy cows to fake cow-hide jackets. If you have a generous souvenir budget, look for fine traditional handcrafted items such as hand-carved wooden figures in Brienz , and lace and fine linens in St. If you have really deep pockets, or just wish you did, be sure to shop on Zurich's famed Bahnhofstrasse , one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the world.

If you're looking for hip shops and thrift stores, head for the Niederdorf or the Stauffacher area. Swiss employment law bans working on Sundays, so shops stay closed. An exception is any business in a railway station, which is deemed to be serving travellers and so is exempt. If you want to find an open shop on a Sunday, go to the nearest big railway station. If a business is family-owned, you aren't employing anybody so you can open, hence small shops can also open on Sundays.

Bear in mind that swiss supermarkets and most shops close by 6 or 6. Even earlier on Saturdays. It is advisable to check the working hours. Swiss people are 'sort of' strict about the closing time. Swiss supermarkets can be hard to spot in big cities. They often have small entrances, but open out inside, or are located in a basement, leaving the expensive street frontages for other shops.

Look for the supermarket logos above entrances between other shops. In Migros, you find "M-Budget" products. Sometimes it's exactly the same product, just for cheaper price. They also offer pre-pay mobiles as cheap as The German discounter, Aldi Suisse started with 5 discount shops in the eastern part of Switzerland in early The prices are a little lower than at the other supermarket chains, but still significantly higher than in Germany.

There is no single "Swiss language". All four languages are considered official languages except that Standard German is the official German language, and not Swiss German, which is various dialects.


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Around two-thirds of the population is German-speaking, mostly in the centre, north, and east. French is spoken in the west, while Italian is spoken in the south of the Alps. The Swiss learn one of the other Swiss languages in school in addition to English, so in the larger cities you will have no trouble finding English-speaking people. In the countryside, it is less common, but hardly rare. People under the age of 50 typically speak more fluent English than older people, and older Swiss are more likely to speak French instead of or in addition to English.

In the past years, English has become the most important second language in German-speaking Switzerland, prompting a debate regarding what the first foreign language taught in Swiss-German schools should be French or English. Nonetheless, students eventually learn both although many Swiss Germans rapidly forget their French after receiving their diplomas. The Swiss German language situation is insofar exceptional that all Swiss-Germans speak a local dialect as their native tongue and there are slightly more dialects than Swiss-German cantons , i. Linguists have a term for this: Diglossia Diglossia.

Thus while Swiss German is "written like it sounds," a word may sound different in different regions of Switzerland, or even to two different people from the same city. However, this problem is not as severe as an English speaker may think. German pronunciation can be predicted nearly certainly from the word's spelling, in contrast to English where, famously, "ghoti" and "fish" are homonyms.

Swiss German is no concise dialect group itself, but just a collective term for the Alemannic dialects spoken in Switzerland. Alemannic is divided into Low, High and Highest Alemannic, with Highest Alemannic being spoken in the alpine southern part of German-speaking Switzerland e. Obwalden, Uri and eastern Valais and High Alemannic in the flatter north e. Gallen and Berne.

The dialect of Basel is traditionally considered Low Alemannic, but has become closer to being High Alemannic. High Alemannic is by far the most widely spoken, and the dialects are mutually intelligible, e. This did not happen in Germany, and in Austria the dialect is now only spoken in Voralberg, which is nearly the same as the Swiss German spoken in eastern Switzerland. Swiss German exhibits many major phonetical, lexical and grammatical differences from Standard German, making it very hard to understand to even native Standard German speakers, and the Highest Alemannic dialects are usually completely incomprehensible to non-Swiss, with even other Swiss-Germans having a hard time.

What makes Highest Alemannic dialects so different is the fact that they missed the so-called Second Germanic consonant shift taking place between the 4th and 9th century in the geographically higher regions of the German speaking world. The other place where this consonant shift did not occur, neither, was north of the so-called Benrath Line in northern, lower Germany, e. The people from the deep Walliser valley possibly missed it because of isolation from the rest of the world by high Alp mountain chaines in the north, the east, and the south, making it extremely hard to have regular contact with the rest of the world, and to the west, where the Franco-Provencal speaking Savoys lived; another natural, but societal border.

So do not be surprised if you can not understand locals at all, even if you are fluent in Standard German. Since Swiss German is the native language of the Swiss Germans, it is no surprise that you will find a lot of dialect-based broadcastings in Swiss media. However, news, movies, political discussions, interviews, documentaries etc.

However, local broadcasting are usually spoken in the native dialect of the current speaker. This is especially true for radio channels with a rather younger. With few exceptions, movies in the cinema are in Standard German, and never have Swiss German subtitles though typically have French subtitles. Movies filmed and produced in Switzerland are occasionally in Swiss German dialect, and may not necessarily be subtitled in any language.

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Swiss Standard German also takes quite a few loan words from French which are not used in Germany. For instance, "merci" is commonly used instead of "danke" even when speaking Standard German. Likewise, "velo" instead of "fahrrad" and "glace" instead of "eis creme ". Most famously, the words for "70, 80, 90" are "septante, huitante, nonante" respectively in contrast to in France and Geneva which uses "soixante-dix, quatre-vingt, quatre-vingt-dix".

While there are numerous other words and expressions used exclusively in Switzerland e. In many rural areas of French-speaking Switzerland, the related Franco-Provencal language is still spoken by parts of the population, mainly elders. Virtually all speakers, however, also speak French.

Quick Facts

Swiss Italian is basically standard Italian with German and French influences and is the native tongue of most people in Italian-speaking Switzerland, although old and rural people often speak the related Lombard language instead, though in this case Italian is most often spoken in addition to this. Romansh is an umbrella term for the Rhaeto-Romance languages descended from the Vulgar Latin spoken by the Roman era occupiers of the region.

These are closely related to the Romance languages, particularly French and Italian, although Romansh is not intelligible to a French or Italian speaker, particularly when spoken. There are five Romansh standard varieties native to a particular area, all in the canton of Grisons. These standard varieties are used as the written languages of their native regions, except on the federal and cantonal level where a single standard written language, Rumantsch Grischun, has been introduced and there is a regional standard dialect being taught in school.

However, this "standard Romansh" is not spoken in daily life, diminishing the utility of printed learning material on Romansh which usually involves Rumantsch Grischun. Unlike in the rest of Switzerland, where in most cases "unilingual meets unilingual", Romansh people are usually trilingual, also speaking perfect Swiss-German and Standard German. In the Swiss census, 35, people of which 27, in the canton of Grisons indicated Romansh as the language of "best command", and 61, also as a "regularly spoken" language.

Spoken by around 0. If you are looking for quality French courses for adults or juniors, you can learn French in one of the Alpadia previously known as ESL Language Schools schools centres located in Switzerland. If you want to work in Switzerland, be aware that you generally need to obtain a work permit.

Nationals from EU enjoy priority in the event of authorization to access the labour market. However, for nationals of any other country third country nationals , obtaining a work permit is very difficult without a higher education degree and several years of professional work experience.

Furthermore, employment is restricted to senior management positions, as specialists or other qualified personnel, and it has to be proven that your skill set can benefit the Swiss economy. Obtaining a work permit on the basis of self-employed work is rarely issued. Switzerland signed an agreement with the European Union that allows citizens of the old EU states to work and search jobs at arms length with Swiss citizens.

In these cases you only need a valid passport or ID card and have to register with the local administration. The same system applies in general to citizens of the new EU states Eastern European states in general plus Bulgaria and Romania but there are limitations on the number of permits. For all other countries in the world the best way is to check with your embassy if there are, for example, exchange programs. The high level of Swiss salaries reflect the high costs of living, so keep in mind that you must spend a lot for accommodation and food, when you negotiate your salary.

Still, if you want or have to make money fast, you can save a substantial amount per month while working in a low-paying job. Switzerland has no legal minimum salary. The salary depends on the industry you work in, with most companies paying at least CHF per month, for example as cashier in a supermarket. Overtime work is usually paid unless otherwise agreed in contract. If you want to check the average salaries by industry or make sure you get the right amount paid, Swiss employees are heavy organized in trade unions SGB [34] and always keen to help you.

Most tourist areas in Switzerland have a tourist office where you can call and have them book a hotel for you for a small fee. Each town usually has a comprehensive list of hotels on their web site, and it is often easiest to simply call down the list to make a reservation rather than try to book online.

Many hotels will request that you fax or email them your credit card information in order to secure a reservation.