The Daily Star
Great scenery, diverse food – and it all runs like Swiss clockwork


As the plane crosses over the snow-topped Alps and Switzerland’s verdant scenery begins to emerge, a cluster of old houses nestled in the slopes of a rugged mountain can be made out.

Before long, Zurich comes into view, a city that even from the air looks organized, clean and green – an unfamiliar sight for a Lebanese.

Even Zurich’s international airport is neat and calm, with the only out-of-place sounds coming from the internal metro, where travelers are welcomed in by recorded sounds of yodeling and cows mooing.

In fact, while Lebanon is known as the Switzerland of the Middle East, is remarkably unlike the real thing. It’s enough to make one wonder whether those who gave Lebanon the title had ever actually visited Europe’s Swiss confederation.

Luckily, the city of Zurich and its surroundings provide the perfect base from which to experience a dash of serenity on a weekend break, whether your visit is for business or pleasure.

Zurich Hauptbahnhof

Although it might sound odd, Zurich’s Central Train Station is one of the best and most accessible places to experience Zurich, with a huge range of restaurants and shops all in one place. Although it is one of the busiest places in the city, compared to Lebanon it is still pretty calm.

All week long, kiosks selling sausages, sandwiches, Switzerland’s famous pretzels and other things fill the station, but it’s on Wednesday that the area really comes alive.

An indoor food market provides everything you could possibly crave, including Swiss, Lebanese, Iranian, Turkish, Italian and Bengali specialities, fresh vegetables, bread and cheese, sweets, frozen yogurt – you name it, they have it.

In fact, the food market is a perfect reflection of the city’s cultural diversity, as well as being a real treat for tourists.

Below the station is ShopVille, a large underground shopping center where visitors can pick up clothes, chocolate and toys.

Of course, enjoying all of this has its price-tag, and tourists traveling to Zurich should be aware that, as an economic and financial center for the region, it is one of the more expensive European cities.

Uetliberg

One of the major pulls for tourists coming to Switzerland is its beautiful scenery, and while this can be easily enjoyed from the plane, it is best experienced up-close on the ground.The Uetliberg, a Swiss mountain, is the perfect place to go. Rising 869 meters above sea level, it is the best place to soak up the country’s fresh Alpine air and stretch your legs.

It is easily accessible by a train, but many prefer to hike, stroll or bike to the mountain’s top.

Once there, visitors can enjoy a great view of the city and the stunning Lake Zurich from the mountain’s observation tower, a famous Zurich landmark.

Access is free, making this a great place to go to for some peace of mind and a picnic.Monte San Salvatore

At an altitude of 912m, Monte San Salvatore is a terrific example of the country’s incredible natural beauty.Although located outside Zurich in the city of Lugano, it is a must for anyone traveling to Switzerland, and can be reached by a mere two-hour journey by train through bucolic scenery.

Residents in this southern city largely speak Italian, making you feel as if you’re in Switzerland’s eastern neighbor, and in fact, Milan and Lake Como are relatively close to the city.

The Mediterranean mood is delightful; everyone speaks Italian and there are pasta restaurants everywhere. Lugano also enjoys less rainy weather than Zurich, and is a welcome change for those used to the Middle-Eastern climate.

In order to reach the mountain, tourists have to take a funicular from Paradiso, a suburb in Lugano. The trip to the summit takes around 15-20 minutes.

The mountain provides visitors with a panoramic view of the northwestern part of the Alps, Lake Lugano and the city. The Melide Bridge, a causeway across Lake Lugano, can also be spotted.

The landmark mountain was historically visited by Christian pilgrims who used to make their way to its peak in order to offer their prayers to God.

Whether they are religious or not, visitors can enjoy lunch at the restaurants there, go for a hike, visit the San Salvatore Museum or simply sit on the benches and enjoy the breathtaking view.