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Central Switzerland

Central Switzerland contains the foothills of the Alps. The cantons of Zug, Lucerne, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz, and Uri are located in central Switzerland
Central Switzerland contains the foothills of the Alps. The cantons of Zug, Lucerne, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz, and Uri are located in central Switzerland. While the main visitors to central Switzerland in the distant past were serious hikers and mule drivers, modern times have seen the tourism sector in Switzerland grow impressively. There are numerous beautiful places to see in central Switzerland: glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, mountains and gorges, which is quite impressive in a country as small as Switzerland.

As far back as the 18th century, those who considered themselves part of the Romantic movement crossed Europe, expressing the knowledge of foreign cultures they found through literature and art. Traveling at that time was a manifestation of following their hearts' desires. One poem in particular, "The Alps," by Albrecht von Haller influenced many writers of the time. With the popularity of the books, the popularity of central Switzerland, including Lake Geneva and Clarens became magnets for European travelers anxious to see the beautiful features of central Switzerland for themselves.

Throughout the 18th and the 19th centuries, upper class young men from Britain commonly spent a year on their own voyage of discovery in Europe, with Switzerland being one of the favored destinations. The most popular regions of Switzerland for these young men was the Bernese Oberland, and the Lake Geneva region of Central Switzerland.

There was, as was to be expected, a great fascination with the Alps, and indeed, it didn't take the Swiss long to realize how lucrative providing lodgings for these well-off young visitors could be. In 1823, Mount Faulhorn boasted the highest guesthouse in Europe, and many other guest houses did quite well, including those on Mount Rigi, Wengernalp, Kleine Scheidegg, and Brienz's Rothorn.

One peak, with an elevation of 3,030 meters, is called Britannia Hutte, and it is located in the alpine landscape overlooking Saas-Fee. Britannia Hutte is named for the British members of the Swiss Alpine Club who bankrolled the original lodge in 1920. Here you'll still find the origin of many excellent hiking trails. Ski tourists in particular will love the Haute Route from Saas-Fee to Chamonix.

It was the early 19th century when mountaineers began to scale the highest peaks in Switzerland. First were the Jungfrau and the Faulhorn were conquered, but it wasn't until 1865 that the formidable Matterhorn was ascended. The years immediately surrounding the succesful scaling of the Matterhorn were the heyday of Swiss mountaineering. Most of those doing the mountaineering were well to do British men and members of the European aristocracy. IN 1857 the British founded the Alpine Club. Later they formed the Swiss Alpine Club, hoping to explore the mountains they were so busily scaling. This club built a network of mountain huts so that tired explorers would have shelter for the night.

It was also during this time that the theory that high altitude fresh air could benefit those with lung disease. A health resort opened up in Davos in 1841 for children who had tuberculosis and scrofula. Within a decade, mountain air was believed to be the best treatment for those with consumption. It didn't take long for other Swiss villages to claim their own health benefits. Drinking the mountain spring waters and inhaling the pure air were part of the therapy.

Davos was also famous for its place in German author Thomas Mann's book The Magic Mountain, which concerned the experiences of his wife's convalescence in a village sanatorium there.

Tourism in Central Switzerland really took off in the mid 1800s. At that time an Englishman named Thomas Cook invented the European package holiday. Even now you can take the ViaCook route, which follows the same train journey that the intrepid 19th century British mountaineers took. By the turn of the 20th century, tourism was genuinely flourishing.

It didn't take the Swiss long to realize that building mountain passes and launching coach services gave many more people access to the mountains. The cog railway, invented in the middle of the 19th century was a great boost for Swiss tourism. This type of train could climb even very steep mountains. Switzerland's first cog railway opened in 1871, and over the next two decades, it led to the opening of many other rail lines in the region.

Central Switzerland overflows with enchanting and historic sites. Of course the grand mountain peaks are the most famous, but there are many other things to see in the region too: the William Tell monument, canyons, monasteries, and remote villages in the Alps.

It almost goes without saying that skiing and snowboarding are incredibly popular in central Switzerland, as are cross country skiing and just enjoying the ambiance of cozy inns in beautiful mountain villages. A winter holiday in Switzerland really is like something out of a fairy tale, and if you ever visit there, you will never forget the natural and manmade beauty that surrounds you.

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