Walking along with my guide, Gundela, through what was undoubtedly one of the most spectacular wine trails I have ever experienced, I had to wonder how, nearly a thousand years ago, the Lavaux terraced vineyards were planted on these dizzyingly steep slopes along Switzerland's Lake Geneva.

"We are pretty certain the Romans planted the first grapes in this area, but our documentation only goes back to the 12th century, when monks settled here and began to cultivate the vineyards," Gundela explained as we trekked along the 3-mile walking path through this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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And it was no easy task for those enterprising monks. Because of the steep slopes, fortifying walls had to be laboriously constructed of stone, and they are still in existence - and doing their job - to this day.

This was the first of many a magical moment experienced during a visit to the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland.

Getting there was a breeze, thanks to the efficient Swiss rail connections and a Swiss Travel Pass (available online for pre-purchase), which allows the bearer unlimited use of the country's trains, buses and excursion boats, as well as entry to select museums. Within 30 minutes after my plane landed in Zurich, I was comfortably seated on an express train headed to my first destination, the town of Vevey, a trip of just under two hours.

Despite my jet lag, I couldn't resist staring out of the train window to savor endless views of verdant, cow-studded countryside and medieval villages and castles situated high above pristine lakes. However, the view that will always remain in my mind is when the train made its final pass through a long tunnel - and Lake Geneva emerged in all its glory.

In what was definitely a "jaw-dropping" moment, I marveled at the vista that spread out in front of me as the train began to circumnavigate the lake. The azure blue water of the crescent-shaped lake, surrounded by Alpine peaks, sparkled in the afternoon sun.

I arrived in the charming city of Vevey, located directly on Lake Geneva's shores, just in time for dinner in one of the many open-air restaurants lining the town's promenade. I dined on delicate fresh perch, one of 30-plus fish varieties that thrive in the lake's pristine waters, paired with an outstanding local white wine. The lakeside promenade, resplendent with flowering gardens, statues and picturesque squares, was bustling with activity as strollers took advantage of the summer skies that stayed bright well past 10 p.m.

The next afternoon, I stepped on board a passenger ferry for a delightfully scenic cruise to the castle of Chillon, a formidable edifice built in the 12th century on a rocky island in the lake, which is the most visited historic monument in Switzerland.

I then headed off to the cosmopolitan city of Lausanne, and made haste to discover as much of this historic city as possible in the time I had.

First and foremost, the 12th century Notre Dame Cathedral in Lausanne is a must-see, as it is one of Europe's finest Gothic buildings. Lausanne's town center is a delightful combination of the ancient and the trendy, and the afternoon was spent discovering its charms. Bohemian cafes and original boutiques can be found in the Quartier du Rotillon, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods. Lausanne's Olympic Museum and Park is also one of the city's main attractions, featuring three levels of interactive displays and an impressive lakeside park.

As the sun set over Lake Geneva, I took the opportunity to ride Lausanne's fully automated metro rail system for quick and comfortable transport from the city center to the end station on the lake at Ouchy. As I strolled down the promenade, past children playing in the fountain pools, families feeding the ever-attentive swans and diners enjoying a late dinner and drinks, I said my goodbyes to Lake Geneva, with the promise I would return soon to this unforgettable Swiss paradise.