Scintillating Switzerland

Switzerland! It’s not a country, it’s a feeling. A feeling of romance which was kindled in the hearts of every Indian through Bollywood movies. It’s an epitome for natural,simple and scenic beauty and trust me when I say that it’s not overrated at all. In fact pictures don’t do justice to it. And I didn’t realise when this destination came from my travel list to my bucket list.

So when we were discussing 6 months back what should be our next destination, both of us chuckled “”Switzerland “”!! It’s on my bucket list!! 

And the planning started. This was going to be our 4th girls trip together and first destination which was new to both of us. To make it more special, we got a similar tattoo depicting travel love on our hands.

Day 1

After a long 8 hour flight, few in-flight movies and not so great flight food, we reached Zurich. Somehow the 1st breath of fresh air of another country fills me with a lot of excitement and happiness to see that place.

Guess what was our first shopping from Zurich? A bottle of Martini Asti from duty free !!  Our hotel was just 10 mins away from the airport and so there was a shuttle running every hour to and fro, free of cost. We took a shuttle and reached our hotel. By the time we came out for a stroll it had started drizzling but it couldn’t dampen our spirit of taking a first view of Zurich (also we were damn hungry so we had no choice ). We walked around , shopped a little and went to this great cafe which had such amazing breads and tarts and pastries and ohh I’m salivating.

What a hearty lunch we had there. While coming back we picked up some berries and the quality of fruits will open your eyes wide. Even a non fruit lover will grab them.

Pro tip of the day – 

1. You don’t need to carry umbrella. Most hotels have umbrellas which u can take by depositing some security deposit and can get it back once you are done. Travel light. 

2. Try local cafes, they have amazing and different stuff worth trying veg and nonveg both.

Day 2

Excitement was at it’s peak as we were going to see Mt Titlis. The way to Engelberg was very scenic with green meadows and small houses in between them and suddenly we started seeing the fog , mountains and then snow cap mountains. 

From Engelberg to Mt Titlis we had to change 2 cable cars and 1 big rotating cable car. Although, it was so full that all I could see was humans rotating and not the scenic beauty. But the whole way changes from green meadows to lake to snow clad mountains.

Not sure if it was our good luck or bad luck that as soon as we reached Mt Titlis, it started snowing. Temperature dipped from 0° to -6°. We were so excited that we made videos, got a picture clicked with Shahrukh and Kajol’s standies and video-called our loved ones from there to show them what we were experiencing. And suddenly I realised my hands going numb, everything became white around me so I couldn’t really see where the mountain ending and the bridge and ski cart i starting. I immediately wore my gloves and turned back. We couldn’t see anything but the snow fall experience was out of this world.

The cafeteria there has some hot and scrumptious food.

Once we came down it was still cold and drizzling a little. While coming back from Engelberg, we went for a small tour at Lucerne city. The city has a beautiful lake with lots of giant size ducks( a Labrador dog size duck was something i saw for the first time) to small size ducks. There’s a Chapel Bridge which is world’s oldest truss bridge. It dates from 14th century and is famous for its unusual painting that hang under its roof. It is a covered wooden footbridge spanning the River Reuss diagonally in the city of Lucerne in central Switzerland and both city and bridge has an old world charm to it. We saw the lion statue as well and called it a day with lots of good memories and pictures.

Pro tip of the day – 

1. Titlis-If you don’t have snow boots, don’t worry you can rent them for 10 chf from near the ticket counter.

2. Lucerne-Most tourists are directed to a four stories shop from where chocolates and other souvenirs can be bought but steer clear of that. The same amount of chocolates and same brand can be bought from the local grocery store Migros ( you can practically live in that and noone will notice, the store is so big and has everything you need) at half of the price. The souvenirs in Individual shops on bridge are much cheaper too.

Day 3

Next, we headed to see Rhine falls at schaffhausen. The falls are at the border of Germany and are the most powerful falls of Europe. For Sherlock fans this place holds a special place because of the last scene of the book. 

The falls are so powerful that one can feel the mist at the other end. The sound of the gushing water is unnerving and yet you will feel a sense of calm there sitting on a single bench upside very near to the water.

After having a heart and eye full of Rhine falls we headed to Bern city, the capital of Switzerland and the only capital and a Swiss city to be accorded World Heritage Status, which means nothing can be changed, constructed or deconstructed there. Ever fell in love with a city as soon as you enter? That was the feeling I got when I saw this city. The Gothic fountain block where kids were running and playing, beautiful old parliament building and clock tower, empty streets with trams running to and fro, river flowing from between the city which can be seen from top and many lovely open cafes. 

Einstein house is there which is now converted into a cafe.

After Bern city, on our way to our next hotel in Les Diablerets we had a tour of Cailler chocolate factory and a small halt near lake Geneva in a stunning town of Montreux.

We reached our hotel at around 8 pm. It was actually a hostel run by a couple. Right in front there was a river flowing which was leading to a snow mountain and across the river was a green patch where cows were eating grass. The sound of the river along with the tinkling sound of the cow bells was so mesmerising and soothing that I spent 2 hrs sitting there just gazing it all. I’m not much of a meditation person because my kind wanders all the time but that eve I somehow felt so much at peace that at some level I could connect with myself and achieved not thinking or worrying about anything else.

Pro tip of the day – 

1. If you want to go for a boat ride in Rhine falls then don’t reach there before 11 am as the boat rides starts at 11 am only.

2. One can easily stay in B&B and hostels all around Europe. They are much cheaper than the hotels and the locations are great.

Day 4

After a well rested night , we started for Interlaken today. It’s a small and beautiful town with a population of just 15000. Interlaken has a lot stories of shooting of the Bollywood movie DDLJ. There’s even a statue of the director Yash Chopra who is also called the tourism ambassador of Switzerland. 

We hired a small train which gave us the whole city tour on 45 mins and showed us the main places around.

From Interlaken we started for our next destination Jungfraujoch peak. To reach Jungfraujoch, one has to take a train from Grindalwalt station ( yes, you feel connected to this place, yes, Rowling took her character’s name from this place). From Grindalwalt to Jungfraujoch, the train way is very scenic and beautiful and the train stops in between for 2 mins so one can go down and click pictures. 

Jungfraujoch station is the highest altitude station of Europe at 11333 ft height. 

Although I didn’t have any breathing problem at Mt Titlis ,but at Jungfraujoch I felt a little out of breath while going towards the snow, probably because it has a long walkway and a lot of places to go at a higher altitude. There’s a cafe and a snow games area. 

Jungfraujoch peak and Aletsch glacier is worth seeing. Ice palace can be missed easily as it’s nothing too great. After getting our Jungfraujoch passports ( it’s just a souvenir for fun) stamped from a small stamp machine we headed back to our beautiful hotel at Les Diablarets.

Pro tip of the day – 

1. If you like Paragliding, Interlaken is the place to fulfill your interest, also taking the small train ride for the city tour is a good idea if you want to know the city quickly.

2. At Jungfrau, ice palace can be easily missed as there’s nothing great to see and its very slippery so not suitable for elderly people. Ice tunnel is also nothing great. Instead that time can be spent in snow games and cafe.

Day 5

While going to the most scenic railway route ” The Golden Pass Line” we crossed the stunning village of Gstaad. As if the old style wooden houses in green meadows were not enough to make you longing to live here, the absolutely gorgeous scenes from train on the golden pass line mesmerise you with it’s beauty. 

After getting down from the train we reached Lausanne for a brief time. Lausanne is a city situated on the shores of lake Geneva. It Is also the headquarters of international Olympic committee.

Moving on, we reached to the Headquarters of European United Nations. Right across the road , In front of the headquarters, there is a wooden broken chair made by an artist to draw attention toward the landmine victims. Initially it was just there for 3 months but now it’s been 20 years and it is a Landmark of Geneva.

While we were in deep thoughts of this artists simple yet powerful depiction, we reached a pretty happening place In Geneva where there were lots of good restaurants, the English Garden,the floral clock and Jet D Eau. The place had a beautiful lake. We met some old friends here , had scrumptious Italian lunch left for our next destination, a small and quaint village Tasch.

Pro tip of the day – 1. 

If you want to buy Swiss watches, the shops in front and around the floral clock are the ones to buy as they have the original stuff.

2. Do a full route of Golden pass train and do stay in Lausanne. It’s a city not to be missed.

Day 6

We headed for Zermatt. To go to Matterhorn ( the Toblerone peak), which is the higest sightseeing platform in Europe and has the highest ice palace, one has to go to Zermatt and then a train or a cable car can take you to the peak. Zermatt is a beautiful village in kind of a valley in mountains. Its a big flourished village with all kinds of shops and a river going through between. You can see the Matterhorn from Zermatt. There is a church and some of our fellow travellers even saw baptism ceremony going on there.

There are 2 ways from Zermatt to Matterhorn. One is electric auto which takes you to a cable car which, again, takes you on the peak of Matterhorn. And then there’s train which takes you to Gornergrat which is the highest view point and you can see Matterhorn peak right in front as if you can touch it and if you are a Toblerone fan, eat it! We chose Gornergrat as we didn’t want to do snow sports on the peak but wanted to see the peak as a whole. There is a canteen on Gornergrat which has yummiliscious food and you can enjoy it sitting outside in the sun in a cold weather. It’s lovely to see that in Europe even dogs are allowed in trains and they are very well behaved so people travel with their dogs. In fact, myself and my friend are such a dog lovers that a sweet couple was guiding us to Sunnegga lake and I was so distracted in patting and cuddling their big cute dog that I completely missed understanding the directions and we ended up looking for the route for an hour.

While going to Gornergrat the train stops at 4 small stations and you can get down and board in as many time on those stations with 1 pass. After you come back to Zermatt, you can also go to Sunnegga lake and spend leisurely time there.

We came back from Zermatt to Tasch by 4 pm and enjoyed some fresh salads and wine and called it a day.

Pro tip of the day – 

1. Do get down on the stations while going to Gornergrat as you can play in snow and have fun at your leisure.

2. Do try and go to Sunnegga lake . It’s a lovely picnic spot.

Day 7

This was the saddest day of our trip. Why? Because it was the last day and we JUST DIDN’T want to come back. Not yet! Also it was going to be an eventful day as we had to change 2 trains to reach Zermatt station with our luggage to catch our flight on time. And as the day unfolded,it turned out exactly as we thought….. Eventful!.

So we’d booked the tickets through an online app SBB mobile which offers great discounts and regular passes. We started in the morning at 9 with our 25 kgs of suitcases each which, considering 2 women shopaholic fashionistas travellers, is light weight luggage. We reached the Tasch station which was hardly 50 metres from our hotel. Turned our we had entered on the wrong platform. The train was 5 mins away and we came out and ran towards the correct platform. We were running on the nick of time and could not afford any delay but I, twice, accidentally pressed a Stop button in the train and it haulted on the next 2 stations. Unlike India, there is no penalty on stopping the train without any reason but I didn’t know it then and so when I saw the TC coming towards us,my breath stopped and when she passed us I went Phew! Then we reached the 2nd station and changed the train. We boarded and got relaxed that now we will reach airport and from there it will be a piece of cake but cake and us serial dieters? No chance! As soon as we sat,I saw the app to see how many stations away we are from the airport and it showed that due to some strike the line ,on which we were travelling, is close and we will have to change another train after 3 stations to reach airport. Thankfully the systems are well in place, the timings of trains are impeccably correct and the people in this case this train’s TC, are very helpful and they explain things thoroughly. We changed a third train! Remember 25 kgs suitcases? Well!

We reached airport,ate , shopped and checked in. The gentleman at the check in counter was surprised how our luggage was so precisely packed weight wise. Little did he know how many calculations and efforts went behind it.

We had a 50 mins layover in vienna. We literally sprinted to catch our connecting flight. We reached to the counter to take boarding pass and lo and behold, a new misery waiting for us. Due to mergers of airlines our airline was over booked, bouble seats allotted and what we could make out from the way they were talking.. our name was not there!!! We waited for some 20 mins , and they finally gave us the seats. Phew!

So when we reached India, we were quite sure that in all the chaos at Vienna,definitely our suitcases were not boarded and voila!! This time we were right!! They were not boarded and still in Vienna. It took 3 days of following up for us to finally receive our suitcases but when we opened them, all the goodies, collectables and chocolates we’d bought on our trip made and all the memories made everything worth while.

Pro tip of the day – 

1. Do use SBB app if you are going to use train as it gives good discounts.

2. However meticulously you plan your trip only days like this makes them memorable.