Switzerland, to many people, is a country of watches, private banks, William Tell, bicycle-riding soldiers (now disbanded), the Red Cross, tax evasion, muesli, triangular chocolate, bizarre local rules, purple cows, multi-lingual citizens, yodelling, alphorns, Heidi, Rousseau, the Large Hadron Collider and the Pope's guard.
Founded in 1292 by three free-trade cantons there are now 7.5 million people in twenty-six cantons speaking French, German, Italian and various versions of Romansh. Early on the Swiss military achieved the perception of invincibility, though that was ruined by French revolutionaries who captured the whole country in 1798 before being thrown out in 1815. After keeping out of colonialism and active involvement in WW1 and WW2, Switzerland is seen as a safehaven. Women were allowed to vote federally by 1971 (and by 1990 in the last canton). Switzerland finally joined the UN in 2002 and, while not in the EU, it conforms to many EU rules.
The reasons most of us go on holiday to this country is to see the mountains, the lakes, the tumbling streams, the unique architecture, the cogged railways, to enjoythe snow and walk the beautiful mountainside meadows. Luckily, that is what the Swiss like to do as well and, given the good connectivity of the cantons, you will find a cobweb of railways and bicycle paths across the country making your holiday very easy (if sometimes very expensive). Bicycle hire is widely available and there are a lots of different bikes to choose from including electrically assisted ones with charging points marked on freely available bike maps. The currency is the Swiss Franc which is labelled "SF" or "CHF" and is presently (Jan 2012) linked to the Euro but at a level which means that, while Zurich is probably one of the shiniest cities in the world in part of one of the wealthiest countries in the world, in the countryside you will see houses that haven't had a lick of paint in the past twenty years.
This is a very expensive country. We have assumed that your trip will take 8 days but using trains or riding a little further each day could make it into a week's holiday. Based on an eight day itinerary and two people sharing, the costs work out at:
||Cost in CHF
||CHF18/day per bike for 8 days x 2
||CHF190/night for 7 nights
|Food and drink
||CHF110/person per day, for 8 days x 2
||CHF100 x 2
||say CHF150 per person x 2
making CHF1,939 per person which at an exchange rate of £1= CHF1.2 equates to £1,616 per person for an 8 day holiday.
This is a multi-lingual country with a fair amount of English spoken (but not by everyone!). Most websites will have a fully operational English version but sometimes they are only be in the four national languages. This should be no barrier to your using them as Google offers a number of translation solutions. Our preferred option is the Google toolbar which can be downloaded, as the quality of translation is reasonable and in most cases the web page will appear in English as you read down it.
Firefox is not compatible with this tool but you can use Translate This which is an add-on linking through to Google toolbar.