Sunday, October 6, 2013

Swiss Pass-ed!

Paris is Paris, Marseille is rough around the edges, Lyon is the settled and calm, older sibling and Geneva is sophisticated and important. With the UN headquarters and over 130 banks, Geneva exuded a sense of decorum and an air of seriousness that we basked in for a few hours before we took the train to meet my brother and SIL in Interlaken. We were able to go see the UN and UNHCR buildings, picnic around the big lake and take the petit train to go see the Old Town before heading back to the gare, collect our luggage from the locker and catch the train to our final destination for the day.

We bought our Swiss Pass before we started out since we'd be needing it for every means of transportation we took till we left Switzerland. I can't begin to list the advantages of the Pass, but fewer hassles about tickets and waiting lines would be it! We changed trains at Berne and passed by the beautiful towns of Thun and Spiez before the train started bordering Lake Thun to reach Interlaken. We were tired, the evening was setting upon us but the view along the way was to die for! It made for a warm welcome into Interlaken. The long trip had finally started and the inevitable excitement made me giddy.

We had booked rooms in Hotel Burgseeli, run by a fashionable and extremely warm and friendly lady in her mid 50s. We had for company a lake right across the road, the mountains and the accompanying silence. That evening, we had the first of the few warm meals we'd be having for the next few weeks and got ready to head to Jungfraujoch the next day.

Jungfraujoch is a mountain pass which leads to the Jungfrau summit, in the Bernese Alps. (Wiki-ed) We reached Kleine Scheidegg by local train and stopped to take pictures, drink coffee and eat the lovely, hot apple strudel! From here, we took the Jungfrau railway to go to the top of Europe. They built it more than a century ago and it is an engineering marvel! The weather was perfect. The peaks were snowed in but the sky was clear, and the hills around us were green and dotted with chalets, as we gained height in the cog-wheel train.

A typical tourist attraction awaited us at the top. Ice tunnels that depicted the history, ice caves, ice carvings, a roof top to experience the snow and of course a restaurant. Some parents, when their kids are visiting destinations they themselves couldn't, give money to them as offering at a temple or such. Our parents, who had visited Jungfrau 2 years ago, advised us to celebrate with champagne. There we were, in nature's lap, marveling at world class engineering, raising a toast to it all with champagne!

At the fun arena up the mountain, after much debate, we decided to buy tickets for an hour of tubing down the snow hill. Fortunately, they'd built at escalator to climb up so we could do about 5-6  rounds of tumbling down and screaming our heads off before we decided that was enough play for the day. By late afternoon, it was time to head back home. The weather had played perfect companion and the fun we'd had up in the mountain wouldn't have been possible if it were raining and stormy.

The next day, after spending the morning walking around the beautiful town of Interlaken, we headed towards Lucerne. We timed ourselves in a way to be able to catch a boat across lake Brienz to go to town Brienz from where we took the train to Lucerne. We bought sandwiches and had lunch on the boat. About half an hour into the ride, we realized were headed straight for some dense fog and rain. It was a memorable ride and we arrived a bit soaked and more than ready to sit inside the heated train compartments. .

Lucerne turned out to be an affluent city with fancy cars, a intricate transport system and beautiful people. It spoke rich money and we loved the very feel of it. Our place here was Villa Marie, a dorm style accommodation with 4 rooms on a floor that had a common bathroom. Again, a different experience, one we embraced with wide, open arms. After a bit of asking around and waiting it out under a bus-stop for the rain to subside, we reached the rooms, left our bags and headed out to walk the path along the lake right behind the villa. We were in for a surprise are the skies were just opening up and we saw not one, but TWO rainbows form and disperse over the lake right in front of our eyes! Swans in the lake, hills around it, people running along the lake, quiet sounds of the evening as flora and fauna settled in for the night; these accompanied us as we walked about, taking pictures and thinking of way to stay back forever!

Mt. Titlis beckoned the following day. Upon reaching Engelberg by train, we took the short walk to the base of the mountain and took cable cars and the 360-degree Rotair ride to head up the mountain. The ride up gave us views of Swiss cows working the pastures below, streams and surrounding mountains. This day could have been the same as our day in Jungfrau. Except, it was snowing and we walked in the snow and tried to make angels in the snow and stuck our tongues out before heading inside to the restaurants for warm cups of noodles. We didn't forget to hug the life-size cardboard cutouts of Kajol and Shahrukh Khan from DDLJ!

We wanted to spend some time in the beautiful city of Lucerne. So, as soon as we reached the base of Titlis and had a cup of tea from the Indian vendor there (!!), we rushed to catch the train to Lucerne and were met with, once again, rain! It didn't dampen our spirits and we walked around the city, peaked into windows of beautiful shops and went and saw the mourning lion at the Lion Monument.

The next day, as on all days before, we had our fill of breakfast which included, fruit, cereals, coffee and cheese. We were renting a car today to drive to the Rhine Falls. It was the first time any of us was driving in Europe. While we had been observing traffic rules all this while, I wouldn't be lying when I say there was a nervous edge to our breakfast that morning!

About an hour after 9:00 AM, we had ourselves a Volkswagen Touran, stuffed with bags, food and 4 excited adults headed to the town of Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland. We walked down the hill to the river falls, got swept in by the thunderous sound it made and took the boat ride that went to an island in the middle of the falls!

We had a quick lunch in a restaurant across the river, headed back to the car and sped off in the general direction of Germany. Switzerland had been kind. And in the middle of EU fiascoes like France, Italy and Germany, the country and its people stand proud in not having joined the EU. There was this sense everywhere we went and I guess that's what resulted in the affluence and the sense of ease in its people.

(Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.)


shivangee anantani said...

beautiful pictures!!! beautifuller description..:)

Aarti said...

Hey Gargee ...That was a nice post! Enjoyed reading it..and nice photos !