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Roger in a Lucerne tower Click to enlarge

My impressions of Switzerland the first time I went there, in May 1987, were nothing short of sparkling. The second time I went, in June 1988, was just as great. I'll admit that they were both short, coach tours, and I only spent a total of four nights in the country, but they were four of the most awe-struck nights I have ever had! The scenery is unbeatable in my opinion; the towns and villages are spotless and orderly, and the winding roads in the Alps go around, and around, and around, until you are dizzy! Then, when you look back down on where you have been, you feel like you have been on a twister carnival ride. I guess I'm just a mountain lover, but who wouldn't love those quaint Swiss chalets, the cows' bells, the big alpine horns, Toblerone candy bars and the William Tell Overture?

In sixth grade, Michael, one of my best friends, moved to Switzerland for one year because his parents decided to go there on sabbatical leave. I don't remember where they moved to exactly, but it was somewhere in the French speaking region. I was impressed with the way the family pulled together to prepare themselves for the challenge of moving. They possessed a great amount of excitement about the move and seemed to handle a lot of decisions rather democratically as a family unit. They even started taking French lessons well in advance. I observed this behavior with a certain amount of curiosity, disbelief and wonder. Like, WHY on earth would they want to leave America for some little country in Europe (that I knew hardly anything about) for a whole year? This deeply perplexing question bothered me for a while, and I developed resentment toward Switzerland, simply because my friend was leaving my little world to go there, and to add insult to injury, he seemed delighted at the prospect! All that took some time to get-over--but before I knew it, the year was over and he was back and our friendship continued unabated until we finished high school and then went our separate ways to college and adulthood. Michael's experience abroad sounded kind of interesting whenever we talked about it, especially his stories about attending a French school, or skiing in the Alps. I didn't think I could ever do it myself, but his gung ho attitude about all things foreign or exotic definitely colored my impression of the world of travel and its possibilities for enrichment. So, naturally, this is part of my travel background, and two short visits to Switzerland.

Places where I have spent the night in Switzerland are: Arth-Goldau (Hotel Terminus Steiner), Basel (Hotel Bernina), Bivio (Hotel Solaria, near the Juliar Pass), and Stans (the Stanserhorn Hotel, a little south of Lucerne). I have been to the Rhein Falls at Schauffhausen, Lake Konstanz, a little side-trip to Vaduz, capital of Liechtenstein, St. Moritz, the St. Gottard Pass (twice), Lugano, and to the top of (over 10,000 foot tall) Mt. Titless! I have been to the old covered Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, and to the Dying Lion of Lucerne Monument. It commemorates the Swiss that died in the French Revolution in 1792. Mark Twain called it "the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world." And, true to my routine, I've climbed the wall and towers of Lucerne's remaining medieval defenses. Without a doubt, I think Lucerne is one of the most charming cities on the planet (despite the touristy label some might give it), and Swiss trains are the most punctual, just as they say. I wish I could spend a lot more time in Switzerland, of course, but it happens to be a very expensive country to visit. That's why a lot of people can only afford to go there by economy coach tours, or by Eurail, staying in hostels. Switzerland is truly one of the most affluent countries in the world, and I am thankful to have at least been there.

An interesting note about the Swiss is that they are well known for their hospitality. I heard once that if you meet any Swiss people they will often extend an invitation to come visit them whenever you go to Switzerland--even if you have only just met them. Well, one time I was traveling on a train in France and I met a Swiss family, and after a fairly short conversation, they gave me their phone number, and invited me to stay with them the next time I came to Switzerland. I was humbled by their generous offer, but unfortunately, I have never been able to go back to Switzerland to take them up on it. Too bad, I'm sure it would have been enjoyable, and one of these days I hope to go back and do at least a moderate amount of hiking, and sing at least one tune from the "Sound of Music!" (I know, I know that took place in Austria, but forgive me.)

"There are certain scenes that would awe an atheist into belief, without the help of other argument." --Thomas Gray (1739) on viewing the Alps