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Ignored by most travellers, but well loved by the Swiss themselves, Canton Jura,in the far northwest corner of the country, is a rural gem, perfect if all you want from your holiday is to walk or cycle your way through gentle, rolling countryside and dark, fragrant forests, with only the smallest of villages and simplest of hotels (or campsites) to provide material comforts. This little bulge of land has over the centuries been shunted from pillar to post: from the Dukes of Burgundy to the bishops of Basel, seized by the Swiss, ruled by the French, handed to the Bernese, and finally in the 1970s – after decades of political turmoil that briefly threatened to ignite violent conflict (see box opposite) – granted independence and allowed to form its own government. Graffiti throughout the region showing the cantonal flag and the pro-separatist slogan “Jura libre” speak of a turbulent and politically active recent past. There’s only a handful of towns, but most – including the cantonal capital Delémont – have spent the last centuries sidelined, well away from heavy industry and the major currents of European history, and so have retained a graceful, historic, Gallic air.
There are a couple of different deals on transport in and around Canton Jura. The Carte journalière Region CJ costs Fr.16 for a day (or Fr.8 with a half-fare card), and covers the train and bus network of CJ (Chemins de fer du Jura) only. The Carte journalière Arc jurassien costing Fr.25 (Fr.15) has a wider validity, including some mainline CFF trains. Train stations in the region have brochures showing the different ranges, and sell both cards.
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