When the chance to travel to Switzerland on the inaugural direct flight of Edelweiss Air from Tampa to Zurich beckoned, I answered the call. I had been to Switzerland only once nearly 30 years ago, and was eager to visit this small, beautiful Alpine country again. Plus, the flight was an opportunity to be part of history, in a way.
That’s why eight of us media types boarded the Edelweiss Air Airbus the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Actually, before we even boarded the plane we were treated to samples of charcuterie, cheese and wine at the new First Flight wine bar in the Tampa airport’s international terminal—a far cry from the usual airport food. That helped to allay our disappointment that our actual first flight was delayed, with the plane coming in from Zurich about half an hour late (to be greeted by steel drum music, oranges and flamingo hats) and our flight correspondingly departing almost 90 minutes past its scheduled time.
Above, we’re greeted with flamingo hats; below, the plane arrives.
But once on the plane—and, in the tradition of inaugural flights, showered by fire truck hoses for good luck—Swiss hospitality kicked in with a glass of champagne offered by one of our two attentive hostesses in business class. (Yes, it will be hard to go back to coach.) Appetizers before dinner, some wine with, followed by dessert, and a sleep mask, toothbrush and even socks thoughtfully provided for us travelers all helped to ease the 9 ½ hour flying time (which really didn’t feel that long at all; I was even able to sneak in a couple of hours of sleep).
That little nap was hardly enough to sustain me, though, once we landed in Zurich and promptly boarded a train to our first destination scheduled for us by Swiss Tourism, the city of Fribourg, south and west of Zurich in the foothills of the Alpine chain. No sooner had we checked into our lodgings, the Hotel Au Parc just a few minutes from the train station, and taken a quick shower than we were whisked away by our pleasant young guide, Catherine, and two of her cohorts for a walking tour of the city.
View from the Hotel au Parc.
Fribourg’s cobbled streets, nearly 200 Gothic structures, historic cathedral of St. Nicholas, funicular railway (powered by waste water, believe it or not), and impressive bridges over the river Sarine (built to handle the area’s growth back in the 13th and 14th centuries) do indeed make it a very interesting and walkable city. You can enjoy a look at the town’s newest theater building, Equilibre, and then quickly switch gears to the storied history of the medieval cathedral, built beginning in 1283 and the home of magnificent stained glass windows, a massive organ once played by Franz Liszt, and a small chapel with stone sculptures of the burial of Christ believed to have been carved in 1433.
History is all around you in Fribourg, but we took a break from our tour for dinner at the charming Pinte des Trois Canards in the city’s Gottheron Valley area, outside of town. River trout is a specialty here; ours was accompanied by a rice pilaf and melt-in-your-mouth dessert of meringue and fresh strawberries. After which, it was time to head back to the hotel and some well-deserved rest before heading out the next day to the dairy of Gruyere and the chocolate factory of Maison Cailler. More on that to come.