Thursday, 20 February 2014

Top 10 things to do in Switzerland

OTP’s Top 10 things to do in Switzerland in 2014!

1. Go Hiking/Mountain Biking
Switzerland has more than 48 300 km marked trails, and the nature that is right at the heart of it is second to none! The air is fresh, and you often find yourself alone with nature. Hiking in Switzerland is easy and varies in difficulty and altitude. Most of the time there are restaurants and hotels along the way. Hikers can choose between camping in a hut, or staying over in a hotel.
If hiking is not for you then just going for walks in Switzerland is a beautiful experience, at all times of the year. Even in wintertime, for those who aren’t so keen on skiing there are beautiful walks you can take up at the ski fields.

For those who fancy viewing these incredible sights at speed can make the most of our mountain biking holidays. If it’s your first time riding in the Alps then we offer a huge range of trails to build up your confidence and skills in this very different environment to British riding. We choose trails that will get you used to the exposure and the altitude, before then introducing all the Alps have to offer in terms of gradients. We time this progression with the ability of the riders and will only ever show the trails that will suit you and help you get the most out of your stay and make it a natural progression that your skills will improve.
However overall enjoying the nature in Switzerland is the number one thing to do, one way or another. 
 


2. Adventure Time in Interlaken
Interlaken has been described by tourists a big outdoor adventure park. Especially for the adrenalin junkie there is loads to do whether it’s sky diving over the Swiss glacier, water-ski or paraglide. It’s a beautiful area, and is also really close to the highest train station in Europe of the Jungfraujoch which you can find at over 3,400 meters high.

3. A Day In Bern – The Capital
Any trip to Switzerland has to include a visit to this beautiful city, and Capital. With a lot of history and impressive architecture, for those searching for a more relaxing experience it’s nice to walk around and let the old city take you back a few hundred years.



4. Try the Local Delicacies
Switzerland may be small in size, but every region has kept their own specialties and cultural traditions close to their hearts. Whilst boasting some of the worlds finest delicacies including specifically Fondue and Raclette.  
Its clear that these two internationally renown dishes have one core ingredient. Cheese. However this is regularly underestimated. It’s cheese of the best quality you can get. A favorite is to just melt it all down in a pot, especially for Fondue and dip bread in some bread – perfect!



5. Swiss Chocolate
Whilst remaining with the culinary theme, Swiss Chocolate is what automatically comes to mind when considering Swiss food. One of the most renown has to be that found in Buchs, in the North of the country. The enticing “Le Monde du Cacao” exhibition allows visitors to immerse themselves in the world of chocolate, and provides all sorts of interesting facts about the history of Chocolat Frey.




6. Alpine Skiing
Few places in Europe has as good skiing as in Switzerland. Many of the ski-fields are huge and often blend in with each other, meaning you can ski over to another ski resort. Whilst offering more resorts than any other tour operator in the country OTP have chosen the best ones for their excellent skiing, picturesque scenery and friendly atmosphere. Catering for any budget or party size, we have a wide range of quality hotels, apartments and chalets chosen to best suit you, whether you want a cheap get-away or luxury 5-star holiday with a swimming pool. Most importantly, we also include a 6 day ski-lift pass with your holiday, so there are no surprise costs when you get to your resort.
Many people who go skiing in Switzerland don’t actually go there for the skiing, but for the experience, with OTP we really are the Swiss specialists, there to make that experience as enjoyable as possible.
 


7. Take a Beautiful Train Route
Traveling by train can look expensive at a first sight, but there are so many deals and offers you can get that you may end up with an amazing route cheaper than a one way ticket. One example is their day passes where you can travel as much as you like, anywhere you want for a whole day. OTP’s sister company, www.swisspasses.com can provide you with all your ticketing needs to make your travel as easy as possible. To name but a few spectacular journeys there is the world famous Glacier Express route, and also the Jungfraujoch which brings you to Europes Highest Train Station, however there are also countless of other beautiful routes. Traveling by train is more than just a transport from point A to point B here, it’s a destination in itself.

 


8. Swiss Watch Making
When thinking of Switzerland apart from Chocolate, it’s watches that regularly come to mind. With the worlds top three watch makers all originating from Switzerland it is Rolex, Omega and Breitling which typically dominate the world market. One of the best museums is found in Biel. With its fascinating variety of objects, pictures and exhibits, the Omega Museum documents the history and highlights of the famous Biel watch brands.



9. James Bond Experience
Are you a fan of James Bond? Well then Switzerland is certainly for you! Ranging from the spectacular views from the Piz Gloria as seen in Her Majesties Secret Service to the infamous dam bungee jump at the start of Goldeneye in the Verzasca Valley, this is a great attraction for any fan of this true British icon.
 

10. Visit Zurich
Zurich is one of the top 10 cities in the world for tourists to visit next year, according to the Lonely Planet travel guide for 2014, which lauds the Swiss metropolis for its “Bacchanalian edge”. Switzerland’s biggest city ranks fifth on a list, released on Wednesday, headed by Paris, Trinidad (Cuba), Cape Town and Riga, the capital of Latvia. One of the most spectacular area’s has to be that of Zurich West, where “industrial decay has given way to nocturnal hedonism” states the Lonely Planet guide. Many will be visiting Switzerland’s biggest city for the European Athletics Championships, which it hosts in August. Although there is no mention as of yet regarding the ‘Street Parade’ a large outdoor event attracting over a million party goers many are hoping for its return this year. Zurich certainly is one of the most up and coming cities in Europe


For more information regarding your Swiss holiday get in touch with us at www.otp.co.uk OTP offers great value Ski holidays and Christmas Market short-breaks in winter, guided Mountain Biking and Road Biking tours, and also Golf and Summer Ski holidays to Switzerland's best resorts. We really are the Swiss Specialists and look forward to hearing from you soon!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Saas-Fee Glacierbike Downhill 2014

Saas-Fee Glacierbike Downhill - 8th March 2014


Have you ever thought about cycling down a ski piste as quickly as you can? Well that's exactly what they do here in Saas Fee. The annual Glacierbike downhill race is due to commence on the 8th March 2014 for the 11th time. 


This adrenalin pumping event is an incredible event for spectators and the competitors themselves. Road and dirt downhill racing can be fast enough, but on ice and snow reaching scary speeds really makes this event for the adrenalin junkies to enjoy! 

Competitiors start all together at the start line at 3,500 meters a.s.l on the Mittelallalin and ride down to the village based at 1,800 m. Providing an exciting ride not only having to deal with the steep track covered in snow and ice, but avoiding the other competitors also. A big challenge for even the most experienced mountain bikers! 

See the video above for an on board view of what the race is like for the competitors. 


Race Track for the event
Also if you're wondering if spiked tyres are allowed, then unfortunately not. All bikes are checked prior to the event to make sure they are suitable and in a good condition to race. 

OTP Swiss Holidays offer great deals on holidays to Saas Fee, a snow sure resort all year round! For information take a look at otp.co.uk

Enjoy the race on 8th March and wish all the competitors the best of luck! 


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Bern - capital city

          Even before leaving the train station at Bern, its perfect blend of history and contemporary culture is startlingly obvious. With the preserved remains of the old Christoffelturm, the tower that formed part of the wall marking the Westernmost point of the city for most of the 14th Century, being used as the perfect setting for The Rock Garden, a train station restaurant like no other. Passing through a glass frontage, which keeps out the hubbub of passing commuters before entering under a rock archway, with it’s neon under-lighting and walls adorned with decorations that you would expect to see in the Hard Rock Café, wide range of cocktails and a rather superior menu, all set among the 700 year old stone.


            One of the great things about Bern for a first time visitor, and part of the reason for its listing as a UNESCO world heritage site, is the well laid out manner of the city. Compared to capitals such as London and Paris, it is very easy to navigate the city, with all the key sights within walking distance of the station, it would be possible to see most things in just one day, however, in order to appreciate the museums, restaurants and some of it’s more fascinating night life spots, a weekend or at least overnight visit would be recommended. One such restaurant/bar would be the fabulous Kornhauskeller, built in 1711 when the lowest floor was used as a market place and the top three floors a granary. This was until the agricultural situation changed in the 19th Century and it went through various uses over the next hundred years or so before finally being converted into a space where ‘festivities could be held’ and gained the décor we see today, as pictured below:


            Outside the Kornhauskeller, on the Kornhausplatz, you can see the Kindlifresserbrunnen, probably the most famous of the 11 Renaissance allegorical statues, created in the 16th Century and placed atop fountains around the city. Kindlifresserbrunnen which translates as ‘Child eater fountain’, like a lot of Bern’s history has much conflicting folklore surrounding it, ranging from it being a Fasnacht figure that scares disobedient children, to the belief (founded on the shape of its hat) that it is an expression of Blood libel against Jews, Other theories place it as Cronus the Greek God, or the Roman Saturn, however the number of children on the statue do not correlate with their tales.

            A two minute walk around the corner brings you onto Kramgasse, the street upon which the Zytglogge and Kafigturm stand, the two towers that marked the western boundaries upon two successive expansions of the city’s boundaries, built in 1218 and 1270, Zytlogge (below) being one of the cities most famous landmarks. Now famous due to its impressive clock faces, and bell ringing figure of Chronos, added in the 1400’s after centuries of varied use, including a women’s prison, and a complete rebuild after a fire.


            Continuing along Kramgasse, on the covered walkways that line the pavements along the arcades of this and the surrounding streets, you find yourself once again amazed by the wealth of remaining late Gothic architecture mixed with the facades and interiors of most of the townhouses that were rebuilt in the Baroque style between 1705 and 1745, as well as another three of the 16th century fountains. So much so, that you may miss Einsteinhaus on your right hand side, the theoretical physicist may have only resided here for a couple of years, but it was in that time he wrote the Annus Mirabilis papers, which contributed substantially to the foundation of modern physics. Inside is a small museum dedicated to him, with his living conditions at the time accurately presented on the second floor, and his biography and life’s work on the floor above.


            If you continue right the way along this street, you will come to Nydeggbrucke the 2nd bridge to be built crossing the Aare, and another Swiss heritage site of national significance, which leads you across to the Barengraben, the Bear Pit. The Bear is of great significance within Bern, as it has been its heraldic animal since at least the 1220’s, and bears kept in a bear pit within the city since at least the 1440’s. The bear pit itself has changed location four times, with the current ‘pit’ opening in 1857, however in 2009 the Barenpark was opened, between the pit and the riverbank, giving the bears (of which there are four at present) far greater space, and better living conditions. Part of the reason for this link between the city and the animal is one of the widely believed reasons behind the name Bern is that the founder of the city, Berchtold V, duke of Zahringen, vowed to name the city after the first animal he met on the hunt, which happened to be a bear or Baren.


            It is worth heading over to Helvetiaplatz on the south side of the city, just across the river to the casino and parliament building, as this is where most of the major museums are situated. Among others you will find Bern History Museum, Kunsthalle Bern (the major art gallery), The Swiss National Library and The Swiss Alpine Museum. Back across the river you will find the aforementioned parliament building, or Bundeshaus, another example of Bern’s stunning architecture, built during the second expansion of the city in the 1250’s.
            Much like the Rock Garden restaurant previously mentioned, it also has been known to display stunning examples of the city’s ability to intertwine it’s art and contemporary culture with it’s UNESCO worthy attributes, with it’s now annual Lightshow, a 25 minute nightly display that takes place in the weeks leading up to the 1st December. Below is a video of the most recent one. On top of this it plays host to a number of festivals throughout the year, covering film, jazz, ‘Gurtenfestival’ with world famous, mainstream acts, as well as Bernese Fasnacht, the annual carnival held nationwide.



            Aside from its history, art, music, bars, restaurants and shops, Bern also does very well on the sporting front, providing some excellent teams within Football (Young Boys Bern), Ice Hockey (SC Bern), Baseball and Softball (Bern Cardinals), American Football (Bern Grizzlies) and Rugby (RC Bern). It has also played host to a Football World Cup final (1954), European Figure Skate Championships (2011) and Ice Hockey World Championships (2009).