As a small country that sits smack dab in the middle of the Alps with 360-degree mountain scenery, everyone knows of the lush natural scenery of Switzerland. However, this county is more than just snow-capped mountains and hot chocolate. Through its years of neutrality and prosperity, Switzerland has created a unique culture that is all their own. Their alpine cities host cultural sites that express the uniqueness of the country all while complimenting and being complimented by the rich natural landscape.
Chillon Castle, or Chateau de Chillon, is one of the most striking fortifications that line the shores of Lake Geneva. For over four centuries, this water castle has monitored water freight that traveled the lake as well as guarded the land trade route to St. Bernhard Pass. Today, it doesn't guard much of anything, but it is still a beautiful medieval landmark. The interior of the castle boasts art from the 14th century, a labyrinth of underground vaults and 25 different buildings spread over the course of its sprawling lakeside grounds. While thousands of guests eagerly tour the grounds each year, for those who dream of the ultimate fairy tale wedding, it can be rented out for private events.
Although few ever get to experience them first hand, Switzerland is renowned for its long and winding alpine roads. For those who head outside of the cities for a long drive across the country, there is no better representation of how exciting Swiss roads can be than the Gotthard. Up until the 12th century, not even the Romans would try and conquer this difficult area. It wasn't until the Schollernen Ravine became developed that travellers could pass through the area with any kind of ease. Today with the winding steep roads, the area is easier than ever to travel by car and never more beautiful. This road also serves as an important North-South connection between Switzerland and Italy.
The giant water fountain of Jet d'Eau is one of Geneva's most famous landmarks. The Jet d'Eau sits at the crux of where the Rhone River empties into Lake Geneva, shooting water 140 metres into the air. The water jet shot out by the fountain is so high that it can be seen from kilometres away. During different times of year, the water is also illuminated pink, blue and other colours to celebrate humanitarian occasions. It is universally agreed that the best place to view the Jet d'Eau is the local swimming and relaxation area known as the Bains de Paquis.
The Kunsthaus Museum in Zurich is a must for all art enthusiasts. Not only does it host an extensive collection of modern art, but it's most important treasures hail from medieval Europe. The medieval sculptures and painting in the Kunsthaus range all the way from the Dutch and Italian Baroque period the highlights of the Swiss 19th century. Zurich's own native artists and other contemporary Swiss painters including Pipilotti Rist, Peter Fischli and David Weiss are also well represented in the museum.
The Zytglogge clock tower gate in Bern stands among not only the city's most beautiful gates, but it's oldest. Built in the 1100s, the clock that graces the Zytglogge has been counted among the city's masterworks for centuries. The Baroque style timepiece features gold accents with a tower the features folk figures and the hourly chimes can be heard throughout the city. It is a fitting landmark for what is one of Switzerland's most renowned clock-making regions.
Vindonissa, located in what is today called Windisch, was one of the most prominent Roman camps in ancient Switzerland. After a century of excavation, a number of discoveries have been made and many buildings of Vindonissa have been reconstructed. Visitors can tour the ruins as well as the reconstructed buildings that are filled with a number of artifacts from the Roman military and its day to day life. Visitors can also tour the Konigsfelden monastery church that was built later in the 14th century that is renowned for its unique glass windows.
The Bernina Express is iconic to imagery of the Swiss Alps. The brightly coloured train crossed through the mountains from Chur to Tirano across the border in Italy and creates a stark contrast to the natural mountain colours. This scenic Swiss train ride takes four hours and crossed 196 bridges and 55 tunnels, granting views of towns, glaciers and mountain peaks.
Ballenberg Open Air Museum
Since the 1970s, the old farmhouses, stables and barns are no long demolished the same way they are to make room for modern buildings. Instead, the old buildings are dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt with newer materials in order to preserve the architecture that makes up the Ballenberg Open Air Museum. Ballenberg is one of the few villages in the world that still gives an authentic and true to life view of a medieval town. It showcases original homesteads; authentic farming practices and rears livestock for visitors to enjoy when they crave a look at the simpler life.
Have you ever been to Switzerland? The Bernina Express is one our favourite train rides.
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