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Slow Train to Switzerland: One Tour, Two Trips, 150 Years and a World of Change Apart [Hardcover]

Diccon Bewes
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Nov 2013
One tour, two trips, 150 years and a world of change apart
In June 1863 an English lady set off by train on the trip of a lifetime: Thomas Cook s first Conducted Tour of Switzerland. A century and a half later, travel writer Diccon Bewes, author of the bestselling Swiss Watching, decided to go where she went and see what she saw.
Guided by her diary, he followed the same route to discover how much had changed and how much hadn t. She went in search of adventure, he went in search of her, and found far more than he expected.
Slow Train to Switzerland is the captivating account of two trips through the Alps: hers glimpsing the future of travel, his revisiting its past. Together they make a journey to remember.
This is a tale of trains and tourists, of the British and the Swiss, of a Victorian traveller and a modern-day Englishman abroad. It is the story of a tour that changed both Switzerland and the world of travel forever.

It was the tour that changed the way we travel. In the summer of 1863 seven people left London on a train that would take them on a thrilling adventure across the Alps. They were the Junior United Alpine Club and members of Thomas Cook's first Conducted Tour of Switzerland. For them it was an exciting novelty; for us it was the birth of mass tourism, and it started with the Swiss. A century and a half later travel writer Diccon Bewes set off on the same three-week trip. His quest: follow their itinerary, stay in the same places, and discover how much has changed. And how much hasn't. His guide was Miss Jemima, a member of that Club who wrote a diary as she travelled a diary that was lost for decades but survived as a unique record of a historic tour. Slow Train to Switzerland is the fascinating account of both trips from London to Lucerne. It's a revealing look at the early days of tourism, when going abroad meant 18-hour days and wearing the same clothes for weeks. And no toilets on the trains! It's also the story of how a nostalgic tour surprised an expat author, revealing a Switzerland very different from the present - and a stunning and unexpected personal connection with the past. That first trip saw the end of travel for a privileged few and the start of tourism for the masses. It also helped transform a poor Switzerland into one of the wealthiest countries on earth. And now it gives us a second chance to experience travel the way it used to be: slow.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing (4 Nov 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857886097
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857886092
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 16 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 207,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Diccon Bewes worked for ten years at Lonely Planet and Holiday Which? magazine, before moving to Switzerland, where until recently he managed Stauffacher English Bookshop in Bern. He is now a full-time writer.

As well as grappling with German grammar, re-learning to cross the road properly, and overcoming his innate desire to form an orderly queue, he has spent the last six years exploring the bits of Switzerland he'd never heard of before. And eating lots of chocolate. All in the name of research, of course, while writing his first book, Swiss Watching. That became a No1 bestseller in Switzerland and is now in its second edition, with a new sub-title - Inside the Land of Milk and Money.

Website: www.dicconbewes.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SwissWatching
Twitter: @dicconb

Product Description

Review

Bewes has become something of an expert on the Swiss. His first book, Swiss Watching lifted the lid on a country everybody knows of but knows little about. In his latest book, Slow Train to Switzerland he follows in the footsteps of Miss Jemima Morrell, a customer on Thomas Cook's first guided tour in 1863, and discovers how this plucky Victorian woman helped shape the face of modern tourism and Switzerland itself. --Wanderlust

Fascinating. Charming. Bewes breezy prose makes him a pleasant travelling companion. --Spectator

Very enjoyable. Bewes is a charming guide. --Geographical Magazine

A brilliant book. There is a strong story to tell of the burgeoning country that Switzerland was in the 1860s, and the utmost change the travel industry effected on the land. The differences and similarities between the two excursions make this time capsule was well worth opening, the contrast well worth making, and this author probably the best to do so --Bookbag

This book gives an excellent history of our favourite country, not the usual battle of this or war of that , but at the much more personal level of the common people s everyday lives. Even those of us who think we know a lot about Switzerland will learn something new, and gain that knowledge in a very readable and entertaining way. If you enjoyed Swiss Watching then you ll need to get a copy of this book by the same author. Highly recommended. --Swiss Express magazine

Chocked to the brim with brilliant insight - an interesting travelogue that is in equal measure detailed, witty and entertaining. Somewhere between Bill Bryson and Paul Theroux. --Goodreads

Fans of Bill Bryson will find him a kindred spirit The Lady

This book gives an excellent history of our favourite country, not the usual battle of this or war of that , but at the much more personal level of the common people s everyday lives. Even those of us who think we know a lot about Switzerland will learn something new, and gain that knowledge in a very readable and entertaining way. If you enjoyed Swiss Watching then you will need to get a copy of it. --Swiss Express magazine

Slow Train to Switzerland is informative, fun, and immensely readable. If you are interested in Switzerland, tourism, or adventures by plucky tourists from Victorian England (or even if you simply enjoy a good read), you are bound to like the book. --Europe For Visitors

'Fans of Bill Bryson will find him a kindred spirit' The Lady

A brilliant book. There is a strong story to tell of the burgeoning country that Switzerland was in the 1860s, and the utmost change the travel industry effected on the land. The differences and similarities between the two excursions make this time capsule was well worth opening, the contrast well worth making, and this author probably the best to do so --Bookbag

This book gives an excellent history of our favourite country, not the usual battle of this or war of that , but at the much more personal level of the common people s everyday lives. Even those of us who think we know a lot about Switzerland will learn something new, and gain that knowledge in a very readable and entertaining way. If you enjoyed Swiss Watching then you ll need to get a copy of this book by the same author. Highly recommended. --Swiss Express magazine

A unique account of travel in the Swiss Alps, then and now. An entertaining read for lovers of history and travel. --Library Journal

Chocked to the brim with brilliant insight - an interesting travelogue that is in equal measure detailed, witty and entertaining. Somewhere between Bill Bryson and Paul Theroux. --Goodreads

About the Author

Diccon Bewes is a travel writer. A world trip set him up for a career in travel writing, via the scenic route of bookselling. After ten years at Lonely Planet and Holiday Which? Magazine, he decamped to Switzerland, where he has until recently managed the Stauffacher English Bookshop in Bern. As well as grappling with German, re-learning to cross the road properly, and overcoming his desires to form an orderly queue he has spent the last five years exploring this quirky country. Following the incredible success of Swiss Watching he is now a full time writer. See his website at www.dicconbewes.com

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow train to Switzerland 19 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover
Slow Train to Switzerland is a most entertaining account of the author's three week visit to Switzerland, by train and lake steamer, following as closely as possible the route taken by an English party when they visited the country in 1863, being part of the very first Thomas Cook tour. It is written with a light touch, humorous and yet full of information about the history, geography and people. Quotes from the 1863 diary on which the tour is based reveal many interesting things; I was particularly struck by the poverty of the country which is now among the richest in the world. At every arrival point the travellers were besieged by raggedly dressed begging children and importunate porters and guides, as they would be in a Third World country today. Buy this book if you love Switzerland, as I do having made 54 visits over the past 59 years, or indeed anyone who enjoys travel--you should be tempted to follow in the author's footsteps.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
1863 and members of The Junior United Alpine Club set off in a party of 130 to Paris, headed ultimately for Switzerland, in the company of Mr Thomas Cook, entrepreneur and travel aficionado. Miss Jemima Morrell was the unofficial chronicler of the tour, this, the first package holiday abroad organised by Mr Cook (following several failed attempts at home); his travel shops still appear on many high streets across Britain today, and he is still considered to be the genius behind the package holiday! Just look where his early endeavours have now landed - mass tourism today is 5% of global GDP, so Cook was a man with huge vision.

2013, and 150 year later, Diccon Bewes, who is the accidental ex-pat expert on Switzerland, retraces the footsteps of these intrepid (and intrepid they certainly were!) explorers. Armed with his Murray guidebook from the nineteenth century, nattily entitled A Handbook for Travellers in Switzerland, and the Alps of Savoy and Piedmont (all is revealed in the book as to why Savoy and Piedmont also featured), he sets off from Newhaven crossing the Channel to Dieppe. With further guidebooks at his disposal A Handbook of Travel-Talk from 1858, he delves into gems of useful translation, which perhaps aren't altogether useful in modern day parlance, but give a wonderful insight into the mores of Victorian travel: "May I not be allowed to carry ashore my carpet-bag?" or "Sit still, the train is moving" ... and extracts from Thomas Cook's The Excursionist beautifully evoke the flavour of the bygone era, which featured ships, trains, coaches and, of course, camels...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Common Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
There is something about this book which is incredibly pleasing. From the attractive cover to the helpful appendices at the back, this is a quality production doing credit both to its author Diccon Bewes and to its publisher Nicholas Brealey.

The idea of the book is to start with one of the first Thomas Cook conducted tours and then to follow the same route today, writing up a travel journal along the way. Diccon Bewes makes extensive use of an account of the original journey written by a young woman called Jemima Anna Morrell who with her companions formed the "Junior United Alpine Club", travelling from Newhaven, across the channel to Calais and on to Paris and then Geneva.

Switzerland was a very different place to the prosperous nation we know today. The people were poor and often hungry, the hotels and lodgings varied from small country lodgings to the newer grander hotels of the spas. The conditions of the roads made long journeys wearisome and the railway system was new and still patchy. The stamina of the early travellers was surprising as shown in an account of an ascent by foot up to the Mer de Glace, The Sea of Ice. Our modern-day author makes the same journey, making the ascent by a train not available to the earlier travellers, but alas, the sea of ice has disappeared, to be replaced by a "river of rubble".

Diccon Bewes's writing is easy to read and he obviously enjoyed travelling around in the company of his 150 year old travel guide. I was reminded of Michael Portillo's journeys around Europe with his ancient Bradshaws railway guide, the old being compared with the new throughout his journeys. It adds an additional layer on to current day experience and makes for a great deal of interest for the reader as he or she reads of how things have changed.

A very fine book - one I originally borrowed from the library but have since bought for myself, so much did I enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow Train to Switzerland 19 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a frequent visitor to Switzerland this book is very entertaining and it is very interesting to see how the country has evolved. At last I know how to spell "Gruezi miteinand"!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book from several angles. 20 Jun 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Nice and easy to read. Fascinating history and current stuff and as a Switzerland and rail lover an ideal read for me but should appeal to many.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Godd ole Miss Jemima 25 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having read Miss Jemima's Diary some time ago , visited the areas several times and enjoyed reading Diccon's other books how could I not enjoy this one. A great mix of history, present day and the Swiss.
buy a copy and get lost in Swissness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One tour, two trips 18 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover
Diccon Bewes does a fine job in recounting the tour of Switzerland (and a little bit of France) of Miss Jemima and the Junior United Alpine Club.

It is amazing what hardships the members of the Junior United Alpine Club took upon themselves in undertaking this journey. One also notices that these people appeared to be quite underequipped - would you fancy travelling four weeks in the Swiss Alps with one set of clothes? Diccon Bewes undertakes this journey but he uses 21st century means of transport, which is somewhat more convenient than its 1863 equivalent and I suspect that he was also somewhat better equipped textile- and otherwise.

The author quotes from Miss Jemima's diary and other tour guides of the time as often as possible and that brings the story to life. I also liked the background information he provides on Thomas Cook, the members of the Junior United Alpine Club and the many places the group visited.

I like the author's entertaining style of recounting the story and I also loved his many candid observations and witty remarks on matters around him. The map at the beginning of the book is great but I would have liked it if the author had provided sections of this map at the beginning of each chapter. That would have saved me from turning to page xi about a hundred times. All told this is great reading.

Before you embark on a journey of this nature you ought to read Diccon Bewes' Swiss Watching: Inside Europe's Landlocked Island because this will tell you everything you always wanted to find out about Switzerland but were afraid to ask.
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