Switzerland really is a different country. Intensely associated with the Alps (almost interchangeable) it has lots things going for it. Famous for its long history of independence and neutrality it somehow combines an intensely decentralised form of government (all the way down to referendum) with really strong national institutions (a conscript army based on national service). Famous of course for its financial services (infamous to some (particularly Harold Wilson)) it actually has a broadly based economy with the highest per capita level of manufacturing in Europe (interesting counter factual - it also has the lowest proportion of graduates in its workforce). Switzerland is a successful country and all this makes for easy hassle free visiting.
As it happens the E4 route through Switzerland does not take you through classic Alpine scenary (that comes in buckets in Austria) but through the less well known Jura Mountains and then along the southern shore of Lake Constance.
Through the Jura the route follows the Jura Crest Way (also known as the Jura Ridgeway or the Jura Hoehenwege in German). The Crest Way is one of the oldest national trails in the world with original development starting in 1905. It starts at Nyon, just north of Geneva, and finishes at Dielsdorf, just north of Zurich, joining up Switzerland's two largest cities. As the name suggests the route follows an east west ridge overlooking the central plateau with its huge lakes with the Alps forming the horizon to the south. The views should be amazing.
The walk along the southern edge Lake Constance (Bodansee in German) will be the first sustained bit of flat walking since the Costa Dorada and I should be arriving there at the perfect time for some lake swimming.
There are two really good sources for developing the itinerary. The Swiss Hiking Federation website provides both an itinerary and a description of the stages and a site called Activity Workshop provides a KMZ file for the route which you can display in Google Earth (for the Jura Crest Way). The KMZ file, by the way, seems to confirm the Google Earth effect and shortens the route. The Jura Crest Way is said everywhere to be 310 kms long but it comes out in Google Earth at 270 - will need to keep that in mind when looking again at my proposed itinerary in France which was very Google Earth dependant.
Both itineraries are different and both go from west to east rather than east to west. They are also designed to let travellers get to the start of each day on a bus and are less concerned about accommodation. Consequently I've done my own which is both faster (worryingly) and assumes that I want to stay as near the trail as possible. The net effect is that I plan to cross Switzerland in 16 days (see attached itinerary).
I've done my own estimates for how long each day's walking will take based on Naismith's rule with Tranters corrections and a neat calculator from Wotz Wot. I've included the optional assumption that walking downhill (gently) covers more distance than on the flat and that by the time I get to Switzerland I will be somewhere between fit and very fit. Both assumptions could be optimistic but it stays light for a long time in July!
There are no really large towns along the route until you get to Konstance, which looks like a good place for a stop-over (the other towns/villages don't look that inspiring). My itinerary does have a couple of long days, probably too long (Day 6 and 10), but both are driven by accommodation constraints and the desire to stay as close to the trail rather than just masochism. You could easily break up the other long day, Day 10.
Rather than a day by day description I have grabbed some images (mainly from the Activity Workshop site) which give a taste as to what I can expect - looks great
|Down to Geneva from Mont Dole|
|Highest Point Mont Tendre|
|The Alps from Vue des Alps|
|Limestone Cliffs at Creux de Van|