The Luxury Country: Switzerland – an Overview
You’ve heard of luxury cars, luxury hotels, luxury watches, and all that. Have you ever heard of a luxury country? While the UAE might like you to think that Dubai is what I’m talking about (and much love goes out to the UAE), Switzerland is the embodiment of a luxury country.
What makes it a luxury country? Everything is done to a high level of quality, and flawlessly so. When I say everything, I mean it. Of course the trains run perfectly on time and the watches are superb, but it goes beyond that. Every city and village is pretty, some staggeringly so, the service industry is impeccably efficient and gracious, the food delicious, and Swiss made goods of all sorts are among the best in the world. Despite their relatively small size, Zürich and Geneva regularly top “most livable cities” lists (though I am highly partial to Zürich over Geneva, more later). The people can’t take credit for everything though; the scenery is absolutely stunning.
As I said when recently there, “when God made Switzerland, he left the rest of the world with a deficit,”* and it’s sort of true. It’s hard to imagine scenery more dramatic and breathtaking, with possible rivals in the US Southwest or the Himalayas. Nowhere have I seen water more clear and emerald green at the same time than in the mountain lakes and rivers, even with cities built on them. The valleys are spectacular, and the mountains among the most famous in the world. To prove my point, I present to you this picture:
Did I mention that the grass is really green, as seen in the lower right there? This is of course what Swiss cows eat to produce some of the best cheeses in the world. If you’re reading this in America and think of “Swiss cheese,” you’re totally off the mark. That’s an imitation of Emmentaler, far superior in its original form, and it omits the myriad excellent other Swiss cheeses, most notably Gruyère, which when aged is one of the best cheeses in the world. Swiss cows themselves are the mascot of the country, and are seen everywhere. Literally everywhere – just outside a city and as high as 7000 feet on a mountain slope. They’re also extremely pleasant looking and docile creatures, and the sound of their cowbells is the persistent but welcome soundtrack in any mountain valley:
As it must appear obvious now, Switzerland is an outdoor sports fan’s year-round paradise, with biking, hiking, climbing, kayaking, paragliding, and God knows what other activities in the summer, and it’s also of course a winter wonderland, with ski resorts such as Gstaad, Wengen, and Zermatt attracting the international wintertime jet set.
As noted, it’s also a great place to eat well, with not just some of the best cheese, but also the best bread anywhere, better even than France (much that is French is overrated, though the bread there is excellent). Most of the produce is local, as is most of the meat. Even the fish comes from the nearby rivers and lakes. Swiss food can be heavy, but is always executed brilliantly, and foreign food (especially the highly prevalent Italian) is also done very, very well. One tip – stick to wine or German beers. Beer is maybe the one thing they don’t do so well unless lighter lagers are your thing.
Speaking of drinking, it’s also a place to party, believe it or not. Zürich is an extremely cosmopolitan and surprisingly young city, and boasts more clubs per capita than anywhere else in Europe, and attracts top name DJs and bands regularly. It even has music festivals! Not that I saw any evidence of it, but apparently drug laws are also fairly progressive.†
Last but not least, shopping is a major draw in Switzerland, with town and city centers packed with high-end retail stores, but let the WBH value vs. expense discussion guide your purchases. Yes, goods available in Switzerland are of superior quality. But Switzerland is also the most expensive place I’ve ever been. When an espresso from Starbucks costs $7 (no joke, readers), you may be torn between a decent hotel and a shopping spree. It’s your call of course, but let it be known that everything in Switzerland – food, lodging, transport, shopping – costs over twice what it does in a large American city, and about 50% more, at a minimum, than somewhere like London. Indeed, no place makes London look like a bargain except Switzerland. Having said that, as you’ve read, the country is amazing, and worth saving up for. Stay tuned for additional posts on the subject.
*Note: rhetorical; this is not to be taken as a statement of religious belief one way or the other.
† WBH absolutely does not condone smuggling or anything foolish like that.