Saturday, February 27, 2010

Switzerland for Levelers, Part 1: Neuchatel Region

Traveling on the level in Switzerland, home of the Alps?

You bet if you can handle the occasional up and down slant. The trick is to take the country's wonderful trains through the mountains to see what else is there.

My suggestion: Head east to the
Neuchatel region in the foothills of the Jura Mountains, home to Switzerland's famous watch, cheese and chocolate makers.

The old town of Neuchatel begins across from the lake of the same name and winds up through yellow sandstone buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Tip: If you go in July or August, the tourist train will do the climbing for you. The 45-minute tour, which stops at the 15th century castle, runs four times daily then; Sundays only in May and June, Saturday and Sunday in September.

One don't-miss, the Jaquet-Droz automatons in the Museum of Art and History down by the harbor. Like 18th century computers, they are three young figures.

The scribe can write up to 40 words in any language that uses the Roman alphabet. The female pianist breathes and compresses the keys of the pipe organ to play four different tunes. The draftsman draws a cupid, a dog or a portrait of a man. They will amaze you just as they have the crowned heads of Europe since 1774.

Tip: Hotel Beau-Rivage is situated on Lake Neuchatel adjacent to Esplanade du Mont-Blanc, a formal garden interspersed with sculpture - artists include Arp, Vasarely and Robert Indiana - all of which is nice and flat.

For more information on Switzerland, go to and click on "Travel: Europe".


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