We continued travelling to Luzern and Bern cantons during the recent meetings, incentives, conferences and expositions (MICE) educational trip organised by Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau (SCIB) together with BMC Travel Sdn. Bhd. Follow us as we discover refreshing Luzern in Central Switzerland, dubbed as pocket-sized Switzerland, and pretty (and surprisingly pastoral) Bern.
Doing MICE in Luzern
Luzern city (www.luzern.com)
We proceeded to the city of Luzern in Central Switzerland, and famous for the Lion Monument and Chapel Bridge. Luzern – the gateway city to central Switzerland that is set upon Lake Luzern – is compact and intimate yet international due to the large presence of expats serving multinational companies and foreign students, who help to turn Luzern into a high potential business tourism destination. Part of MICE group activities that can be held in Luzern are chocolate and cheese tours, including visits to the Victorinox Brand Store and Swiss Knife Valley Visitors Centre where travellers can assemble their own Swiss Army knives.
For travellers who are pressed for time, they should at least visit two iconic places that the city is known for: The Lion Monument, which is a rock relief designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and hewn in from 1820 until 1821 by Lukas Ahorn to commemorate the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution when they were defending the Tuileries Palace in Paris; and the world famous Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge, considered as one of the oldest covered wooden bridges in Europe) with its covered walkway and gable paintings depicting the history of the city.
Mount Titlis (www.titlis.ch) and Engelberg (www.engelberg.ch)
It is a MUST for travellers to visit Mount Titlis with its only publicly accessible glacier in Central Switzerland, Glacier Cave and the highest suspension bridge in Europe, including the charmingly twee Engelberg town at its foot that is already around 1,000 metres above sea level. To get to Mount Titlis, travellers need to take the train from Luzern to Engelberg, located 25 kilometres south of Lake Lucerne and 43 minutes one way by train.
Whosoever loves travelling on trains (like the Gaya Travel Magazine Editor-in-Chief) and admiring sceneries along the way will surely love taking the efficient Swiss trains. Throughout the journey, I couldn’t stop reiterating the fact that I did not know how beautiful Switzerland is until I saw it with my own eyes. I personally enjoyed every minute on the train because along the way, whenever the train leaves the urban setting, my eyes feast upon quintessential million-dollar Swiss sceneries: Frisian cows, undulating terrains, pastoral mountainside landscapes, coniferous forests, lush alpine vegetation, rolling hills, clean rivers, quaint houses made of larch, snow-capped mountain ranges and the Alps. The sensation from just looking at still or moving images of Switzerland can never substitute the elation felt when seeing it in real life. I suppose it is safe to say that Switzerland is without doubt one of the most picture-postcard perfect destinations in the world, a must-visit before you die.
Tip: Whenever travellers need to change trains in Switzerland, be sure to check on which platform and what time the train departs. There may be times when travellers will only have a few minutes to change trains, therefore travellers need to be on their toes at that crucial moment. Should travellers miss the onward train, they might need to wait between 30 minutes and one hour for the next one.
Engelberg is popular as the base for travellers intending to enjoy ski and free rides during winter, including hiking, mountaineering, climbing, biking, and playing golf during summer. What makes the town of Engelberg all the more unique is the presence of the still-functioning Benedictine monastery that was founded in 1120. As travellers walk around town, they would be able to admire the town’s intimately cosy atmosphere and edifices left over from the Belle Epoque period, standing alongside abodes built in Swiss alpine vernacular.
Mount Titlis is a year-round snow-capped mountain destination that all travellers – be they MICE or fully independent travellers (FITs) – would find exciting and fun-filled. The top of Mount Titlis comes with facilities such as shops and restaurants, including a spacious dining area called Panorama Restaurant with glass windows opening up to the surrounding scenery, suitable for MICE groups. There are also the Swiss Lion shop (the world’s highest watch shop) and the photo studio for travellers to take photos of themselves in traditional Swiss costumes. Apparently, corporations and business travellers are able to conduct memorable meetings and activities on Mount Titlis due to the availability of such facilities.
Travellers need to take two different aerial cable-cars from Engelberg up to Mount Titlis, which is 3,020 metres above sea level, in 30 minutes. One of them, called the Titlis Rotair, is the world’s first revolving gondola that transports travellers to the mountain station while affording them the 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape comprising dramatic rock faces, vertigo-inducing crevasses and majestic mountain peaks during the five-minute journey one way.
Travellers need to muster some courage to take the Titlis Cliff Walk that is 3,041 metres above sea level and 500 metres off the ground, making it Europe’s highest suspension bridge, opened since 2012. The surrounding views from this 100-metre long and one-metre wide suspension bridge is spectacular and unrivalled, making it one of the best Instagram-worthy spots in Switzerland.
The Glacier Cave – which is close to the Mount Titlis Glacier station – is a 150-metre long tunnel that is surreally bathed in a dim turquoise-blue light, leading travellers 20 metres below the surface of the glacier. The inside of the cave has the frosty temperature of -1.5˚Celsius all year-round, therefore travellers need to put on thick jackets, waterproof pants, suitable footwear (it could get slippery) and gloves when entering it, even during the height of summer.
To get to the Glacier Park, travellers need to take the Ice Flyer chairlift next to the Mount Titlis Glacier station and fly above the glacier crevasses. Even during summer, the Glacier Park offers the chance for travellers to speedily slide down the piste using sledging equipment or snowtube! But be sure to wear waterproof pants because the snow tends to accumulate and wets your derriere when sliding down…
Doing MICE in Bern
Emmental Show Dairy (www.e-sk.ch)
Located only 45 minutes away from Bern city by bus and surrounded by idyllic Swiss countryside setting, Emmantaler is one of Switzerland’s leading cheese manufacturers. We were told that to understand how a world class cheese is produced, this is the place where travellers should come to learn about Swiss cheese-making. The name ‘Emmentaler’ is derived from the name of the place it is located, Emmantal, which means ‘Valley of Emme’. Travellers will find Emmental’s pastoral panorama refreshing. Cheese from Emmental is normally produced by small rural dairies with raw cow’s milk, using only natural ingredients (water, salt, natural starter cultures and rennet); preservatives or ingredients from genetically modified organisms are not allowed. The cheese made by Emmentaler are lactose-free, thus can be enjoyed by those who are lactose intolerant.
At Emmentaler, corporate and business travellers are given the crash course about how cheese is made from the beginning and the various types of cheese produced. Cheese is staple for the Swiss since it is satiable. Swiss cheese-making is nature- and weather-dependent, thus conserving the natural environment is crucial, not just to the Swiss cheesemakers, but the entire agricultural and agro-based industry.
The making of high quality cheese requires fresh, raw milk and not pasteurised. The cheesemaker must strictly follow the steps, otherwise the cheese will not turn out as expected. Large quantity of milk is needed to make cheese. The cheesemaker needs to firstly warm the milk gently while stirring it at 32° for 30 minutes – the warmer the cheese, the longer he stirs, the harder the cheese becomes. Then the cheesemaker needs to cut it into layers and segregate it into whey (watery part of milk) and curd (the white substance formed when milk coagulates) – the latter is used to make cheese.
The cheese is produced in a round shape with a natural rind, and aged in traditional cellars for a minimum of five months. Ideally, cheese is stored until maturity for at least five months before being sold. The three age profiles for the cheese produced at Emmentaler are classic (five months old), reserve (eight months old), and Premier Cru (14 months). The maximum time for cheese to mature is three years old, which becomes more pungent as it further ages. Just so that you know: rotten cheese tastes like rotten egg.
MICE activities can be conducted on Emmentaler grounds for participants to gain enriching quintessentially-Swiss experiences such as undergoing a one-hour guided tour around the site for 20 persons at one time at the cost of CHF200 per group. On the same note, FITs are also welcome to visit Emmentaler to witness cheese production and follow the English guided tour around the vicinity starting from 2:00 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays at the price of CHF7 per person.
Kambly is a Swiss biscuit manufacturer, founded in 1910 by Oscar Kambly. Kambly’s biscuits are popular and the factory – just two minutes’ walk from Trubschachen train station – is the place where travellers can learn about biscuit-making and purchase delightful Kambly products.
According to popular story, Oscar Kambly fell in love with a girl who lived in Trubschachen in 1906. When he went to her home, he had the idea of making a traditional crunchy biscuit called Bretzeli based on his grandmother’s recipe to woo the girl. Kambly then perfected the biscuit based on a 100-year old recipe, thus won the heart of not just the girl but also other confectionary enthusiasts the world over. Oscar Kambly headed the business until 1953.
Today, Kambly is Switzerland’s largest biscuit producer and leading exporter. The business is currently headed by Oscar Kambly III, who has been doing so since 1983. Kambly is represented in more than 30 different countries and produces over 100 kinds of biscuit using ingredients like flour, eggs, butter and grain that are sourced locally. It has two factories, one in Trubschachen and one in Lyss, both in the canton of Bern. The original factory is in Trubschachen, around 40 minutes by bus or train from Bern city, while the second factory was an acquisition of another company called Arni AG in Lyss in 1999. Kambly now has 420 employees.
Kambly’s factory store in Trubschachen has a Visitor Centre and Shop. The place is ready to hold up to 60 persons for hands-on MICE activities such as learning how to make Bretzeli at CHF10 per person or participating in a two- to three-hour baking workshop with master confectioner for up to 28 persons at CHF200 per group. When being here, travellers must catch the clever and entertaining diorama that replicates Oscar Kambly’s original kitchen as the way to interestingly tell the story about the founding of Kambly’s biscuits.
Bern’s location is strategic because it is located almost at the very centre of Switzerland, bordering between the German- and French-speaking parts of the country. The canton of Bern is also the only canton that uses both Swiss German and Swiss French as primary languages. Bern is also remarkably bosky because the mayor of Bern insists that every Bernese should always be five minutes away at most from greenery.
The city of Bern was first founded in 1191, and its sublime Old Town, which has been enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, is one of the prettiest historical urban centres that I have ever laid my eyes upon. Built on a little peninsula surrounded by the Aare river, the Old Town’s attractions are all close by and easy to reach by tram, bus or on foot.
Tip: The vantage point for travellers to photograph the exceedingly pretty layout of Bern’s Old Town is from Rosengarten (the Rose Garden) that is situated on an elevation overseeing the town and surroundings.
The city of Bern is the capital of Switzerland, the country’s seat of administration and power, referred by the Swiss as their Bundesstadt, or ‘federal city’ since 1848. Since Switzerland practices a rare system of direct democracy, it is the only place in the world that has a national government created close to its people, affording the citizens easy access to the offices of the Prime Minister, Ministers and government departments should they have concerns. The country’s leaders could also be spotted around the Old Town when they attend the Federal Assembly (Parliament), held at the built-in-1902 Federal Palace of Switzerland.
Despite undergoing various redecorations and renovations in its 800 years of existence, the Zytglogge, which is amalgamated with a 15th-century astronomical clock, is one of Bern’s most recognisable symbols and a major tourist attraction.
Travellers are bound to fall in love with the Bern Old Town’s human-scale, cosy and intimate qualities, characterised by alleys of arcades that total six kilometres in length, forming one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe that houses local ateliers or specialist shops, including international brands. Apparently one of the quarters along a street called Kramgasse within Bern Old Town was inhabited by the world-famous genius Albert Einstein – it was in Bern that he founded the Theory of Relativity (E=mc²).
Tip: When in Bern, travellers are recommended to make the most of the Swiss Pass or the Bern Ticket allows travellers to take the public transport for free. To obtain the Bern Ticket, travellers need to stay at least one night in a touristic accommodation within the city of Bern. Refer to www.myswitzerland.com/en-my/bern-ticket.html for more information.
What to do when you are in Bern?
Admire the architecture of the quaint buildings around Bern Old Town, particularly those from the Baroque period, and take in the town’s charming medieval atmosphere
- Witness the chiming of Bern’s landmark clocktower (Zytglogge) that was first constructed in the 13th century and embellished in its current form since the 16th
- See live bears at the Bear Park – the name Bern comes from the word ‘bear’, the city’s chosen mascot.
- Freshen up by consuming fresh drinking water from over 100 fountains found around the city.
- When walking around the Old Town, do appreciate the establishments that are housed in former cellars that have now been retrofitted to become commercial spaces, especially the famous restaurant called Kornhauskeller, located within what used to be the town’s wine cellar built in the early 1700’s that possesses dramatic vaulted ceilings and well-aged sandstone, rendering a noteworthy dining experience. This restaurant can sit up to 700 diners at a time and becomes an ideal venue for MICE.
- Go urban swimming in the river Aare or enjoy the sun by the famous river pool called the Marzili.
Where to stay in Bern for MICE travellers:
Hotel Allegro Bern is a four-star superior property with 171 rooms that is part of the leading and largest congress and culture centre in Central Switzerland called Kursaal Bern (www.kursaal-bern.ch), which comes with 30 meeting and function rooms supported by state-the-art technology and infrastructure, three restaurants, bar, fitness facility and Grand Casino Bern.
Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau (SCIB) and BMC Travel Sdn. Bhd. for the smooth arrangement, coordination and execution of the Educational Corporate Trip to Switzerland, which the Editor-in-Chief participated. Destination managers who bring incentive groups are invited to collaborate with the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau (www.MySwitzerland.com/meetings) for an impactful and rewarding MICE experience.
BMC Travel Sdn. Bhd. (www.bmctravel.com) is a top-notch MICE inbound and outbound tour operator based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, offering destinations management, client goal-oriented projects, and travel consultancy, among others. Since 1979, BMC Travel Sdn. Bhd. has been the household name among movers and shakers of the corporate world, including ministers, royals and discerning travellers seeking professional, trusted tour provider with proven track record.