The warmth and extended daylight make it perfect to get out for some fun in the sun. David Bowden jets off to Zurich to enjoy the summer

THE snow has melted, flowers are blooming and people are making the most of extended daylight hours to relax with friends over drinks and a meal or, are out exercising in the fresh air and sunshine.

Flowers are in full bloom in the Alps and in the numerous gardens scattered throughout Europe, including the famous Mirabell Palace and Gardens in Salzburg, made famous in the movie, The Sound Of Music.

Yes, it’s summer in Europe and with the sun in most places setting well beyond 9pm, there is no better part of the world to be now for an extended holiday.

Countries such as France, Austria, Switzerland, Holland and Italy have the welcome mat out for visitors from overseas as well as domestic tourists, who now take their holidays and make the most of the warmer weather.


WARM AND LONGER DAYS

Summer not only means warmer days (I was recently in Zurich when the mercury hit 30ºC) but also longer daylight hours with people being able to enjoy sunlight well into the evening.

Warmer weather means that Europeans have emerged from their winter recess and are on the streets socialising and enjoying themselves. “Pop-up” restaurants, cafes and bars have dusted off their spare tables and extended beyond the front door to occupy footpaths, plazas and promenades all over the continent.

In Amsterdam and nearby Delft, the canal banks and plazas are full of people drinking their favourite beverages. Restaurants such as Kleyweg’s Stads-Koffyhuys hire a barge for summer and moor it in a canal in front of the coffeehouse so patrons can enjoy reputedly the finest coffees and sandwiches in all of Holland.

In Zurich’s old quarter of Niederdorf, the restaurants have over-flowed onto the cobblestone streets and plazas. Garden restaurants such as Bauschanzli on the western bank of the nearby Limmat River are packed with happy drinkers and diners.

In other parts of Switzerland, patrons take a table in the sun along the Piazza Giuseppe Motta in Ascona and watch the ferries arriving from Italy across Lake Maggiore. Away from the Italian part of Switzerland, patrons in Basel situated by the banks of the Rhine River, relax in the sun listening to buskers perform.

In Austria, the capital Vienna has many parks and open plazas such as the famous Graben, Kohlmarkt (home to the most famous coffeehouse of Demel) and Karntner Strasse where patrons extend out from the famous Viennese coffeehouses and into open sunny areas to enjoy world-renowned coffees, pastries and ice-creams.


A DAY AT THE BEACH

Naturally, the islands and beaches in Europe are packed in summerbut so are urban beaches in places that many Malaysians would be surprised to see deckchairs and umbrellas being set up.

The further south tourists venture in Europe, the warmer it is and the islands plus the beaches of the Mediterranean are packed at this time of the year. Even rocky beaches like Monterossa al Mare on the La Spezia and Plage Beau Rivage in Nice, southern France, are crowded at this time of year.

Many visitors are surprised to learn that many European rivers and lakes are clean and suitable venues for swimming. Rivers like the Limmat flowing through Zurich and into Lake Zurich have many swimming precincts such as Seebad Enge (including the popular Fisch Bistro where fresh trout and perch from the lake are served) located on the western shore of Lake Zurich. Flussbad Oberer Letten in the centre of Zurich on the Limmat River is the place that hipsters love to swim and relax while Frauenbad Stadthausquai is in a similar location with a women’s only pool (it transforms to a trendy bar called Barfussbar in the evening with both sexes being welcomed). Lake Geneva in the southwest of Switzerland offers similar opportunities.

In the Swiss capital of Bern, floating down the Aare River is one of the most popular summer activities. Leave your clothes at the public baths in Marzili, walk upstream (just follow the crowds) and jump in the river at Eichholz Park (opposite the zoo) and float down the river until you return back to Marzili.


FUN IN THE SUN

Hotter and longer days make it perfect to get out for some fun in the sun. Most people come out to promenade while others hit the trails on their bikes or pull out their hiking boots and strap on their hiking poles for a walk in the woods.

Some, head off on serious walks such as the Cinque Terre walk along the coastline and cliff tops above the Ligurian Sea while others are happy to walk, cycle or rollerblade in more urban areas. Others are content to pull up a seat on a Belle Epoch steamer for a ferry ride on lakes such as Geneva or Lucerne in Switzerland.


GREENER PASTURES

Swiss cows are a contented lot at the best of time (that’s why the cheeses, dairy products and chocolates are some of the finest in the world) but they all moo with contentment in summer as they head up into the mountains to graze on the alpine pastures.

Feeding Swiss livestock (as well as in other European countries) is important for a country that produces wonderful cheeses and chocolates. Feeding them is not a haphazard process as I was to find out when I was last in the Swiss Alps. It’s my understanding that in the cooler months (snow, ice and generally cold weather), the livestock are housed in snug barns and fed hay from last season’s harvest.

However, come spring and summer, alpine pastures flourish to provide wonderfully natural forage for hungry and eager cows, beef cattle, sheep and goats. These alpine pastures don’t just involve grass but a myriad of herbs and flowers that carpet the high mountains of the Alps.

It’s not just a matter of letting the livestock loose to forage but rather an organised process that’s known as transhumance or the seasonal grazing of alpine pastures. With many areas unfenced, it is important that all cattle are watched and monitored as well as milked. This is a carefully orchestrated process that has been practised in Switzerland for centuries.

The downside to travelling in Europe in summer is that things get crowded, queues are long and prices are at a premium but for many, all this is a small price to pay for some of the finest weather that Europe can deliver.

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