Traveling in Switzerland: from snacking to fine dining on the move
Pairing mobility with gastronomy is a deeply satisfying experience. In Switzerland, the views from large train windows are spectacular, but so is the selection of culinary delicacies that can be enjoyed on trains, boats and even cable cars. The Glacier Express has made this one of its hallmarks. With the introduction of its Excellence Class, it raised the bar in terms of culinary experience. But this article explores the gastronomic highlights aboard transport companies that may be less known.
Examing a country’s culinary traditions is a great way to get a sense of its culture. Take, for example, the 1970s film “Die Schweizermacher”, which offers a humoristic angle on the issue of citizenship.
In the film, the failed attempt to prepare a fondue serves as an indicator of how well someone is integrated into society. At its core, cheese fondue consists of the following ingredients: garlic, cheese, white wine, starch and a splash of Kirsch.
Without adding starch, the fat starts to liquefy, the layers separate, and the fat floats on top of the cheese. A mistake that can happen to anyone, but the Swiss pride themselves on having perfected the art of preparing one of Switzerland’s most quintessential dishes.
Exploring culture through the lens of its culinary heritage can be a great way to uncover another side of it. In the same vein, the importance a nation attaches to its infrastructure, such as public transportation, speaks volumes about the interconnectedness of its citizens and cultural exchange.
Vertical Dining in Grindelwald
Grindelwald is among Switzerland’s most-visited destinations. Boasting an extensive ski resort and magnificent views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, it’s an ideal place to spend a few days and unwind. Grindelwald Tourism estimates that the little Alpine village of 4,024 inhabitants welcomes around 1.4 million overnight guests annually. Many restaurants cater to hungry visitors, serving up traditional dishes as well as more exotic fare. The “Luftseilbahn Grindelwald Pfingstegg” has created an offer that takes dining to lofty heights: inside a cable car. Offered both in high and low season, visitors can select one of several offers, such as a candlelight dinner for two. Over the course of 180 minutes, guests enjoy a multicourse dinner.
Swiss Fondue in a Gondola
A similar seasonal offer exists in the heart of Switzerland from November to April but offers different views. The fondue gondola starts in Kriens, passes Fräkmüntegg and returns to Krienseregg. During the spectacular gondola ride of approximately 45 minutes, ticketed passengers can enjoy a cheese fondue made from local cheese. Contrary to the argument put forward in the Asterix & Obelix comic book, no one will face punishment for dropping a piece of bread in the caquelon.
A taste of history in Lucerne
Lucerne is a hotspot for travellers from abroad and a main artery of the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. From here, the Luzern–Interlaken Express runs from Lucerne to Interlaken, crossing the Brünig Pass halfway. A different experience presents guests making their way along the Gotthard Panorama Express. Depending on their itinerary, Lucerne marks the first or final part of their adventure onboard a historic paddle steamer or modern motorboat. While passing numerous historical sites that are significant to the formation of Switzerland as a nation, travellers can enjoy a wide array of Swiss dishes in the restaurant. The Gotthard Panorama Express is known for being the most spectacular experience on rails and water, and the culinary offer only adds to this experience.
Mount Rigi's Sky High Restaurant
People with a refined palate claim that food tastes different at various altitudes. During summer, this hypothesis can be put to the test aboard the cable car from Weggis to Rigi Kaltbad. Year after year, Mount Rigi attracts thousands of people from far and near who want to enjoy the sweeping views over Lake Lucerne, get pampered at one of the many restaurants or spend a night at one of the luxurious hotels.
On selected dates from June to September, two gondolas transform into a restaurant. With just three tables, the restaurant in the sky can accommodate up to 16 diners. Who could resist such a tempting offer? The experience starts with appetizers served on the stretch to the top. Here, the gondola comes to a halt and the main course is served. With time to visit Rigi Kaltbad’s viewing platform, mesmerizing views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding Alpine panorama await. Back in the cable car, it’s time for dessert and a gradual return to Weggis.
Nostalgic Dining on Rails
The Bernina Express is arguably the most famous train in eastern Switzerland. But its parent company, the Rhaetian Railways, operates a plethora of other trains in the region, as well as special theme routes. Case in point is “Gourmino”. As the name suggests, it promises a culinary experience on rails. The nostalgic train exudes a special atmosphere on board, mainly due to the dining car’s interior that stems from the 1930s. With just 34 seats, guests are transported back in time while enjoying a freshly prepared three-course meal made from regional ingredients on their journey along the breathtaking Albula Line. The stretch from Chur to St. Moritz is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and one of only three railway lines in the world to be elevated to this status. In case the “Gourmino” experience is unavailable on one’s preferred dates, looking into other culinary themed rides could prove intriguing, on which local dishes such as “Capuns” can be savoured. Capuns and Maluns are quintessential dishes from the canton of Grisons. Both are fairly hearty dishes; inextricably linked to previous times when many workers were employed in the mining industry – a laborious job that necessitated a high-caloric diet.
The Multilingual Journey on the GoldenPass Express
The new GoldenPass Express made headlines around the world for its ingenious engineering that solved a problem that until its introduction prevented a direct service between Montreux and Interlaken Ost because of different track widths on the route. But the train, which features three classes of service, also offers a wide choice of snacks and meals that can be pre-ordered. In its flagship travel class “Prestige”, travellers can even enjoy a portion of Swiss caviar from nearby Frutigen, which pairs beautifully with a glass of champagne. But the itinerary is noteworthy for another reason – the so-called “Röstigraben” which marks the boundary between French-speaking and German-speaking Switzerland. Besides obvious linguistic differences, people assert that crossing this invisible border reveals a side of Switzerland that is markedly different from the other.
Celebrating the art of the aperitif
While the issue remains a highly contested one, the notion that Switzerland has a pronounced apéro culture is likely unequivocal. When temperatures rise, people flock to cafes and open spaces to have a drink and something to nibble on. A tradition that can also be observed on public transport. Virtually all intercity trains operated by the Swiss Federal Railway (SBB) are equipped with a dining car. For something different, the BLS Lake Cruises offers a brunch cruise every Sunday. Others, such as the Fajita cruise on selected days, cross into the cuisines from other nations, while the “Burger Ship” or “Grill & Chill” events on Lake Lucerne, the Quöllfrisch Express in the canton of Thurgau or the wine tram in Zurich appeal to anyone looking for an extraordinary experience.
Article by Swiss Travel System AG