Switzerland may be neutral but it is certainly not flavourless. The fusion of German, French and Italian ingredients has formed a robust national culture, and the country's alpine landscapes have enough zing to reinvigorate the most jaded traveller.
Goethe summed up Switzerland succinctly as a combination of 'the colossal and the well-ordered'. You can be sure that your trains and letters will be on time. The tidy, just-so precision of Swiss towns is tempered by the lofty splendour of the landscapes that surround them.
Switzerland conjures up a fair swag of clichés: irresistible chocolates, kitsch clocks, yodelling Heidis, humourless bankers, international bureaucracies and an orderly, anally-retentive and rather bland national persona. But Harry Lime was wrong on more than one account when, in The Third Man, he said 500 years of Swiss democracy and peace had produced nothing more than the cuckoo clock. For a start, the Germans invented this monstrous timepiece; secondly, the Swiss, who are a brainy lot, have won more Nobel Prizes and registered more patents per capita than any other nation on earth.
Facts for the traveller
Money & Costs
Off the beaten track