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Swiss - Out of the world

  • Submitted by: Prabhu ram, India
  • Submission Date: 08th Jun 2005

Switzerland - Alps, Pine trees, lush green countryside, lakes, waterfalls, Glaciers Swiss Chocolates, Cheese..... I decided to cover a variety of them in four days, which was not offered by any tour company as a single four-day package. So I planned my own trip completely including hotel bookings, flight bookings, Swiss pass purchase. Though it's a very packed tour, we never regretted, after all it's the number one travel destination - truly.

We took the 18:40 easyjet flight from London Luton airport to Geneve aeroport! We landed the Swiss - the dream travel destination for many, at around 21:25 (Swiss time). We reached Swiss in 1.5 hours, though it took the same time to reach the Luton airport from West London! We had a Residence Permit (a type of Work Permit) of UK, because of which we didn't require any visa to Swiss. Some types of visas do require a Tourist Visa to enter Swiss. So it's best to confirm about this with the nearest Swiss Embassy.

In Geneva, we just had a night stay in Hotel Capitole, which is very close to Geneva main railway station, also called as Cornavin Central station. Though we could stay only for the night, we will cherish forever, the luxury of the traditional Swiss room.

At 06:56 AM, next day, took a train from Geneva to Interlaken, changing trains at Montreux and Zweisimmen. From Montreux, it's by the scenic train named Golden Pass Line. Montreux to Zweisimmen is a breathtaking route. The colours of the buildings, adds more beauty to the total picturesque places.

On arriving at Interlaken OST (this is the next station to Interlaken West; be careful!) at 11:47 AM, I threw my luggage along with jackets into a nearby hotel I had booked, named Villa Europe. This hotel is around 200m from the railway station. Villa Europe had a good Indian hotel also, named Shalimar, from where I packed some food.

We immediately (12:20) took the train to the peak Jungfraujoch (Pronounced as Jungfrau), the top most point of Alps and also the whole of Europe. Note that we had to change train in Kleine Scheidegg. And while going up, we took the route Interlaken-Lauterbrunnen-Wengen-Kleine Scheidegg-Jungfrau and on return from Kleine Schiedegg, took another route to Grindelwald and changed train to Interlaken.

Even if you hold a Swiss pass, the Junfrau train is not free, but though you get a 25% discount. Even though I had a four-day Swiss pass, in a hurry, I forgot to mention that I have them. I realised that I paid extra, only after boarding the train, where I told about this to the ticket checking staff. In the next station, he took me to the ticket counter and I was refunded CHF110 immediately!!!! I was amazed at their service and kindness.

The entire route to Jungfrau was unimaginably wonderful. It was an engineer marvel to lay tracks with tunnels and stations at around 10,500 feet. At jungfrau, it was just 2 degrees suddenly, when we regretted for not bringing our jackets. Luckily we had always taken winter clothes for our kid alone. There are a couple of things that can be done in Jungfrau though we didn't do much! Because the train was ascending at good speed and to a great altitude, I was feeling too uneasy and dizzy. (Pls. note that I have Vertigo problems) So we took the next train itself downwards. But there is a closed place from where we took some photos of the throughout-the-year-snow.

There is a nearly 15kms long tunnel to reach the Jungfrau, crossed by the train. To keep you entertaining during this time, there are in-train screens playing documentaries about Jungfrau. Also the train stops at two stops before reaching the top, just for public to view from windows in the tunnels.

Then, I alone, went into the ice-palace, where even the floor was made of ice! So there are rails on the side, to hold on, while walking on the ice. I didn't know that, and I ran to take a few photos and had a great fall! That is when I realised that Ice hurts a lot, maybe even more than rock! But it was a superb place. I couldn't explore further, because of the too low temperature and my dizziness. Note that even if it's hot in Interlaken, you need to carry winter clothes when going up to Jungfrau.

Next morning, we travelled by the 07:08 AM Golden Pass Line by First class panoramic coach from Interlaken to Lucerne. The window extends to the top, to view the high raised mountains as well. The weather was little dull and cloudy. Luckily we didn't have many plans for this day. Because of the dizziness I had on the earlier day, we decided to climb only one peak and that was Jungfrau. But there are a couple of peaks and excursion points from Lucerne like Mt'Rigi, Mt'Pilatus and Mt'Titlis. We reached Lucerne at 09:05 AM. It was a beautiful route passing through many lakes and hills. On the way to hotel (NH hotel), we peeped into a Big Chocolate shop, where even some chocolates like Big Chocolate fountains were made. Then had food in a Swiss-based Indian hotel named Kanchi. The food was good, though a little expensive.

When the skies were clearer, we had a walk on the chapel bridge and had a look at surrounding places like Water tower, the icon of Lucerne. We took the 15:25, round-trip cruise to Vitznau. Remember, Swiss pass covers the cost of all cruises fully and returned to Lucerne at around 18:00.

The next day, we had planned for Rhine Falls, which is in the Swiss-German border. Took the 10:35AM train to Zurich HB. This is Zurich's main railway station, which is very big and has even cloakroom facilities, where you can store your luggage for CHF5.

From Zurich HB, took a train to Winterthur. Then took a train towards Schaffhausen, and got at a small station called Schloss Laufen. You can see the falls from the station itself! There are two paths from the station. Either way you can enjoy the beauty of the Europe's biggest falls. And I would also suggest getting down in 2 or 3 stations before Schloss Laufen, to enjoy the absolutely stunning countryside.

In spite of the crowd in the Rhine falls, it looks very calm, but really magnificent. The waters were flowing at great speed to slow down after falling down. It can't be compared with Niagara fall, but it might be the second best.

On the same day we rushed back to Zurich to reach St'Moritz, which is in the Swiss-Italy border. After a changeover in Chur, we arrived in St'Moritz at around 8:00PM in the night. We managed to get some western food in the Hotel Soldanella where we stayed. Though we couldn't get any Indian food, the hotel ambience was too wonderful, facing directly the Lake. From the restaurant the windows directly faces the big lake. The candle light dinner can never be forgotten. The entire hotel was beautiful, a bit traditional. I loved it. And from the room, we had a fantastic view outside partially overlooking at the lake and Snow Mountains at the background.

The lake was very calm and tempted me to take a morning walk. But we didn’t have time to do anything in St'Moritz. But overall it's a small calm and peaceful town - a perfect place to relax, almost disconnected to the world!

The next morning, had a quick breakfast and took the shuttle service to railway station, where our much-awaited Glacier Express was waiting to start at 10:02AM. Glacier express and Bernina express are considered to be the best Scenic trains in the Swiss out of the 6 or 7 available. I had again booked first-class panoramic coach in Glacier express. We headed to a place called Brig, because we had booked flight ticket in the night from Geneva. The train again goes to Chur and then deviates from there towards Brig. This Chur to Brig is the best of the routes, I would say. It was green one side and you could see amazing Glaciers on the other side. Not to miss is the food in the beautiful restaurant inside. Though there is no Indian food, we could get some western food with rice and Vegetable cutlet! But it was the most wonderful dining experience. It reached Brig exactly at 16:38.

From Brig, we took the 16:59 direct train to Geneva airport and then back to London Luton by the 21:55 Easyjet flight.

Switzerland - Photos, videos, articles.... cannot describe what we experienced. We were speechless most of the times looking at the stunning natural beauty, especially the countryside of Switzerland.

I think Swiss has got the best train services. There are a variety of trains from the panoramic to the Double Decker trains. And I wonder how they could maintain such high precision in train timings. The maximum deviation from the expected time was 20 seconds!!! So if you are late by a few seconds, you might miss the train. Even ordinary trains were superb, well maintained, very comfortable.

Pros:
· A combination of all varieties of outstanding natural beauty
· Transportation, especially trains
· Tourist-friendly people and service
· Clean places & roads

Tips:
· Plan your baby food properly, as we did. Otherwise you may have to do some shopping there. There are co-op departmental stores almost in all cities like Interlaken, where you can buy some baby food.
· You don't have to go to St Moritz to take the Glacier express, there are plenty of options like even taking from Chur, which is more beautiful.
· Even if you have second-class Swiss passes, you could upgrade on specific trains as per your preference.
· July and August are real summer periods, where the crowd will also be more. I would suggest going in Early June, when it will be mildly warm, but also less crowded and less expensive.

Conclusion: It's a must see country for everyone.

Pictures:

Couldn't come back without taking 100s of pictures of Switzerland. If you want to look at the pictures taken by us, you can visit my photos in Yahoo. Incase the above hyperlink doesn't work, please copy this URL in the browser: http://in.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/sunithaprabhu_swiss/my_photos

For any further information, please feel free to contact me at prabhuram40@yahoo.com. If I could, I would be glad to help you, especially with respect to carrying a child, covering places, Indian food etc.