Monday, December 7, 2015

Brienz: romantic streets, waterfalls and violins

The stunning village of Brienz has been on the tourist map since the 19th century when “The Grand Tour of Europe” became en vogue. Nested at the foot of the Brienzer Rothorn, on the northern shore of Lake Brienz, the village boasts stunning vistas and beautiful streets lined up with wooden chalets. The picture-perfect Brunngasse was once voted the most beautiful street in Europe. It is flanked by wooden traditional style 18th century houses decorated with elaborate carvings, bright flowers and armies of cute gnome figurines. 

Famous for its wood carving tradition Brienz is home to an old school that has been training woodcarvers since the 19th century. The Swiss firm Lötscher that makes the only genuine Swiss cuckoo clocks builds its exquisite clocks in its workshop in Brienz. There is also a reputable  Violin Making School in the village, the only school of its kind in Switzerland. You can book a tour 
to have a glimpse into the craft of string instrument making and learn about the trade secrets.

Brienzer Rothorn Mountain 
Brienz’s main attraction is the crystal-clear lake with its traffic-free promenade and cruises on a restored steam boat “Lötschberg”. In summer, there are many lake tours to satisfy any taste: the “Fondue boat”, “Alpine-style brunch”, “Swiss BBQ Cruise” and others. By boat you can reach the spectacular Giessbach Falls that roar down into the lake from the height of 500 metres.
Another vintage means of transport that to enjoy is the oldest steam rack railway in Switzerland, the Brienz-Rothorn Railway, that takes visitors to the Brienzer Rothorn summit to admire stunning panoramas of the Swiss Alpes.

Ballenberg Open-Air Museum
The village is home to the lovely Ballenberg Open-Air Museum where you can see 80 reconstructed  houses and farm buildings dating from the 16th to the 19th century that were brought here from all over Switzerland. From mid-April through October the museum runs fascinating traditional crafts demonstration and workshops.

Photos by: Andrew Bossi/Wikipedia Creative Commons, Miles Sabin/Flickr, Martin Hilber/Flickr.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Top five things to see in the Ticino region

Ticino is often referred to as the most glamorous region in Switzerland because of its Italian feel with waterfront promenades, palm tree-lined beaches, beautiful piazzas and sunshine. Here are the top five things to see in the Ticino region.

Sunny Lugano

Located on the northern side of Lake Lugano, the city offers a perfect mix of Italian chic and Swiss standard. Several large gardens are lush with camellias, magnolias and sub-tropical plants. The meticulously restored traffic-free Old Town has stunning architecture and a great atmosphere. Lugano boasts a number of excellent galleries and museums with works by world-famous artists such as Klee, Renoir, Degas and others.

Stunning Centovalli

Hope on the train for one of the most scenic rides in Europe, between Locarno and Domodossola, in the stunning area called Centovalli (“one hundred valleys” in Italian). From the vintage rail cars, you can admire the formidable Alpine peaks, picturesque villages, waterfalls and gorges while slowly making your way across 83 bridges.

Glamorous Ascona

Located on the northern shores of Lake Maggiore, Ascona is one of the most popular Swiss resorts with smart hotels, splendid sunshine and mild winters. Its lake promenade is dotted with charming cafes and elegant boutiques. Tennis courts, an open-air swimming pool, boat trips on the lake, hiking, excellent restaurants keep the visitors busy.

Bellinzona’s castles

The town’s famous three castles Castelgrande, Montebello, Sasso Corbaro will take your breath away. Due to its strategic position in the Alps, Romans, Longobards, various Milanese power houses  built and enlarged the formidable fortresses in Bellinzona over many centuries. Today, the castles offer a glance into the region’s fascinating history and spectacular panoramas over the Alps. The town’s cobblestone narrow street, well-preserved Medieval buildings overlooked by the citadels will take you back in time.

Historic Lucerne

Surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Rigi, Pilatus and Stanserhorn, Lucerne combines innovative architecture with well-preserved old gems such as the covered, medieval Chapel Bridge, historic houses decorated with frescoes and many beautiful Baroque churches.

Photos via Flickr by: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, Emmanuelle Nater, Michael Dawes.