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Swiss Bliss

The Jungfrau region is one of Switzerland’s favourite family destinations where you can not only ski, but do everything from make your own chocolate to be photographed with James Bond, writes Bronwen Gora.


Along with cheese, chocolate and making trains run on time, the Swiss are masters at mountains. Put one in front of them and they will find a way to get up and over it. They then figure out numerous enjoyable ways to get down.

Such Swiss ingenuity has made the Jungfrau Ski Region, near the resort town of Interlaken, one of Switzerland’s most family-friendly ski and snowboard destinations. Spectacular, stunning and immense, it offers not only hundreds of ski runs, but also a huge variety of alpine activities among the world-famous peaks of the Eiger, Monch and the region’s namesake, the Jungfrau. More than 40 rail and cableways help both skiers and non-skiers access these slopes, while the ski fields offer 200 kilometres of trails of up to 12 kilometres long. Family deals abound, the best of which is the Saturday package where not one, but three children ski for free when one adult buys a day pass. During the week children aged six to 15 are eligible for a discounted ‘Sportspass’.




Bond in the Alps
The leading non-skiing attraction is Europe’s highest-altitude railway that climbs the Jungfrau-Joch to exactly 3454 metres. Here a good camera is a must. Your pictures of the Eiger North Wall, the 24-kilometre Aletsch Glacier (the alps’ longest ice stream) plus vistas from the Sphinx vantage terrace, ice sculptures and more will fill the family album.

This is also the place to tick off the bucket list experience of Europe’s longest sled run. The 15-kilometre Big Pintenfritz started, so the legend goes, when an innkeeper did the route on a sled to fulfil a bet, and now thousands descend from Faulhorn to Grindelwald every year as a result of his shenanigans.

Adjacent to the Jungfrau-Joch is the Schilthorn mountain with the world-renowned revolving dining venue, 360° Restaurant Piz Gloria, perching dramatically right on the summit. It is easily one of the best places in the world to eat with the distraction of absolutely stunning alpine scenery all around. A must is the burger with the ‘007’ logo chargrilled onto the bun.




Thanks to Piz Gloria’s amazing sky-high location, it became the setting for 1969 James Bond flick On Her Majesty’s Service which starred Australian George Lazenby in his only appearance as Bond. Two years ago Bond World 007 opened on the floor below the restaurant, a museum dedicated to the making of the movie with exhibits as hilarious as they are informative. Among the many interactive displays is a table of memorabilia programmed to move and unfold stories with the touch of a hand. Touch on the red bra, for instance, and read how the nearby village of Mürren experienced an unprecedented baby boom after the 200-strong cast and crew left town. Less adults-only is the genuine helicopter shell in which you can use the gear stick to ‘fly’ up an image of the Schilthorn projected in front, landing at various cable car stations and towns along the way to learn all kinds of facts and figures. You can also put the kids in the exhibit of the bob-sled used in the film, while the restaurant features a life-size image of Lazenby so you can take a selfie with “James Bond”.



Sunshine over Grindelwald
While Piz Gloria may be the most spectacular of the Jungfrau area's eateries, there are dozens of others across the ski fields making it easy to feed the family. Grindelwald's ski area, accessed by cable car directly from the town, is particularly family-friendly thanks to mostly gentle runs bathed in all-day sun and numerous eateries peppering the slopes. Sunny terraces and deck chairs facing the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau are everywhere and dangerously tempting places to recline after lunch.




Hands-on chocolate
Down in Interlaken (the town where you will stay to explore the Jungfrau region) there is plenty to keep the family occupied. Number one on our list was a chocolate block-making session at The Funky Chocolate Club. Messy, fun and super tasty, it is an experience the family will remember forever. Here qualified chocolatier, Tatiana Skolnikova, had us taste milk to dark chocolate buttons so we could choose which ones we wanted for our own blocks.

Tatiana then showed us how to melt and stir the chocolate until it was the perfect temperature and texture for pouring. We then had to move fast before our chocolate began to harden, pouring the liquid delight into moulds, scraping off the excess then decorating our blocks-to-be with anything from toasted almonds to colourful little sweets.

Big fun was learning how to make shapes. Create a heart by piping a small circle of white chocolate on top and quickly running a tooth pick through the circle. Make a feather by piping the white chocolate in a straight line then drawing the toothpick back and forth from top to bottom.

Easier said than done. My heart looked like a misshapen blob, my feather a messy scribble. And, despite the plastic bibs that Tatiana handed out, we all got chocolate everywhere. At least everyone managed to pour their moulds before the chocolate solidified, and we all brought them back home.




Central Slopes
Another ideal Swiss family ski destination is Engelberg-Titlis, well known in Europe for its dramatic slopes and quaint traditional village. Engelberg is two hours by train from Zurich Airport and a holiday here will be more affordable than the bigger resorts. Children will love the pretty pedestrian town centre where the local pastry shop displays its oversized meringues right at their eye level. If you want to rent an apartment or self-contained hotel suite and self-cater, Engelberg is the perfect place to do so. Be sure to visit the monastery where cheese has been made by the monks for centuries and you can even have a go at making the dairy product so synonymous with Swiss life yourself.



Breakout box
Gstaad, one of Switzerland's most well-known luxurious winter holiday destinations, isn't just for adults, with families accounting for a third of the visitors. A range of activities and experiences await young visitors, including playgrounds, petting zoos, water sports in the summer and fun parks in the winter. Also, children under the age of nine travel for free on all cable cars and mountain railways in the region.


***SWITZERLAND REPORT CARD***



Information
www.myswitzerland.com

Getting Around
The Swiss Travel Pass allows holders access to all public transportation in the country including buses, boats and trains. Holders also have access to 50 per cent discounts on mountain rails and free entry to 480 museums across the country. Children under 16 travel free when accompanied by a guardian using the Swiss Travel Pass.
www.myswitzerland.com/rail

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