The following itinerary lists a range of site visits which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but some require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. Furthermore, a number of the sites have not yet confirmed their opening hours for 2021. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight/ferry schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunch and evening meals as indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.
Locarno - 2 nights
Day 1: Friday 3 September, Milan Malpensa – Locarno
- Airport transfer for participants arriving on the ‘ASA designated’ flight
- Introduction & Short Orientation tour
- Evening Meal at the hotel
Our literary tour of Switzerland actually begins in Italy as we fly in to Milan airport. Perhaps this is appropriate, for F. Scott Fitzgerald once stated that “Switzerland is a country where very few things begin, but many things end.” However, we are soon over the border into Switzerland and we make our way to Locarno, the Italian-speaking town on the shores of Lake Maggiore. Locarno was home to American novelist Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr Ripley) for some years. There are so many important historic buildings that the entire city is listed as a Swiss Heritage Site. An orientation walk will introduce you to the Piazza Grande and the city centre.
We will spend the first two nights of the tour at the lakeside Hotel la Palma au Lac. (Overnight Locarno) D
Day 2: Saturday 4 September, Locarno – Montagnola – Ascona – Locarno
- Museo e Fondazione Hermann Hesse
- In the footsteps of Hermann Hesse: A literary walking tour of Montagnola
- Lunch at the Boccadoro Literary Café
- Museo Casa Anatta, Monte Verità
- Welcome Dinner at the Monte Verità Restaurant
Hermann Hesse was a German novelist, poet and artist, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. But his life was a mess when, in 1919, he began living in Montagnola in Switzerland, close to the Italian border. His marriage had collapsed due to his wife’s mental illness, the children were sent off to relatives, and Hesse rented four little rooms in the Casa Camuzzi in order to paint, write and ponder future directions. His years there ended up being “the fullest, most prolific, most industrious and most passionate time” of his life, and it was there he wrote Siddharta and The Glass Bead Game. The region became his “homeland of the soul”. In 1923 he was granted Swiss citizenship.
In Montagnola we will visit the Hermann Hesse Foundation Museum, see his home from 1919 to 1931 and admire the views he loved over Lake Lugano. The museum displays his typewriter, spectacles, books and paintings. We will then take a literary walking tour in the footsteps of Hermann Hesse, finishing again at the Foundation Museum. Next door is the Boccadoro Literary Café, where we will lunch, before free time to explore Locarno.
In the afternoon we visit the Casa Anatta Museum on Monte Verità (literally the Hill of Truth) in Ascona. In the early 20th century this place became an extraordinary cultural, utopian and bohemian community. Socialism, vegetarianism and nudism were practised by those who visited – literary visitors include Hermann Hesse, Erich Maria Remarque, Carl Jung, Stefan George, Frieda von Richthofen, and Hugo Ball. Daphne du Maurier’s short story Monte Verità gives a fictionalised version of the colony. The Casa Anatta Museum, in an Art Nouveau building which has been called by one historian “the most original wooden house in Switzerland”, holds a permanent exhibition about the colony and its aims.
There are other important Bauhaus buildings at Monte Verità – we will explore the buildings and gardens before having a drink on the terrace, then dinner at the Fondazione Monte Verità restaurant with its panoramic views. (Overnight Locarno) BLD
Davos - 1 night
Day 3: Sunday 5 September, Locarno – Schatzalp – Davos
- Funicular from Davos to Schatzalp
- Lunch at the former sanatorium, Hotel Davos Schatzalp
- Botanical Garden Alpinum
- Thomas Mann Way
“Switzerland? I love her!”, declared Thomas Mann in 1923. His grandmother was Swiss, he spent his honeymoon in Switzerland, and when Adolf Hitler came to power, Mann fled to Switzerland for refuge. Switzerland was where this Nobel Prize winner wished to be buried. It was in the Swiss mountains that he set his most famous novel, The Magic Mountain, and today we follow in the path of Mann and his characters. The novel tells the story of a young student visiting a relative who is seeking a cure for his TB in a Davos sanatorium. Instead of staying a few weeks, Hans ends up remaining for seven years, after being told he too has symptoms of TB.
We will be staying in the legendary 5-star Steigenberger Grand Hotel Belvedere (where Robert Louis Stevenson also stayed) in Davos. From there we’ll take a funicular up the Schatzalp (the actual mountain of the story) to see the scenery so memorably described by Mann in his novel, then enjoy a terrace lunch with fantastic views over the valley. Hans Castorp, the hero of The Magic Mountain, comes from “the flatlands”. His stay in the mountains teaches him a great deal – about himself, about love, about European culture and civilisation, politics and death. The novel is philosophical, complex and a hugely influential work of 20th century literature.
After lunch we visit the Botanical Garden Alpinium. 1900 feet above sea level, we’ll find about 5000 different species of plants, including medicinal ones. The garden was created in 1907 as a place to aid the recovery of TB patients.
We then enjoy a delightful stroll down the ‘Thomas Mann Way’, a 2.6 km trail running from the Schatzalp to the former woodland sanatorium of Waldhotel in Davos. “Thoughts come clearly while one walks”, Mann once stated. The trail is marked by literary stations, explaining the connections between the landscape and Mann’s life and works, and listing central places in The Magic Mountain. Mann knew this area well – his wife Katia was treated for a lung complaint in a Davos sanatorium, and when visiting her, he enjoyed walks around the area, delighting in the spectacular views.
Life in the novel revolves around meals, and most of them are extravagant ones. We will appropriately end our Thomas Mann day by dining in style at our beautiful, historic hotel. (Overnight Davos) BLD
Zermatt - 1 night
Day 4: Monday 6 September, Davos – Zermatt
- Glacier Express from Davos to Zermatt via Filisur
Switzerland has always been Europe’s mountain playground and today we see some of those mountains close up. We will travel in the gorgeously nostalgic train carriages pulled by the ‘Crocodile’ locomotive of the Rhaetian Railway, from Davos through the rugged Zügen Gorge, over the Wiesen Viaduct and past picture-postcard train stations.
We then transfer to the Glacier Express which will take us to Zermatt through magnificent alpine scenery. The train fortunately does not move at ‘express’ speed (in fact, it is known as the slowest express train in the world), so we can enjoy the glorious views of gorges and peaks. Mark Twain once said: “The Alps and the Glaciers together are able to take every bit of conceit out of a man and reduce his self-importance to zero if he will only remain within the influence of their sublime presence long enough to give it a fair and reasonable chance to do its work.” Will we too be reduced to a state of insignificance by the end of the day, or will we simply marvel, as did poet Alexander Pope, as “Hills peep o’er hills, and alps on alps arise”?
Twain also remarked on mountaineering: “There is probably no pleasure equal to the pleasure of climbing a dangerous Alp; but it is a pleasure which is strictly confined to people who can find pleasure in it.” Zermatt is a mountaineering resort, but we will not be climbing peaks – instead we will comfortably marvel at views of the Matterhorn, as did the Marquess of Queensberry, Oscar Wilde’s arch-enemy, who was so impressed by the views that he wrote The Spirit of the Matterhorn in 1873. (Overnight Zermatt) BLD
Geneva - 3 nights
Day 5: Tuesday 7 September, Zermatt – Riffelberg – Riffelalp – Geneva
- Gornergrat Cog Railway from Zermatt to Riffelberg
- Hotel Riffelhaus 1853: Morning tea & short tour of the hotel (2500m)
- A Guided walk from Riffelberg to Riffelalp along The Mark Twain Way
- Lunch at the Restaurant al Bosco, Riffelalp Resort (2222m)
- Gornergrat Cog Railway from Riffelalp to Zermatt
We walk to the train station this morning. According to Ernest Hemingway, ‘Switzerland is a small, steep country, much more up and down than sideways”. Today we explore some of its ‘ups and downs’. From Zermatt station we take the Gornergrat Cog Railway to Riffelberg, 2582m above sea level. The Hotel Riffelberg, Zermatt’s oldest mountain hotel, was the place to stay in the 19th century. In 1878 Mark Twain arrived in the area. He spent his first evening reading reports of brave mountaineers who’d scaled the Matterhorn and other peaks. Inspired by these tales, he wrote his own satirical version of such an exploit – Climbing the Riffelberg. His story is totally exaggerated, with a climbing party of 205 participants, including mules, pastry chefs and even ironing ladies. Their luggage consists of barrels of whisky, plenty of laudanum, and 154 umbrellas. Twain stayed at the Riffelhaus, where they have named a meal in his honour (Mark Twain Rösti). “The scenery is beyond comparison beautiful”, he enthused. “Sunday in heaven is noisy compared to this quietness.” He was less keen on the local yodellers, and paid them to stop!
The Mark Twain Way, from Riffelberg to Riffelalp is a down hill walk, marked with Twain plaques and quotes, taking about 50 minutes. We will follow in his famous footsteps, taking the walk to another old hotel at Riffelalp, where we lunch.
The Cog Railway takes us back to Zermatt, and we then depart by coach for Geneva. (Overnight Geneva) BL
Day 6: Wednesday 8 September, Geneva – Cologny – Geneva
- Literary Walking tour of Geneva
- Voltaire Institute & Museum
- Fondation Martin Bodmer
- Villa Diodati (exterior only)
- Evening Apéritif in the Leopard Room followed by dinner in the Observatory, Hotel d’Angleterre
The second most populated city in Switzerland is Geneva, in the French-speaking area of the country. Situated at the south-west end of Lake Geneva, it is near the Jura Mountains, and today is an important financial centre.
Geneva, according to author Padraig Rooney, “has always been a town of worthies”. Rousseau was born in Geneva, Lord Byron and the Shelleys came to visit because of the Swiss philosopher’s bestselling novel Julie, or the New Heloise. Joseph Conrad visited and partly set Under Western Eyes in the city. In more recent times Robert Ludlum, Stella Rimington, Dan Brown and Robert Harris have set novels in the city.
This morning we take a guided walk in the city to explore its literary heritage. We then visit the ‘House of Rousseau and Literature’ in the Old Town which provides an overview of the life and works of this influential Swiss philosopher. Rousseau, son of a clockmaker, often upset the locals with his radical ideas. He even ran away from the town to avoid being thrashed for stealing apples. His childhood was full of books: “I read at the work table, I read on my errands, I read in the wardrobe, and forgot myself for hours together.”
Voltaire, a fellow philosopher, was not born in Switzerland, but in 1755 he’d managed to offend royalty. The French King had banned him from Paris, so Voltaire fled to Geneva. His charming home, Les Délices, is now the ‘Voltaire Institute and Museum’, opened in 1952. We will visit it in the afternoon.
Martin Bodmer, born in 1899, was a Swiss bibliophile and author. He founded the Gottfried Keller Award, a major literary prize. As a teenager he began collecting books, focussing his collection on world literature – Homer, Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, the Bible etc. At Cologny by Lake Geneva is the Bodmer Foundation which holds his collection of more than 150,000 works in 80 languages. Treasures of the collection include originals of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Don Quixote, Faust and the only Swiss-held Gutenberg Bible and Shakespeare First Folio.
It was a dark and stormy night in 1816 on the shores of Lake Geneva when Lord Byron and his friends Percy and Mary Shelley and Dr Polidori decided to entertain each other by writing frightening tales. They were all staying in the Villa Diodati. Teenage Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein and John Polidori wrote The Vampyre, the world’s first vampire story. Soon the villa became a place of literary pilgrimage. It has remained in private hands and sadly it’s not possible to get inside, but we can at least view the exterior of this famous literary house.
Tonight we dine and stay at the famed Hotel d’Angleterre, with spectacular views of the lake, Mont Blanc and the Jet d’Eau fountain. Opened in 1872, it was one of the first deluxe hotels in the world and the rich and famous flocked to stay there. Its noted literary visitors include Hans Christian Andersen, Karen Blixen, Winston Churchill, Ibsen, Alfred Hitchcock, and Oprah Winfrey. (Overnight Geneva) BD
Day 7: Thursday 9 September, Geneva – Chamonix – Montenvers – Geneva
- Montenvers Railway to view the Mer de Glace & Ice Caves
The Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) is the largest glacier in France. According to Mary Shelley, who saw it with her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816, it was “the most desolate place in the world”. The Shelleys had quite a trek to get there, riding on mules along steep paths in driving rain, frightened of falling rocks. He fell and was briefly knocked out by the fall. But when they set eyes on the glacier, both writers were stunned by the spectacle: “a scene in truth of dizzying wonder”, “a mass of undulating ice … as if frost had suddenly bound up the waves and whirlpools of a mighty torrent”. Percy wrote a poem, Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni while Mary, who had started Frankenstein one month before, set a key scene of her novel at the glacier. Victor Frankenstein, filled with despair and “intolerable sensations”, sets off for Chamonix. He feels joy as he gazes on the sea of ice, until he meets the monster he himself has created. It’s a momentous meeting, as the Monster demands a mate and then dashes off amongst “the undulations of the sea of ice”.
Today we follow in the footsteps of the Shelleys. After reaching Chamonix we board the rack and pinion Montenvers Railway (its track was completed in 1909) to admire stunning views of the glacier, then we take a lift to the famous Ice Cave in the heart of the ice.
The town of Chamonix is situated right at the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy. It was the site of the first ever Winter Olympic Games. We will have some time to stroll in this gorgeous resort town in the midst of the Alps. (Overnight Geneva) BL
Veytaux - 3 nights
Day 8: Friday 10 September, Geneva – Nyon – Nernier – Yvoire – Coppet – Tolochenaz – Veytaux
- The Medieval French villages of Nernier & Yvoire, Lake Geneva
- Château de Coppet: The life of Germaine de Stael
- The Grave of Audrey Hepburn, Tolochenaz
This morning we depart from the Hotel d’Angleterre and travel to Nyon, on the shores of Lake Geneva in the Swiss canton of Vaud. From there we take a boat across the lake into France to explore the medieval fishing village of Nernier. French poet Alphonse de Lamartine was so enchanted by the town’s alleyways and stone houses that he moved to Nernier. Then it’s another boat trip to nearby Yvoire, village of flowers, which is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Its 14th-century castle has impressive ramparts and fortified gates and the town recently celebrated its 700th anniversary.
Germaine de Staël was a woman of letters and a novelist. She was so outspoken in her writings that Napoleon found her “an adversary to be feared”. Tolstoy credited her as an “influential force”, and she knew everyone from Byron, Goethe, Schlegel, Benjamin Constant (who was her lover), to Edward Gibbon, the Duke of Wellington and Horace Walpole. Her home in Switzerland was an elegant little chateau at Coppet, on the shores of Lake Geneva. Although born in Paris, she was the daughter of a Swiss financier. She fled France after the Revolution and established a literary and intellectual salon at Coppet. We will explore her beautiful home and learn about this extraordinary woman and her writings.
Audrey Hepburn was not a writer, but she helped to bring alive many classic literary works on the screen. She died in Switzerland and was buried in the cemetery at Tolochenaz. The humanitarian and acclaimed actress who had starred in My Fair Lady, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Green Mansions and other movies based on books, purchased an 18th-century farmhouse in Tolochenaz in 1965 and it remained her home for 30 years. There she enjoyed her garden and her dogs. We will visit beautiful Audrey’s grave in her adopted Swiss village. (Overnight Veytaux) BD
Day 9: Saturday 11 September, Veytaux – Lausanne – Lavaux – Veytaux
- Lausanne: Literary Walking Tour with Padraig Rooney (Gibbon, Dickens, Hardy, Rousseau and Anita Brookner)
- Lunch at the Auberge de Rivaz
- The Lavaux Vineyards: In the footsteps of Charles Dickens
- Château de Chillon
Lausanne was once a military camp for Roman soldiers, but its literary history is one of refuge from distress and controversy. Many authors have come to Lausanne to find peace. T.S. Eliot wrote much of The Waste Land while under the care of a Lausanne psychiatrist (”by the waters of Leman I sat down and wept”), Shelley and Byron came in flight from England where they’d managed to upset almost everyone, historian Edward Gibbon arrived in Lausanne to undo his youthful conversion to Catholicism, and then returned in retirement to finish writing The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Ernest Hemingway holidayed in Lausanne, French novelist Benjamin Constant was born in the city, Han Suyin (the Chinese author who wrote A Many-Splendoured Thing) lived in Lausanne for many years before her death. Georges Simenon, creator of Inspector Maigret, died in Lausanne, as did playwright Jean Anouilh. This morning we will take a walking tour of the picturesque city.
Lord Byron came to Switzerland in 1816, depressed at the scandalous breakdown of his marriage, in love with his half-sister, and dogged by rumour and public disgrace. Near to Lausanne was the Hotel de l’Ancre (now the Hotel d’Angleterre) where Byron wrote some of his poem The Prisoner of Chillon, according to his friend and biographer, Irish poet Tom Moore, who said they were detained two days at the hotel because of the weather. We will view the exterior of this hotel, and then lunch at the Auberge de Rivaz.
In the afternoon we take the Lavaux Express train, through a UNESCO World Heritage wine-growing region. Charles Dickens spent five months in Lausanne: “Oh God! what a beautiful country it is”, he raved. His exploration of the alpine pastures of Lavaux inspired scenes in Little Dorrit.
We then visit the Castle of Chillon, Veytaux. In 1816 Byron and Shelley went sailing on Lake Geneva (also called Lake Leman, which is how it is named in Byron’s poem). They stopped to tour the castle and saw the dungeon in which a Genevan monk, François de Bonivard, was interred in 1530, after defending his homeland from the powerful Dukes of Savoy. Byron was fascinated by Bonivard’s story, which appealed to all his ideas about the individual versus society. His poem The Prisoner of Chillon was a best-seller – it inspired famous artists such as Delacroix to paint its scenes, and brought hordes of tourists to see the castle’s “massy walls” and “Chillon’s dungeons deep and old” for themselves. Byron was not alone in being inspired by the place – Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Gustave Flaubert all wrote about the island castle. Henry James sent his heroine Daisy Miller there because she feels she cannot leave Switzerland “without having seen that old castle”. (Overnight Veytaux) BL
Day 10: Sunday 12 September, Veytaux – Corsier-sur-Vevey – Vevey – Montreux – Veytaux
- Chaplin’s World, Corsier-sur-Vevey
- Sunday lunch at Anita Brookner’s ‘Hotel du Lac’, Vevey
- Literary tour with Senior Historian and Archivist, Evelyne Lüthi-Graf , visiting Nabokov’s Grave at Le cimetière de Clarens and the resort town of Montreux
Few actors have had as great an influence on the history of movies as Charlie Chaplin. Born in London in poverty, he managed a career of 75 years, writing, directing, and starring in his own movies. In the 1940s he fled the USA after getting into political hot water, and he settled in Switzerland. His former manor house in Corsier-sur-Vevey is now the museum ‘Charlie Chaplin’s World’ which we will visit.
In her Booker Prize winning novel Hotel du Lac, Anita Brookner described her hotel on the lake as a place guaranteed to provide “sojourn for those whom life had mistreated or merely fatigued”. Today we will lunch, like Brookner’s heroine Edith Hope, at the Grand Hotel du Lac, Vevey, with its wonderful views of Lake Geneva. The hotel opened with a banquet in 1868 and soon attracted royalty, aristocrats and writers.
Author Diccon Bewes has commented: “When it comes to Switzerland, foreign celebrities are like elephants – they come here to die.” Of course, low tax rates and high levels of privacy might also have attracted celebrities, but the country has many famous people buried in its cemeteries. We will find some of them – Charlie Chaplin and James Mason – in the Clarens Cemetery of Corsier-sur-Vevey. Vladimir Nabokov was cremated and his ashes interred beneath a simple slab of marble at Clarens. Nearby lies his great-aunt, born a Tolstoy. Surely that fact would have appealed to the author of Travels with my Aunt, Graham Greene, who was also buried at Clarens. We will stroll through this tiny cemetery.
Montreux lies on Lake Geneva – its nearby sunny slopes have long been important for viticulture. This is where nurse Catherine Barklay and her lover Lieutenant Henry find a haven in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Noël Coward moved to Vevey for tax reasons and his neighbours there included Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, Dame Joan Sutherland and David Niven. It was in 1961 that Nabokov moved into the Palace Hotel in Montreux – he stayed until his death in 1977. Sometimes, as he wrote, he could hear the steps of actor Peter Ustinov in the rooms above. We will follow Hemingway, Nabokov, and other famous authors through this pretty town. (Overnight Veytaux) BL
Basel - 2 nights
Day 11: Monday 13 September, Veytaux – Neuchâtel – La Neuveville – St Petersinsel – Basel
- Private viewing of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Archives at the Neuchâtel Public and University Library (Bibliothèque publique et universitaire – BPUN)
- Boat transfer from La Neuveville to St Petersinsel
- Light Lunch at Restaurant und Klosterhotel St Petersinsel
- Guided Tour of St Petersinsel
This morning we drive from Veytaux to Neuchâtel, which lies on the northern shore of Lake Neuchâtel. The library of Neuchâtel holds the Jean-Jacques Rousseau archives. Rousseau, a major figure of the Enlightenment, opened up new ways of seeing politics, philosophy and the education of children – his influence was enormous. He died in Neuchâtel. A short film and time spent viewing some of the treasures of this collection will teach us more about the man who stated: “Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.”
On Lake Biel lies St Peter’s Island (about 5km long), a place of huge significance to Rousseau. Expelled from France, attacked by critics, Rousseau needed solitariness and peace. The weeks he spent on the island proved to be the happiest of his life. A chapter of his 1778 book Reveries of the Solitary Walker was given to the delights of the island. Now a peninsula rather than an island, St Peter’s has quaint houses, the monastery in whose grounds Rousseau stayed, vineyards and mountain views. We will travel there and back by boat to enjoy lunch.
We then travel on to Basel, our base for the next two nights. (Overnight Basel) BL
Day 12: Tuesday 14 September, Basel
- Literary walking tour of Basel with author Padraig Rooney
- Paper and Literary Museum
Basel, Switzerland’s third most populous city, is situated on the Rhine River, right where the Swiss, French and German borders meet (it even has suburbs in France and Germany!). Its university is the oldest in the country and the city is known for its superb museums and galleries which make it ‘the cultural capital of Switzerland’.
This morning we take a literary tour of the city with Irish poet and author Padraig Rooney, author of The Gilded Chalet: Off-Piste in Literary Switzerland. It was at the Hotel Krafft (in Room 401) that Herman Hesse penned some of Steppenwolf, while the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois has hosted dozens of writers – Voltaire, Dickens, Sartre, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Stephen Crane and Patricia Highsmith are a few of them. Anthony Trollope set scenes in Can You Forgive Her? in Basel, and Louis Aragon’s pre-war novel The Bells of Basel is also set in the city. Crime writer Hansjörg Schneider has his grouchy detective Hunkeler solving murder mysteries in Basel and its surroundings.
The Basel Paper Mill is today a museum dedicated to the art of paper-making, the printing of books and writing in general. The building was constructed 500 years ago and is now a heritage site. We will tour this unusual museum.
Basel’s Kunstmuseum holds the biggest and most significant art collection in the country. In 1661 the city purchased and put on display a collection of works by Hans Holbein – this made it the first municipally owned and publicly available art collection in the world. Today the Kunstmuseum displays art from the 15th century to the present. We will view important works from the Dutch and Flemish Schools (Rubens, Rembrandt, Breughel) as well as Impressionist art and other treasures from the collection. (Overnight Basel) BL
Bern - 2 nights
Day 13: Wednesday 15 September, Basel – Bern
- Fondation Beyeler, Basel
- Centrum Paul Klee, Bern
Today we enjoy some of Switzerland’s art. Our first visit of the day is to the Beyeler Foundation, Basel, displaying in a Renzo Piano building the collection of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler. They were art dealers who amassed a fabulous collection of 20th-century modernist art. Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenstein and Louise Bourgeois are some of the artists represented at the Foundation. The garden, which often holds sculpture exhibitions, has lovely views of the Tüllinger Hills. There will be a guided tour and also free time to allow you to enjoy the art.
We then drive to Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, with medieval architecture dating back to the 12th century. Bern’s Paul Klee Centre is also housed in a Renzo Piano building, and it holds about 40% of all Klee’s works. Paul Klee was born in Switzerland and during his career he embraced Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism. His theories about art were published in the 1920s as the Paul Klee Notebooks, and these are considered seminal works for the understanding of modern art. Klee wrote poetry – his art frequently alludes to poems – and he often illustrated literary works by others. “I cannot be grasped in the here and now”, Klee once remarked. We will attempt to ‘grasp’ his talent and legacy on our visit. (Overnight Bern) B
Day 14: Thursday 16 September, Bern
- Albert Einstein House
- Robert Walser-Zentrum
- Swiss Literary Archives
- Time at leisure (with option to visit the Kunstmuseum)
Bern’s Zytoglogge is a medieval clock tower, which has served as guard tower, prison and memorial since it was built in the 13th century. It’s a UNESCO treasure and its astronomical clock is detailed and fascinating. We will visit in time to hear the chimes ring out 9am.
Albert Einstein, the man who developed the theory of relativity, was born in Germany but he lived with his wife and son in Bern from 1903 to 1905. It was in the home of 49 Kramgasse where he experienced his ‘Annus Mirabilis’ and developed his formula of E = mc2 . We will take a guided tour of Einstein’s apartment.
Robert Walser, poet, novelist and essayist, exerted a big influence on Franz Kafka and Herman Hesse, amongst others. Neglected at the time of his death in 1956, he was ‘rediscovered’ in the 1970s and his works are now considered an important part of the growth of literary modernism. Walser’s life was not a happy one – he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was institutionalised. The Robert Walser Centre in Bern, established in 2009, is dedicated to promoting his writings and explaining his life. We will visit the centre to learn more about this interesting author.
In the afternoon we visit the Swiss National Library, a copyright library and heritage site. Our guided tour of the library will teach us about Swiss cultural collections and the archives of various writers.
There will be free time in the late afternoon to visit the Kunstmuseum. This is the oldest art museum in Switzerland with a permanent collection and today it also holds the controversial Gurlitt collection, discovered in Munich in 2012 and consisting of over a thousand art works taken from Jewish owners during WWII. The museum has taken on this collection with the aim of tracing original owners and, where possible, making restitution – this work is currently on-going. There are many other art treasures to view in this wonderful gallery. (Overnight Bern) B
Meiringen - 1 night
Day 15: Friday 17 September, Bern – Thun – Lauterbrunnen – Trummelbach – Meiringen
- Coffee break in Thun
- Staubbach Falls
- Lunch in Lauterbrunnen
- Trummelbach Falls
- Sherlock Holmes Museum, Meiringen
We leave Bern this morning and travel to Thun, settled by the Romans when they conquered most of Switzerland. A castle dominates the town where John le Carré chose to set a scene of Smiley’s People. Swiss novelist Robert Walser set his story Kleist in Thun in the town. After a coffee break in this picturesque place, we head on to Lauterbrunnen. There we view the Staubbach Falls which drop 297m from a hanging valley. Goethe wrote his poem Song of the Spirits over the Water in honour of this cascade, while Byron thought the water resembled “the tail of a white horse streaming in the wind”.
It was the Lauterbrunnen Valley which inspired one of the world’s most popular novelists, J.R.R. Tolkien. He once stated that “the Hobbit’s journey from Rivendell to the other side of the Misty Mountains … is based on my adventures in 1911.” Rivendell, the Elven town in The Lord of the Rings, and the Misty Mountains were all drawn from this area. It was in 1911 that a young Tolkien embarked on a walking holiday in this part of Switzerland with friends. The name Rivendell means ‘deeply cloven valley’ and Lauterbrunnen, with its 72 waterfalls and steep sides, fits this description exactly. The Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau become ‘Caradhras’, ‘Celebdil’ and ‘Fanuidhol’ – the ‘Misty Mountains’ of his Dwarf Kingdom.
We will explore the area which Tolkien left “with deep regret”, and head off to see the Trümmelbach Falls, a series of 10 glacier-fed waterfalls almost inside the mountain. These are the world’s only glacier waterfalls accessible underground by lift and tunnels. Over 20,000 litres of water per second pour over the rocks, resulting in a deafening roar.
Our day ends in Meiringen (which claims to be the place where the meringue was invented). Of more literary interest, however, is the fact that the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, met an untimely end nearby. A small Sherlock Holmes Museum is located inside the town’s English Church – it was opened on 4th May, 1991, on the 100th anniversary of the death of Holmes. The museum has a reconstruction of the famous sitting room at 221B Baker Street, and information about Holmes’s death, the duping of Dr Watson, and all that led up to the catastrophe. There’s a bronze statue of Holmes outside. (Overnight Meiningen) BLD
Zurich - 3 nights
Day 16: Saturday 18 September, Meiringen – Lucerne – Zurich
- Reichenbach Falls, Meiringen
- Light lunch at the Frutal Versandbäckerei
- Walking tour of Lucerne including the Lion Monument described by Mark Twain as ‘the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world’
It was in 1893 that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited Meiringen. He had been steadily growing very weary of writing about Holmes, so took the dramatic decision in his story The Final Problem to send the detective to a watery death down the Reichenbach Falls, in the clutch of his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty. There was universal mourning – readers were distraught that the author had dared to kill this much-loved character. Of course, later on, influenced by phenomenal public demand, Doyle resurrected his famous detective, explaining in The Adventure of the Empty House that it was actually only Moriarty who had perished, whereas Holmes had faked his own death to fool his enemies.
This morning we visit the site of this notorious fictional ‘murder’, taking a funicular to the Reichenbach Falls and walking to see the narrow ledge where the deadly struggle occurred. This is marked by a plaque: “At this fearful place, Sherlock Holmes vanquished Professor Moriarty, on 4 May, 1891.” We enjoy a light lunch at Frutal Versandbäckerei.
We next travel on to Lucerne, a lovely lakeside town in German-speaking central Switzerland with many medieval buildings. Its covered Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge, was built in 1333. Carl Spitteler, writer and Nobel Laureate, was born in Lucerne. Mark Twain visited Lucerne in 1878 and climbed nearby Mt Rigi, then returned in 1897 when mourning the tragic death of his beloved daughter, Suzi. The beautiful scenery helped calm and console him. Today there is a Mark Twain walk around the lake, but there is also a town walk treading in his footsteps. He praised the Lion Monument, a rock relief by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world”. We will explore places known to Twain, visit the Old Town, admire the Lion Monument and stroll along the Chapel Bridge over the River Reuss, before heading off to Zurich. (Overnight Zurich) BL
Day 17: Sunday 19 September, Zurich – Kilchberg – Hirzel – Zurich
- Guided tour with Curator, Dr Elisabeth Lott-Büttiker: Thomas Mann Grave at Friedhof Kilchberg & the Conrad Ferdinand Meyer House
- Johanna Spyri Museum, Hirzel
- Kunsthaus Zurich
German-born Thomas Mann was living in the USA during the McCarthy era. He was suspected of being a Communist and although he refuted the allegations, he was forced to leave his job at the Library of Congress. So in 1952 he returned to Europe and settled in Kilchberg in the Canton of Zurich. The Reformed Church of St Martin, a Swiss Heritage Site, is where he was buried in 1955. We will visit this charming church and Mann’s grave.
Also resting in the churchyard is Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Swiss poet and historical novelist. His stirring narrative ballads were extremely popular. His Kilchberg home was built in 1785 and is now a museum. We will learn more about his life and writings, and also view the excellent 18th-century porcelain and ceramics collection held there.
If there’s one novel that springs immediately to mind when Swiss novels are mentioned, it has to be Heidi. The tale of a little girl and her crotchety grandfather living together in the Alps was first published in 1881 and is amongst the best-selling books of all time. Sequels, songs, movies, computer games and cartoons have all resulted from Johanna Spyri’s book. She was reacting against the growing industrialisation of Zurich, wanting a return to a rural and peaceful life. The Johanna Spyri Museum in Hirzel, the town of her birth, places her and her work into her social context.
Zurich’s Kunsthaus (Art Gallery) holds a collection that spans from the Middle Ages to the present, with an emphasis on Swiss art. Giacometti, Henry Fuseli, Ferdinand Hodler, and Pipilotti Rist are all represented in the collection which we will visit.
Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city. It is also, according to Ian Fleming, the birthplace of James Bond. Poet Gottfried Keller was born and died in the city, and Johanna Spyri died there. It was home of the Dada Movement, Lenin was fond of it, and John le Carré used a local hotel manager as the model for a character in The Night Manager. Zurich will be our base for three nights. (Overnight Zurich) B
Day 18: Monday 20 September, Zurich
- James Joyce Foundation: Guided Tour
- Coffee break at the James Joyce Bar
- Fraumünster Church featuring stained glass windows in the choir by Marc Chagall
- Lunch at Café Odeon
- James Joyce Literary Walking tour of Zurich
James Joyce is a writer we associate with Ireland, particularly with Dublin, but Joyce also had important Swiss connections. He spent his honeymoon in Zurich, found refuge in Switzerland during both world wars, went there for medical treatment for his eye problems, and he found erotic inspiration there too, as it was a TB patient called Gertrude who inspired Gerty MacDowell in Ulysses.
Today we visit Zurich’s James Joyce Foundation, established in 1985. It holds Europe’s largest Joyce collection, hosts reading groups making their way through Finnegan’s Wake, and promotes Joycean research.
Nearby is the Fraumunster Church, built on the remains of a former abbey for aristocratic women. The choir has 5 stunning Chagall windows depicting Biblical stories. We will view these and another stained-glass window by Giacometti on our tour of the church.
The Café Odeon was frequented by Joyce, Einstein, Stefan Zweig, Lenin, the Dadaists, sculptor Giacometti, musicians and intellectuals. Even Benito Mussolini was a visitor! The café’s guest book was recently auctioned off for a small fortune. Café Odeon was the first place in the city to serve champagne by the glass, and is today still a hive of activity. We will enjoy a two-course lunch at this landmark café.
Joyce escaped into Switzerland just as WWII broke out and not long after was buried in Zurich’s Fluntern Cemetery. The graveyard is near the city’s zoo and Nora Joyce, his widow, was certain that her James would’ve been happy hearing the lions roar. We will visit the grave of this literary lion and see the nearby statue of Joyce as part of our James Joyce walking tour of the city. (Overnight Zurich) BL
St Gallen - 2 nights
Day 19: Tuesday 21 September, Zurich – St Gallen
- Thomas Mann Archiv at ETH Zurich: Guided tour with Dr Katrin Bedenig, Head of the Thomas Mann Archiv
- An introduction to Max Frisch and Friedrich Dürrenmatt by Dr Tobias Amlinger, Head of the Max Frisch Archiv
- Textilmuseum St Gallen
Zurich holds the Thomas Mann Archive. His personal library is part of the collection and there is a reconstruction of his study (Mann’s personal working space was extremely important to him and his mahogany desk and pens had to be arranged perfectly before he could start to write). The archive’s director will guide us around the collection.
Playwright and novelist Max Frisch was born and died in Zurich, but he was always a great traveller and had at times a negative attitude to his homeland. This morning we visit the Max Frisch Archive. Frisch worked for some time as an architect and some of his drawing plans are on display, as are his letters, typescripts, theatre posters and photographs. On our tour of the archive, we will also learn about Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt, a playwright who explored epic theatre, was politically engaged, loved the macabre, and also wrote philosophical crime novels. Like Frisch, he was a member of the left-wing Gruppe Olten, an important Swiss group of writers who wished to build a ‘democratic-socialist society’. The director of the Max Frisch Archive will introduce us to these two influential authors.
In the afternoon we travel to St Gallen and our first visit there will be to the fascinating Textile Museum. At this renowned museum we will admire fabrics from Egyptian tombs, 14th-century embroideries, historical costumes and lace, ethnographic textiles and an extensive library on textile arts. St Gallen was once the largest and most important area in the country for embroidery, contributing 18% of the value of Swiss exports. Today the textile trade has declined, but Michelle Obama wore St Gallen embroidery when her husband was inaugurated, and top couturiers still work with embroideries from the area. (Overnight St Gallen) B
Day 20: Wednesday 22 September, St Gallen
- Guided tour of the Abbey of St Gall: Abbey Library, Vaulted Cellar, Exhibition Space & Cathedral
- Afternoon at leisure
- Farewell Dinner at the 2-star Michelin restaurant ‘Einstein Gourmet Restaurant’
The Abbey of St Gall was once one of the chief Benedictine abbeys of Europe and its library is one of the richest medieval libraries in the world. Today the ecclesiastical buildings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The library, which we will visit, has over 160,000 books (2100 of them written by hand) and 400 of the manuscripts are over 1000 years old. The Benedictines rightly believed in the importance of daily reading. The library interior is Rococo and must surely be one of the most beautiful libraries anywhere! The manuscript of the Niebelungenlied is just one of its treasures. We will take a guided tour of this remarkable Abbey and its library.
The town of St Gallen in eastern Switzerland grew up around the 8th century Abbey. Its art gallery, or Kunstmuseum holds another rich collection, focussing on Dutch, French and German art. You may like to view its treasures on your own in the late afternoon.
For our farewell dinner of the tour, we will dine at Einstein Gourmet Restaurant, a Michelin-starred restaurant offering fine French cuisine. Sitting beneath a vaulted ceiling, with views over the Old Town, we will say Adieu, Addio and Auf Wiedersehen in style! (Overnight St Gallen) BD
Day 21: Thursday 23 September, Depart St Gallen
- Airport transfer from St Gallen to Zurich Airport for participants travelling on the ‘ASA designated’ flight.
This morning we transfer from St Gallen to Zurich airport to catch our flights home. Switzerland has a rich literary tradition in four national languages. Which language will you choose to read in on your flight back to Australia?