Thursday, June 12, 2008

Heaven on Earth--Switzerland

Azure skies, Grey mountains, Snow capped peaks, flowers in all colors, Yellow flowers and lush green fields, snow, jersey cows; clear lakes, panoramic views, waterfalls, rivers flowing by; hiking trails, biking trails, skiing trails, cable cars, funiculars; French, Italian and German…well, ladies and gentlemen, that is Switzerland for you.

Sandeep and I went to Switzerland for our honeymoon and trust me, its one of the awesommest destinations possible in April. We booked our entire itinerary on the flexible Swiss Tours that gave us the option of being on our own, but doing our bookings for tickets and the hotels.

Now on to the journey…

We landed at the Zurich airport early morning, bleary eyed after the long flight. Thanx to Sandeep’s claim that it would be warm at that time of the year, we smartasses had carried the lightest of any warm clothing that we had or had borrowed. All around us were people draped in thick jackets, woolen scarves, gloves, high shoes...and brrrrr…it certainly was cold out there!


We proceeded to ‘Lugano’ from Zurich by train. Lugano was in the Italian part of Switzerland. I was surprised to know that such diversity existed in a country as small as Switz that had French, German and Italian influences in different parts. We were awestruck with the crowd at Lugano. Everyone seemed to be so uhhh….posh! I guess, almost everyone we saw was sporting Guccis or D&Gs or Guess’s or Versachis. We poor souls in run down jeans and T-shirts were quite out of place in that fashionable city! After reaching Lugano in the evening, we found time to relax and we sat by the lake, (most cities have a lake!) went to a garden, strolled in the elite market area that had showrooms of all the most expensive designer brands in the world.

Btw, all the road, rail, boat travel was all covered under one wonder pass called ‘Swiss Pass’ which allowed us to hop in and hop out of any train or bus or boat as and when we desired all over Switzerland. Infact we covered all the modes of transport available…trains, buses, funiculars, boats and cable cars.

Day 2 of the tour was at Melide where we saw the natural and artificial wonders of switz scaled down to fit into a mini Switz. In this country too, trains ran on clockwork time (it must ve been clock work!), snow and waterfalls caressed the famous peaks, cars were stuck in traffic jams, castles loomed large above other structures, the spires of churches stood dignified over the monuments. We decided which places to see in their original sizes and structures and which ones to skip based on what we liked in this miniature country. We also spent a bomb and went to a peak called San Salvador by a ‘funicular’ which was mini cog train for just around half an hr.

The Glacier Express

The next morning, our spirits high again, we headed to our next destination, Zermatt. The journey to Zermatt entailed us to travel in the much hyped Glacier express, a ‘panoramic’ train. This was a restaurant train which had gargantuan windows and windows in the ceiling. It was to offer us breathtaking views in the comfort of the train. And guess what…on the train, Sandeep and I both got seats far apart!..and no room for change. There were large groups of Chinese and European tourists creating a ruckus while we sat apart for sometime and in the uncomfortable pantry for some more time. The TC finally did allot us seats together, but the journey had lost its charm L . So, folks..if u do travel by this train, make sure you have pre bookings in seats together! It isn’t India, where exchanging seats is much simpler. On the way, to catching the Glacier express, we also visited Andermatt, which was a charming little village. We visited a quaint little church there, which we perhaps liked more than the mammoth churches we visited later.


As we stepped out at Zermatt,a no-vehicle skiing village, the biting cold breeze enveloped us as we shivered. The first thing we did on stepping out after checking in the hotel was to buy more warm clothes! How I missed the thick green jacket I had kept smugly not wanting to carry it! I finally ended up wearing, 3 T-shirts, 2 pairs of socks and 2 jackets! So, people, DO NOT think it ll be warm if you visit Switz in April!, carry all the warm clothing you can or you ll end up spending exorbitant sums of money on designer jackets (you don’t get normal ones!). which you ll never wear at Mumbai where it never is cold!!

The next morning, we did some hiking and trekking at Zermatt instead of taking the funiculars and the cable cars to the mountain top which we was later in our itinerary anyway. We also visited another Swiss village Tasch near Zermatt.

It was weird, the markets closed at 6:00 and the roads emptied by 7:00 even though it was daylight till 9:00 p.m! I hadn’t heard of this retail chain, ‘Coop’ which was present all over Switzerland.

Montreux, Gruyere, Lausanne, Geneva

We woke up to a bright new day with the sun peeping out at Zermatt. We took the train to our next destination Montreux, where Nestle headquarters are nestled. This region was close to France, and had a distinct French flavor to it. We had aimed to cover Montreux, Lausanne and Geneva in these 2 days, but alas!, the rain played truant when we reached Montreux.. We went to Chillon Castle at Montreux where we had a free entry thanx to our Swiss pass. Castles and Forts are quite honestly boring places, with nothing of the past splendor left inside them. Imposing on the outside, they are best left for clicking pics and moving on! Chillon Castle however, for enthusiasts, was quite well maintained, and was gloomy on the inside with tall dark walls and made us feel as if we had stepped in an era of the past.

The rain battered on incessantly, and we had miles to go in that region. We then decided, to travel in the comfort of the train to the cheese town of Gruyere which is famous for its world famous cheese. We were fortunate to get a Golden Pass train, which was another panoramic train, and well, the panoramas this train offered, were indeed breathtaking. The train wound its way through the lush green valleys, amidst the clouds as the Alps loomed large in the background. I fall short of words, as I try to describe the delights we feasted our eyes from that train. Honestly, all these natural wonders make me lower my head in awe and reverence to Him who has gifted mankind with such beauty.
Coming back to Gruyere, all we did was go to the nearest restaurant, and have authentic Swiss Cheese Fondue, which is basically a concoction of cheese and more cheese! This was heated continuously over coals, and eaten with bread or potatoes dipped into it with long forks. Having eaten so much bread and cheese, all through the stay, we were quite tired of it, so the much looked forward to Fondue, fell short of our expectations.

We also went to the promenade that was lined with colorful flowers all along it and had a leisurely stroll. Like I said before, all the cities we visited had a lake and a promenade! We then spiced up our stay by visiting the Montreux Casino, right in front of our hotel. It looked like one of the casinos I ve seen only in the movies…well, one more first for me!

The next day in the region was an exciting one. Clear skies and a bright day welcomed us to Geneva, the world peace capital and the headquarters of United Nations. We saw the famed UN head office, the imposing Geneva Cathedral and the ancillary ruins attached to it. We quite liked the pulse of this city which was a busy buzzing place and well, not everyone was in designer clothes! There was a lot to see and feel at Geneva. An interesting 3 legged chair with the fourth broken (I ve no idea about the history and significance of this) A statue of Gandhiji near the UN office, the architecture of the past, European culture etc.

We then proceeded to Lausanne to see the magnificent Lausanne Cathedral, one that we had seen at the Swiss Miniature. We huffed and puffed our way through several 100 (I think) steps after walking up the steep alleys. The church was gargantuan to be captured in one snap and quite an impressive structure. Trudging back to the Lausanne was an uphill task though it was downhill all the way (I know it’s a sad PJ J )


The most looked forward to destination Interlaken, the backdrop of all the Yash Chopra movies was finally on our itinerary the next day. The day we looked forward to sing ‘Tu mere Saamne’ from Darr etc etc. ..was a complete washout thanx to the conspiring Rain Gods. We lounged around mournfully in the rain at Interlaken wondering if our pre-booked tickets to Schilton the next day where a gale was raging then would be a waste. However, fortunately for us, the skies cleared, the sun smiled upon us the next day. Our spirits lifted, we went to Schilton more than 2500 meters high. As we ascended the cable car the panorama changed from green to sheet of white. Everywhere we looked was pristine whiteness. After we had our fill of snaps and posing like we were on the top of the world, (O.K. atleast were at the top of a mountain which was far above several others), we went to the restaurant at the top. This was no ordinary restaurant, but one that revolved giving us a 360o view of Schiltorn and all the adjoining mountains. That was a one of a kind experience I would say.

On the way back, we hiked through the greenery of Switzerland till the Trummelbach falls. That was another memorable walk. It so reminded us of the hindi films back home, the yellow flowers in the green fields, the slanting roof houses that were straight out of fairy tales, scenic mountains all around, waterfalls, a river flowing all the way……it was the best ever!!


We bid adios to Interlaken he next morning and proceeded to Lucerne. I guess we spent the longest time at the lake of Lucerne amongst all the previous lakes that we saw. We had a sunny lunch at one of the lakeside restaurants that dotted the entire edge of the lake, watched the ducks as they glided by on the lake, took snaps at the Chapel Bridge, visited the Lion Monument (another ‘just for snaps’ point), shopped for chocolates and souvenirs, and basically just chilled out.

Infact everywhere we went to at Lucerne was walking. You see, everything at these so called cities is so near. I guess an Andheri of Mumbai would be larger than the Lucerne of Switzerland!!

The next day we had an excursion to Mount Pilatus which was again a new experience despite our qualms of it being similar to the mountains we had previously visited. You see, Mount Pilatus offered varied views in four different directions. It was fantastic to see ice capped mountain peaks on one side, lush green fields on another, an azure lake on yet another side and tiny dwellings of civilization on yet another side.


Our trip was in the last lap, and we finally ended where we started out from. We visited the powerful Rhine falls where we saw the largest influx of tourists at Switzerland. We finally shed our winter clothing at the Rhine falls, and felt the mist of the waterfall as it thundered on.

Our minds and souls satiated with all the visual delights that He created and Man conquered, with fond memories of the trip we stepped on to the Mumbai plane to get back to the grind of work and the hustle-bustle of mundane routine.

A few pointers for those who wanna visit Switzerland
Carry loads of warm clothing
Book your tickets well in advance
Buy enough forex at an opportune moment
If you want an Indian meal everyday, check out ready to eat meals by MTR, Kitchens of India
It ll cost you roughly 25 swiss francs for a decent meal for 2 people.
Check out economy options of Swiss pass for travel
Try youth hostels for economical accommodation
Plan your itinerary to end by evening at 6:00 p.m since most places shut shop by then
Visit the tourist office each time you get to a new destination and pick up pamphlets, maps and bus and train timetables.
Keep emergency phone numbers handy


  1. wow...that was some description...didnt have the patience to read through, but made a mental note of referring it if/when i go to switzerland!!

  2. great discription...wonderful info ... nice guide to trip to switzerland... u write so well

  3. A lot like Switzerland...loved your writting skills:-)Keep Penning!!!Visit me and if you like Do comment and Follow back...