For food lovers, Switzerland offers some unique, lip-smacking food experiences with a spectacular view. At Ecophiles, we are all about going off the eaten path (if you’ll pardon the pun) and here we explore some unusual local tasting options like visiting Europe’s only tea plantation, lunch at the longest table in the Alps and visiting the valley of mountain herbs.
While Switzerland is famous for chocolate, cheese and fondue, there are several ways to explore its ever growing food scene – slow food, a train route via the vineyards, learning how cheese is made, gourmet experiences and there are fantastic options for vegetarians too.
Switzerland, proud of its natural beauty, is a dream eco-friendly destination with its manicured Alps and stunning, clear lakes. If you’re looking for green travel to Switzerland to get to your chosen food destination, read our guide on 11 Eco-Friendly Way to Take in the Swiss Sites.
Swiss Cuppa in Europe’s Only Tea Plantation
Monte Verità is perched on the hills with a panoramic view of Ascona and Lake Maggiore. At the turn of the 20th century, an alternative, vegetarian colony was founded on the site. Artists, anarchists, philosophers and thinkers settled here – Hermann Hesse to name an illustrious guest.
In this fertile space you find Europe’s only tea plantation. Peter Oppliger or the “tea philosopher” is a former apothecary who started to experiment with tea. Thanks to the region’s unique microclimate, in autumn 2005, the first harvest was made into a small amount of green tea.
Oppliger’s chief interest lay in tea cultivation and production. “Il sentiero del tè” (“The Tea Way”) is a course built and guided by Japanese philosophy. Along this path on the Monte Verità, experience every aspect of the culture of tea including ritual tea ceremonies at the Tea House. Fancy a cuppa with a view?
Getting There: Take the train to Locarno, the closest railway station to Ascona, to reach Monte Verità.
Valley of Mountain Herbs – Simmental
In the gentle Simmental landscape, its mountain terraces bask in the sun. This valley in the Bernese Oberland catches intense sun rays which gives life to herbs and plants with strong flavour. There are countless meadows with a huge variety of mountain herbs, and many may even grow by the roadside. The locals will be happy to share their knowledge of the herbs you should (and perhaps shouldn’t) sample! The herbs offer relief from insect-bite itching and help you to feel a little warmer in sub-zero temperatures. Some herbs are made into tinctures or ointment using water or oils. Others are dried to make tea or are used fresh. There are also many cascading waterfalls, hiking and biking options here.
If you’re in Simmental in early September, the world-renowned Alpabfahrt in St. Stephan takes place when around 300 cows and heifers, adorned with flowers and ribbons, make their journey back into the valley. On the festival square at the St. Stephan airfield, local products and handicrafts can be bought at different stands. A regional yodel formation and an Alp horn group completes the picture.
The cattle enjoy the Dürrenwald and the grass and herbs for a good 80 days before they head to lower grounds. You can also hike in the beautiful mountain region surrounding the Flöschhorn, head to the Alp Dürrenwald to take the weekly tour of the cheese factory and learn about the production of Alpine cheese.
Getting There: Take the train from the Swiss capital city of Berne.
Lunch at the Alps’ longest table
How about a spot of lunch at the longest table in the Alps? During the festival La Tavolata, a 400-metres (1300 feet) long table winds through the pedestrian streets of St Moritz. Break bread with the locals and guests sit, enjoy a drink, song and a dance. This year, the festival starts with a new secret PopUp dinner on July 29, a day of street BBQ and concerts on July 30 and finally the la Tavolata – the longest and most beautiful table in the Alps on July 31.
Seeking Swiss Red Gold: Saffron
On the sunny high plateau of Mund, saffron is still grown according to centuries-old traditions – the only place it can be found anywhere in Europe. Between 30 and 1000 flowers are harvested every day during the season between October and November. The precious spice is extracted from the flowers’ pistils. The Mund saffron guild produces between one and four kilograms of saffron every year, working painstakingly by hand.
The Saffron Educational Trail begins at the village centre, sets out on a circular route running through saffron fields and meadows, and with an impressive view of the Rhone Valley. You can go hiking and learn about why saffron can only be picked and processed by hand. A great trail for families!
An Eco-friendly train ride across vineyards
Vevey – Puidoux-Chexbres (Lavaux): the Train des Vignes (vineyard train) runs on a fantastic route through the terraced vineyards of Lavaux, the landscape high above Lake Geneva designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, with views of the Savoy and Valais Alps. An hourly regional train from Vevey station to Puidoux-Chexbres offers the unusual experience of travelling across the terraced vineyards of the Lavaux UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Chexbres-Village station, where the train stops, there are several footpaths through the steep terraces. A signposted educational trail tells the story of the vineyard and the grape varieties grown there.
The Lavaux Panoramic is a tourist train with tyred wheels that carries visitors from Chexbres-Village along narrow roads through the vineyards. A similar train known as the “Lavaux Express” also runs through the Lavaux vineyards from Lutry and Cully. The winegrowers offer tourists the chance to taste their wines in their cellars. We can’t think of anything more relaxing than a glassed of chilled white with a view!
Cheese-making with a view in Moléson-Village
From May to October, take a lovely hike through the picturesque Moléson-Village to Pringy. The show cheese-dairies in Moléson and Pringy are draws of the theme hike to gain insight into the secrets of cheese making.
The peak of Moléson proudly stands guard over the entire valley. The two-hour theme hike begins at the foot of the giant in the center of the village named after the mountain. There are two hiking alternatives to choose from – one takes you through les Reybes, the other through la Provêta. The tour begins at information panel 10 (Tafel 10) and ends at the Maison du Gruyère. On your path, you’ll come across authentic alpine huts and magnificent forests.
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