#myWeekend - Franziska Brunold

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From signpost to signpost

Red selfie frames that showcase Switzerland’s most attractive side to us, and a young woman from Valais whose main job is to extol detours: Franziska Brunold’s weekend story focuses on the Grand Tour of Switzerland.

Road trips have become a trend, and every country needs its own route. While wild Harley riders on Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica trap insects in their beards, a handsome influencer couple poses in front of the Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road in Australia or a family on the Garden Route in South Africa fills several memory cards with photos of elephants, in Switzerland one takes the Grand Tour of Switzerland. With the Grand Tour – the newest of all the routes –, Franziska Brunold’s goal is to storm the top ten worldwide. She wants to thereby ensure that Switzerland is not confused with Sweden.

With a great deal of passion, Franziska, 33, established the Grand Tour of Switzerland – the touring route of Switzerland Tourism – and thereby gives visitors from near and far tips as to where the best places to take a selfie are.

We meet Franziska at Lake Zurich in Meilen District at the opening of one of the 52 photo spots that grace the route of the Grand Tour with their red selfie frames and accompany her into the Valais Alps over swaying rope bridges to the highest spot with a view of Aletsch Glacier. The numerous hiking possibilities in her home canton led Franziska to develop her passion for planning routes.

Tourism in the blood

From a young age, Franziska has fostered her spirit of discovery and love of Switzerland. Even as a young girl, the native of Valais was full of enthusiasm and planned the hiking routes for her family’s weekend excursions and inquired about Aletsch Arena. A new route in the Valais Mountains was the goal every time. Hiking as a family outing was always a highlight. Franziska’s father told us during our visit that his daughter was always right at the front and increased the pace when other hikers appeared behind them. She did not want to be passed. Franziska never asked, "When are we going to get there?"

With a laugh she admits that due to her practical training in a pretty wine cellar and her love of the mountains and wine, she totally fits the Valaisan cliché. Even back then, Franziska brandished wine glasses between old oak casks, and she was almost certain that she wanted to share the culinary as well as the scenic highlights of her region with others. That she would enter into the tourism industry in Valais was clear. Following her studies, she got a job at Valais Tourism and presented her home canton as a holiday region for seven years. Responsible for promulgating Valais in international markets, she often travels abroad. In spirited São Paulo, she woos people into viewing the Matterhorn up close and augments her know-how about the preferences of guests from all over the world. She found a new challenge when she exchanged the love for her mountainous home for the lowlands of Zurich, because since then she has been in charge of a one-woman show: the Grand Tour of Switzerland.

Living and working in a region of Switzerland that is new to her is enriching for Franziska. She talks enthusiastically about trips to Eastern Switzerland, a region that she only recently began to explore and that definitely has more to offer than endless apple orchards. Lake Constance has a special appeal to her because there are no large lakes in Valais. Of course, Franziska visits her home every now and then and so we accompany her on a hike in the Aletsch region. We start from Franziska’s home mountain: Mount Belalp. From there the route leads to a 124-metre-long suspension bridge that spans the 80-metre-deep Massa Gorge and is located in front of the snout of Great Aletsch Glacier. Then we go through the pristine Aletsch Forest, with the oldest larches in Switzerland, up to Riederalp. Franziska enjoys her free time here with her husband and gathers energy for her work.

The journey is the destination

With the erection of the first of a total of 650 signs and after two years of planning, the Grand Tour of Switzerland was opened in 2015. The brown signs can be found all over Switzerland and they show travellers the way to the highlights of Switzerland and also to the smaller, lesser-known corners of Switzerland. Whether by car, motorbike or camper, the touring route meanders more than 1643 kilometres past wonderful viewpoints and repeatedly invites one to stop at an excursion destination. "If one were to drive straight ahead, one would go from Switzerland to Belarus", says Franziska with a grin, revealing a fun fact about the Grand Tour. But thanks to the circular route, the road always remains on Swiss soil and enthusiasts can take a second lap right away – provided they have a suitable means of transport. So that all the avid travellers can effortlessly whiz over the five Alpine passes on the touring route, Hertz, as a partner of the Grand Tour of Switzerland, offers the optimal vehicle for every journey of discovery.

Of course, Franziska has already driven the entire route – though not always behind the wheel. "I enjoy planning and navigating", she explains to us and adds with a laugh that she is a passionate passenger! On her exploration tours, she stops at every photo spot on the Grand Tour of Switzerland: the red selfie frames with a decorative element that mark especially beautiful viewpoints on the tour.

Since this summer, there is a new photo spot in Meilen as well, and it offers an unimpeded view of Lake Zurich and the mountains behind it. When one is lucky, one manages to take a framed photo with a ship that docks twice a day in Meilen. The residents of Meilen are proud that from now on a red photo spot will decorate their shore. This is clearly refected in the flowery speeches of the opening ceremony, which Franziska happily listened to that day. A few guests from neighbouring communities have stopped by as well to vie for the next spot. But there are defined guidelines for that, as Franziska explains to us: every photo spot must afford a view of a new subject. Depending on the location, it can take several months for an applicant to obtain the necessary building permits for a new photo spot.

Whether in Meilen, at Aletsch Glacier or the rest of the (at present) 52 viewpoints, the red selfie frames are popular destinations for photo hunters. Franziska recently got a message from an elderly lady who proudly told her that she had been framed at all 52 photo spots and included the trophy photos as evidence. The photo spots are not always possible to reach right away. For the view of Aletsch Glacier, the transportation portfolio was supplemented with two cable cars. In such a manner, one can reach the 2926 metre high Eggishorn and be "framed" in front of the glacier.

Souvenirs for the palate

Franziska is also known in her circle of friends as a travel consultant. The smart promoter of the Grand Tour of Switzerland does not single out a concrete proposal and says that the route is the perfect opportunity to individually discover one’s own highlights. Her rule of thumb when she travels: 60 percent is planned and the rest remains free for spontaneous decisions.

While others raid souvenir stalls when travelling to remember a holiday, Franziska packs something else in her luggage. As a passionate cook, she picks up a culinary souvenir on every trip: a spice, a tea or a new recipe. But after many trips abroad, Franziska maintains that for culinary experiences, Switzerland is globally exceptional. She recalls an excursion on the Grand Tour of Switzerland with a detour to Disentis to "Capuns-Weltmeister" (Capuns World Champions), a restaurant with a promising name. Since then, Franziska cooks with Swiss chard leaves in her kitchen, and the Grison recipe was immortalised in the recipe collection of this woman from Valais. And sometimes one discovers something new in one’s own home, for example “Sii”, a dessert made from old rye bread marinated in red wine.

Food and drink is also provided on the Grand Tour of Switzerland. That is what the "Grand Tour snack box" is for, a red metallic picnic basket that invites one to taste local products along the route. One can have the box refilled at various sales outlets. A viewpoint for a romantic picnic can certainly be found.

Your personal piece of Switzerland

With the Grand Tour of Switzerland, Switzerland Tourism has managed to present a well-balanced offer at a time of overtourism and hyperactive influencers. Finding the right balance and preserving the beautiful spots in Switzerland is a continual balancing act, says Franziska. Due to the length of the tour, the individual guest can discover and enjoy his/her very own piece of Switzerland without everyone stepping on each other's feet. Thanks to the route, lesser-known places are travel destinations and so one still finds places that have not yet been promoted by influencers with the hashtag "amazing" and then overrun. In any case, Franziska will never stop searching Switzerland for exciting spots and framing them in red for us.


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