Graubünden: St. Mortiz and Davos

St. Moritz is the wintertime glamour capital of Europe, rising to prominence after hosting two early Winter Olympic Games in 1924 and 1932. The city is perhaps the most exclusive skiing destination in the world, with world-class hotels, restaurants, and shopping to match. In addition to its lake and surrounding Alps, the region boats a “champagne climate” with 322 days of sun per year.

Davos and its partner village Klosters form the other well-known skiing area in southeastern Switzerland.   Davos is best known for hosting the annual World Economic Forum, but nonetheless is a destination all on its own. The city lies in an Alpine valley, surrounded by exceptional skiing and hiking on all sides.

St Moritz - Lej de San Murezzan St Moritz Logo St Mortiz - Corviglia St Moritz - Badrutt's Palace Davos - Bramabuel Davos - Bramabuel Davos - Jatzhorn

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Family Trip: St. Gallen

The final destination on our return to Zurich was St. Gallen, one of the largest cities in eastern Switzerland.  The city is best known for its UNESCO Abbey of St. Gall, which has a beautiful rococo library housing manuscripts from the 8th century.  Our visit was limited by a late evening arrival, but we enjoyed a stroll through the town center, appropriately decorated in traditional Swiss motifs to give a quaint small-town feel to an otherwise modern city.

Abbey of St. Gall Abbey of St. Gall St. Gallen St. Gallen St. Gall

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Family Trip: Konigschlosser

From Innsbruck, we drove north into the German state of Bavaria through the rolling pre-Alpine hills and mountains to Hohenschwangau, a small (VERY small) village best known as the home of the Konigschlosser (King’s Castles), the famous Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Hohenschwangau.  These castles were the homes of the Bavarian royalty, including the best-known “Mad” Ludwig II.  Hohenschwangau is the older of the two castles, and was built upon the ruins of an older castle that Ludwig II’s father stumbled upon during a hike/hunt.  The inside of the castle is stunning, with wall-sized frescoes of Germanic traditions and legends.  However, the Schloss Neuschwanstein is the more intriguing of the two: it was designed and built by Ludwig II, who dreamily envisioned it as a medieval knight castle inspired by legends and Wagner operas.  While the castle’s hilltop setting is fantastic in its own right, the interior is potentially even more magical.  King Ludwig did not live to see the castle’s completion – he was forced off the throne by the presiding Bavarian political council after being judged “unfit to rule”, and died under very mysterious circumstances.

Before leaving Bavaria, we ventured to Schloss Linderhof, a castle that Ludwig II built as a celebration of the French monarchy and their absolute rule.  The opulence of the palace and expansive grounds certainly evokes themes of the French Versailles.

Schloss Neuschwanstein Schloss Neuschwanstein Schloss Neuschwanstein Schloss Hohenschwangau Hohenschwangau Alpsee Schloss Linderhof Schloss Linderhof

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Family Trip: Innsbruck

The city sits along the river Inn and is surrounded on all sides by fantastic mountains; the Tirol region is a skier’s paradise, and Innsbruck has hosted the Winter Olympics twice (1964, 1976).  In the city center, the famed Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) balcony dating to 1500 is adjacent to the imperial Hofburg Palace, which served as a summer retreat for the Hapsburg royalty.  The Swarovski Crystal factory and art gallery  is a short distance from town, with lovely crystalline sculptures from contemporary artists in addition to a broad Swarovski collection.

Goldenes Dachl Swarovski Clouds Swarovski Seegrube Hafelekarspitze Hafelekarspitze Alpine Sheep

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Bundesfeier: Swiss National Day

August 1st is Switzerland’s national holiday, commemorating the first mutual protection alliance between 3 cantons (of the now 26)in central Switzerland in 1291.  Bundesfeiey celebrations across the country consist of brunches on farms, traditional singing and dancing, and even a cow ride or two.  In Zurich, the day started with a parade down the Bahnhofstrasse, speeches by politicians and young Zurichers, and a singing of the national anthem.  Then the party started – with raclette, spatzli, wurst sausages, and risotto food booths demonstrating food across Switzerland and traditional singing, dancing, and music groups performing yodel-esqe choruses.  Swiss flags were everywhere the eye could see, and the evening culminated with fireworks over the lake.

Bundesfeier Bundesfeier Parade Alpi HornBundesfeier Bundesfeier Raclette Bundesfeier Spatzli Bundesfeier Risotto Bundesfeier Grossmunster Bundesfeier Limmat Bundesfeier Fireworks

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Family Trip: Vaduz, Liechtenstein

We departed the Swiss Riviera back to Zurich by train, then rented a car in Zurich for the remainder of our journey.  The rental car market is certainly different than the US – the three choices of rentals were Mercedes, BMW, and Audi!  We drove through the Swiss countryside to neighboring Liechtenstein and the capital, Vaduz.  Liechtenstein is a fascinating country for its small size (only 15 miles by 7 miles) and population (37,000).  The country is the last remaining principality of the Holy Roman Empire, and remains under the rule of a castle-dwelling prince.  It has preserved its status as an independent nation through diplomacy and strategic location – situated between Switzerland and Austria, the country avoided much of the European border restructuring of the last several centuries.  Postage stamps from Liechtenstein are collectors’ items for their high artistic value and rarity.

Schloss Postage Stamp Exhibit Stadtl-Platz

Cathédrale St. Florin Schloss

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Family Trip: Montreux

Montreux is another “Swiss Riviera” destination; though smaller than Lausanne, it has its share of great sights and history.  We walked along the lakeside Quai des Fleurs to the Chateau de Chillon, where it seemed like every 20 feet provided a new photo opportunity.  The castle is famous for the Prisoner of Chillon by Byron, but the castle has a tremendous history in its own right.  We were fortunate to be there during the annual Montreux Jazz Festival, a weeks-long event that features nightly concerts by the biggest names in music.  Food and drink booths, local crafts, and jazz pop-up concerts were active during the day leading up to the main concerts in the evenings – six artists, three stages, every night for three weeks!

Quai des Fleurs Montreux Quai des Fleurs Quai des Fleurs Chateau de Chillon

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