My sincere thanks and gratitude to all the members of the forum, especially, Slowpoke, to enable me to visit Switzerland in September this year. Being a female solo traveller, I had my apprehensions of travelling alone, but due to the guided meticulous planning, each day of the trip was worth the effort!
Day1 – I reached Zurich after flying for 24 hours from Melbourne. I had hoped to buy some eatables from Migros, on landing in Zurich. It would still take me another three hours to reach Wengen but the sheer volume of people deterred me to enter the convenience store. I changed several trains, the cogwheel train from Lauterbrunnan to Wengen reminded me of the toy train I took with my parents to Shimla in India. I finally reached Wengen. It was so convenient to get in touch with Hotel Bellevue or any other hotel on the station. A display board had a list of numbers allocated to each hotel, once you dialled on that number from the phone close to it, you were directly connected to the hotel. Andy arrived to collect me on his electric car in no time. The view from the balcony of my room was unbelievably spectacular. I was surrounded by the Swiss Alps, majestic as ever, that opened up their arms to share their space with me!
Day 2- I thought I’d be jetlagged but I sprung out of bed to be treated to one of the most sumptuous breakfasts ever. I walked up to the town and took a cable car to Mannlichen. The royal tour on the cable car, which enabled one to be in the open on top of the cable car, was enticing and I was assured it was completely safe, but I couldn’t dare to get onto it and preferred to remain inside. It had been snowing that night so the mountains were all covered with soft, fresh snow. Soon after we arrived in Mannlichen, everyone on the cable car dispersed quickly and chose their trekking routes. I decided to walk to Kleine Scheidegg. I’m more like a tortoise, who does complete the race but at its own pace. I wanted to experience the tranquillity of the place as I walked. Everything was covered in snow and it was really spooky, the child in me took over and I sang loudly as I walked along with no one in sight for miles. I jumped and played and wrote in the snow, made snowballs, each competing with the other to cover a greater distance. I stacked flat pieces of rocks on top of each other reminding me of a game I played with my brother and cousins when we visited our grandmother. I finally reached Kleine Scheidegg and as per Kim’s notes, I ordered Apfelkuchen mit Rahm ( apple cake with whipped cream)at the Bahnhof restaurant along with a cappuccino. I thought it’d be a slice of cake but to my amazement, it was a slab of cake that could easily be shared between two people. That whipped cream was to die for!
I then took the train to Jungfraujoch, top of Europe, it’s 3571 m / 11,782 ft, it costs 150 Swiss francs to get there on the train. Even though it was summer, the temperature was -4.1C on that day. The train went through several tunnels to reach the place. Jungfraujoch, stood tall, overlooking at each of us, accepting us humans for admiring its strength and at the same time competing with it to showcase its prowess and determination to conquer! The views were stunning and the fresh snow reminded me once again of the whipped cream at Bahnhof! The place was very crowded, there were so many tourists, it is always better to carry our own water bottles with us since even a small bottle of water cost 5.90 francs! I spent some time there going through the different sections in the glasshouse and then returned to Kleine Scheidegg on the train. I decided to walk to Wengen from Kleine Scheidegg and in my enthusiasm took the longer route. The views are spectacular, the train runs along the footpath at times and the bells of the cows echo through the place. It was about 5 miles to Wengen, even though it’s downhill, it takes a toll on your knees, I wanted to give it up half way through when I met a visitor from England who used to participate in the Jungfraujoch marathon till 2017 and now that he was over 65, he preferred to walk since the last two years. I felt as though grace had my back, he was immensely inspirational and I covered the rest of the walk with him, talking about his marathon days. I finally reached the Wengen station but so hoped and wished someone could carry me to my hotel!
Day 3 –I had to start the day early in order to send my luggage to my last destination in Sachseln. Switzerland provides a door to door facility for your luggage. The rail authorities had asked me to bring down my luggage between 7-8 in the morning and also offered me a 50% discount for their service. I got to their office by 7.30 and was relieved to have availed such an amazing service. Now, that I had my big suitcase gone, I had only a backpack to look after!
After the Kleine Scheidegg to Wengen hike yesterday, I had woken up to very sore legs, I didn’t want to walk much and hence decided to visit Schilthorn. It was quite complicated to get there. I initially took a train from Wengen to Lauterbrunnen and then a cable car to Grutschalp, from where I took a train to Murren. I spent quite some time in Murren, which is a very small, beautiful traditional village. I then took a cable car to Brig, followed by another one from Brig to Schilthorn. It was stunning to see the three peaks, Eiger, Monch and Jungfraujoch that stood elegantly with the clouds playing hide and seek with them. The place also attracts tourists as James Bond’s, On her majesty’s secret service, featured the revolving restaurant, Piz Gloria. After spending some time there, I took a few cable cars to reach Gimmelwald and from there to Stechelberg. Cable cars enable you to soak the beauty of the place and are immensely comfortable. I’m quite scared of heights so found it difficult to look down through them. I had to constantly, consciously make an effort to remind myself to be in the moment to realise that I was safe! I would have loved to walk from Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen, but I chickened out and instead took a bus to Trummelbach falls. You can’t imagine the force of water till you visit these falls. If the surrounding mountains exhibited grace, these falls remind us of nature’s ferociousness, the impermanence of life, fluidity, to let go and to graciously accept each moment without any resistance. I took the steep funicular to chute 5, from where I climbed the stairs to visit chutes 6-10. It’s unbelievable to witness 20,000 litres of water falling per second. You can feel nature roaring of its supremacy to mankind! After descending from the chutes, I had some lunch in the restaurant on the premises and then made my way back to Wengen. Spent the evening loitering in Wengen and it was always good to end the day in Bellevue with a 5-course meal!
Day 4 – It was time to leave Wengen. Over time, I have come to realise photos can be stolen, erased or lost but no one can ever take away your memories. I treasure the time I spent in Wengen and I will always carry these memories with me. I left Wengen to travel to Affoltern i.e. Dorf to visit the Emmental show dairy, it took me over three hours to get there by changing several trains and buses. Visiting the famous Emmental cheese factory was an experience in itself. I decided to take the audio guide to learn about the evolution of this world famous cheese. I loved the experience of being transported into a fairyland as the story was narrated through puppets. I had a fried cheese sausage with salad for lunch in the restaurant. Everything went to plan so far but it didn’t take long for things to fall apart. I missed the bus to Langnau and then had to wait for an hour for the next one. As planned, I had to travel to Trub and then walk for 3.5km to Trubschachen. Slowpoke had been insistent not to miss the last bus at 1800. I should have spent some time with myself to calm my nerves down after missing the bus at Langnau but I became really panicky. Once I reached Langnau, I had to wait for another hour to get the bus to Trub. When I finally did get into this bus, I dropped off at Trubschachen instead of going to Trub. I didn’t know where I was, I thought I was lost. Nothing was going as per the plan and it was getting dark. So, I cancelled all my plans about Trub and Trubschachen. I decided to travel to Ranfluh Oberdorf since I was booked to spend the night at Baren-Ranflueh. I reached this Inn only to realise that no one spoke in English there. The attendant at the reception had to make phone calls to translate our conversation. I was taken to my room, it was really spacious and had all the amenities for a comfortable stay. Though I wished its windows weren’t touching the roof as they left the occupant to stare into blank walls rather than enjoying the scenery outside! The day continued to have more surprises for me and to my astonishment, I had a knock on my door. The attendant brought a lady with her to my room, who I had met on the bus from Langnau to Ranfluh Oberdorf and to whom I had casually mentioned about my stay here for the night. I was shocked to see this woman on my door and flabbergasted with the unprofessional attitude of the attendant! I went along with the flow and accepted this lady’s proposal to go around the village with her. I thought it’d be relaxing after all that travelling. It was good to see the houses around. Every house had its own kitchen garden and also an area where they kept their extra produce for anyone in the village to help themselves. I was really touched with the idea. Whilst I was going around with this lady, she told me she’d never been to Melbourne and insisted that I invite her over to my place. I had to excuse myself. I returned to the hotel and had to give them strict instructions not to bring anyone to my room or to share my personal details with anyone. Even though this Inn has spent a huge amount of money to renovate, they still need to go a long way in training their staff and being more professional. I had to let go off the day’s events to embrace yet another day.
Day 5 – I started early next morning for Lucerne. There was a bus every hour from Ranflueh Oberdorf to Langnau and I waited to board it but it went past me without halting on the bus-stop. I chased the bus urging the driver to stop as I didn’t want to miss it. The driver stopped after a while and through her actions, since she couldn’t speak in English, explained to me that I was waiting on the wrong side of the road. It just didn’t occur to me that people drove on the right hand side here! Feeling enlightened about this fact, I landed in Lucerne to take the ferry to Mt. Rigi. The ferry was comfortable, had a restaurant on board and slowly waddled towards Vitznau. I took a cogwheel train from Vitznau to Mt. Rigi. The views of Lucerne and the surrounding lakes below were astounding. If Mt. Rigi boasted of its distance above the sea-level, the sky reminded me of its spacious umbrella over us. On my way back, I took the cable car to Weggis and then the ferry to Verkehrshaus-Lido to visit the transport museum. The museum exhibited all forms of transport, I enjoyed the section on locomotives. I walked from the museum along the shore to the Lucerne station. I spent quite some time sitting on the shore before boarding my train to Sachseln. Gasthau Engel in Sachseln was walking distance from the station. It’s a lovely inn. The staff is courteous and well-trained while the food is delicious. I was just concerned about the traffic. It was too noisy for me. Soon after I checked in, to my relief, my suitcase too arrived. I went to bed early as I wanted to visit Mt. Titlis the next morning.
Day 6 – I took the train to Lucerne to head towards Engelberg from where I took the Gondola to Mt. Titlis. Loved the ride in Titlis rotair, which is the world’s first revolving cable car. Titlis stood majestically all covered in snow. I felt blessed to have had the opportunity to visit it. I spent a lot of time gazing at its beauty. But, I would perhaps take seven lifetimes to ever get onto Cliff Walk, the highest elevation suspension bridge, it was too scary for me. It was really overcrowded and everyone seemed ecstatic to be there. There was laughter, shrills, snowballs and people posing for a perfect shot. On the foothills of Titlis, I found a shop selling some Indian street food. I loved their masala chai! I returned to Lucerne to spend some more time walking on the shore of the lake. It was immensely therapeutic. Slowpoke’s friend came to visit me in the evening at the Inn. It was an honour to meet him. Even at this age, he was full of life and shared his life experiences both in the US and Switzerland. I was disappointed that I narrowly missed meeting Slowpoke.
Day 7 – It was time to leave Switzerland. I left a thank you note for the hotel staff on the reception and headed towards the station at 6 in the morning to leave for Zurich and then onwards to Athens.
Highlight of the trip:
I would say my highlight would be witnessing the heart of a young Swiss girl on the day I arrived in Switzerland. Soon after I left the Zurich airport to board a train to Bern to head towards Wengen, I heard two women wailing on the train after we departed from Zurich HB. A young Swiss girl, who was sitting next to me, approached them and found out that these two women were tourists from Russia, knew very little English and had accidently boarded the wrong train. They had to go to Zurich Flughfen but now were headed in the wrong direction to Bern. Being an express train with no stops in between for an hour, the women were going to miss their flight. This girl not only consoled them but called up the relevant flight and rebooked their seats on the next flight. This incident spoke volumes of the Swiss people and I was really touched by the empathetic nature and the hospitality of the girl.
I would once again like to thank each of the forum members for all their support in helping me to plan this trip. You guys rock, keep up the good work!