A Swiss Sojourn

Visa info : Schengen Visa – Grants you entry to 16 Schengen countries. It takes minimum of 3 weeks to get it processed and has a long list of documents that need to be submitted. The visa fee is ~Rs.7300/head (~€100)

I claim in no way that this is the ideal Swiss itinerary. But this is a decent itinerary that covers few of the most beautiful spots in Switzerland in 6 days.
P.S : I haven’t covered the West part of Switzerland at all,  considering the fact that we were on our way to Italy from there. So, here you go.

Cheatsheet

Date  Time Route Activities
Day 1 Morning TRV-ZUR
Afternoon
Evening
Night ZURICH
Day 2 Morning Rhine Falls
Afternoon Top of Zurich
Evening City roaming
Night ZURICH
Day 3 Morning ZUR-LUZERNE Kapelbrucke
Afternoon Lion Monument
Evening LUZ-WENGEN
Night WENGEN
Day 4 Morning WEN-JUNG Jungfraujoch
Afternoon Skiing, Sledging, Ziplining
Evening
Night WENGEN  Wengen town centre
Day 5 Morning WEN-INT
Afternoon  INTERLAKEN City Roaming & Shopping
Evening Canyoning in Saxeten
Night WENGEN
Day Morning WEN Wengen village walk
Afternoon WEN-LAU-INT
Evening INT-BRIG-MIL-VEN
Night VENICE

We touched down at Zurich airport by 9 PM. (Flight tickets = Rs.50,050/head. I could have got tickets for Rs.43,000 if I had booked when I initially planned itself) It was an Emirates connection flight from Dubai and we were exhausted by the time we landed. We got out of the airport thinking of buying a sim card from one of the shops outside to call our accommodation and ask for directions. However, there were no shops at all in the vicinity, outside or inside the airport. The public phones were not accessible with our bank cards or the currency we had. And we had no means to reach the accommodation or my friend Deepak. 😐 Finally we showed our address at the information centre and the lady there gave us instructions in broken English to take 2 different trains to reach our destination, and from there we walked to our place of stay which again was so difficult to find without GPS access in our phone and not a single soul out on the roads (Mind you, the time was just 10.30 PM).

Once we got in, I connected my phone to wifi and contacted everyone. The next day my kind friend from college Deepak, his lovely wife Judith and adorable baby Rehaan came to give us a one day tour of Zurich. We had taken a 4 day Swiss Travel pass (240 CHF = Rs.17000/head) and hence had to take separate tickets for travelling the first day. Swiss Travel pass covers almost all areas inside Switzerland and we can use it to travel in buses, trains, trams, ferries etc.

First stop in Zurich was Rhine Falls, which we went by train (50 CHF = Rs.3500/head) It was nothing like we expected. We went there having tropical waterfalls in mind like the ones we have back in India and rest of South East Asia, upon reaching there realised this was way different.

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Rhine Falls

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The area was a lot to cover, so we walked quite a bit all around the waterfalls and across the bridge. I’m not particularly fond of walking, but every step on the way was refreshingly enjoyable due to the lovely ambience. So I didn’t complain, which I normally would have done for a distance of anything more than 10 steps. There was a huge rock right in the middle of the falls, which was accessible by boat, and was a sight in itself.

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On the bridge over Rhine Falls
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Boat across Rhine Falls

From Rhine Falls we took a train to the top of Zurich, Üetliberg . There was an uphill walk from the station which was quite pleasant with trees on both sides of the path, and gentle breeze caressing us throughout, which might be why we never really broke a sweat the whole time. From the top we could view the whole of Zurich city at a distance which was a treat indeed. We had snacks from the cafe at the top of Zurich and caught our train back to the city.

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View from Top of Zurich

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Saw my beloved EY from train 🙂

Once back in our room we let mom take rest, and decided to wander around Zurich city with Deepak & Judith. First stop was Bahnofstrasse, famed to be one of the most expensive shopping avenues in the world. It was definitely classy and elegant as repute promised. We strolled along the streets and reached Rennweg, by which time the twilight was peaking through. We moved along to Rathabrucke (Townhall Bridge) watched the most calming view of River Limmat and the buildings in its vicinity.

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Bahnofstrasse

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Rennweg
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Beautiful view of River Limmat from Rathabrucke
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Dinner at Pizzeria Ristorante Molino

We had a delightful dinner from Ristorante Molino in Zurich Old Town and bid our goodbye to the sweethearts.

Next day morning we were off to Lucerne, a city as beautiful as its name. We stopped by the place on our way to Interlaken side. Got down at the train station, kept our luggage in coin-operated lockers and wandered around the city the whole day. A few minutes walk from the station will take you to one of the most elegant wooden bridges ever – Kapellbrucke or Chapel Bridge. The bridge is built diagonally across the Reuss river with ‘Water Tower’ at one end and decorated beautifully with flowers of bright hues. I’m sure there is no tourist who has visited Lucerne and resisted not taking a picture in front of Kapellbrucke!

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Kapellbrucke (Chapel bridge)

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Kapelbrucke from another angle

We walked further down the banks of the river, and saw another old foot bridge across the river and an array of shops and tourists sitting by the riverside basking in the sun.

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The above picture brings up of one of the most endearing feelings I associate Europe with. Riverside bistros that emanate a warmth that’s like none other, stone-clad walkways that remind you of how brimming with culture the place is, and of course the welcoming outdoor chairs under patio umbrellas that are literally rainbows beneath the trees. One can sit idle for hours sipping a hot beverage feeling so at home, in a far off country – that’s the magic of Europe. And you sigh in relief once again that the feeling of hireath while at home, was never merely a twisted emotion cooked up by your prattling brain.

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Amma’s new friends

Amma settled down in one of the benches and seemed quite content chatting up with a couple from the US. So we walked towards Old Town and made our way inside the alleyways that led us further into the city’s age-old charms. The outdated but charming buildings that resonated stories, may be not even remarkable or valorous ones that went down on history’s glorious pages,  but even tiny tales of ordinary people who made their cheese and chocolate in peace and harmony.

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Old Town, Lucerne
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Alleyways in Old Town

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We had to walk another kilometer or more to reach The Lion Monument (free entry). It is also called as the ‘dying Lion of Lucerne’ and commemorates the heroic death of Swiss mercenaries in 18th century.

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Lion monument

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A charming little building I couldn’t stop myself from clicking

Till then we had held on to our temptation to indulge in some chocolate shopping. But seeing the Laderach shop at Lucerne we completely lost it. We ended up splurging on chocolates of different flavours, shapes and sizes for us as well as friends & family, and had no guilt whatsoever. No matter what or how much, spending on chocolates is justified, always. 😉

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Chocolate Extravaganza at Laderach store

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From Lucerne, we caught a train to Interlaken. The train journey to Interlaken was one of the highlights of the whole trip. We passed through mountains that gave astonishing views of lakes far below – which had the most striking bluish-green hue I’ve ever seen in any water body ever. The pictures were taken in a mobile phone from a moving train and don’t do justice AT ALL ! Literally the most breathtaking train journey I’ve ever had.

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View from moving train

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Shaky pic from train window, and captures a fragment of the real beauty

We had to take another 2 short duration trains to reach our hotel which was in Wengen, one of the small villages by the foot of the Alps. I didn’t want to stay in Interlaken since I heard it is highly commercialized now. Wanted to experience the peace and quiet of a Swiss village in a truly tangible way.

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Village of Wengen, at the foot of the Alps

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Wengen was indeed peaceful and serene, every bit like I read about. We stayed in Hotel Bernerhof, this quaint little hotel, (though the rates were not at all so 😉 ) with the most stunning view of the Alps warming up our hearts in the chilling cold.

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The view I woke up to

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The next day was reserved for Jungfraujoch in Swiss Alps, called ‘the Top of Europe’. On the way up in train, we were greeted by cute sheeps that were like popcorns of wool, grazing and lazing in greeny meadows amid adorable country cottages. The whole area in and around Interlaken and foot of Jungfraujoch is well-known back in India due to a blockbuster Bollywood film – Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ). Many a scene of ‘Raj’ and ‘Simran’ romancing all over the grass and rolling all over the snow were shot here and remain etched in every Indian fan’s heart. That may be the reason why I felt none of the songs I played in the ipod synced with the landscape like DDLJ songs did.

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The first stop was at Kleine Scheidegg, from where we were to catch another train right to the top of Jungfraujoch. The train from Kleine Scheidegg-Jungfrau isn’t covered in the Swiss Travel pass but allows us to have a 25% discount on the tickets to the top. (~CHF 115 = Rs.8000 per head).

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The train halted twice on the way up the tunnel, at Eigerwand, 2685 and at Eismeer, 3010m. (I’m still not sure how to pronounce them or half the other places I saw in Switzerland 😀 ) Anyways we got down and feasted in on the panoramic views from the windows of the tunnel. It was like a teaser before the real thing.

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And then we reached Jungfraujoch station, where the crowd and cold was more than expected. There were few Indian families as well which was quite expected though.

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At the Jungfraujoch Station
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Jungfraujoch

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This was the view that awaited me at Jungfrau. The top of Europe made me feel like I was on top of the world (Not that it seemed like there is much of a difference). The vast expanse of whiteness around was so overwhelming that I went blank for a while. Had to take a few minutes to breathe in the beauty of the Alps. And the minutes turned out to be not quite enough as well.

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View from Jungfrau

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People on a Glacier Trek

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Activities at Jungfraujoch

  • Sphinx Observatory
  • Ice Palace
  • Alpine Sensation
  • Snow Fun Park
    • Skiing
    • Sledding
    • Snow tubing
    • Snow boarding
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Nothing beats watching your parents become kids again.. 😉

After a day of unforgettable experience, we reached back to Wengen and relaxed. At night we had traditional Swiss food – Cheese Fondue.  It is basically melted cheese served in a fondue pot (called ‘Caquelon’). Bread cubes picked up using fork, dipped in the cheese and gobbled down. Simple. The second item on the menu that we ordered was G’hacktes mit Hornli (again, don’t ask me the pronunciation 😐 ) which is just Swiss Macaroni topped with a meat sauce and served next to Apple sauce. Still simple, not as complicated as the name suggests. And I must confess, I did not become a fan of either dishes.

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We spent most of the next day in the famous Interlaken – the hub of Indian tourists for past 21 years since DDLJ. Infact someone I met there told me the locals call it “India-laken” now, due to the huge influx of Indian tourists to the area 😀

We had to take a train from Wengen to Lauterbrennen to get a connection train to Interlaken. The whole journey took almost 50 mins with few mins wait at the stations. One of the best things about travelling in Switzerland is the fact that just casual transit from one place to another itself is a tourist attraction, ’cause everything outside your train window is worth framing.

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I had booked canyoning activity (120 CHF/head = ~Rs.8300) for the latter part of the afternoon. It was a little too adventurous for mom and so she went rafting (75 CHF/head = ~Rs.5250) with a bunch of strangers while we did canyoning.

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I have always sought after anything adventurous, and that mostly included outdoor activities. Canyoning and Abseiling are 2 such activities that have been on my list since UK days, but I never could get around to doing them. So when the Swiss trip fell in place, canyoning was one thing I squeezed in while charting out the itinerary. Interlaken was known to be an adventure hub and getting a booking for canyoning wasn’t all that difficult. I booked at this amazing place called Alpin Raft and Ted, the instructor was such a sport. We chatted up for quite a while about his time in Himachal, India, travel and bikes.

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Off to Saxeten for canyoning with Ted 🙂

If I were to point out one single high point of the trip I would say it was Canyoning at Saxeten. Of course I enjoyed all the other places and activities, but canyoning was such a refreshing affair. The acrophobic in me kept peeking out, but somehow I kept ‘her’ in check and reluctantly hopped off the cliffs into the waterfalls. Thanks to the motivation from Ted. 🙂 The best part was the fact that the water was pure and pristine right from the Alps. The water went inside my nose, ears and mouth, but the end-result was not me feeling sick, but feeling rejuvenated after all the fun. It was like a rush of positive energy just recharged my body. Never felt so fresh after being in water for a long time. If anyone visits Switzerland, Interlaken is a must visit.. and if you visit Interlaken, canyoning is a must do.. and if you do canyoning Alpin Raft is THE place to do it.

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Last night in Switzerland and we had dinner in this cute restaurant at our hotel with the view of the towering expanse of mountains hovering over us. The highlight of the evening was hot stone chicken steak with 4 different types of dips that were lip-smacking.

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Hot stone chicken steak
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Wengen village centre

It was our last day in Switzerland and in the morning we roamed around the village for quite some time. Remember when I talked about ‘tangible‘ Swiss village experience – this was the peak point of it. The village lured us into into its hidden charms and there was nothing more rekindling than to wander aimlessly inhaling the freshest air and tuning in to the deepest kind of tranquility.

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Roaming around Wengen village
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.. and posing in between
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Quaint little church in the village
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View of the mountains and meadows from the village

I think after writing this blog I’ve literally ran out of adjectives, because Switzerland is nothing but a land of superlatives. Everything is so charming and mesmerizing that you literally end up having ‘no words’!

I’m sure everyone must be aware of the fact that Switzerland is THE most expensive country in the world. And so listing the individual room or meal cost doesn’t really serve any purpose. If anyone wants to have a clearer idea of the total cost of the trip, drop me a line, and I would be happy to help. 🙂

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