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The Swiss Travel System is Unique in the World

Lake steamers are comfortable modes of travel in Switzerland.
Lake steamers are comfortable modes of travel in Switzerland.

You can set your clocks by Swiss trains, along with its yellow postal buses, lake steamer boats, and city bus lines. All are connected in a dense travel system synchronized for amazingly easy and prompt connections. It is the best in the world.

One Swiss rail pass entitles you to use the entire travel network, including a 50% discount on cable cars. Although Switzerland is only 216 miles from north to south, and 137 miles from east to west, it encompasses four diverse cultural regions, each with its own language. Approximately German- 63%, French - 18%, Italian - 10%, and Romansch - 1%.

In the past, I have traveled to all the German and French areas. Last summer, I bought a two-week Swiss pass to explore Switzerland’s Italian and Romansch cantons.

The unique Swiss Fly-Rail Baggage Service sent my suitcase directly from Sacramento’s airport to my destination in Lugano, on Switzerland’s southern border with Italy.

After landing at Zurich airport, it was an easy walk to the airport’s own train station and, in less than two hours, I was overlooking the palm trees that lined Lugano’s lakefront.

For the next five days, comfortable lake steamers were my principal mode of transportation on Lake Lugano, with bus connections to Lakes Maggiore and Como. The steamer made frequent stops at Mediterranean-style villages along the shore. Sometimes I would get off the boat for lunch at a lakeside cafe or stroll up mountain paths to admire the lush terrain and backyard vegetable gardens.

One afternoon I visited the fanciful and majestic Borromeo palace and gardens of Isola Bella, an island on Lake Maggiore.

Traveling north from Lugano on a postal bus that climbed for two hours through breathtaking scenery, I arrived at the fabulous holiday resort of St. Moritz. The Palm Express bus stopped at St. Moritz train station where a train was waiting for a journey through some of Europe's highest lakes and glaciers.

One hour later, we arrived at the enchanting Romantsch-speaking village of Scuol. Scuol is in Graubunden, the least populous and highest of the 26 Swiss cantons in the country's easternmost corner bordering Austria. It is a region of wilderness seldom found in the rest of Switzerland.

In the past 40 years, Scuol has become one of Europe's most popular destinations because of its winter sports activities, hiking trails, and outstanding spa. I felt right at home with many other gray-haired hikers on a post bus ride from Scuol to the various hiking trailheads of Switzerland's only national park.

For centuries, the curative powers of the mineral springs in the area have been held n high esteem. Thanks to the great physician Paracelsus, the sources of the baths at Scuol became known throughout Europe.

Instead of hiking one afternoon, I visited the spa's Roman-Irish baths, which combine the Romans' enjoyment of steam baths with the Irish preference for relaxing in dry, hot air. I was forewarned at the co-ed baths' reception area that everyone would be naked during the ritual (common in European spas). Fortunately, we were all provided with an authentic toga while moving from one area to another. This unique 2-1/2 hour experience ended with a brief moisturizing massage before being wrapped in a warm blanket and tucked into bed with a panoramic view of the surrounding mountain peaks.

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