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Roughly Speaking this Needs Polishing
The Rough Guide to Switzerland - Matthew Teller
Member Name: fizzywizzy
The Rough Guide to Switzerland - Matthew Teller
Advantages: Lots of useful information; nice photography
Disadvantages: Heavy; lacks enthusiasm for the subject
At 630 pages long the Rough Guide to Switzerland is a comprehensive guide book offering practical advice, useful maps, language guides and plenty of background information and suggestions for further reading. It is quite a hefty tome, however, and is not, perhaps the sort of thing you want to carry around with you all the time. So who would want this and why?
I bought this guidebook to prepare for a trip to Geneva. It was only going to be a short trip but I could expect to visit some other parts of Switzerland in the next couple of years so it seemed like a useful investment. I also hoped to get out of Geneva at least for a day and with several other sizeable cities and some other notable attractions in the region I expected that I would use this guidebook for a little more than just Geneva.
The Rough Guides have pretty much stuck to the same format over the years and in that respect it's quite comforting to own one knowing that there are certain areas aspects of the travel experience that will be well covered. I've always been of the opinion that the name "Rough Guides" suggests that the series is aimed at backpackers and budget travellers but throughout this guide care has been taken to give restaurant and accommodation recommendations across several price brackets which is particularly useful when visiting Switzerland because (for Brits and Americans at least) the prices are almost eye watering. There are specific recommendations but there is also using general advice such as which are the cheaper areas for eating and drinking.
Although this guide tries to some extent to cover both town and country but primarily this is a book aimed at the towns and cities of Switzerland; some more remote villages are mentioned but I'm really trying to say is that this is not the book for you if you want in depth information about ski resorts and other mountain activities. If you are interested in cultural activities, you'll find them well covered here.
There are a few pages of colour photographs at the front of the book and the standard of the pictures is good even if some would have benefitted from being a bit larger. Rough Guides used to have these photo pages dotted around the book and still do have a few colour inserts but now these tend to be a special feature covering some aspect of the country and its culture; in this book there are four nicely illustrated pages on Swiss cheese and chocolate.
Additionally there are plenty of regional and street maps, and additional black and white photographs though these don't look so good on these pages, with some looking rather dark and indistinct. Overall there's a fair balance between text and illustrations which is important as there are a lot of words in this book and it's really necessary to break up the big chunks of prose.
The tone is friendly yet authoritative but, disappointingly, I didn't feel that the text conveyed much in the way of passion or enthusiasm for Switzerland on the part of the author. A note on the inside back cover tells me that he has also written the Rough Guides to the Italian lakes and Jordan respectively but there's no mention of how much time he has actually spent in Switzerland and, personally, it's the guidebooks that are written by people who've spent years in a country that I usually find are the best.
Geneva, although not the capital, is given the most pages and is really excellent. As well as describing the most obvious tourist attractions, there were some more unusual suggestions such as visiting a housing estate with some rather memorable architecture and by taking up this suggestion we stumbled on a lovely quiet area of the city with some lovely shops and an adorable cafe-bakery where we ate delicious croissants for breakfast for a fraction of what the same meal would have cost in the heart of Geneva.
This is a great book for anyone who's going to be spending a while in Switzerland or who envisages going there on several occasions. It is, however, just a bit heavy and cumbersome to go in a day-pack, or in your carry on luggage if you're flying with hand luggage only. Rough Guides also have the Pocket Series and titles include Barcelona, London and New York. I think it would be great if they did a Geneva Pocket Guide as so many people visit the city but don't necessarily venture much further.
Although it may lack a little personality this is still a professional and comprehensive guide book offering detailed practical information and a well researched and written selection of cultural and historical texts.
Full priced at £14.99 but available new through Amazon priced at a reasonable £8.04 (including postage). Kindle edition costs £10.99
Summary: Practically speaking it's a helpful guidebook but does the author really like Switzerland?
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