IT has been a few weeks since I came home from a trip sponsored by Swiss Tourism but each time I stand on my balcony, overlooking the Petronas Twin Towers, I can still imagine myself sitting cosily in the verandah of my hotel room in Vevey, admiring the beauty of the vast Lake Geneva, with the majestic snow-capped peaks of the Alps and Jura mountains towering in the backdrop.
In the morning, as cold winds blow gently, clearing up the mists that have been hovering at the feet of the mountains, little towns and villages emerge on the Swiss and French shores of Lake Geneva, while steamboat fleets ply along the shore of the stunningly beautiful blue lake.
The Lake Geneva region, a place where the lake meets the Alps, is probably one of the most visited and remembered destinations in Switzerland. It has in fact become a favourite among many world-renowned artists, writers and musicians, who travel to this place to seek inspiration.
The region, which is surrounded by verdant vineyards, is centred on the 581.3-sq km Lake Geneva, which is the biggest lake in central Europe. The icy-cold lake is also known as Lake Le Man, which literally means lots of water between the mountains.''
The Lake Geneva region stretches from Geneva to Lausanne, and from Montreaux/Vevey to the Matterhorn and its surrounding areas, such as Zermatt.
Geneva, a city that is headquarters to about 190 international organisations such as the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), World Intellectual Property Organisation, International Labour Organisation, UN Conference for Trade and Development and the Red Cross, is the gateway to this prosperous region.
While there are many hotels in Vevey, Hotel Des Trois Couronnes is the one that probably offers the best in view and location. Located in the heart of the city about five minutes away from the train station, it is close to the old town, which offers colourful boutiques and cafes. Built in 1960 but beautifully restored to meet modern day tourists, the hotel offers only 55 rooms, which include suites and junior suites.
Hotel Des Trois Couronnes is also within walking distance of the Nestle Foundation Alimentarium, an interactive museum that tells about the various aspects of nutrition - from the evolution of cooking utensils to the various food and eating habits of major cultures in the world, and the right choice for a balanced diet.
Close to Vevey is another lakeside city, Lausanne. Dominated by its 13th century Gothic cathedral, the city was built in the Middle Ages. Today, it remains a magnificent architectural and artistic heritage with its paved roads and old buildings sporting shop signs and housing craftsmen's workshops and cosy pubs.
Lausanne has also become home to the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee since 1915 before being made the Olympic Capital in 1994. The city offers 20 museums, including the Olympic Museum, which presents the complete history of the prestigious Olympic Games.
The Olympic Museum, which opened its doors in 1993, showcases interesting artefacts such as the complete range of torches used in previous Games and sports gear belonging to legendary athletes.
Even the medals from the first 1896 Games held in Athens are on display.
On the outside, fronting Lake Geneva, there is a beautiful park dotted with unique sculptures and artworks representing the various themes of sports. The museum is indeed a passion for elite sportsmen and sportswomen as well as for sports lovers.
Another must-see place in the Lake Geneva Region is Zermatt, a car-free resort situated at an altitude of 1,620 metres above sea level. This idyllic village nestles peacefully amidst an impressive landscape of mountains and glaciers and offers fantastic panorama of 38 four-thousand-metre peaks, including its most famous, Matterhorn.
Zermatt was only a modest mountain village 136 years ago, with sun-baked houses, wooden huts supported with stone slabs and sleepy lanes and alleys. Back then, it was a place of pilgrimage for bold climbers in the golden age of climbing.
A local surgeon, Josef Lauber, opened the first guesthouse in Zermatt in 1838 and today, the village has transformed into a modern resort which can accommodate 14,000 guests in 116 hotels and 1,800 holiday apartments.
Zermatt is actually an international meeting place. People from all over the world come to this little village, mostly to ski. Due to its high altitude and the extensive area covered by glaciers, Zermatt has guaranteed snow year round and the highest summer ski area in the Alps. However, during summer, it offers other activities such as hiking, mountain biking and climbing and high-altitude tours. Interestingly, only carriages and electric-powered vehicles are allowed to ply its roads so as to keep the cool air clean.
To get a better view of the snow-capped mountains, just take a ride on the Gornergrat-Monte Rosa railway that has been in service for more than 100 years. The electric track, Switzerland's oldest, takes visitors to Gornergrat, a popular viewpoint surrounded by 29 four-thousand-metre peaks.
Being surrounded by so many tall mountains may make one feel how small one is on this planet but there are some who are brave enough to try to conquer those daunting peaks. Taking a stroll along the clear river that flows through Zermatt, one will not miss a specially-dedicated cemetery which seems to have become another attraction for tourists, who will come to pay their respect to those who perish during their climb.
One of the tombstones has this wording: I Chose To Climb. Indeed, in Zermatt, one gets to choose how close one wants to be with Mother Nature. While some like to admire the region's beauty from afar and do it the safe way, a small number prefer to get close enough to face the risks, and let their name be part of the town's history.