out & about // an outsider’s view of switzerland, part 4

Hello again! This is Kate’s sister, Greta, with the last part of my four-part series on interesting differences between life in Switzerland and the US. In this post, I will share with you about some of the interesting things about getting out and about in Switzerland.

IMG_9853public transportation
As I mentioned in my last post, nearly everyone in Switzerland utilizes the amazing train and public transit system. Trains go almost everywhere, and they are frequent, on time, and nice, all very characteristic of Swiss precision. Where the trains don’t go, buses or trams do. Even school kids going on field trips use public transit to get where they are going, with the littlest ones wearing reflective sashes so they are noticeable. There seem to be no real school buses here.

One of the biggest things I continue to comment on each time I am in Switzerland is the amount of smoking. Whenever I am in public places, the train station, outdoor cafe areas, on the sidewalk, it seems like there is smoking. Originally, I just thought that more people smoke in Switzerland than in the US. But after taking a look at the research, that is not true.  Smoking rates are very similar to the US. In Switzerland, there are just not as many limits on where you can smoke. I think Oregon, where I live, is pretty strict with smoking in public places, so I am just not used to being around much smoking.

As I walked around Zurich and the surrounding communities, I have noticed certain types of businesses that seem more prevalent than in the US: dry cleaners, florists, hair salons, and optical shops. Kate also says she notices way more travel agencies still open around town than in the US.  This could just be my impression, but it makes me wonder what type of businesses stand out to tourists when they come to Portland. The floral shops in Switzerland all have beautiful choices of arrangements, even when they are small kiosks in the train stations. They really put the American floral industry to shame. And, you often see people bringing home fresh flowers on the commute home, especially on Friday afternoons.

The optical shops also have an amazing array of stylish choices as well. I purchased my last set of frames in Zurich, and I was even able to get my vision insurance to reimburse me for the cost!

mountain top accessibility
On this trip, we had opportunities to do some sightseeing and hiking. It is so cool to me that most of Switzerland’s mountains are really accessible. You can often take a gondola or train all the way to the top of a mountain, and wheelchairs are easily accommodated. My husband is a wheelchair-user, and he even had free tickets for almost every gondola ride and entry fee, which was a nice surprise. The downside of all these accessible mountain tops is that it is hard to find secluded places for camping in Switzerland. Everywhere you go is relatively easy to get to.

The hiking paths in Switzerland, called Wanderwegs, are all well-marked and very well-constructed. There is a rating system that will tell you in advance what to expect from a trail as far as how easy it is to identify the trail and how well-built it is. Many paths at the tops of mountains are wide gravel paths or sometimes even paved to allow for stroller hiking and some wheelchair hiking.

IMG_5163When all that hiking makes you thirsty, all you have to do is find a fountain. Villages and towns have historic fountains around every corner, and throughout all of Switzerland, nearly every fountain contains water that is safe to drink, unless otherwise marked. It is so cool to fill your water bottle up from a beautiful fountain!

Thanks for reading along as I have explained what is unique about Switzerland, in my eyes.  The one thing I can say for sure is that I am so blessed to be able to visit this beautiful country. If you have a chance, you should come visit as well.

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