The 11th Annual Meeting Trophy, hosted by the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau, took place this past week in one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Switzerland, centrally located in Europe, is a truly magical destination, with the most stunning landscapes, lakes, and mountains a person could hope to see. Switzerland is an amazing destination for any type of incentive trip or conference, offering visitors bustling city districts or a simple country lifestyle, making it the perfect destination for everyone.
First Stop: Zurich
Zurich is a main hub in Switzerland, and a busy business district. With many different direct transportation options, Zurich is connected to over 150 destinations using plane, train or automobile. While in Zurich, our group travelled to the outskirts of the city to visit Jucker Farm, a working adventure farm boasting views of Lake Pfaffikon and the nearby Alps. The farm produces and sells their own fruit and vegetables, and makes homemade bread and preserves on-site.
Located in the heart of Zurich's Old Town is a traditional Guild house, Zunfhaus zur Waag. The history of the Guild house is very unique; established in 1315, the architectural style of the building is predominantly Renaissance, however the windows show a Gothic influence. The Guild house's collection of stained glass paintings and the oil painting by Heinrich Bodmer – depicting the poet and painter Johann Martin Usteri (1763-1827) – are among the most remarkable features of the large building. At Zunfhaus zur Waag we were treated to a traditional Swiss dish, Kalbsgeschnetzeltes "Zurcher Art" mit Butterrosti, which is sliced veal "Zurich style" with fried grated potatoes, a must-try!
The Magic of Lucerne
This breathtaking lakeside city is surrounded by a dramatic mountain range. Lucerne truly encapsulates the best of Switzerland with spectacular scenery, magnificent hotels, world-class cultural attractions and an enchanting city. Our Meeting Trophy event kicked off in Lucerne with a Welcome Reception and Dinner at the stunning Beach Club Terrace of the Art Deco Hotel Montana. Counted as one of the top 10 most beautiful roof top bars by the renowned SI Style Magazine, the Beach Club offers an impressive panorama of Lucerne, capturing the wonder of Switzerland.
The following day, a competition kicked off between the guests of the Meeting Trophy with teams from North America, Belgium, Netherlands, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, France and Nordic Countries. We were challenged answer trivia on the city, solve riddles and puzzles, and compete in physical challenges, which included the most entertaining paddle boat race I've ever participated in. That afternoon, the group departed by Steam Boat to Alpnachstad and traveled on the world's steepest cogwheel train to the top of Mount Pilatus. A personal highlight for me was learning to play the Alphorn while atop the mountain.
Our day ended with a luxury boat cruise around Lake Lucerne, delivering the group for dinner to the Swiss Museum of Transport. The museum offers attractions found nowhere else in Switzerland such as the Filmtheatre, Planetarium and Swissarena, as well as the Hans Erni Museum, which make a simple visit to the museum a truly unique experience.
Road Rally through the Swiss Countryside
Planes, trains and boats; the only way left now to see Switzerland is to drive the winding roads through the Alps... which is exactly what we did! Travelling in VW Beetles, Golfs, and Audis, the teams loaded up for a road rally to visit Interlaken and Bern. With the Swiss music blasting and the top down in our Audi Convertible, we cruised through the countryside taking in the glacier-fed lakes and snow-capped mountain tops. Our first stop on this journey brought us to Interlaken, a town framed by lakes Thun and Brienz and crowned by the UNESCO World Heritage Mountains of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. After a short coffee break, a tour of the historic Congress Centre Kursaal Interlaken, and some more challenges, we continued on our rally.
A trip to Switzerland would not be complete without enjoying a traditional Swiss fondue. Located in Affoltern in the Emme Valley, Emmentaler Show Dairy hosts over 300,000 visitors a year to learn the secrets of cheese production. After a delicious lunch sampling homemade breads and delicious fondue, (Fun Fact: Swiss fondue is traditionally made with 3-5 different cheeses!) the competition continued with an obstacle course cheese rolling relay race.
Our final stop of the Meeting Trophy was the capital city of Switzerland, Bern. Driving into Bern, you notice the River Aare provides an opportunity for the ultimate bathing experience; very good, experienced swimmers allow themselves to drift along in the clean Aare while enjoying a view of the Houses of Parliament (a true Switzerland experience). Our final challenge of the competition was a scooter race around the city, stopping at fountains, chocolate shops, pavilions and restaurants, completing various challenges along the way. From flag throwing to chocolate tasting, the Meeting Trophy gave all participants a truly Swiss experience.
After racing around Switzerland, the teams gathered for a Final Gala Reception and Dinner at Schwellenmätteli to find out the winning country. The Schwellenmätteli group of restaurants stand in a unique location between the course of the river Aare and the woodland, with an unrestricted view of the Bern Minster and across the waters to the Matte district.
Although Team North America didn't bring home this trophy (Congratulations to Team Russia!), we sure brought the team spirit, fun, and enthusiasm!
Switzerland is a truly amazing destination, and while I was only able to experience a few cities in a few days, it offers visitors a grand combination of the majestic Alps, historic cities, quiet countryside, thrilling and fun activities, and an unforgettable visit.
Debra Pankhurst is Business Development Coordinator for Fraser & Hoyt Incentives, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.