|Subject: Switzerland trip/2002|
David and Janet,
In 1994 I spent a little over a week backpacking in Switzerland. I speak no German or Italian and only un peu of French but I had absolutely no trouble ordering food, finding lodging or arranging transportation. I learned a few key phrases that let me ask for specific items at the bakery, butcher or market, but otherwise I got by fine with English and hand signals. By the way, the most important German phrase to know is ein bier, bitte. I made no advance hotel reservations but never had a problem finding a reasonably priced place to stay which I arranged with the help of the local tourist office upon first arriving at a new destination. I think they were all 2 or 3 star establishments.
I had previously visited the Bernese Oberland (Interlaken, Grindelwald, Kleine Scheidigg) and wanted to see other parts of the Alps. So on this trip I used three towns as bases from which I hiked, biked and explored - Kandersteg, St. Moritz and Zermatt. I would enthusiastically endorse the first two as great places to visit if you are looking for low key locations with spectacular scenery. Zermatt was more touristy and less to my liking. If I were to do it again, I would check out Saas Fee as an alternative to Zermatt. Certainly a Must Do activity is to ride one of the long distance trains through some of the most awe-inspiring vistas anywhere. I took the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz but there are others available. All free with your Swiss Pass (though you MUST have a reservation which costs a small fee).
By the way, I was there in Mid-June. The crowds were not large and the weather was terrific - cool nights and mild days. If you bring a water-proof jacket and a polar fleece pullover, then you are set for anything.
If you want the names of my hotels, let me know. In the meantime, enjoy your travel planning!
Mark Los Angeles