If you thinking of heading north, from Cape Town, for a European Summer, then I suggest you drop in on Switzerland and, while you are there, take a short trip by train from Geneva to Gstaad.
In the 60’s Time magazine named Gstaad ‘The Place’, and it became widely known for its famous part-time residents and vacationers – the cream of international jet setters; nobility; film stars and high society who ensured that it became one of the oldest playgrounds in Europe. To this day it is still a hotspot – playing host to the global elite.
It is also one of the most beautiful Swiss resorts, and indeed, in my view, one of the most enchanting spots on earth. It is quaint and tranquil, with breathtaking views of the mountains from every angle. Frankly there is nothing better for the soul than the impact of Mother Nature’s beauty in such a magical and sublime context.
Recently the visitor experience has been enhanced by the construction of a suspended bridge, which showcases Swiss pre-eminence in technology and engineering to enable visitors to experience the Glacier. This, quite rightly, is a source of great national pride.
However, I must confess that out of season, in the Swiss Summer, life takes on a different meaning. It is at this time of year that I love the mountains most. The old-fashioned farm culture and traditions quietly continue as they have for years. On the day of the Alpine cattle descent, known as the Alpabzug, the Engelberg Market takes place in the village square. Here you can buy local produce including Alpkäse, cheese made with the milk the cows produced during their summer holidays, to the accompaniment of traditional alphorn players and yodelers. This festival is one of the best ways to experience genuine Swiss tradition and folklore and understand the concept of “Swissness”.
Every time I go back, I am in awe of this picture perfect part of Switzerland that is situated in the heart of the Berner Oberland and I know exactly why Gstaad is my love.