After some quick discussion a few months ago, we decided to spend the last week of November on holiday in Switzerland. It was the first time for our family in the country, and as soon after we arrived we learned a great deal about the people and place that is Switzerland. In fact, the differences between Germany and Switzerland were striking.
– Switzerland has green autobahn signs where Germany has blue. Fascinating, I know, but for those of us missing the US it was a little more like “home”.
– There are LOTS of tunnels! Tunnels through mountains, under towns, everywhere. In fact, we counted 7 tunnels just on the drive to Zermatt from Nendaz which is about an hour and thirty minute drive covering approximately 100 kilometers.
– You have to pay for a vignette to enter Switzerland. It costs 40 Swiss Francs (CHF), or 34 euros if you purchase in Germany and allows you to drive on the Swiss autobahns. We had heard that they the fines are several hundred euros for not having one! (Thank you AFN commercials… if you haven’t gotten to see this little form of US spending give it a Google).
– When we decided to travel via the Mont Blanc tunnel from Chamonix, France to Italy we were unaware there is a toll to be paid. In the US there would be multiple signs stating prices, etc. while driving up but this particular tunnel did not have any. We played the rather moronic tourists and after asking the toll taker if he wanted to see our Passports realized he took credit cards and paid our 40,90 Euro toll. Oops. At least it wasn’t crowded so we didn’t hold up the line. It should be noted as a helpful hint, if anyone in your party is scared of tunnels, do NOT let them read the Wikipedia article on the Mont Blanc tunnel accident in 1999 prior to driving through the tunnel.
– Another highlight for the women travelers particularly – The toilets are self cleaning or have toilet cleaning wipes in the stalls. One toilet, at the Gruyere Cheese Factory Museum, actually rotated the seat after each flush.
– After seeing several Casernes for the military throughout the countryside we did a little research on what exactly these are for. Having clearly known that Switzerland is neutral, this strong presence seemed odd to us. We found that among other things, the Swiss created military bunkers in the mountains in case of an invasion during the World Wars in Europe. We also learned that the majority of Swiss citizens own guns and the ammunition is regulated by law.
– And my personal favorite, there are structures such as parking garages in all small towns that protect the Swiss in case of a nuclear blast. These structures have capacity to hold 114% of the population! This accounts for visitors in the country, and there is actually a hotel fee that is paid by all overnight guests of 2.50 Swiss Francs to assist in covering this cost according to the more advanced source of Wikipedia.
– One of the best things that we found about Switzerland is the abundance of fondue. While we were not able to have it in a restaurant due to the attention span, or lack there of, of our ten month old, we were able to purchase it in the grocery store. There was even microwavable fondue that was far better than most we’ve had in the US!
Overall, we found Switzerland to be beautiful and quite friendly. Where we stayed in Nendaz, it felt very much like France and had a lot of the characteristics that we have found on previous visits to France itself. While not quite as child friendly as Germany, it was quite fun with our almost 11 month old! Germany does take it’s kid friendliness very seriously as they even have heat lamps in baby changing rooms on the Autobahn… that may be taking it a little far but Indi appreciates it.