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Please help me pare my wish-list for Switzerland to fit into 25 days

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Hi, all –

I’m in the very early stages of planning a trip to Switzerland and could really use some help, as there is WAY too much I want to see and do in what would ideally be a 3.5-week journey!

My goal is to have as diverse a range of experiences as possible, including cities and towns, different styles of art and architecture, varied natural scenery, etc. My only visit to Switzerland was more than 20 years ago, when I spent 2 nights in delightful Lucerne and much of the following day on the lovely Vierwaldstättersee. I am definitely looking forward to seeing much more.

A bit about me: I enjoy art, architecture, museums, churches, parks and gardens, natural scenery, castles, fruit and vegetable markets, picturesque villages, good food and wine, and the chance to see and experience other parts of the world. I’m a woman, will be traveling solo, and generally prefer to proceed at my own pace (rather than with a tour). I plan to use trains and buses whenever possible. I don’t mind changing hotels frequently, even every night or so. In contrast, I hate backtracking if I can avoid it. 
 I’m not seeking down time--I’m sure I’ll have enough time to relax while on train rides and over dinners. Instead, I hope to take full advantage of the time I have to see and experience things. (OK, I’m unlikely to get up at the crack of dawn every day, but will do so when necessary to see or experience something that I would otherwise miss). I’m not seeking sporting activities, with the exception of a few nice (but not particularly difficult or long) hikes.

I’d like to fly into Geneva and out of Zurich. I’d prefer to travel from mid-to-late May into early-to-mid June with the aim of maximizing my chances that passes will be open, wildflowers in bloom, and crowds and prices not quite up to full high-season levels.

I’ve tried roughing out a few itineraries, more to get a sense of what is/isn’t possible than to develop a specific plan. None of my attempts has been satisfactory: Even after cutting several destinations from my list, my destination wish list is still clearly too long—seeing all of these places will take too many days, and I suspect that in some areas, I’m proposing a pace that is too rushed. I need your help!

A sample (and admittedly non-viable) plan:
(In this particular version I was trying to reach the Ticino as early as was otherwise reasonable on the theory that the Ticino would be warmer than elsewhere.)

Day 1: Fly from the US to Geneva, 1st of 2 nights there
Day 2: Geneva, 2nd of 2 nights there
Day 3: Leave in the morning for Lausanne; explore it, take the little train to the Lavaux wine terraces, and then spend the night in Lausanne
Day 4: Leave in the morning; visit the Chateau Chillon and Rochers-de-Naye before spending the night in/around Montreux
Day 5: Leave in the morning; visit Sion on my way to Zermatt
Day 6: Get up in time to take the Glacier Express to Chur. Hope the weather allows me to see the Matterhorn. (I am aware that this plan leaves basically no time to explore Zermatt. I think I’m OK with that.) Once in Chur, rent a car and drive to Mustair and spend the night there.
Day 7: Visit the convent in Mustair; drive to Scuol and spend the night there
Day 8: Return to Chur, perhaps stopping in Guarda en route; return the car; spend the rest of the day and night in Chur.
Day 9: Get up in time to take the Bernina Express to Tirano and the Palm Express to Lugano. (I would be so close to the Muottas Muragl! It sounds so appealing, but I just don’t see how I would have time.) Spend the 1st of 2 nights in Lugano.
Days 10 through 12: Explore the Ticino: Lugano, Bellinzona, Locarno, …
Day 13: Stop briefly in Lucerne and then head on to the 1st of 3 nights in the Bernese Oberland, possibly staying in/around Lauterbrunnen or Spiez
Days 14 and 15: Explore the Bernese Oberland
Day 16: Continue visiting the Bernese Oberland, and then move on to Bern in time for dinner and the 1st of 2 nights there
Day 17: Bern
Days 18 and 19: Leave in the morning of day 18; spend the next 2 days visiting Murten, Fribourg, Gruyere, …
Day 20: Leave in the morning; go to and explore Neuchatel, including a visit to the Latenium (unless one of you can suggest another place where I can visit a reconstructed / re-created prehistoric, stilted lake house, aka pile house)
Day 21: Leave in the morning; go to and explore Basel
Days 22 through 24: Leave Basel in the morning of day 22; head to the 1st of 3 nights in northeast Switzerland. I would like to visit the Rheinfall, Schaffhausen, Stein-am-Rhein, Appenzell, St. Gallen, ...
Days 25 through 27: Leave NE Switzerland in time to visit Winterthur and reach Zurich in time for dinner on day 25, and then spend 3 nights in Zurich.
Day 28: Fly to the US from Zurich.

So, what should I consider cutting and why? Are there any places I should really try to fit in even though I’ve already got too much on my plate? Any other observations that will help me come up with a realistic plan?

Thanks in advance for any and all comments!

  • Report Abuse

    There will be the usual naysayers who will say

    it can't be done or you are traveling too fast; don't stay in Geneva at all; don't take the Glacier Express because it is overrated, blah, blah, blah.

    I've done a lot of what you are going to do and at about the same pace at times.
    A few comments:

    why Sion?

    Zermatt...you can walk the entire village in an hour and other than viewing the peak unless you love "ski villages" no worries.

    I'd visit St. Gallen AND the abbey/library (be aware of the open hours) before I did Appenzell; the latter is a picturesque small town and easy to get to by rail from St. Gallen but not sure it is worth that much time.

    I like the Glacier Express trip but I enjoyed the Bernina Express a lot more (better scenery overall IMO)

    I've never been all that impressed with Bern but if it's your thing...

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    Hi kja,

    You don't need to move bases from Geneva to Lausanne to Montreux. All are close enough that you can set up base in any one of them and see the others as a day-trip. I personally would pick Montreux or Vevey as they're smaller and prettier imo.

    Sion is a lovely town, and you should enjoy it a lot.

    I also liked the Bernina Express more than the Glacier Express, but if you have to travel from Zermatt to Chur, that's the way to do it.

    I do think that you are sacrificing a memorable experience in a destination for the sake of setting foot in a lot of places (this is the type of itinerary where folks don't remember if "that lake" was in Lausanne or Lucerne), but it's your money and your time.

    Have fun as you plan!

    s

  • Report Abuse

    I agree about using Geneva as a base and doing day trips. It's easier and will save you time.

    I highly recommend St Gallen, so don't miss that city if you pare down the list.

    I'm not sure you need 3 full days in Zurich. It's a beautiful city, but you can see most of the highlights in two days.

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    Are you sure that from May 15-June 15 that the passes will be open?

    Like you, I don't mind switching hotels all the time, but I'm not sure I'd want to spend anytime driving in Switzlerand. I might want to include a boat journey on a lake (from Spiez to Thun and take the train to Bern from Thun?).

    Other destinations in the Ticino might appeal to me more than Lugano or Locarno (never been in Bellinzona or Muottas Muragl,, but maybe you should give in your desire to see the latter at the expense of Locarno and what else you can squeeze from Lugano).

    There are some Switzerland mavens on the Frommer's message board and I think you should solicit opinions there too. Just re-copy your post over there.

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks to all for your prompt and constructive comments!


    ➢ Dukey1

    Hi, Dukey –

    It seems like a long while since we ended up on the same Fodor’s thread. Thanks for responding!

    • I've done a lot of what you are going to do and at about the same pace at times.

    I’m glad to hear that! I’m finding it very difficult to estimate the time I’ll need in various places, so if you are willing to share, I would greatly appreciate some information about the pace at which you traveled through areas you visited that I am thinking of visiting.

    • Why Sion?



    As swandav2000 notes, some find it lovely. As I recall, at least one of my guidebooks named it one the most charming of all Swiss villages. Did you have a different experience or were you just asking out of curiosity?

    • Zermatt...you can walk the entire village in an hour and other than viewing the peak unless you love "ski villages" no worries.


    I’m so glad you said so! That was my impression.

    • I'd visit St. Gallen AND the abbey/library (be aware of the open hours) before I did Appenzell; the latter is a picturesque small town and easy to get to by rail from St. Gallen but not sure it is worth that much time.

    St. Gallen’s abbey and library are a priority for me, so I will make sure I know the open hours and plan accordingly. Do you have a recommendation about the amount of time I should allocate for the abbey and library? Did you spend time visiting other parts of St. Gallen, and if so, what would you recommend?

    I’m glad to know that I might be able to plan on a rather short visit to Appenzell. I believe that the Appenzell area has a somewhat unique style of rural architecture and I’d like to find enough time to at least catch a few glimpses.

    • I like the Glacier Express trip but I enjoyed the Bernina Express a lot more (better scenery overall IMO)

    Good info! If I do both--and with your input, as well as that of swandav2000, I may not--I’ll try to make sure I do the Bernina Express after the Glacier Express.

    • I've never been all that impressed with Bern but if it's your thing...



    Of course, I won’t know until I go, but Bern’s Old Town and museums do sound to me like my thing, and Bern has been on my wish list for a long time….


    ➢ swandav2000

    Hi, swandav! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    • You don't need to move bases from Geneva to Lausanne to Montreux

    I fully understand that most travelers prefer “base” hotels to relocating, but I think my experiences have been (and will be) a bit different:

    • First, years of solo international travel have taught me that I personally will rarely, if ever, spend more time moving on than staying put if the travel time to my next destination is more than an hour and is in the general direction of my subsequent journey. Moving on is, quite literally, a time-saver for me.

    • Second, I think I remember places better if I spend the night than if I visit as a day trip, and there are at least two reasons for that:
    o First, I get to see the new place in differing lights, and with and without day-trippers, so I have a fuller array of memories that are separate from my memories of the place from which I might have visited it.
    o Second, as a solo independent traveler who spends a lot of time researching her trips, there are things that help me differentiate places, things that others might not experience. For example, I spend a lot of time researching hotels, thinking about where they are in relation to the things I want to visit, visualizing how to get there from the train or bus or whaterver…. So even before I arrive anywhere, I’ve got a fair amount of information that differentiates one place from other places. And no dinner I eat is ever “another” dinner with the same person or same people, so my memories of dinners aren’t linked to each other. When I look up from my meal, I don’t see someone I know—I see a completely new setting that becomes part of my memory of that particular city or town. (I’m certainly not saying that sharing meals or rooms or anything else with others is a bad thing! I’m just observing that experiences that are shared with the same people—whether meals or rooms or tours or shops or anything--may be less easily distinguished from each other than experiences that don’t share the same social context.)

    • Third, I’ve already mentioned that I’m not inclined to get up at the crack of dawn. But tourist destinations, are more often open in the morning than in the evening. If I relocate the day before, I’m ready to begin exploring shortly after I get up. If I don’t, I lose irreplaceable sightseeing time to transit. So if I can relocate when sightseeing options are relatively limited (e.g., after museums close), I can maximize my sightseeing time.

    Please understand that I am not saying that frequent relocation is a good strategy for anyone else. Indeed, I suspect it would be a truly awful strategy for many people. All I’m saying is that I personally find sufficient merits to relocating to consider it a viable option under many circumstances.

    Oh dear, I just climbed onto a soapbox and railed away!!! Sorry about that!!!


    • Sion is a lovely town, and you should enjoy it a lot

    Glad to hear it! Can you estimate how much time I should plan to visit Sion?

    • I also liked the Bernina Express more than the Glacier Express, but if you have to travel from Zermatt to Chur, that's the way to do it.

    You and Dukey are offering a valuable counter to the many arguments I’ve seen that the Glacier Express is not to be missed. It is not the only way for me to get from Zermatt to Chur – for example, I could go from Zermatt to the Ticino and from there to the Grissons/Engadine (sorry if I’m mislabeling regions – I’m still learning!) I’ll explore my options!

    • I do think that you are sacrificing a memorable experience in a destination for the sake of setting foot in a lot of places (this is the type of itinerary where folks don't remember if "that lake" was in Lausanne or Lucerne), but it's your money and your time.

    I appreciate your general advice – skimming the surface is no substitute for an in-depth experience. I would suggest, however, that spending a night in each of 3 places in the same general area is not necessarily any less in-depth than spending 3 nights in one location and doing day-trips to the other two.

    So, with respect, I’d like to get a better sense of how you think my initial plan sacrifices memorable experiences: Are there specific memorable experiences that you believe I will forego with the pace I suggested? Are there places that you think merit more time to ensure that one sees and experiences the highlights at a reasonable pace?

    Whether I choose base cities or not, I do NOT want to unnecessarily short-change any of my target destinations. I would greatly appreciate any input you can provide about the time I should allocate to the places I hope to see. As you say, it is my money and my time, and I want to use both well.



    ➢ ALadyInLondon

    Hi, ALadyInLondon, I'm glad you've chosen to comment on my initial plan.

    • I agree about using Geneva as a base and doing day trips. It's easier and will save you time.

    I understand that using Geneva as a base could make sense, but I’ve found that my way of traveling creates advantages to relocating rather than using a single base; I commented more fully on that issue above. Are there unique aspects of travel around Geneva that I should consider before finalizng a plan?

    • 
I highly recommend St Gallen, so don't miss that city if you pare down the list

    St. Gallen’s abbey and library are a priority for me. Do you have a recommendation about the amount of time I should allocate to the abbey and library? Did you spend time visiting other parts of St. Gallen, and if so, what would you recommend?

    • Zurich. It's a beautiful city, but you can see most of the highlights in two days.

    Good to know! By counting the nights before and after my ideal stay in Zurich, and by assuming that I wouldn’t necessarily have any time to explore on the day of my departure flight, I ended up thinking that I should plan on 3 nights in Zurich to ensure that I had at least 2 days to visit it.


    ➢ goldenautumn

    Love the screen name! Makes me smile while imagining wonderful fall vistas – thanks!

    • Are you sure that from May 15-June 15 that the passes will be open?

    No, I’m not sure, although my preliminary checks suggest that the passes I’m most likely to cross should be open in/around that time frame. I am definitely willing to shift my plans back or forward a bit to maximize the chance that the passes will be open, the wildflowers in bloom, etc., and hope to get feedback in response to this post about how to best time my travels. I would love to hear from anyone who has ideas about the timing of my trip or about how to get the most up-to-date info before I book anything.

    • I'm not sure I'd want to spend anytime driving in Switzlerand

    I hope to keep my driving to a minimum. From what I’ve learned so far, it can be very difficult and time consuming to reach Mustair by public transportation, and I really would like to see the convent and murals there if at all possible. My preliminary check suggested that it might be most reasonable for me to plan on a 2-day car rental from Chur that would include both Mustair and Scuol (which I also hope to visit). But I am not wedded to the idea of renting a car and would be happy to consider options for public transportation.

    • I might want to include a boat journey on a lake (from Spiez to Thun and take the train to Bern from Thun?).

    At least 2 boat journeys are definitely on my agenda! I haven’t decided which, pending fuller development of my itinerary. I will definitely keep your suggestion for a boat on Lake Thun on my radar.

    • Other destinations in the Ticino might appeal to me more than Lugano or Locarno…



    I’ve been interested in Lugano since a friend told me about it decades ago, and since then, I’ve always assumed that I would find time to see Locarno and Bellinzona when I finally made it to the area. Old enticements aside, I like the idea of spending a few days in the Italian-influenced portion of the country as a contrast to seeing areas that show a greater French or German influence. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t rethink! What parts of the Ticino appeal to you more?

    • There are some Switzerland mavens on the Frommer's message board and I think you should solicit opinions there too. Just re-copy your post over there.

    Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll definitely consider doing so.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi again,

    The activities you'll be sacrificing are:

    lingering on a bench at the lake at Montreux and soaking up the views across to France and the parade of travellers on the promenade.

    lingering at a mountaintop restaurant somewhere and soaking up the views, chatting with folks at the seats next to you at the restaurant.

    hiking

    walking

    biking

    sitting in a cafe for an afternoon enjoying the landscape and getting a feel for the rhythm of the place.

    I spent about 3h in Sion in December, and it wasn't enough time. I did walk through the town (they have a signposted self-tour of the medieval buildings in town) and have lunch there, but I didn't go through the vineyards or spend time at/around the castle. I think that half a day, maybe 5-6 hours, would be good.

    s

  • Report Abuse

    rarely does one's travels warrant a one-month straight Swiss Pass but yours sure does - covers all those trains as well as lake boats, buses, city transports and free entry to 400+ Swiss Museums - for lots of great info on Swiss trains and passes I always spotlight these IMO fantastic sites - www.swisstravelsystem.com; http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id3.html; www.ricksteves.com.

    a pass lets you hop on virtually any train or bus or boat with few exceptions - like official Bernina and Glacier Expresses on which you must make a seat reservation and in case of GE a heft supplement. And when I checked prices yesterday it seems you can save significant money by buying the pass at home if in U.S. rather than in Switzerland though these things do change but for several years the exact same price has often been cheaper here than there for some weird reason. But with your ambitious travel plans - which I also often do - a One-month Swiss Pass is IMO a no-brainer.

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    e 1st of 3 nights in the Bernese Oberland, possibly staying in/around Lauterbrunnen or Spiez>

    spiez is nice but nothing so awesome as Lauterbrunnen - stay up in the hills IMO and you will also be closer to places you want to visit in the Jungfrau Region - like taking the fantastic loop from Lauterbrunnen - Grutschalp - Murren - Schilthorn - Gimmelwald - Stechleberg - Lauterbrunnen - to me the finest excursion in the Jungfrau Region due to its vary varied nature of components and all covered 100% by a Swiss Pass except Murren to fabled Schilthorn/Piz Gloria is 50% off.

  • Report Abuse

    ➢ swandav2000

    Thanks! Your timing suggestions for Sion are very helpful. And I appreciate your comments about what I might miss. I’ll take some hikes and walks, but I probably will miss many of the other experiences you list – I must admit that after sitting for 5 or 10 minutes, my urge to get moving begins escalating exponentially. But your words make it clear that you savor those moments – may you have many more of them!

    ➢ PalenQ

    I agree -- the Swiss Pass is a no-brainer for me!

    Lauterbrunnen it is! Thanks for the recommendation. I am definitely looking forward to the Lauterbrunnen - Grutschalp - Murren - Schilthorn - Gimmelwald - Stechleberg – Lauterbrunnen loop, which I suspect will be one of the highlights of this trip (which I think will hold many highlights). I read your description of that loop on a recent thread, and immediately knew that I would make it part of my journey.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi again,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    Just a note on the Spiez vs. Lauterbrunnen decision -- I would stick with Spiez. Spiez is a lovely little town that sits right on Lake Thun, and for that is a sweet and wonderful destination. It has wide-open views of the lake and the mountains, and it has a small castle and some vineyards on the hills.

    In contrast, Lauterbrunnen sits at the base of some cliffs, which always depress me. Some folks don't even "see" the cliffs, and others think that the cliffs add charm and cosiness to the village. But those cliffs that over-hang the town just depress me. I could never stay there. If you might be something like me, don't stay in Lauterbrunnen.

    s

  • Report Abuse

    Re St. Gallen: IMO the main attraction, at least for me, WAS the church and the library. I explored the rest of the town somewhat but nothing as memorable.

    The abbey interior has been called, by some, "the most beautiful in Switzerland" but that's obviously very subjective. It doesn't take a long time to see it but then again that also depends on you and how long you feel like enjoying it, assuming you do enjoy it.

    The library is small. You are required to wear special shoes which they supply so that you do not ruin the floors or make too much noise! I was particularly attracted to the mummy and, of course, the interior decoration is waaaaay over the top. IMO you could easily do it justice in an hour.


    On another note, I realize that Swanday and I do not always agree about all things Swiss. I happen, for example, to enjoy Lausanne. In terms of Montreux and gazing across the lake...I suggest you definitely stick to your plans to do Rochers de Naye because THAT view "across the lake" is IMO a lot more memorable than the one from down below. If you have a railpass you'll get a discount.

    And I assume you know that with a SwissPass you also get transportation included in the various towns/cities such as Montreux...you can take a bus to Chillon as well as walking the lakeside.

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    Some general comments:

    While May/June is low season in the mountains it is high season in the cities. In July/August it is the other way around. So the timing doesn't really matter in that regard. You will find hotels offering good deals in cities in July/August (for example, I stayed the 3rd night free in Zürich), and you may find limited options for hotels in higher mountain towns in May e.g. So that evens out in the end financially.

    Remembering places better if spending the night makes sense; same here. The point about tourist destinations being more often open in the morning than in the evening is not true in my experience, though. Museums usually don't open earlier than 10 am and close at 5 or 6 pm. Same for castles, churches and such.

    Spending only one night in most places doesn't give you flexibility. What I mean is, the weather is usually unstable in spring, it often rains, and you might end up seeing nothing of the mountains at all. Example: Zermatt. Chances to see the Matterhorn are very slim if you only have a couple of hours in town. Or the Grisons part of your trip: It might rain heavily with low hanging clouds, even snowing, the day you plan to drive to Müstair. If you had two or three nights somewhere in the area you could do museums/castles/churches on day, wait for better weather for the mountain excursions.

    I see no issues with opening of passes in May/June. True, Albula and Flüela may be closed, but the Julier and Ofen passes are open all year round. So can easily get to your destinations, although maybe with a short detour.

    And now some comments on the itinerary:

    I would cut time in Lausanne. It's basically quite similar to Geneva (old town uphill, another cathedral, lakeside promenades, some museums). A city of similar size, setting and (French) ambience. My suggestion is to see it on the way to Vevey - you can even take the train through the vineyards in the Lavaux between Lausanne and Vevey - where I suggest you spend two nights. Seeing Chillon is a *must* and the trip up to Rochers-de-Naye is certainly worth your time (weather co-operating).

    The whole Grisons part of your trip irritates me. Why backtracking to Chur? Arrival in Chur from Zermatt by Glacier Express is 2.45 pm if I am correct. If you continue by train and bus with changes in Sagliains and Zernez you arrive at Müstair at 6.20 pm. (If you skip the Glacier Express and travel via Zürich you arrive at 4.20 pm.) The drive takes about 3 hours, too - you won't arrive much earlier. And that is the route via Flüela pass - which might be closed. You have the options to either transport the car on a train through the Vereina tunnel (Klosters-Sagliains) or to drive via Julier pass - both somewhat longer. You could easily sightsee in Chur after arrival from Zermatt, spend the night in Chur, proceed to Müstair the next day by public transportation. Since you're not opposed to one-night stays you could spend the night in Müstair, see castle Tarasp and Guarda the next day and stay overnight somewhere in the Engadine (Guarda?) before taking the Bernina Express the next day. Saves you the backtracking to Chur and the rental car cost.

    The bus from Tirano to Lugano is sort of an extension of the Bernina Express, not the Palm Express (which runs St. Moritz - Maloja - Chiavenna - Lugano). That bus is operated by the Rhaetian Railways.

    For the remaining nights in Ticino I recommend Ascona, which is a good contrast to business (finances) city Lugano.

    I like Bern a lot, definitely keep it in the itinerary.

    Murten is really small and quite similar to Bern. I think you could skip it. Spend more time in Fribourg instead or see Avenches (Roman ruins) instead. I am not sure about Gruyeres. While it certainly is picturesque, the castle is similar architecture as Chillon. I was not impressed with the city of Neuchatel - I think seeing Latenium on the way to Basel would be fine. Give Basel a little more time instead, it has outstanding museums, sights and things to do.

    Three days for Schaffhausen, Stein am Rhein, St. Gallen and Appenzell are too short IMO. You must consider travel time between the destinations, too. The library in St. Gallen is simply WOW, the abbey is beautiful but not as gorgeous as the one in Einsiedeln IMO. St. Gallen has a nice old town, nothing spectacular, but also nice museum(s), especially if you're into textile/clothing stuff - St. Gallen is famous for lace.

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    In contrast, Lauterbrunnen sits at the base of some cliffs, which always depress me. Some folks don't even "see" the cliffs, and others think that the cliffs add charm and cosiness to the village. But those cliffs that over-hang the town just depress me. I could never stay there. If you might be something like me, don't stay in Lauterbrunnen.>

    Well I understand that feeling you may have about Lauterbrunnen but I strongly thing that the vast majority of folks would enjoy staying in one of the towns right up in the Jungfrau Region than Spiez, as lovely a town as it is - but it simply does not give the awesome feeling one would experience in say a Wengen or Grindelwald or Murren - towns that go eyeball to eyeball with glacier-girdled mountains and are close to day trips right in the area.

    Staying in Spiez means a longer day trip if going to places like Murren, Gimmelwald, the Jungfrau, etc.

    No staying right up in a place like Grindelwald is what most people dream of when thinking of Switzerland - a town active with hikers and alpinists coming and going and not the rather somnolent IME Spiez, an ordinary Swiss town albeit one in a great location - it is very sweet as well but is also a very different experience.

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    How I love Fodor’s Forums! What a wealth of information from so many people who freely share their knowledge and experiences and viewpoints – thank you all!

    My plans are very much in flux; I’ve noted some of the “big” changes I’m considering (based in part on some of your comments) before addressing specific comments below. I hope you will all continue to monitor this thread and continue sharing insights based on your love of, and experience with, Switzerland!

    I’m now thinking about:

    • Skipping Zermatt (and Sion and the Glacier Express). I would love to see the Matterhorn, but of course, trying to do so takes a chunk of time with no guarantee of success. And I’ve now read many of the reports that suggest that the Glacier Express is overrated. I don’t know if I would think so or not, but I do think I’ll have some other wonderful train journeys on this trip, so skipping this one might make sense.

    • Changing the overall routing of my trip. I still hope to start in Geneva and end in Zurich, but I’m considering a route that starts at Lake Geneva and moves clock-wise more-or-less around Switzerland’s outer reaches until I reach the Ticino, and then (as before) going north to Lucerne and on to the Bernese Oberland before ending in Zurich. I think this routing shifts a number of my city visits to earlier rather than later in my trip (and so might let me visit more cities while they are still in low or shoulder season), and shifts some of the more mountainous areas to times when they are in low or shoulder season. I'm not sure what this change would mean in terms of my chances of seeing either snowcapped mountains or wildflowers, but I'm getting the impression that May/June is a bit unpredictable even without considering climate changes. Any thoughts are welcome!

    • Finding a way to add some time – at least 2 days – for the Upper Engadine. I would like to be in the area at least long enough to have a small chance of seeing some of these mountains on a clear day. I have NO interest in the main resort destinations, but there are other options that I’m just beginning to explore. (Maybe Pontresina?) Obviously, fitting in another couple of days to an already over-packed wish-list poses challenges, so I am also exploring options for trying to add some time to my trip. Hard to do with limited leave days, but I’m looking into options….


    ➢ joannyc

    Yvoire looks delightful! I’m not sure I can fit it in to this trip, but I have made note of it and thank you for mentioning it.


    ➢ swandav

    Spiez does sound lovely, but I must admit being drawn to the greater convenience of Lauterbrunnen given my purposes for visiting the area. And how will I know if I think the cliffs depressing or charming unless I try it? I’ll give it further thought, and if I do decide on a place in the mountains, I’ll try to work with the proprietor of my lodging to select a suitable room. Of course, one advantage of moving around as frequently as I am prone to do when traveling is that no particular room, however ill-chosen, makes much difference!


    ➢ Dukey

    Thanks for this very helpful information about timing my visit to St. Gallen! Yes, a SwissPass is an integral part of my plan, as is a walk along Lake Geneva between Montreux and the Chateau de Chillon. I may not be a great hiker anymore, but I love walking!


    ➢ Ingo

    Thanks for weighing in and providing such a wealth of information! It’s going to take me a while to think through everything you’ve told me. Here are some initial reactions:

    • I appreciate your point that multi-day stays may be crucial to being able to see the magnificent scenery on a sunny day. I hope 3 days give me some latitude in the Bernese Oberland and am trying to think of a way to include a longer stop in the Engadine.

    • You mentioned that the Albula Pass might not be open during May/June. Isn’t that part of the “normal” route of the Bernina Express? Is this possible closure something I should consider when finalizing the timing of my trip? (I suspect that whether it is open or not would translate into the difference between a superlative train journey and an even more superlative train journey that one wouldn’t know was even more superlative unless one traveled that route with frequency. Just checking!)

    • I will consider curtailing my time in Lausanne and Murten – thanks for suggesting some ways I might be able to trim my plans! And I definitely appreciate the idea of visiting the Latenium en route, rather than allocating a night to Neuchatel.

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you for your suggestions about the Grisons! I had obviously not checked carefully when I gave credence to a comment I read somewhere that suggested that visiting Mustair would require a car. Thinking that I would need a car, I planned a route that would let me return it without facing different-city drop-off fees (without even checking whether they would apply). In my defense, I did say, in my original post, that it was just a sample non-viable plan! In any event, I am delighted to know that I can easily use public transportation to reach Mustair. And I’m delighted to learn that I can then visit Scuol and Guarda (and maybe Ardez) the next day.

    • I will read more about Vevey and Ascona and will definitely give thought to staying in them.

    • It is very helpful to know that you think 3 days insufficient for my priorities in northest Switzerland. I will do more research.

    • “Museums usually don't open earlier than 10 am….” Exactly! So IF (and ONLY if) I am in the same town as that museum or whatever, I can actually get up at what for me is a very early hour and still get to a museum (or whatever) when it opens! I am NOT -- in ANY way, shape, or form -- a morning person!


    ➢ PalenQ

    Would you recommend Grindelwald or Murren or Wengen over Lauterbrunnen? My initial research suggested that Lauterbrunnen would better suit my needs (good access, a range of accommodation and dining options; less mobbed with people than Grindelwald; more accessible than Murren; less “resort-y” than Wengen – but I could be WAY off with any or all of these impressions!). Perhaps a better question is: Can you briefly comment on how these places differ in the context of selecting a base location?


    Again, thanks to all of you for sharing your thoughts

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    kja,

    Yes, the Glacier Express is overrated. The mountain scenery along this trip is far less spectacular than that of the Bernina Express and what you'll see in the Bernese Oberland.

    Moving the mountain experiences to later during your trip is a good idea - in higher regions like Bernese Oberland and Engadine the season starts early, mid June. For wildflowers mid-end June is best IME.

    Pontresina is a very good base for the Upper Engadine, especially if your focus is on the Bernina massif with Diavolezza, Morteratsch, Roseg valley, and Muottas Muragl. Sils is another good choice (my favourite, btw), especially if you plan to visit P. Corvatsch, Fex Valley, the lakes, Bregaglia valley/Soglio.

    Mürren and Wengen will still be pretty much "closed" in early June. I'd stay in Lauterbrunnen. June is when the sun is highest up, so it won't be too dark and the cliffs won't be too threatening (as in darker time of the year). I stayed at Hotel Oberland once, beautiful views (Mt. Jungfrau) from the balcony.

    When I said "Albula Pass not open in May/June" I meant the road, because you planned to drive. The train runs through a tunnel on the Albula route, not over the pass. The Albula route between Chur and St. Moritz is part of the Glacier Express, it has been part of the Bernina Express route for some years now as well. The reason is simply - marketing. The original Bernina Express route goes St. Moritz - Tirano, but to promote the business they start the Express trains in Chur.

    Re: Guarda and Ardez - best would be a walk from Guarda to Ardez, it's only one and a half hour, slightly downhill, passing pastures with blooming wildflowers, you'll probably see cows, panoramic views all the time.

    LOL, ok, for someone who is the opposite of a morning person 10 am is still early ;-)

    I.

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    If you're interested in the architecture, I'd recommend you visit the open air museum at Brienz when in the Bernese Oberland - there are houses there from all regions of Switzerland.

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    http://ballenberg.ch/en/Welcome

    Yes indeedy - the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum is great - lovely setting in meadow overlooking Lake Brienz. Take a lake boat from Interaken-Ost station to Brienz then a postal bus up to the museum - the go back to Brienz - a village known for wood carving - check out the intircatley carved wooden balconies on chalet-style houses and take the train back to Interlaken.

    A great day out and if you have a Swiss Pass everything is 100% covered - trains, bus, boat and even entry to themuseum - 22 Swiss francs for an adult about about $25 - free with a Swiss Pass, which gives free entry to 400+ Swiss Museums.

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    I need some help understading the Bernina Express. It seems that I’ve read at least a half-dozen different descriptions, and they don't all seem to jive. And just in case I’ve named it incorrectly, I mean the UNESCO World Heritage line(s) run by Rhaetian Railways.

    • I now think that the part that is UNESCO listed—and the part that is most spectacular—is from Thusis to Tirano. One can get on further north, for example, in Chur or (by skipping the leg from Thusis to Filisur) in Davos. Once in Tirano, one can transfer to a Rhaetian Railways-run bus to Lugano. There are other trains on the same tracks—trains that wouldn’t cost as much—but the Bernina Express has windows that afford panoramic views and, because seating is by reservation and windows are panoramic, other travelers may be less likely to move into positions that block the views. Does that begin to describe it?

    • Looking at the info and schedules on

    http://www.rhb.ch/Bernina-Express.2188.0.html?&L=4

    it seems that if I want to spend a couple of nights in Pontresina, I would need to use a different train (not a Bernina Express) to get there, but could then take the Bernina Express on to Tirano. If I did that, would I miss any particularly special stretches of the Bernina Express? Would it be worth considering using the Bernina Express to get from some convenient point to St. Moritz, and then transferring to another train to get to Pontresina?


    ➢ Ingo

    Thanks again for all the very helpful information!

    Soglio it is pictured on the front of my Michelin Green Guide, and looks utterly awesome! Sounds hard to get to, though. Has that been your experience?

    Walking from Guarda to Ardez sound wonderful--thanks!


    ➢ Nonconformist and
    ➢ PalenQ

    I love open-air museums showing regional architecture and crafts! This one sounds delightful—thanks so much for making sure I knew about it. (One of the descriptions I once read of a similar museum elsewhere called it “a retirement home” for special examples of traditional buildings. I’ve always liked that sobriquet.) Going by boat sounds lovely, and I will definitely check out the carved woodwork in town.

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    Bernina Express:

    The description is correct. Let me add that the part between Thusis and St. Moritz is the "Albula" railway line, more famous (and UNESCO heritage listed) for its technical wonders than for scenery, and the part St. Moritz - Tirano is the actual "Bernina" railway, famous for both technical wonders and scenery. The Albula part has just the usual Alpine scenery - which is of course beautiful - but lots and lots of spiral tunnels, spectacular bridges (Landwasser viaduct e.g.) and such. The Bernina part rarely has tunnels, but the views of the glaciers, mountains and the view down to the Poschiavo valley are gorgeous. A technical wonder is the spiral viaduct in Brusio, an "open-air" equivalent to the spiral tunnels of the Albula part. In summer (too late for you) they have open panoramic cars attached to the regular trains on the Bernina route which are more exciting than the enclosed Panoramic cars of the Bernina Express. Far more fun.

    It totally depends on which route you plan to get to Pontresina (or Müstair earlier). You need to check schedules at www.sbb.ch to find out what's doable. The Albula route from Chur is more scenic than the railway route through Landquart - Klosters - Vereina when travelling to Müstair, but it's longer. If it fits into your itinerary then I'd go for the Albula route.

    You don't need to go to St. Moritz first to get to Pontresina. I am sure you can change trains in Samedan, two stops before St. Moritz. Change is on the same platform, trains are vis-a-vis, no problem.

    Getting to Soglio is easy, direct buses from St. Moritz to Promontogno where you change to the other bus for the short uphill ride to Soglio. But it takes a while ... again, check schedules at www.sbb.ch

    I.

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    the Albula Route is also a UNESCO World Heritage rail line, because of its prodigous, for circa 1900, feats of engineering, especially the famous loops where the train loops into and out of the mountain as it circles up or down, depending on the direction.

    I think to get to Pontresina by train you have to go via the Albula Railways, part of the Glacier Express route and some of the Bernina Expresses but not all as many only go between St Moritz and Tirano, Italy.

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    Greetings kja..hope all is well with you.

    Palenque and I are probably the only two Fodorites who favor Interlaken as a base for the B.O. On our most recent Swiss journey, we thoroughly enjoyed staying on the south side on the banks of the River Aare, at the very pleasant and lone-standing, Hotel Goldey Swiss...taking six day trips from Interlaken-Ost were pleasureable and very easy..no crowds in the fall. Connections are comfortable.

    However, before every Interlaken detractor jumps on board, I'll leave it at that. KJA, knowing the way you do your homework for traveling, you will have a most rewarding trip!

    Palenque, old boy, chime in if you wish. Then duck!
    stu

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    ➢ Ingo and
    ➢ PalenQ

    Thanks for the additional info - the knowledge you guys have and share is awesome!

    I now know, for certain, that I will make it a point to see the stretch of the Bernina Express between Thusis and St. Moritz—the chance to marvel at the engineering is part of why I wanted to ride this particular train. I’m not an engineer and know little about the specific challenges or solutions (I’ll try to learn more before I get there), but I have a long interest in such technological feats. And I know that both my father and maternal grandfather would have loved to see that stretch, or to know that I have done so! One of my earliest childhood memories of the two of them together is when they went out of their way to take the family to see the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Horseshoe Curve and their efforts to make sure that all of us, including me (the youngest), had some understanding of why that stretch of track was special. I’ve never been able to see that curve, or any other unusual stretch of track, without experiencing a slew of fond memories of them.

    • “You can change trains in Samedan, two stops before St. Moritz….” Samedan is very near a good stop for the Muottas Muragl, isn’t it? It looks like it has a left-luggage office, so if the timing and weather are right, I could consider stopping en route? That would be great! (Of course, I can backtrack if timing or weather don’t cooperate.)

    • Glad to know I can get to Soglio easily! I might not have time, but if the weather doesn’t offer a decent chance for a good view from Muottas Muragl or one of the other peaks in the area, visiting the impossibly picturesque Soglio might be a reasonable back-up plan. (From my early research, I think there’s a walk by the Upper Engadine Lakes from Maloja to Silvaplana that would be my first priority for the area, other than visiting Muottas Muragl. Do you agree that that particular walk is worth considering?)


    ➢ Tower

    Hi, Stu—thanks for jumping in!

    I will definitely take your recommendation about Interlaken under advisement, but I wonder if it might have changed since you were last there. Perhaps you’ll understand my puzzlement if you look at Alice9’s comment about Interlaken in her trip report last year. LOL!

    http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/trip-to-switzerland-and-austria-june-2011-lauterbrunnen.cfm

    Of the day-trips you took from Interlaken, are there ones you recommend with more or less enthusiasm? There’s SO much to do in the Bernese Oberland that I’m finding it very hard to decide what to do and what to skip in light of other experiences I’ll have elsewhere, so any feedback you care to provide will be helpful. The things that I’ve currently flagged for serious consideration, at this very early stage of my planning, include Schilthorn (with stops in various villages en route); the Schynige Platte (and its alpine garden), Staubachfalle and Trummelbachfalle (I love waterfalls, and it sounds like they can be seen on a nice walk), the Panoramaweg from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg (I believe I can start via gondola from Grindelwald, which I definitely hope to see); Brienz and its outdoor museum; and maybe a boat ride on Thunersee with stops at Hilterfingen (I’m a fan of Jugendstil) and Oberhofen. But nothing is writ in stone yet, and I'm not yet certain how long I will devote to this area (I'm currently inclined to give it at least 4 days, and maybe 5 depending on what I cut elsewhere or whether I find a way to extend my vacation).

    And thanks for your kind words about my travel homework! I truly love planning my trips, but I’m currently struggling through the part I like least—the part when I’m crossing things OFF my list. As I say farewell to some fantasies--however ill-formed, or even ill-informed--I sometimes forget just how much better my overall experiences will be as a result. I feel very fortunate to be able to call on my fellow Fodorites for advice at this stage, before I invest to much time or energy into options that aren't realistic or may not be all that worthy. (And of course, I'm glad that I can call on everyone again when I try to nail down a more realistic plan.)

    Best to you and yours over the holiday season and in 2013! I’ve been checking H&H’s web-site, hoping they’ll make it back to my neck of the woods sometime soon. Better not be while I’m away! Please send them my best wishes.

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    I will definitely take your recommendation about Interlaken under advisement, but I wonder if it might have changed since you were last there>

    Well I believe tower was there very recently and I firmly believe that most folks who criticize Interlaken as tacky simply never get off yes the tacky main souvenir-shop-lined main drag and never see the really cute spots of town north and south of it - especially along the Aare River where tower's hotel is.

    I love Interlaken and all its offerings and all in all it is one of the prettiest cities in Switzerland, IF you get off the main drag as many tourists do not then criticize it.

    If on a budget Interlaken also has many many cheaper hotels than other cities or towns in the area and also has excellent transportation links - a great base not only for the Jungfrau Region but to hop to places like Lucerne, Bern and to do boat trips on either lake the lovingly bookend Interlaken.

    Interlaken - I love it and it is one of my very favorite cities in Europe after annual or more frequent trips to Europe for decades now.

    Now time to take cover and duck fire!

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    this all said if it were my first visit to this wondrous area I would stay up in the hills, like in Grindelwald, my favorite mountain village in the area - no not as church mouse quiet as say Wengen or Murren, perpetual favorites among Fodorites which if looking for solitude are excellent bets - but Grindelwald offers stunning views of the glacier-girdled Jungfrau Massif that abruptly rises from the Grindelwald bowl - a wide valley streching miles either way but always up - you can see glaciers from town and even easily walk to them - but Grindelwald also has some action which I enjoy - especially legions of hikers and alpinists basing here.

    And Grindelwald has an apres-ski or apres-hiking scene to for folks who like nightlife.

    But the views cannot be beat and I think for a first-timer it is most awesome to base up in the hills - but Interlaken to me is now my favorite base because I like more real cities and it also has great views. The hotel I always stay at offers balcony views of the Jungfrau Massif seen across meadows - a more bucolic view than close up ones from like Grindelwald but unique in its own way.

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    kja..thanks for your response. I speak of Interlaken as of three years ago, as Palenque says. Pictures speak a thousand word, so here are my amateur Swiss pix which include some pretty River Aare views, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Wengen, etc. Having been all the way to top levels of Jungfrau many decades ago, we skipped it on this trip.(This was October).

    H and H are finalizing their spring tour and Syd would be most happy to see you again. I was in NYC a few days after Sandy hit but I made it to H and H performing in Brooklyn..a sweet and mellow show, Pete's Candy Store, small room. In the "off season" here in SoCal Syd sits in with one of our five Tower family bands..my oldest grandson's "Pullmen", also featured on the H and H web pages...they're pretty wild and you can click on one of their selections. Will notify you when H an H schedule is firm.

    K...I'm sure your trip will come together like all of your plans do, and you'll do us all proud to follow your visit to uber-scenic Switzerland. Best wishes for happy holidays..then go back to serious work to finalize your plans!!Hear?

    Stu

    https://picasaweb.google.com/stuarttower/SwitzerlandBernerOberland2009#

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    My sincere apologies to Interlaken and all who know and love it! Thanks, PalenQ and Stu, for correcting my misperceptions.


    ➢ PalenQ

    And thanks, too, for confirming that despite Interlaken’s merits, it would make more sense for me to stay higher up.


    ➢ Tower

    I so enjoy seeing the world through your eyes! Thanks for sharing your pics.

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    Thanks KJA...I've been scanning in my spare time, all of my pre-digital pics..and with the Picasa editing function, they come out quite passable.I think it's an effective way of familiarizing posters with various regions in countries throughout the world. In some cases I mix in pictures from way back when, to go along with the digitals...serves to help with comparisons between each era.
    stu

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    The train stop for Muottas Muragl is right between (one stop away from either) Samedan and Pontresina. In case you stay in Pontresina it would be easier to check into your hotel, then head for Muottas Muragl.

    There are two options for a hike/walk between Maloja and Silvaplana, on either side of the lakes. My first choice, however, would be the hike Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard (if funicular and chair lift are open).

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    Very interesting thread.

    kja - it sounds like in some respects we have similar traveling styles, although the more I travel, the more I value several night stays -used as bases - rather than moving each night. So I have a question for you. It sounds like you plan to see several things 'on the way' between hotels. How do you manage your luggage when you do that? Obviously the parts where you have a car it's not much of an issue but when traveling by train it is. I travel with just one 20" rolling bag for month long trips but you can't really sight see even with that amount.

    There are definite pros and cons to having base towns versus a new location each night, and you have pointed out the pros of the moving each night (no wasted time backtracking, seeing places at night and early morning, etc.). But in the case of the BO I think staying in Interlaken makes a lot of sense. The mountains are so weather dependent in order to get a good experience, if you plan just two or three days up in one of the mountain towns that most people advocate staying in, and then it's cloudy, then you are out of luck. We spent five nights in Interlaken and did three day trips into the mountains, and two days trips on the lake (to Bern, Thun, Spiez). Each morning we were able to look at the weather and decide if it was a 'mountain day' or not, and the days it wasn't we had good alternative of things to do. Would have been nice if it were sunny all five days, but it wasn't (we were there in July). Just something to think about.

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    How I enjoy checking this thread each day and finding new gems each time--thanks one and all!


    ➢ tower

    Effective, indeed! I know I’m not alone in finding your pictures a great introduction to many places.


    ➢ castlevisitor

    Isn’t this board great!?! I’m glad this thread is proving useful to you, too. Feel free to jump in with what you are learning or wondering about, and if you start a thread of your own, do consider cross-linking it. Many happy travels!


    ➢ ingo

    Again, many thanks! The hike from Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard looks very appealing. If I’m reading correctly, it’s not too difficult and would likely take maybe 2 or 3 hours? Sounds perfect for the day I go to the top of Muottas Muragl; I’m very glad you brought my attention to it. (And it sounds better than the Philosophenweg, which I had been considering. Do you agree?)

    The hike I read about (so far) from Maloja to Silvaplana is described as about 14 km, taking 3 or 3.5 hours, passing through Segl-Maria before reaching the western edge of Lake Silvaplana. Since I’m looking for relatively easy, scenic hikes of 4 hours or less, I thought it made sense to consider. Do you recommend the hike along one side of the lakes as opposed to the other?


    ➢ Isabel

    Hi, Isabel - I know we’ve traveled to many of the same places, and I have a deep admiration for your talent with a camera: Your photographs always either bring fond memories to mind or inspire future journeys. Thanks so much for sharing them!

    One of the things about traveling in Switzerland that I greatly appreciate is that many/most train stations there have luggage lockers and/or left luggage desks. And you can even find out which stations have these services, the hours of left-luggage desks, and the dimensions and numbers of lockers on-line. Makes visiting places en route an option! (BTW, I haven’t yet checked all of my proposed stops, so I may be overly optimistic about some of the en-route visits I’m considering at this point.)

    Thanks for adding your observations to the range of opinions I’ve been receiving about where to stay in the Bernese Oberland. I am hoping to stay long enough wherever I end up to maximize my chance of at least one clear day. I definitely have lots of options for other enjoyable activities. I’m still weighing my options….

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    for JoannyC (on 21 Dec),

    I'm not sure what exactly I can say -- the cliffs overhang the town and cast the town into darkness. I guess it's like being inside an old, tall, dark house. Gloomy.

    s

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    The hike Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard is definitely more scenic/better than the Philosophenweg. I'd calculate 3 hours with the photos stops and maybe a picnic somewhere along the way. Please note: Both Muottas Muragl (funicular) and Alp Languard (chair lift) start summer season on 08 June.

    As for the hike Maloja - Silvaplana: I guess what you're talking about is a part of the "Via Engiadina" - along the western side of the valley. I'd say it takes closer to 3 - 3.30 hours. Yes, it's a quite nice hike, but not the most scenic IMO. However, that early in the season the most scenic hikes are not doable, unfortunately. So it seems to be a good choice.

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    ➢ Ingo

    Again, invaluable feedback--thanks so much! I will definitely keep that date in mind as I plan my travels.


    ➢ PalenQ

    I hope you don’t mind if I follow up on some comments you made on another thread:

    • You mentioned the Chocolate Train. I haven’t crossed that off my list, and even if I do, I’m considering whether/where to include a cheese or chocolate-making demonstration somewhere on my journey. I generally find “how-to” demos interesting—I always learn a lot, and the tastings often include some delicious tidbits. But the train and its two demos sound a bit “Willy Wonka-esque” (even if I didn’t think of that label until you supplied it). Still, it sounds like you can see their merits. Any further comments?

    • I hadn’t considered hopping on the Golden Pass for a quick trip from Montreux to Gstaad and back—what an interesting idea! If I have a clear day, I can imagine enjoying that. If I do, does it matter whether I actually get the Golden Pass, rather than other trains on that route? And should I make sure I go as far as Gstaad?

    Thanks in advance!

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    I just realized that a day-trip from Montreux to Gstaad and back would make no sense for me. But if the weather is good, it might make a lot of sense for me to take the scenic Goldenpass (or other train on that route) from Montreux to Gstaad and then a train from Gstaad to Gruyeres.

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    But the train and its two demos sound a bit “Willy Wonka-esque”>

    I have actually never take the official Chocolate Train itself but taken regular trains over the same route - visiting the cheese factory in Gruyeres on my own - it is a self-visit type thing and touring the factory with groups that show up.

    The Chocolate train is rather expensive with a hefty supplement so I decided to do it on my own - the train cars are Belle Epoque vintage ones and there are trappings of luxury that I do not care for. So I do not know what the cheese and chocolate experiences are on the train and you can do the trip yourself on other trains.

    To me the factory tour was OK but not worth going out of my way for - taking the Golden Pass to Gstaad and Gruyeres and back to Lausanne from there makes sense - spend as long as you wish in the wondrously gorgeous town of Gruyeres.

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    Do NOT backtrack to Chur. Skip it.

    There's a magnificent drive from Upper Engadin over the Ofenpass, to Mustair, go into Italy, stop in the walled town of Glurns, continue over the Restenpass and then head back into Switzerland driving through Sent, Scuol, Ardez and ending in Guarda. Then drive back to the Upper Engadin. You can easily do it in a day from the Engadin.

    Personally, I think Zermatt should be on your list if you're staying that long but that my opinion.

    I find Rheinfalls terribly overrated and can easily be scratched from your itinerary.

    Stein am Rhein is very quaint and small but it's also out of the way so you might want to reconsider it.

    There's not much to see in Zürich so you might want to add a few days to your Tessin itinerary. It's lovely in Ascona / Lugano during March because spring comes earlier in the south.

    You might want to leave some flexibility in your itinerary. A successful tour of Switzerland depends greatly on the weather. Bad weather in the mountains can mean zero visibility. You can get some amazing weather during the time you're here or you might not. Nobody knows.

    Are you staying in hostels? They are very good in Switzerland.

    Good luck.

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    Lots of great travel advice and good opinions.

    It seems each of us has our favorite things.

    I lived in Switzerland for 4 years and traveled around quite a bit. Much of the time I traveled solo and found it very easy to do so. I almost always used the train/bus system. You can stay in fairly reasonable places and find them safe, clean, and comfortable unlike in some other countries.

    I have my own loves and they include:

    For the beauty and hiking (every level):

    Murren (this is a favorite of mine and where I would have a second home if I could)
    Wengen
    Guarda - walk to Ardez and beyond... Love Guarda...idyllic
    Fex Valley - but have only been in the snow - magical

    I have also enjoyed Ascona - although it was a tricky place for finding an accommodation that pleased us. The views and walk up to the top of the ridge at the end of town were gorgeous however. A good place to head to find the sunshine should it escape you elsewhere.

    Although the Italian lake region (Como) is very scenic, for some reason I never "warmed" to it as much as the other areas. Just me I'm sure...I'm also not as wild about Italy as many on Fodor's are.

    Have taken the Bernina Express many times and am never disappointed. Bring a picnic and some wine. In the Engadin, I am partial to Pontresina. Not keen at all on San Moritz.

    I loved the William Tell Express which includes a really spectacular boat trip - pick a sunny day however. http://www.raileurope.com/european-trains/william-tell-express/index.html



    Zermatt is not my favorite town per se, but the Matterhorn is definitely a kick and worth a trip.

    I love art and have enjoyed so many lovely museums all over Switzerland. In Basel do not miss:

    Kunstmuseum
    www.kunstmuseumbasel.ch/en/home/

    Fondation Beyeler (a favorite of mine)
    www.fondationbeyeler.ch/.../...

    I lived in Zürich and worked in Bern. They each have their charms although I think many people never see most of them. I'm not sure why. We loved Zürich. Charming and lovely with plenty to see and do IME. I also loved Fribourg and the old town of Zug. The art museums in both cities (Zürich and Bern) are also quite nice. Also loved a small Impressionist museum in Lausanne. http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/lausanne-hermitage-foundation.html

    Lucerne has a few very nice museums as well....my favorite is the Sammlung Rosengart - was fortunate to meet Angela Rosengart there once when I ran into a journalist friend interviewing her. It was a real thrill!


    I think it would be hard not to love Switzerland - enjoy!!! If you look under gruezi you may find a report or two of mine...

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    Oh YAYYYYY!!!

    I posted this and then my screen went blank with an error message from Fodor's. I thought all that was lost... glad the Fodor's gremlins found it and it posted.

    Have a good trip kja...

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    Oh, how I love this board! I had thought that my thread had come to the end of it’s useful life. And then today, in the midst of the holiday season, I found several more wonderful packages waiting to be opened. It’s as if Santa came! Thanks so much!


    ➢ PalenQ

    Thanks again – your comments are most assuredly helping me plan my trip!


    ➢ schuler

    Thanks so much for chiming in!

    The drive you describe from the Upper Engadine to Mustair, and then through a bit of Italy into the Lower Engadine, sounds wonderful. That said, I think I’ve now been convinced that I can manage my trip without a car, so that’s what I’m most likely to do.

    I’m very glad that you shared your perspective on the Rheinfalls and Stein am Rhein. I’ve done a bit more research since reading your words, and I am now very seriously considering skipping them (and so skipping Schaffhausen, too). In the face of my seemingly ever-growing wishlist for Switzerland, identifying something that I might actually drop from my plans is very much appreciated.

    In contrast, I find it hard to imagine spending less than 2 full days in Zurich. In fact, the more I learn, the greater the difficulty I have imagining that I’ll be able to fit everything I want to do there into just 2 days! I’m looking forward to savoring its museums and churches, exploring its quays and botanical garden, getting out onto the lake (even if briefly) and, of course, just roaming its Old Town. Am I miscalculating the time these activities are likely to take?

    As you and so many others have been careful to note, weather might not cooperate with my sightseeing plans. I realize that I need to ensure that I have enough time in the areas where I most want to see mountains so that I have at least some chance of doing so. So far, I’m thinking that the Bernese Oberland and the Engadine are the two areas where I would most like to seek some panoramic experiences. (If you think there are other areas that would be better, don’t hesitate to say so!) I’m trying to come up with an itinerary that gives me at least a few days in each area, so I can take advantage of a clear day (or two) if available, while still having lots of things to see and do on the other days. When I post my revised plans, I hope you’ll comment!

    (BTW, on the decades-ago trip during which I visited Lucerne, I also visited Innsbruck for a day. It didn’t clear enough for me to see the Alps surrounding Innsbruck until I was on the train on the way out of town. I felt so lucky to have gotten that last-minute glimpse! Still, the overcast skies didn’t stop me from going to the top of Mt. Hafelekar earlier that day. I spent several hours there hoping for a break in the clouds. With the exception of a few seconds-long glimpses, it didn’t happen. Nonetheless, my time at the top of that mountain was one of my all-time most memorable travel experiences, with an ethereal other-worldliness to it that I would never have expected. Such an unexpected treat!)

    And that brings me to your comments on Zermatt: Much as I would like to see the Matterhorn, I haven’t identified enough things that appeal to me to make it worth blocking out several days for that area, particularly given the things I would have to skip elsewhere to free up time in/around Zermatt. But I’m still learning about my options, so by all means, feel free to offer suggestions!

    And thanks for making sure that I am aware of Switzerland’s hostels—I have heard wonderful things about them. Nonetheless, I’ll be seeking the greater privacy of en-suite rooms for single use. I know that this will be an expensive trip (I’m sure I’ll stop hyperventilating about the costs soon—it never takes more than a few moments after I start thinking of them), even if I manage to book rooms that are on Switzerland’s more affordable side. Any and all suggestions are welcome!


    ➢ gruezi

    I’m so very pleased that you, too, have chosen to share your thoughts with me—many thanks! And I’m VERY glad that your comments weren’t lost to cyberspace—I hate when that happens!

    As you note, I’ve been getting some wonderfully informative advice, for which I am very grateful. Of course there have been some divergent opinions: Wouldn’t it be awful if we all traveled for the same reasons and had the same reactions to everything? Vive la différence! My challenge (any traveller’s challenge) is to sift through the comments to figure out what best matches one’s own interests….

    Murren, Wengen, Guarda, and Ardez (and the walk from Guarda to Ardez) are all currently on my must-see list, so I’m very glad to hear you affirm their merits. Fribourg is on my must-see list, too. And I appreciate the 2nd vote for Ascona—from what I have learned so far, it would be a better choice for me than Locarno. And I’m so glad to hear that you are fond of Pontresina!

    Fex Valley sounds wonderful, too, although I must admit that it only came to my attention recently when ingo mentioned it. (There’s so much I still have to learn about Switzerland!) I haven’t found much about it in my guidebooks and am still trying to learn more and figure out whether it will work into my plans or not. Hearing that you found it magical in snow makes me think that at the very least I should consider it as a worthy option if I encounter snow while in the area.

    The Bernina Express is now as close to writ-in-stone as anything I’m considering for this trip, so again, I’m glad to hear that you commend it, too. (I just made sure that my planning file noted that I should bring a picnic meal and wine – thanks!) My goal will be to get on the Bernina Express north of Thusis, probably in Chur, to make sure that I go through the area around the Albula Pass where the technological feats for which the route is known are most evident.

    As for the Italian Lake district, well, it would seem that my effort to maximize the diversity of my trip would fall short if I weren’t to include at least some parts of the French, German, AND Italian sections of the country! More to the point, I’ve hoped to visit the Ticino for a very long time, so I’ll be glad to finally see it with my own eyes.

    For my transit from Locarno (or Ascona) back into the heart of Switzerland, do you think it worth taking the William Tell Express rather than any other train on that same route? I wasn’t planning to take the last leg on the lake, because when I visited Lucerne many years ago, I took a delightful multi-hour boat ride that was, fortunately, on a spectacularly sunny day. I made it as far as Rutli (with a brief stop in Rutli Meadow—so moving!) before I had to return to Lucerne. Much as I’d love to be back on that body of water, I was thinking that getting off the train earlier might be a way to allow myself a bit more time in the Bernese Oberland.

    Re: Zermatt – Please see my comments to schuler that immediately precede these notes to you. If there’s a reasonable way to make a view of the Matterhorn a part of my trip, I’m open to hearing it!

    In Basel, the Kunstmuseum and Fondation Beyeler are most decidely on my agenda, along with several notable museums in Zürich and Bern, and museums in Winterthur and Geneva and… (When I introduced myself by saying that I enjoy art and museums, I meant it!) Just last night, I learned that Lausanne’s Fondation de l'Hermitage will, during the time that I am likely to be in the area, have a special exhibition of paintings through the ages that feature windows. I don’t know if I can see it; I am sure that I would like to! One of my goals when planning an itinerary is ensuring that I can visit my highest priority museums, which are sometimes closed on Mondays. I can’t always plan around that, but I sure do try!

    And, oh, this is really weird, but seriously, one of the reasons I’m blocking out some time to return to Lucerne is to see the Sammlung Rosengart—it sounds quite special. Again, I’m so glad you confirmed its merits. (How wonderful it must have been for you, as someone who obviously appreciates art and its accessibility, to meet Angela Rosengart! Awesome!)

    “…also loved the old town of Zug.” I’ve heard about Zug, but haven’t heard a recommendation to see it. I’ll look into it!

    “I think it would be hard not to love Switzerland” -- Me, too, That’s why I’m going!


    Thanks all!

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    It's too early for the Fex Valley. The restaurants and hotels there will still be closed, no horse-drawn carriages yet to go into the valley. And there is not enough time for everything in the Engadine anyway.

    I have some pages on places in Switzerland on Virtualtourist.com which may help you with planning:

    St. Moritz
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/4166c/a88f9/
    Scuol
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/4166c/a8885/
    Müstair
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/4166c/a8b3c/
    Poschiavo
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/4166c/a8a16/
    Soglio
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/4166c/a8843/
    Basel
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/4166c/a919b/
    Zürich
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/4166c/a8632/

    A town which wasn't mentioned so far (I think) is Solothurn - well worth your time:
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/4166c/a8840/

    You can go from Müstair to Scuol via Italy as suggested by schuler by public transportation (bus), too. Takes about 2 hours, e.g. leave about noon and arrival at 2 pm. Changes in Mals/Italy and Martina, Switzerland. Since these buses run every hour you are free to stop somewhere along the way and do some sightseeing. Glurns is nice, worth an hour, Mals, too. But that opens another can of worms, meaning possibilities ;-)

    I.

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    ➢ Ingo

    What great web pages! Thanks so much for making sure I saw them (I hadn’t). I’ve only given them a quick glance so far, but I can see that they are filled with all sorts of useful info (including some hotel/B&B recommendations that look intriguing—and reasonably affordable! ☺). And you’ve included some truly stunning pictures – awesome! Your love of the region comes through every word and every photograph. BTW, I had already planned to visit Zurich’s Toy Museum (I’m a sucker for toy museums) and enjoyed reading your description of it.

    Although it hasn’t been mentioned, Solothurn has been part of my plan, even if for just a few hours. Thanks for making sure I didn’t forget it!

    Fex Valley is officially off my list. (At last—something I can skip without further research! Perhaps I’ll be able to return to Switzerland someday….)

    At this point in my planning, I’ve managed to add far more things to my wish-list than I’ve deleted. And that means that even if I figure out a way to add some time to my trip, I still have too much to see. I’m considering giving up Appenzell and St. Gallen (sigh)….

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    kja,

    Perhaps you could switch things around a bit when you arrive too. Reservations are a good idea, but not necessarily carved in stone should you find something more appealing or the weather holds nicely somewhere and you want to stay...

    Weather is such a problem in Switzerland - when the sun shines it is so magnificent. But 3 days of gray gloom in Zürich can be, well, gloomy.

    Regarding Zürich - I think 2-3 days is good. You can see a lot in a short time as it is very walkable. But do walk - much can only be enjoyed that way. I don't understand all those that skip Zürich, as to me it is one of the world's most lovely small cities. But, others feel differently. Just the lake and hiking and a boat ride could fill a day or two - without even spending time in the old town - which has two parts on either side of the Limmat... There is a small square (Lindenhof) up above the Limmat that looks out over the old town area - do walk up hill and enjoy it.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rainprel/4833587707/

    Since you like art be sure to visit the stained glass windows done by Chagall - try for a sunny day and check opening times. A must see in my opinion. But, like you, I love art...

    http://www.sacred-destinations.com/switzerland/zurich-fraumunster

    The art museum in Zürich is under construction I've heard, but knowing the Swiss they will have figured out a way to make this wonderful collection somehow accessible. There is a small bit of everything there...

    Do look for works by Hodler as you travel about - I knew nothing of him before living in Switzerland but came to love his work. In Bern they had a special retrospective a few years ago that I just loved - he painted a lot of scenes from the death of his wife from cancer... I'm an oncology nurse and he really captured this painful time. On the other spectrum, his paintings of the mountains are so alive with vibrant colors - cheerful and bright... Also in Bern - Paul Klee - an entire interesting museum dedicated to him. You need to take a bus outside the city to get there - not too long and interesting trip if you like him. Same with Fondation Beyeler in Basel - although that is a MUST just for the setting and building - the smallish collection is wonderful too and worth the 30 minutes or so tram outside the city.

    Do you like glass? there is a trip by boat from Lucerne to Glasi Hergiswil - a glassworks. I mention it more for the little museum which is all automated and very "swiss" since you said you liked toys... and this is a great spot for souvenirs and a pretty setting on the lake. http://www.glasi.ch/index.php?id=2&L=1. The website does not do the setting justice...

    I would do the William Tell if the weather is nice and skip if not. It is an amazing trip and even if you saw it years ago worth a revisit as your memory can only recall so many gorgeous views.

    In Guarda I always stay here as it is reasonable and comfortable with a lovely breakfast and gorgeous view:

    http://www.hotel-meisser.ch/go.cfm?home&language=EN#

    Hotel Meisser has single rooms at a very good price and cozy and cute. Family owned.

    It is a couple hours walk (lovely) from there through Ardez to Ftan where you can lunch at this pricier and very elegant hotel:

    http://www.paradieshotel.ch/en/das-hideaway-im-engadin/

    Eat outside if sunny, or downstairs in the pine paneled room if not. Special. You can take the train from there back to Guarda if your luggage is left behind or probably send your luggage ahead if you ask.

    Well, I'm not due back to Switzerland until at least the spring and I'm very much enjoying helping you plan your trip!!!

    Enjoy!

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    ➢ gruezi

    Thanks for your many recommendations!

    I definitely plan on exploring Zurich (and the other cities I see) on foot. For me, that’s a core part of exploring any place! And thanks for making sure that key museums and works of art (like the Chagall windows) are on my list – they are! I am familiar with Hodler and (of course) Klee and am looking forward to seeing their work as I travel around the country.

    “I'm an oncology nurse” – wow, such a difficult and incredibly important job. Kudos! My brother recently some some of Hodler’s paintings of his wife during her battle with cancer; he also found them very moving.

    I was not familiar with the Glasi Hergiswil and am glad you mentioned it. I have many fond memories of watching glass being made in Venice and Murano.

    I’ve added Ftan in my walk from Guarda through Ardez – I’m so looking forward to that day!

    And thanks for bringing your trip reports to my attention – very enjoyable! I’ve made notes about your restaurant recommendations (feel free to add other suggestions!) and your many other helpful observiations.

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    Get the Swiss Pass....forget the car.

    Travel to places where the weather is good. Wing it. The local tourist office will find you the best housing prices. or go to groupon Switzerland for best deals.

    In no particular order definitely visit....

    St Moritz, Lugano, Lucerne, Zurich, Zermatt, Lauterbrunnen Valley, Lausanne,Gstaad Zermatt, Interlaken

    Prost.

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    ➢ sam

    The car is forgotten; Swiss Pass it is!

    “Travel to places where the weather is good.” Are weather predictions in Switzerland sufficiently accurate to use as a basis for planning travel? I was under the impression that the weather would generally be somewhat less predictable.

    “The local tourist office will find you the best housing prices” – I am very glad that tourist offices continue to offer accommodation options to travelers. I am even more pleased that I no longer avail myself of those services! I clearly remember waiting in lines, sometimes for hours, only to find that the prices were higher than I expected for lodging that was less convenient than I had hoped. And although most places turned out to be at least minimally satisfactory, there were a few places (not in Switzerland!) that were so horrendous that I felt trapped because I knew it would take hours and hours to get back to the tourist information office and make other arrangements. So I must admit that I love being able to book in advance! (I did make one recent trip without advance reservations – a journey to China in 2010 – but doing so was outside my comfort zone, and the circumstances of that trip were quite different than this one.)

    My current plan is to try to make reservations that can be cancelled with no more than 24 hours advance notice; consider adjusting my plans as necessary; and trust that I will find much to enjoy, fair weather or foul.

    Thanks for sharing your recommendations and your list of favorite Swiss destinations. Happy travels!

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    Kja you are helping me with advice for Turkey. In 2010 we spent 3 and a bit weeks in Switzerland then 2 plus in Provence. Swiss pass is way to go. Swiss tansportation so efficient. We did go in early September when you could access all the walks in the mountains. We flew to Zurich but went straight to Appenzell area. Did some hiking Inn to Inn. We then went to Bernese Oberland area and stayed in Wengen. Rented a condo. Loved being up above the valley. Went everywhere using trains, liftes etc. Jungfrau on a sunny day is worth every penny. Starting from Wengen you can get the jump on the crowds. On a cloudy day we used swiss pass and went on lake from Interlaken to Thun which I quite liked for a small city. Interlaken was very commercial but still worth a wander through and has big Co=op grocery. We stayed in a condo in Zermatt as well for 3 nights then went onto Vevey on Lake geneve. Used swiss pass to ride boats all over lake , great fun and walk trails through vineyards, combination of trains and boats all on Swiss pass. Took regular train to Gruyere but was really disappointed, was a major tourist trap but had been told to get directions from TA to walk from there down the hill at the back and along river and pathways to Broc chocolate factory. The view of Gruyere from a distance was it's best feature. The chocolate factory was super. We took regular train back but transfered to golden train and it was full so they put us in first class to Montreaux but didn't think it was a big deal.We visited Lausanne from Vevey as well. Stayed one night in Geneva to catch train to France. Are you set on June as Mountain areas will still have a lot of snow and early September rates drop for a lot of place to stay. Good luck

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    ➢ Whistler North

    Thanks for sharing a bit about your experiences! I hope my comments provided some information that was useful to you as you plan your time in Turkey, and I really appreciate that you have taken the time to provide input to me on my plans for Switzerland. The chance to both get and give is one of the great things about Fodors forums, isn’t it?

    It sounds like you had a wonderful trip to Switzerland! You visited several of the places I hope to see, and I always find it reassuring to learn that others enjoyed places I’m hoping to spend some time. Given your comments, I’ll definitely read a bit more about Gruyeres. If I still go there, the idea of walking from Gruyeres to Broc is intriguing! Do you remember how long it took?

    I’m still developing my plan, but currently expect to skip both Appenzell (argh!) and Zermatt (argh!) to free up time for the Engandine. Switzerland offers so many opportunities that I’m really finding it hard to pick and choose!

    For better or worse, I am pretty much wedded to a May/June trip, unless I postpone my trip to 2015 or later – and I really don’t want to do that! I’m hoping this time frame will serve me reasonably well: I love wildflowers and think I’ll have a decent chance of seeing some in the Bernese Oberland. And I can imagine worse things than seeing the Alps in their “winter whites!” I probably won’t spend any time in the mountains until at least the 2nd week of June, so there’s a reasonable chance (I think! I hope!) that I’ll only see snow from a distance. Fortunately, my super lightweight, travel-worthy walking/hiking shoes are Goretex-lined. ☺

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    I know the Engadine is much lower.I'm not sure the flowers will be out that early elsewhere or even there. I live in the mountains in Canada and flowers are not until much later.Put a post on the Swiss trip advisor forum as they have a lot of people that give good advice. I think the hike was about hour to hour and a half, we grabbed a bite in Broc, not too much selection there. We were too early in Gruyere to consider eating there. It was a full day excursion from Vevey.

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