Oliver Rattigan is new to our Sales & Reservations Department so we sent him over to Switzerland tour last autumn to help get him up to speed with our holidays. If you fancy exploring this charming country for yourself then we offer a number of different holidays to showcase authentic Switzerland.
Having just joined the company, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was to be sent on a 3 day educational tour of Switzerland from 9th-11th of September. Getting to know our holidays really helps when clients call in with questions. It also gives me the opportunity to make suggestions on possible additions to our holidays after seeing new places. So bright and early at 04:30 I was on the coach speeding towards Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
After arriving at Zurich airport I and two others, were lead by Heidi who is a member of the Swiss Tourist Board, travelled by train down the length of the country to the small city of Bellenzona which is the capital of the Ticino Canton in the far south of Switzerland, only 65 miles north of Milan. Being Switzerland of course the train was both on time and had stunning scenery rolling passed the window every second.
After we arrived we took some time to walk around the city walls and castles with a tour guide who informed us that the city was built along an important trade route which meant that the Dukes of Milan invested heavily in its fortification. We then returned back to our hotel to change we had dinner at the largest of the castles aptly named “Castelgrande”, after a very pleasant meal with the sun going down over the valley. We took a short walk back to the hotel and prepared to move on to the small village of Mustair.
In the morning we set off early by post bus to begin with then by train and back on a post bus at the town of Zernez for a total of around 2 ½ hours. The journey was very comfortable and due to the final bus route going though the Swiss National Park, it was again wonderfully picturesque.
Mustair itself is a very quiet village of around 800 people in the far east of Switzerland, just half a mile from the Austrian border. The main cultural focus of which was the Benedictine Convent of Saint John, which has been made a UNSECO World Heritage Site.
The convent is, (according to local legend) supposed to have been founded by Charlemagne c.800 CE, the most impressive features of the convent (which is still in use and so only partly open to guided tours) are some of the best preserved frescoes from the Romanesque period (1000-1300CE) in all of Europe. After our tour around the convent we enjoyed a short walk through the peaceful cobbled streets to the delightful family run Hotel Münsterhof were we dined on delicious, locally sourced braised beef with vegetables and rich red wine sauce.
On our third and last day we took an early bus back to the train station at Zernez and made our way by train to the small town of Bergun. One section of the journey was taken on the Bernina Express line which is one of only 3 railways given UNSECO World Heritage status.
We arrived around lunch time I found this town particularly interesting as was most relevant due to us staying in the exact same hotel as our groups stay in on our “Walking the Trail of the Bernina Express” holiday Hotel Weisses Kreuz.
As we disembarked from the train, we noticed that the old train station building had been converted into a small museum which we decided to visit after dropping off our bags. After a quick lunch of local meats/ bread and cheese enjoyed in the bright sunshine in the outside dining area of the hotel, we walked back up the small hill to the train station museum. The museum focused on the history of the local and national railway system. The museum is only small but it caters well for English speaking visitors with translations on most of the exhibits.
The town itself focuses on skiing in the winter time, but during the summer and early autumn lends itself very well to walkers. I had in fact hoped to walk at least part of the route that our groups walk when they stay in the area, unfortunately after days of glorious sunshine, the weather closed in and as the group had broken up to explore the town and I was by myself thought it unwise to go off in bad weather on my own.
The town itself is very quaint, and although the weather had closed in there were plenty of small local shops to duck into and find something unique to bring back home.
That evening for our final meal we were presented with an array of delicious meats for the omnivores of the group, including wild stag and boar. These are only available in late August /early September because Switzerland has a very restricted hunting season. Getting to enjoy such delicious food in a fantastic alpine, wood panelled restaurant in the very hotel our groups would eat in gave me such a great impression of the holiday we operate, the beautiful town and stunning scenery that Switzerland has to offer as soon as you step off of the airplane.