My Favorite Destinations:
Take the Kids to Switzerland

by Diana Hechler

(July 15, 2004) What should Larchmont parents do when they want to expose their sports-minded, activity-oriented offspring to a “little” European culture? If you can’t picture your kids strolling through the Louvre or the British Museum, why not consider Switzerland as a great introduction to Europe?

Chillon Castles
Chillon Castle

Consider flying into Geneva (great airline access) and hopping over to Lausanne (1 hour by train) by the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman). Home to the Olympics Museum, Lausanne is filled with beautiful lakeside hotels, decorated with awnings and window-box geraniums. This is Switzerland, so of course everything is spotless and efficient and there are beautiful lakeside paths for strolls at dusk.

From Lausanne, you can make easy daytrips to the small villages of Montreux and Vevey. Film buffs should look lakeside for the statue of Charlie Chaplin in Vevey, his adopted home. In Montreux, one of my favorite sites is the Castle of Chillon, a beautifully preserved medieval relic with turrets and dungeon – appealing for all ages. Byron lovers might recognize Chillon from the epic poem, “The Prisoner of Chillon” and if you go down into the dungeon, look for the column on which Byron etched his name.

The kids need to exercise and stretch? Up to Zermatt you go. Since no cars are allowed in town, you’ll need to take the train up and up and up to the very base of the Matterhorn. Yes, it really does look like just the one in Disneyland – only bigger! Hikers abound, there’s a gorgeous gorge, and, if you wish, you can even ski in July on the glacier. Even non-skiers can take the cable car (3 of them actually) up to the glacier and visit the ice-cave: ethereal, blue lighting and new-age music. Cool! (Bring a sweatshirt.) My boys loved playing chess on the life-size, outdoor chessboard right in town. And one afternoon, they watched two kids their own age shepherd a herd of bell-tinkling goats right up the main street.

This isn't Disneyland.

Are there any James Bond fans in the house? Interlaken, another car-less village, nestles near the base of the Jungfrau peak between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Although funicular, cog railway and cable car rides abound to take you into the heart of the Alps, any true James Bond fans should not miss mountain-top Piz Gloria, featured in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. No longer a mind control center for Blofeld, Piz Gloria serves as a benign revolving restaurant.

If you need to brush up on the details of the William Tell story, at night in the summer, Interlaken hosts a pageant play of the famous tale with 250 actors. Although it’s performed in German, the action needs little translation and the apple and bow-shooting incident is the climax.

After you’ve enjoyed as many boat rides on these two beautiful lakes as you can stand, head further north to placid Lucerne. The big attraction in town is the stately Kapellbrucke (Chapel Bridge), full of dignified panels depicting Swiss heroes and history. However, my memories focus on the Spreuerbrucke, an old wooden bridge whose paintings record the effects of the plague in a series of macabre panels, the Dance of Death, among them. Guaranteed to stay with you.

And I haven’t even mentioned the CHOCOLATE!


Diana M. Hechler, D. Tours Travel