Pages from my Diary 📔 - Raw version of my journey through Switzerland
In The Swiss Mountains for 8 Days
“The clear blue sky reflected on the turquoise water eloquently while the ship criss-crossed the lake and we just sat there on the deck, awestruck, listening to our favourite songs with the breeze on our face”
Before you start off reading, I would like to bring to your attention the various symbols used :
🚩 : A place, eg a town, a mountain or a lake
📍 : A site, monument or an activity
💬 : A brief on what the place is, or famous for
Day 1 - Tirano, Chur, Lucerne
All aboard the Bernina Express … churrr! churrrr !
Sitting in our home in India, planning whether or not to take the direct train to Zurich from Venice seemed more of a challenging decision. On one hand was a direct, no-hassle train to Switzerland. On the other was a tricky route to the same destination which involved careful planning and strict time adherence. The trickier route seemed to be through the 🚩 Bernina Pass which involved taking the only train from Venice to Tirano (exactly on time), then change to 📍 Bernina Express (only train, exactly on time) which goes to Chur. From Chur its another train ride to Zurich, and then from Zurich to Lucerne. Our entire day was to be spent travelling in trains. After having done some research about 🚩 Bernina 💬
A famous panoramic route running past mountains, lakes and glaciers and is a true landmark which has UNESCO World Heritage status, the choice seemed obvious. We quickly reserved 2 seats in the Bernina Express, the red train with huge panoramic glass windows. Note that due to the Eurail pass, the entire journey was free (otherwise CHF 63 /person), but reservation was mandatory CHF 14 /person.
The little red train did not disappoint us. Let’s see the ingredients: 4 hrs of travel through 196 bridges, 55 tunnels and across the Bernina Pass at 2,253 metres above sea. All the while sitting comfortably in Swiss class seats with humongous windows and a food tray housing a large pizza and a bottle of fine Italian wine. This was one of those times where it felt too good to be true, except that it was.
On reaching Lucerne, we saw the old world charm coupled with the buzz of a big city. Just outside the bahnhof (train station), an arch above our heads greeted us with ‘Welcome to Lucerne’. Our faces lit up with a smile. We were in the heart of Switzerland. Our stay was to be a unique experience: A Capsule Hotel designed as a space station. Having heard about this Japanese concept, we wanted to stay there and experience it first hand. It did not disappoint us!
Later that day, we strolled around the city and walked about. 📍 The Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) 💬
is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe as well as the world's oldest surviving truss bridge. We took a brief look around and decided to head back and relax in our hotel as we had been travelling all day. The next day was our first day on a Swiss mountain and we had to wake up early.
Day 2 - Lucerne, Titlis
Let’s see the snow-covered mountains from up close !
We woke up to a sunny day and according to plans, decided to head to 🚩 Mount Titlis 💬
famous for the world's first 360-degree revolving cable car in 🚩 Engelberg after checking their live webcam feed. The mountain looked ever so beautiful and inviting. It would be our first Swiss mountain trip. With boundless excitement, we got on a train from Interlaken to Engelberg. Upon reaching, at first glimpse, we saw the beauty of a Swiss village with the green grass around, snowy peaks and rushing streams of water. After a short walk from the station, we reached the Titlis Cable Car entrance, where we bought the tickets and headed up. It was a 4 seater cable car. The Swiss really know how to make any trip safe and comfortable. Below us, the sound of cows grazing in the pastures with their cow-bell ringing bought a familiar memory (DDLJ anyone?). The cable car was a fantastic experience in itself which doubled up in the final leg with a 360 degree rotating panoramic cable car. Atop the mountain, the temperature was -4 degrees. Titlis also presented us with 📍 Titlis Cliff Walk, a free activity which involves walking over a suspended bridge. Due to the nature of suspension bridges, gusts of wind and people moving about would rock the bridge back and forth. This was exciting. After having done the cliff walk, we decided to go play in the snow and snap some pictures while at it. The top is a very safe place and we saw kids enjoying the snow generator which throws snow around making it feel like snowfall, albeit in heavy chunks. After enjoying the snow-covered mountaintop, we decided to head back. While thinking of going down, we saw something which caught our eye: 📍 Titlis Glacier Cave. We entered the cave, which is free of charge, to gaze at some really amazing ice sculptures. After a short while, we decided to return.
🚩 Trübsee was an intermediate station where we had to change the cable car while going down the mountain. Instead of hopping on the next cable car right away, we decided to explore what Trubsee had to offer. Boy, we probably have never been so glad to take an impromptu stop. You see, Trubsee is the name of the station as well as the name of an alpine lake 1,764 m above sea. The lake was a spectacle and just was one of the best parts of our Switzerland trip. Just after we got out of the station, and started walking towards the lake, someone called us and asked us if we wanted to try to jump on a huge inflatable bag. What we failed to notice was something called 📍 Trübsee Adventure. If you’ve ever dreamed of being a stuntman, then the Trübsee Adventure could make your dreams come true. It was a fun playground consisting of jumping from varying degrees of height into a huge air-bag. There was trampoline as well, which we got to know is not that easy as it looks, the first time around. Anyhow, after jumping to our heart’s content, we headed down the trail to Trubsee. The sight of an alpine lake high above in the mountains surrounded by ice caps on one end and the look of an infinity pool on the other end surely made our eyes glow with happiness. We just sat there and soaked in the view till the alarm rang for the last ride back down to Engelberg. We ran back laughing all the way and caught the last cable car on the way back. Sitting in the train, heading towards Interlaken while looking at Titlis from the window, we talked about our entire day and how awesome it turned out to be. Titlis was not just a mountain for us, not anymore.
We reached Lucerne back and had plenty of time to spare before the sun set. We had some food by 🚩 Lake Lucerne amidst huge swans and small ducks fighting for food and roaming the lake. This seemed to be the hangout place for the locals as most of them came in groups, played music and seemed to enjoy the evening. We stayed for some time before I said ‘I think The Chapel Bridge could be done one more time’, and we walked back to snap some more pictures. We went for long walks on either end of the town, talking about us and how glad we were to do this trip. Strolling about, we came across a group of school children on a guided tour, being taught the historical significance of the monuments around the general vicinity. We walked by the river Reuss till nightfall. After returning to our capsule hotel, we punched in the key while the automated doors welcomed us into our futuristic hotel. We slid into our respective capsules after talking some more about the adventures of the day. Little did we know our adventures had just begun!
Day 3 - Lucerne, Iseltwald
Bye Lucerne, Hello Iseltwald !
Bidding bye to the Capsule Hotel, we left towards our next destination, 🚩 Iseltwald
a quaint little port town by 🚩 Lake Brienz (Brienzersee). We took the train from Lucerne to Interlaken and then a cruise ride to Isletwald: which inadvertently turned out to be the ride of our dreams. It was a perfect fairy-tale ride on a lake surrounded by mountains and dotted with ports on either side. The clear blue sky reflected on the turquoise water eloquently while the ship criss-crossed the lake and we just sat there on the deck, awestruck, listening to our favourite songs with the breeze on our face. The entire view felt like a painter had just freshly pained on his canvas. The colour of the water was the highlight of the beautiful lake. The air smelled ever so fresh, as we passed by some villages on the way. Finally our halt came and we departed the cruise into Iseltwald, a beautifully laid back place with flowers all around.
After having done so many places back to back we wanted some time to relax and this place was perfect. Sitting down beside the breathtaking lake, sipping beer and eating pizza, we had the time of our lives. We had the entire day to ourselves and explored the small town. The evening came with clouds bursting into rain, and with it brought the exploding colours. The setting sun, seemed to be the catalyst for all manifestations of incredible colour across the sky and land.
Later in the evening we sat on our balcony of the hotel and admired the beauty of Switzerland and dozed off to sleep. We had a big day tomorrow.
Day 4 - Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen
A walk to remember
We woke up early next day and packed our bags to head out back to the town of Interlaken which literally means between lakes. It is a strategically placed town in central Switzerland which provides access to almost all places of interest and hence is a bit crowded. While planning our stay we had two options: either lodge centrally in a hotel or stay 6 bus stops away. So when we boarded the bus and got down at Unterseen, and walked a few paces in the neat road with cows grazing on open fields on either side to reach our camping site, we knew we had made the right choice. The camping site offered space for locals to bring in their caravans and park for the night while wooden igloos catered to the guest lodging. Hence, the igloo served as our home for the next two days.
It was time to head out to 🚩 Lauterbrunnen,
a picturesque little village in the valley with a total of 72 waterfalls gushing down the slopes. It has a view that only few places can compete with. A quick train ride from Interlaken and we reached Lauterbrunnen in around 20 mins. After getting down from the train, the first thing we noticed was how beautiful the village was and a particularly huge waterfall draping the slopes of the valley. The tip of the waterfall was so high that it felt like the water was pouring out of the sky. The small stretch of road from the station was lined with shops and one shop selling authentic Swiss fondue caught our eyes and we decided to go for it. Fondue is a traditional Swiss dish made out of molten cheese served in a pot with a flame at the bottom to keep the cheese from solidifying. It is eaten by dipping bread in the cheese with long-stemmed forks. We ate till we were brimming with cheese. After having a hearty meal, we decided to stroll around to that huge waterfall we saw from near the station: 📍 Staubbach Falls 💬
Switzerland's highest waterfall and Europe's 9th highest: at a staggering 297 m free fall height. It took our breath away. Even with the intense water flow, most of the water turned into mist before hitting the ground. The area below it roared with the sound of falling water. We took a leisurely stroll down the road since we did not have to go to any place it particular and as soon as we left the town area, it became even more pretty. The countryside of Switzerland is something that can only be conjured up in dreams. The summer breeze, below the blue sky, with green grass around and huge white mountains far in the horizon, is the perfect honeymoon that one can ask for. We hung out on that lonely road for quite some time and decided to head back. By the time we reached the train station, the weather had turned and it started drizzling. Could this be any more romantic? I thought to myself.
After a brief train ride back to Interlaken we grabbed some beer and food from Coop (Swiss famous supermarket franchise) and returned to our place for the day. The evening air drizzled with light rain and we were smack dab in the middle of open fields with mystique mountains coming in and out of view while touching the clouds. The sweet evening had us chatting as we had light snacks on the front porch. The night came slow and we retired to our lovely wooden igloo. The chilly air at night was no match for the comfy blanket we had on us.
Day 5 - Grindelwald First
A Glorious Day of Adventure
The morning came with a wave of drizzle and rainy weather. The weather in Switzerland is highly unpredictable, especially atop mountains. Today was supposed to be the day of fun activities on 🚩 Grindelwald First.
Grindelwald is a little mountain village (at 1,034m) at the foot of Eiger. First (2,167m) is a mountain summit that can be reached via Grindelwald.
We checked the early morning weather (through live webcam) and found that it was cloud covered. This was disheartening for us since we really longed for the activities that First promised. We decided to spend the day in our igloo and visit nearby places when the weather brightens up. Except, it didn’t. Just after noon, we decided to take the risk and go for it. It turned out the weather was in our favour. Though the cloudy overcast was pertinent, it impacted us lesser than we thought. The train ride from Interlaken to Grindelwald was a 45 min journey. After reaching Grindelwald, we could see the Eiger mountain right there. From the train station, it was a 10 min walk or a short bus ride to the First cable car base. We took a brisk walk across as we wanted to take in the feel of the town. Since we arrived a bit late and First closes around 18:00, we chose to take the tickets for the gondola up and then any 2 activities (3 activities wouldn’t be possible on time).
After reaching up to First, we saw a big line on the First Flier. So we quickly went for the 📍 First Cliff Walk. It is free to do and an amazing thrill. We walked on a suspended bridge hugging the cliff. Even though it was overcast, the view was still incredible. After snapping photos at the edge of the cliff walk, we quickly ran towards the 📍 First Flyer and waited for our turn. We got lucky as we were the last ones allowed to have the ride for the day. It started drizzling and the flyer was stopped due to precautionary measures. Flying above the ground, on top of a mountain, 7000 feet above sea level at around 80 km/h cannot be expressed in words. You feel like a bird on top of the world.
After reaching Schreckfeld, by the flyer, we headed towards our second leg of activity for the day: 📍 Mountain Cart. While the flyer made us soar like a bird, the mountain cart made us feel full of life with excitement and thrill. Running down slopes with the panorama of mountains around you at a huge height makes you forget all worries of life. The cart only has brakes and huge grippy wheels. After wearing the provided free of cost helmet, we started our downhill ride. If there ever was a time we were scared and excited with a sense of adventure, this was it. The cart gains speed due to gravity and without braking, it achieves a very high speed hurtling down past the clouds and green meadows, some with cows, and their quintessential cow-bells. We stopped somewhere in the middle to soak in the view and free our spirit. The ride ended after some nerve-wracking yet smooth curves and we looked up in amazement of what we had just done. It was a glorious day. We had made it in the nick of time for the flyer and the cart, but our luck ran out on the 3rd activity: 📍 Trottibike as it was too late and they had closed down. Nevertheless, with a happy heart, we got on the gondola from Bort to the cable car base station and stepped back out in the town of Grindelwald. We made for the train station telling each other how wonderful and beautiful life is and the experiences we were having together. Never to forget this day, we sat back on the train and headed back. Meanwhile, in Interlaken, most of the shops had closed down as it started pouring heavily. We waited to catch our bus and upon reaching our camping grounds, decided to get drenched in the beautiful Swiss rain.
Day 6 - Lake Thun (Thunersee), Spiez, Zermatt
Hello Matterhorn !
We woke up late in the morning, had our breakfast and headed out to our next destination Zermatt where lies the iconic 🚩 Matterhorn 💬
Pictured as the Toblerone logo, the most iconic mountain landmark in the Alps and probably the world. After having ascended 2 mountain peaks in the past 4 days, the sight of the Matterhorn up close and personal sent a wave of happiness through our minds.
Checking out of the campsite, we took the now familiar route back to Interlaken. While heading to the train station we realized the train route runs from Interlaken OST to Zermatt via 🚩 Spiez, which also has a port on Lake Thun. Naturally, the thought of the water excited us and we made a quick decision to head to Spiez via the aqua route.
The water of Lake Thun turned out to be very different than that of our previous cruise of Lake Brienz. Instead of the familiar turquoise waters, Thunersee presented us with blue water. It was very similar to the dreamy cruise through Lake Brienz and we happily soaked in the feel of the fresh lake air once again. This time, the painter had changed his palette of colours. After a sweet journey, we reached Spiez ferry and deboarded. While exiting the ferry, we noticed a landmark location which turned out to be 📍 Schloss Spiez (Spiez Castle)
which was initially built in 933, yes 933 and is a heritage site of national significance. We took a quick glimpse around the castle and decided to head to the train station, which was a bit far away, uphill. Once there, we waited for the next train to Zermatt.
After a long 2 hr journey, we finally reached the famous ski resort town of 🚩 Zermatt
a car free ski village with cobbled streets, a quaint catholic church with memorial grounds and original buildings still standing. We quickly checked into our hotel which was less than 30 seconds from the station and decided to walk around the town during the evening. The main street, Bahnhofstrasse is lined with boutique shops, hotels and restaurants. We went to the far end of the town and did a short hike. The weather became chilly as it started to drizzle. We enjoyed for some time before heading back to a hot cup of coffee and a good nights sleep later.
Day 7 - Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, Randa
Rain check on Matterhorn. Charles Kuonen - wow !
The next morning was a particularly foggy morning with a rainy welcome. It had rained the entire night and washed our plans along with it. We were supposed to take the Gornergrat Bahn to ride up the 🚩 Gornergrat. Point to note: You cannot actually go up on the Matterhorn (via any transport). One of the ways to see the Matterhorn up close is by taking the railway up to Gornergrat (which is a rocky ridge at an elevation of 3,135m). The Gornergrat live webcam feed showed cloud formation and we could see the Matterhorn was fringed with clouds from our window. With no signs of clearing up, we decided to go to the next best thing around Zermatt: The 📍 Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge
is the longest hanging bridge for pedestrian use in the world at a span of 1621 feet (0.49 km), with a width close to 2 feet (26 in), hanging 279 feet above ground at an elevation of 6824 feet (2080 m) above sea level.
The bridge (CKSB) does not lie in Zermatt, but in the next village of 🚩 Randa which is a quick 15 train mins ride from Zermatt. From the Randa train station, to reach up to the bridge, we needed to follow a hiking trail for roughly 4.5 km one way. The idea of doing a hike in Switzerland was exhilarating, so we packed our bags with light snacks, chocolates, clothes, water bottles and the usual and headed towards Randa. The trek route is clearly marked right from the exit of the station and we had no issues following our first foreign trail, except for a couple of places at the start. The trek started from the narrow streets of Randa, through traditional Swiss chalets and soon took a right turn into what looked like a field. Before we knew, we were in the woods which were still freshly dripping from the occasional light drizzles. The narrow trail started doing small turns and we continued on our hike up. Occasionally a couple or a group would pass us by, on their way down. We kept going and soon realized that this was going to take some time. Instead of hurrying up and losing all our energy, we decided to take it at a normal pace so that we could maintain our level of energy. The winding path was clearly marked with signposts and directions were easily identifiable. We met a couple from Spain, who, along with one kid and another toddler had taken up the hike. They seemed so happy to be getting along and had stopped for a breathing recovery. We chatted with them and then continued further along the route where we caught up with a couple of Asian girls who were having a jolly time and interacted with them. After two hours, with heavy legs and hungry tummies, we finally seemed to reach the flat area on top where the bridge was.
The distance to the bridge now showed 500 meters on a signpost and we got back the smile on our faces. We had finally made it. The Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge was right in front of us and it looked exactly as we had seen in pictures and imagined it. We put our back on a rock near the start of the bridge and regained our energy. The backpack opened and out came a baguette with cheese and fresh tomatoes and ham inside. We had a swift picnic with a couple of chocolate drinks.
The bridge was really long and since it was on a height, it swayed with the wind. Add to it the short width, it felt like a roller coaster bridge, if there ever was one. The bottom part of the bridge was made up of metal with checkered openings, so you could literally see what’s beneath. We felt as though we were walking on a glass bridge. The entrance to the walk is the most terrifying: the view comes across as a long slender hanging piece of metal held together by steel ropes, and the movement of it along with the wind intensifies the experience. Very few people were there and we started snapping pictures in achievement. We made our way to the centre of the bridge and enjoyed every bit of it. Finally, after some time, we crossed to the far end of the bridge. The entire walk over the bridge took 10 minutes. The other side had some carefully thought out benches placed, but we sat on rocks and just watched the bridge for some time in amazement.
The day was overcast to begin with, and now we were thinking it might start raining again and so we decided to pack up and head down. We took a different way down and it was pretty much deserted. But since it’s Switzerland, we were comfortable and felt safe to make our way down through the trail which again was marked well. We could see the train station after some time and the downhill trek was fun nonetheless. It did not rain and we saw this as an opportunity and sat amidst a huge boulder overlooking the town of Randa below and a mountain right in front of us. We discussed how life in this country would be and how we got to experience such wonderful natural beauty. We got back up, gave a high-five to each other and went back to the downhill hike. After around 2 hrs we reached back low ground and wanted to sit there for sometime as we saw a bench which was perfectly positioned for the hikers. We sat there, discussed some more about life and continued our way back to the station of Randa. When we hit the streets of the town, we were dehydrated and just then we happened to see a water fountain on a carved wooden tree trunk. We ran towards the water and I kid you not, that was the finest water we had ever sipped. The cool rush of sweet alpine water ended our trek in the perfect way.
It was 19:30 when we reached the station. Not a single soul present there. We snapped some more pictures while we waited for the next train back to Zermatt. Suddenly, out of nowhere 3 kids came running as if speaking to us. Their foreign dialect was incomprehensible to us. They didn’t have their parents around in sight and they were pretty comfortable in the station. We tried to ask them what they were asking for, but they lost interest and went away. Later we came to know they were having fun asking folks to buy them chocolate from the vending machine and since we were not making any heads of it, they went up to another person who just arrived.
Finally a red train arrived at the station. We got up on the train, and looked back once more at the passing station of Randa and how it had given us an experience of a lifetime. The Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge was not visible from there, but we knew where it was in the mountains, and in our hearts: hanging forever in our memories. That sudden feeling of attachment to something so inorganic, yet cherishable, came to both of us, as the town of Randa passed by through the window of the train.
Day 8 - Bern, Zürich, Seegraben
No time to rest, so much to see. So little time !
We woke up with a little pain in our legs, and a whole lot of enthusiasm in our hearts. It was time to say bye to Zermatt and head back towards Zurich. We had a hearty breakfast and got up on the Matterhorn-Gotthard Bahn to Visp. The route from Zermatt had a stop at Bern and we thought it would be nice to see the capital city of Switzerland. Bern had just had a race-car show the previous night and was in the process of clearing up the streets. We made a quick pit-stop at the Bear Park and saw a cute bear as well. Just near the park ran the Aare river which was famous for 2 reasons there. It provided a relief from the summer heat for travellers to dip their leg in and weirdly but frequently had floating people in the swift current. It was fun, where people would jump in the river at one place and float alongside the city of Bern on to the other side.
We had a stroll along the posh shops in 🚩 Kramgasse, the main area of the old city with a huge clock tower 📍 Zytglogge in the middle. Time was running out and we decided to head back to our next destination, before it got late. The train to Zürich arrived at the station and we boarded it. Arriving in 🚩 Zürich,
the largest city in Switzerland and a global center for banking and finance, we chose to stroll around the city. Our initial idea was to try the 📍 Züri rollt, a free bicycle rental just by depositing CHF 20, but we couldn’t find it near the 📍 Zürich Hauptbahnhof (train station) and decided to skip it. Zurich showed us how a beautiful country with mountains and lakes can also be a global economic centre as well. The old-world charm mixed with cutting edge technology along with offices of world-renowned lifestyle brands made Zurich a dreamer’s paradise. Since we had very little time on our hands, we had to make a move to our next destination 🚩 Seegräben where the trains were infrequent during the evening. We took the last train to Seegraben and checked into our hotel and jumped into the comfy beds. With our hearts content, we rested for the remaining part of the day.
Day 9 - Until next time, Suisse
Today was our last day in Switzerland and the start of our much anticipated train travel into Austria. We checked out of our hotel and boarded the inter-country train from Zurich to Innsbruck, our first Austrian stop. Our hearts raced through as we saw 🚩 Zurichsee for the last time in our trip. The train passed by Swiss villages and towns and our eyes were glued to the window taking in as much of the Swiss landscape while we thought to ourselves:
“Switzerland, you've given us great adventures, rush of emotions and a heart full of memories that we will never forget”