Until the early 1950’s, the remote valleys, alps, and mountain villages of Switzerland were cut off from the rest of the country. An influx of unprecedented post-war capital, fed by frightened investors who had witnessed the destruction of neighboring economies, created a huge federal surplus. Rather than sit on the money, invest it abroad, or initiate private-public entrepreneurial projects, the Swiss federal government, in cooperation with cantons (states) and smaller communities, decided to create a transportation infrastructure which today is a global model of efficiency and environmental good sense.
What this means for the traveler to Switzerland is access— access to faraway places that are deeply old-fashioned, welcoming, and affordable. Compare these figures to rentals and hotel stays in the United States and the rest of Europe:
A week at a private, two-bedroom Swiss farmhouse for $750.
A week for two at a beautiful Swiss inn for $1400, including breakfast and four-course, nightly dinners.
And with a Swiss transportation pass, you have unlimited use of trains, buses, boats, and trams--sometimes even cable cars or small, private bus lines charge 50% of their normal ticket price if you have the pass. For two weeks, a pass costs about $650 for first class and about $450 for second class.
I have very close friends in Switzerland and have been visiting them often for decades. This past summer I asked them where they go now and where they had while growing up. I wanted to climb mountains, drink fresh and unpasteurized milk, do absolutely nothing but take long ridge walks all day, and in the evening cook a quiet and simple meal with my wife. We ended up in two marvelous places: Lotschental and Maderanertal.
In Lotschental, we stayed a week at the area’s oldest Victorian Inn: The Hotel Nest und Bietschhorn. In good, functional digs, above a dining room that served bistro-style food, we enjoyed Chef-owner Bellwald’s use of high-end, local ingredients like delicious raclette, rack of lamb, veal loin, and superb lettuces and chanterelles. Frankly, it would have cost us more to cook the meals we enjoyed here had we bought the ingredients ourselves; the chef had exclusive connections to farms and purveyors.