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Planes: Take Swiss International Air Lines, which is usually called Swiss, to Europe. When visiting a foreign country, it’s always a good idea to fly its national airline. But even skiers headed for the French or Italian Alps benefit from Swiss’s many flights to Geneva. Compared to their U.S. counterparts, European airlines are also much friendlier and more libertarian. If you’re like me, you’ll drink many glasses of complimentary wine while enjoying the negligible censorship of Anne Hathaway’s racier films.
Trains: My personal motto is, “If you can’t have fun in a rental car, you’re already dead.” Yet Switzerland is the only nation where I don’t rent autos. Yes, Switzerland has incredibly fun mountain roads to motor. But gas is expensive there and the train-based transport system is unparalleled. Swiss trains reach most alpine destinations, and where trains don’t go, your Swiss Pass lets you transfer to a bus—or a boat!—that will.
Eats: Swiss restaurants sometimes overemphasize potato-and-cheese fueled calorie clogging. So it’s refreshing to stumble upon a joint like Toutone in Andermatt. Toutone presents its seafood, lamb, veal, and pasta with a damn near artistic flair, while emphasizing vegetable complements.
Groceries: In Switzerland, you’ll always see Co-Op and Migros grocery stores. Though they close much earlier (like 6 p.m.) than U.S. stores, these can be your best friends. They sell inexpensive wine and beer, as well as great pastries and affordable sundries. Bring your own bags.
Conviviality: In Andermatt, don’t miss Spycher, the local’s bar, whose red walls are adorned with old skis and cow brindles. Its dark wooden tables bear flowers in ancient wine bottles and, more importantly, big steins of Feldschlösschen beer. In Engelberg, everyone winds up at Yucatan, which shakes a margarita on par with any bar in Europe.
Dance: Andermatt is too small to feature a full-on disco, but Engelberg is not. If skies are clear and there’s no reason to wake early the next morning, head to Spindle Disco Bar which is open on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights till 4 a.m. Spindle’s DJs do the Euro um-ticka, um-ticka, um-ticka thing as well as any big city counterparts.
Pillows: In Andermatt, you can stay cheaply (from 70 Swiss Francs a night) at Hotel Altkirch. Its breakfast is fine and so is its bar, though its location on the northeast side of the train tracks is far from ideal. In Engelberg, the Hotel Spannort is a blonde-wood marvel, boasting delicious breakfasts and a great location in the heart of town. Its rooms, starting at 115 CHF, are somewhat pricey, but feature sweet balconies, free Internet, and access to a modern sauna and ski room.
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