What’s the first international destination that comes to your mind when you are planning a vacation, especially a romantic one? Switzerland, right? While Bollywood fans owe their introduction of the place to late filmmaker Yash Chopra, especially in blockbusters such as Silsila and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge; the country’s affection towards tourists and vice-versa goes back 400 years. By Tanvi Jain
It was back in the early 18th century when the followers of the Romantic movement travelled across Europe to pursue their desires and continued to include their experiences in the forms of art and literature. In fact, a poem by Jean-Jacques Rousseau — La Nouvelle Héloïse (The New Eloise) — about the untouched beauty of Lake Geneva encouraged many to flock to Chillon.
In the 19th century, the mountains proved to be a major attraction to the young upper-class men from Britain, so much so that even today some of them are preferred for adventure sports. Back then, guesthouses, such as Mount Rigi in 1816, Mount Faulhorn — the highest guesthouse in Europe — in 1823, Wengernalp in 1835, Kleine Scheidegg – facing the North Face of the Eiger — in 1838, and the Rothorn (Brienz) in 1840; became the first ones to accommodate them.
Later, from 1854 to 1865, when the members of the British aristocracy started conquering the highest summits of the Swiss Alps, the period came to be known as the ‘Golden Age of Alpinism‘. Moreover, the country also welcomed Queen Victoria and her entourage in the mid 19th century for a five-week getaway, thereby making her the first-ever British monarch to visit the Alpine country.
Moreover, a belief in the Alps ‘as a place of healing’, soon made Switzerland the best place for treatment of lung diseases, thereby, shooting it up on the list of health tourism getaways, a position it has managed to maintain till date. The curative regime at the new health resorts involves drinking spring waters, experiencing hydrotherapy, and breathing in the pure mountain air, along with its beautiful spas with world-class facilities that make the country – a top wellness destination of today.
Moving on to connectivity, the launch of special coach services over the mountain passes, made the high peaks accessible to a wider public. Cog railway, invented in the mid-1800s climbed the steepest of mountains and proved to be a major advantage for Swiss tourism. The first cog railway in Switzerland, running from Vitznau to Mount Rigi, opened in 1871, post which many followed. Today it’s considered the most well connected and developed public transport system in the world, which can be accessed by a Swiss Travel Pass, another major attraction for tourists.
Switzerland’s panoramic train routes are among the most beautiful rail routes in the world. Passing through the most majestic mountain scenery, idyllic valleys and villages; along with crystal-clear lakes and ice-blue glaciers, trains like Bernina Express, Glacier Express and others have become a part of the country’s heritage and history.
Switzerland has a lot to offer, such as panoramic train rides, rich cultural and traditional experiences, adventure sports and varied gastronomical trails. The country’s tourism industry that became an invaluable element in the national economy at the turn of the 20th century has today made the nation the most preferred winter destination, which accounts for a substantial part of its total revenue.