Schwyz, More Than Just Knives
Our destination was set for the day – we were heading to the Swiss Army Knife exhibit in Schwyz. But once we were there, what else would there be to do? Even though you could easily walk around the entire town center in, oh, 10 minutes, it’s worth it to spend a lot more. A quick visit to the tourist office had our hands full with brochures and a whole day planned of cultural and historical visits, a hike nearby (with picnic of course), plus a few addresses for a café and pastry in town.
Before doing anything else, you’ll find yourself just staring at the mountains that fully surround the town. The green of the hills just seemed so much brighter and cleaner than anywhere else. Perfectly manicured – so Swiss! First stop for us was the impressive collection of knives at the Forum of Swiss History, just behind the tourist office. The town is full of history – and not just of knives. (You can read about the exhibit here). Hey, it’s how Switzerland got its name after all! So we headed next to the Museum of the Swiss Charters of Confederation to learn a bit more. For such a small museum, you won’t believe the amount of historical accounts inside. I recommend a visit if only to see Switzerland’s Constitution, the original document from 1291 in an enormously oversized glass case. Hop on the computer next to it for an interactive translation line by line, from Latin to French or German (sorry, no English). Pretty neat in fact. A must for English speakers – they have a huge binder of explanations in English of every item on display – don’t forget to ask for that at the desk.
To round off your history lesson, you may want to visit the “House Bethlehem” on the Ital Reding Estate, the oldest wooden house in Switzerland, built in 1287 – pre-dating even the Swiss Confederacy! There’s also plaques all around town explaining the importance of certain streets, 18th century manor houses, monasteries and churches.
Before heading out of town, we made one last visit – a 10 minute walk over the town border from Schwyz to Ibach, and there you’ll see the Victorinx factory store. A bit disappointing not to be able to visit the factory itself, but if you’re in the market for a Swiss army knife (or two or 20), then this is the place to be. Next stop for us: Schlatti. A 10 minute bus ride along the mountain turned out to be an attraction in itself for the views. Next mode of transport: cable car up to Stoos. But not just any cable car. The steepest cable car in all of Europe (not cheap either – CHF 22 round trip)! In 7 minutes, it travels a distance of 1200m, with a difference in altitude of 800m. Worth it? Yes. Here’s why, a view below of Swiss Knife Valley:
Once at the top, if you can pull yourself away from the above view, there are assorted hiking paths to follow and plenty of prime spots for picnics! We were ready for that. Fresh bread bought at the market that morning, assorted charcuterie, a thick slice of cheese, radishes with salted butter — ooh, and here’s my trick for that: I put a square of Bordier’s salted butter in the freezer overnight. That way, by lunch time on the mountain, it was perfect to eat, instead of being a melted mess. Strawberries from the market too and some Swiss chocolate rounded it all off. Aside from the French butter, it was 100% Swiss – the food, my Swiss army knife present of course, the views of the snow melting on the mountains and the cows grazing in the fields.
If it weren’t for our picnic lunch, we would have taken advantage of the Swiss Culinary Festival taking place in Schwyz this month, the Schwyzer Ess-Spektakel. From May 8th to the 31st, 18 restaurants have chosen a Swiss canton to represent and have a set menu of traditional dishes from there. You can download the list of restaurants and dishes here, only available in German though. En Guete !! (Bon appétit in Swiss German!)
Address Book for Schwyz:
Forum of Swiss History (Forum der Schweizer Geschichte)
Hofmatt, Zeughausstrasse 5
Tuesday to Sunday: 10am – 5pm
Museum of the Swiss Charters (Bundesbriefmuseum)
Tuesday to Friday: 9am – 11:30am, 1:30pm – 5pm
Saturday & Sunday: 9am – 5pm
Ital Reding Estate & Bethlehem House
Tuesday to Friday: 2pm – 5pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10am – 12pm, 2pm – 5pm
Victorinox Factory Store
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 12pm, 1:15pm – 4pm
Saturday: 8am – 3pm
Where to Eat & Drink
excellent café and confiserie with rooftop terrace, great view
Kreuz & Quer
bar with prime corner spot on the main town square, attached to…
bistro and bar next door to Kreux & Quer (yes, they all have the same address!)
historic restaurant with Swiss specialties
4 star restaurant and hotel on the main square