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travel guide

What to Eat in Switzerland: Famous Swiss Foods

When it comes to the culinary traditions of Switzerland, most people know three things: cheese, chocolate, and wine. And with good reason; these are among the most popular foods produced in Switzerland, and the quality of each is excellent. But aside from these standbys, what you’ll eat in Switzerland will vary depending on which part of Switzerland you are visiting.

In the south towards Italy, such as in Ticino, you’ll find more Italian influence in dishes like risotto, polenta and pasta. Likewise on the German side, sausages, potatoes and sauerkraut figure more prominently, and on the French side, you’ll see more of the rich sauces and fondue seen in the French Alps. No matter where you are traveling in Switzerland, here are a few of the dishes you won’t want to miss.

Cheese, glorious cheese!

If you simply ask for “Swiss cheese” in Switzerland, you may get a few funny looks. While the country does produce some of the mild, holey cheese you find under that name in the US, it’s generally used for sandwiches and considered a cheaper option.

Skip it, and instead go for one of the most famous Swiss cheeses, like Emmental,Gruyère, Vacherin, or Appenzeller.

Fondue and raclette, once eaten only in the Alps, can now be found in most cities with a healthy tourist trade. Fondue is cheese that is mixed with wine and then melted and served with bread, potatoes, meat, or apples for dipping. In the 1930’s it was promoted as the Swiss National dish by the Cheese Union, and now it’s on every tourist’s must-eat list. No self-respecting Swiss person would eat fondue in the summer, but you can find it served all year round; just be prepared for a pungent aroma and a lot of heat in any fondue restaurant no matter what the time of year. A close cousin of fondue, raclette is cheese that is melted (by way of a grill placed under or above it) and then smeared on bread, meat or potatoes.

Rösti

Originally a breakfast dish, rösti is a popular potato dish from the canton of Bern. Today you can find it all over Switzerland, generally served as a side dish to meat. Rösti is made of grated potato that is usually fried with butter or oil until it resembles a hash brown cake. Basic Rösti is just potato, but you might also see varieties with bacon, onions, apples or cheese.

Sausages


Particularly on the German side, you’ll see many different types of sausages served in Switzerland. One of the most popular and traditional is the cervelat, the national sausage of Switzerland. These sausages are recognizable for their smokey flavor and distinct shape – served with the ends cut open so they expand like a butterfly’s wings.

Chocolate

Switzerland’s chocolate production began in 1819 at Cailler(what is now Nestlé) in Vevey. Like Swiss cheese, Swiss chocolate owes it’s quality in part to the milk of the Swiss cows that graze in the foothills of the Alps. There are chocolate shops in every town in Switzerland so you won’t have to look far to sample some, or you can visit the Cailler factory near Gruyere.

 

Älplermagronen

The Aline version of macaroni and cheese, Älplermagronen is a pasta made with macaroni, melted cheese, and additions like bacon, onions, potatoes or apples. It’s traditionally served in a communal bowl; everyone just dips their wooden spoons directly into the hearty dish.

Read more about what to eat in Switzerland

Photos by bodhithaj, diekatrin, greckor

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Germany

Cheap Hostels in Munich

Munich might be a sophisticated city with an historic side, but it’s also a major stop on any backpacker’s European tour – not to mention the site of one of the most famous two-week-long parties on the planet – so it stands to reason that alongside the boutique hotels there are plenty of hostels in Munich.

There are several hostel options in the city center, but as is the case with most cities the best locations are usually taken up by hotels. Still, the hostels in Munich’s city center offer easy access to most of the attractions as well as public transportation to make it easy to get around. Many are located right around the main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, so it’s even easier to take day trips.

If you think you’re not up for a hostel stay because you don’t want to share a bedroom, but you like the idea of a cheap place to stay, don’t shy away from hostels – many of them have private rooms these days, which can be a great middle ground.

Search this map to find cheap hostels in Munich

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travel guide Vietnam

5 Popular Attractions in Vietnam

Vietnam has a rich cultural and historical history that attracts visitors from around the globe. In addition, Vietnam offers a spectacular assortment of natural landmarks and lush getaways in the tropical jungles of the region. The following are the 5 top attractions and destinations that should not be missed on your Vietnam vacation:

1) Hoa Lu – Ancient Capital of Vietnam

About two hours away from Hanoi, guests can walk through Hoa Lu, the ancient Dai Co Viet (10th century Vietnam) capital city. Hoa Lu was the political centre of Dai Co Viet, and was flanked on all sides by rocky limestone hills which provided a natural defense for the capital. Though much of the original structures have long since disappeared, there are still more than 40 monuments to see including temples, lakes and caves.

2) Detain – Ban Gioc Falls

At the extreme north of Vietnam sits the Detain – Ban Gioc Falls. The falls actually lay on the border between Vietnam and China and mark one of the major crossing points of the Chinese army during the Sino-Vietnamese War. The falls are the largest (but not highest) in the country as water drops thirty meters onto the rocks below. During the rainy seasons from May to September, a huge cloud of mist that can sometimes be seen from miles away.

3) Bai Dinh Pagoda

Just behind the limestone mountains in Ninh Binh Province sits the biggest pagoda in South East Asia, the Bai Dinh Pagoda. Bai Dinh sits over a 100 acre area and features a multitude of different building and temples. Bai Dinh also holds several records for statues, including the most Arhat statues in Southeast Asia (500 of them) and the largest copper Buddha statue which weighs in at 100 tons. For its size and uniqueness, Bai Dinh is one of the most popular sights for Buddhist pilgrims throughout Vietnam.

4) The Old Quarter of Hanoi

36 streets were all that was of Hanoi at the turn of the 20th century. Today Hanoi is now the 2nd largest city in Vietnam with a population of 2.6 million people. The 36 streets today make up an area known as the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Travelers can not only still visit the small merchants that remain in the Old Quarter, but also take in other sights such as the Temple of Literature (the oldest university in Vietnam), or any of the modern clubs and restaurants that line the streets of the Old Quarter.

5) War Remnants Museum

Conflict has molded the identity of Vietnam during the last century. Visitors can see and reflect on those conflicts at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. Focusing mainly on the American/Vietnam war, the museum features a gallery depicting the effects of chemical agents used in the war like Agent Orange. Guests can also see exhibits of weapons and munitions as well as captured American war machines such as a Huey helicopter, Patton tank and F-5 fighter jet.

photo by NTLam

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Germany

Cheap Hotels in Munich

Munich is a city that caters to all budget levels and travel styles when it comes to accommodation – but if you plan to spend Oktoberfest in Munich then everything changes. Sure, the summer is the high season and you’ll pay more for a room in the summer than in the winter, but the annual Oktoberfest celebration is such a concentrated time that finding a good deal on a room or a hostel bed during those two weeks can be nothing short of a miracle. In other words, if going to Munich for Oktoberfest is on your bucket list, either save your pennies, plan to splurge, or book so far in advance that you actually get one of the more budget-friendly rooms in the city.

For the rest of the year, the historic center around the Marienplatz is a good area to target for a place to stay. Staying in this area puts you within walking distance of most of the attractions in Munich, as well as within easy reach of public transportation if you want to go further afield. The historic center may be a bit more expensive accommodation-wise than the outskirts of the city, so if you’re really on a tight budget or you’re staying longer and don’t mind going back and forth into the center often, you might try looking in the neighborhoods around the Ostbahnhof station or the University.

Search this map to find cheap hotels in Munich

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Transportation

Getting from San Francisco to Santa Barbara (and return)

San Francisco is an important city in California, famous for architecture, scenic beauty and the cultural and ethnic diversity. The Golden Gate is a landmark recognized all over the world.

Santa Barbara is perfect for a day trip from Los Angeles , but is also an excellent side trip for those visiting the entire state of California. It is well known for its beaches, shopping options and wineries.

Quick summary

The cheapest option for traveling between San Francisco and Santa Barbara is by bus. Single fares start at $57.15* and the journey takes about 9 h.

There isn’t a direct rail link between the two cities, so you need to go via Oakland (for the shortest route) and travel by bus and then by train. The fare is almost double than the bus fare.

Flights are excluded as option as there is only one carrier operating on the route and the fares are very high.

Flights from San Francisco (airport code: SFO) to Santa Barbara

San Francisco International (SFO) is one of the largest airports in the world and handles both international and domestic travel.

Santa Barbara is served by Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA), which handles about 30 daily flights to/from US cities. Flights from San Francisco are operated only by United Express. The flight time is 1h 20 min.

Direct single fares start at $400 one way in late December 2011 and mid-March 2012. Indirect flights start at $120 one way.

Trains and buses from San Francisco to Santa Barbara

Amtrack offers connections for only part of the route between the two cities, as San Francisco is not served by a train station. So you need to take the bus and the train to travel from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.

There are two possible routes to choose from:

Route 1:

Step 1: San Francisco Caltrain Station to Oakland Jack London Square by bus

The bus leaves San Francisco at 7 a.m. The layover time is 25 min

Step 2: Oakland to Santa Barbara by train

The train leaves Oakland at 8:50 a.m.

The total travel time (excluding the layover) is 10 h 52 min. The single adult fare is $96.

Route 2:

Step 1 : San Francisco Caltrain Station to Emeryville, CA by bus

The bus leaves San Francisco at 8:45 a.m. The layover time in Emeryville is 10 min.

Step 2 : Emeryville, CA to Bakersfield, CA by train

The train leaves Emeryville at 10:15 a.m. The layover time in Bakersfield is 9 min.

Step 3 : Bakersfield, CA to Santa Barbara by bus

The bus leaves Bakersfield at 4:20 p.m.

The total travel time (excluding layovers) is 10 h 29 min. The single adult fare is $96.

Buses from San Francisco to Santa Barbara

Greyhound operates three direct buses per day between San Francisco and Santa Barbara. The travel time is between 8 h 40 min and 9 h 5 min. The web only single adult fare is $57.15.

The buses leave San Francisco at: 5:20 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. The only direct bus leaves Santa Barbara at 8:55 a.m. and takes 9 h 20 min to get to San Francisco. Three other indirect buses (via Oakland and San Jose, respectively) leave during the day. Regardless of the route chose, the same fares as above apply.

Driving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara

You can rent a car and drive the 337 miles between San Francisco and Santa Barbara on US-101 S. You should be able to cover the distance in 5 h 45 min but do make sure to plan some stops along the way.

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Note: *at the time the article was written

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Transportation

Getting from San Diego to Palm Springs (and return)

San Diego is the second largest city in California and is well known for the excellent weather, beaches, the famous Zoo and quick access to the Mexican border and Tijuana. San Diego offers a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of Los Angles .

Palm Springs is a resort city in California and offers a lot of indoor and outdoor activities. You can spend the day hiking or trying other outdoor activities and relax in the evening.

Quick summary

There isn’t any direct route to travel between San Diego and Palm Springs, unless you plan to drive. The cheapest option for traveling between San Diego and Palm Springs is the bus. Single tickets cost $31.50* and the travel time is up to 5h. Train tickets are more expensive and the connection is via Los Angeles. Flights aren’t even an option due to the very expensive fares for the Los Angles to Palm Springs leg of the trip.

Flights from San Diego (airport code: SAN) to Palm Springs

There aren’t any direct flights from San Diego to Palm Springs, but you can fly via Los Angles, which makes it a very expensive journey.

For the first leg of the trip, book a flight between San Diego and LAX. San Diego International Airport (SAN) is located 3 miles from the central business district of San Diego and is the second busiest single runway airport in the world (after London Gatwick). It is a focus city for Southwest Airlines. Flights to LAX are operated by: American Eagle, Delta Connections and United Express. The flight time is 40 minutes. In late December 2011 and mid-March 2011, expect to pay from $119 one way on United.

For the second leg of the trip, book a flight from LAX to Palm Springs, which is served by Palm Springs International Airport (PSP). Flights between LAX and Palm Springs are operated only by United Express. In late December 2011 and mid-March 2012, expect to pay from $511 for the 51 minutes flight. Indirect flights start at $211 one way.

>>read more about Flights to Los Angeles

Trains from San Diego to Palm Springs

Amtrak offers train connections between San Diego and Palm Springs via Los Angles. The total journey time is 6h 45 min and the single adult fare is $83.

The train leaves San Diego daily at 10:50 a.m. and arrives in Los Angeles at 1:35 p.m. Another train leaves for Palm Springs at 3 p.m.

The train leaves Palm Springs daily at 4:45 a.m. and arrives in Los Angeles at 8:30 a.m. Another train leaves for San Diego at 9:40 a.m.

Buses from San Diego to Palm Springs

Greyhound offers bus connections between San Diego and Palm Springs but this is not a direct service either. Buses go either through San Bernardino or Riverside.

The travel time is 4h 25 min (via San Bernardino) and 4 h 50 min (via Riverside) and the web only single adult ticket is $31.50 regardless of which route you choose. Buses depart San Diego at 10:45 a.m. and 4:10 p.m. Buses depart Palm Springs at 11:05 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

Driving from San Diego to Palm Springs

When you rent a car and plan to drive from San Diego to Palm Springs , there are three possible routes to choose from. The on highlighted in the map below is via I-15 N and CA-74 E. The 133 miles can be covered in about 2h 40 min.

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Note: *at the time the article was written

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Los Angeles Transportation

Getting from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara (and return)

“Riviera of the West” or Santa Barbara is perfect for a day trip from Los Angeles . Located about 100 miles from the City of Angels, Santa Barbara is well known for its beaches, wineries and the many shopping options. You might know it to be the playground of the rich and famous, but don’t worry, a day or two here won’t break your budget.

Quick summary

If you choose the afternoon train between Los Angles and Santa Barbara, then that’s the cheapest option: $16* one way. Otherwise, buses remain the most affordable way to travel between the two cities ($19.35 one way).

Flights from Los Angeles (airport code: LAX) to Santa Barbara

Although LAX is the closest large airport to Santa Barbara, the city is served by its own airport Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA), which handles about 30 daily flights to/from US cities, including Los Angeles. The airport is located about 7 miles from downtown.

Flights to/from Los Angeles are operated by American Eagle and United Express. The flight time is 40 minutes. In late December 2011 or late March 2012, expect to pay from $91 one way on American Eagle or United Express.

>>read more about Flights to Los Angeles

Trains from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara

Amtrack provides eight daily connections between Los Angeles Union Station and Santa Barbara. The first train leaves Los Angles at 7:35 a.m. and the last at 9:10 p.m. The first train leaves Santa Barbara at 6:46 a.m. and the last at 6:59 p.m.

The travel time is 2h 25 min. The cheapest fares are in the afternoon: just $16 for a single adult ticket. On the morning train, the fares start at $36 one way.

Buses from Los Angles to Santa Barbara

Greyhound offers four daily buses between Los Angles and Santa Barbara. The buses leave Los Angeles at : 6:10 a.m., 1:25 p.m., 6:10 p.m. and 10:20 p.m. Buses leave Santa Barbara at 6 a.m., 9:30 a.m. 2:45 p.m. and 8:10 p.m. The journey time is between 2h 10 min and 2h 40 min. The web only single adult fare is $19.35.

Driving from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara

You can rent a car and drive the 95 miles via US-101 N between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Part of the road is along the coast, so you’ll be rewarded with superb views. The travel time is 1h 45 min.

View Larger Map

Note:*at the time the article was written

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travel guide

Hiking and Dining in Appenzell

Switzerland’s Appenzell, a half-canton of only 66 square miles, is packed with more charm and cultural richness than found in many countries. Cradled and protected by the surrounding Alpstein massif (mountains), the region’s rugged terrain would normally be inaccessible if it weren’t for an intricate trail network linking dozens of welcoming guesthouses and mountain hotels that just happen to serve delectable cuisine.

You don’t merely do lunch high above the lush green meadows. Food is interwoven into the fabric of Swiss culture like hiking, yodeling, skiing. Notice how these active pursuits pair nicely with the more than 400 indigenous cheeses, microbrews like Vollmond (full moon), and a wide variety of cured meats like Mostbrockli (dried beef). Each bite of these morsels is a direct act of savoring the essence of mountain living. Hiking is a great place to start. Terrain widely varies from narrow tractor roads passing through vast emerald meadows to well marked mountain trails steeply switch backing along rocky cliff sides to lofty summits. Each turn upward on narrow gravel paths not only offers “wow-inducing” vistas but also time to mingle with Swiss hikers of all ages.

It’s clear that folks here take their pastime seriously including satiating their appetites after this prolonged physical exertion.

 

One stop I had the opportunity to experience was situated along a panoramic ridge trail leading to Ebenalp and the limestone caves of Wildkirchli which contain evidence of habitation dating to the Paleolithic era. You’ll know the summit is near when as you continue your steady climb tight along a rock ridge, a striking gabled wooden building tucked underneath a rock outcropping comes into view.

Upon reaching the grand terrace of Gasthaus Aescher Wildkirchli, a restaurant with hostel-type guestrooms on the second floor, you get the definitive sense that it’s time to take a break. The hearty food served here is made on site with fresh local ingredients. During hunting season, same-day caught venison, elk, and mountain goat are served in a stew called Hirsh Peffer. Similar to Stroganoff but more flavorful, the perfect side dish to accompany it is Rösti, a type of hash brown rich in butter, crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.

Don’t even think of asking for a mere glass of water or soda here! Spectacular mountain views in every direction serve as a reminder of just how far you’ve climbed and how much more there is to explore after lunch. Since calorie counting is now a laughable notion, go for the complete experience and order up a Cave Coffee named after nearby Wildkirchli Caves where prehistoric bear skeletons were located over 100 years ago and an underground chapel resides. The Cave Coffee’s main ingredient is Alpenbitter, a schnapps made from over 40 herbs, spices, local roasted coffee, and generous clouds of real whipped cream on the top. Or perhaps wine is more your style. Go with Sauser, a locally made unfermented grape juice. And for a dessert that will even wow the die hard Swiss hikers filling the tables around you, their signature sundae features a few scoops of coffee and vanilla ice cream buried under a towering mountain of house made whipped cream.

This was a guest post by Steve Mirsky. All photos are by the author and may not be used without permission.