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Trip Report Switzerland/Iceland...great trip!

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We returned last Saturday from our trip to Switzerland, with a 2 day stopover in Iceland. It was absolutely fantastic. If you are interested in the day by day details and the photos, please feel free to check out my blog here http://switzerlandbytrain.blogspot.com/. Clicking on the photos will take you to the picasa album with larger displays of the pics.

I do want to thank everybody for their help, and to mention some bits about the travel practicalities here and such in hopes it will somehow aid future travelers.

We used Icelandair Boston-Reykjavik on Wednesday evening; Reykjavik-Zurich on Saturday morning; Zurich-Reykjavik-Boston on a Saturday adternoon. We booked economy comfort on the way out, but as they were out of that we booked business class on the way home. Compared to other airlines, the economy plus and business class are VERY reasonably priced. economy comfort basically gives you 3 seats for the price of 2, plus access to the business class lounge. This all worked out great for us, and I have no problem recommending Icelandair if it works for you. We escaped any strike issues as well, so no flight disruptions whatsover. I will use Icelandair again, even without the stayover. In particular, we managed to do this without any overnight flights, and this eased the jet lag tremendously. Made the whole trip better.

Iceland is a cool place. Very different, and definitely worth visiting. We didn't do a lot, but we enjoyed our 2 days.We saw Reykjavik, took a puffin cruise, and did the Golden Circle tour. It was cloudy and a little drizzly, but we had a good time. I would enjoy a longer visit and seeing some of the more distant areas.

Iphone And Switzerland: the questions about using the smart phone overseas comes up a lot, so I thought I would address what we did. Before we left, I had my iphone 4s unlocked by AT&T. this is possible if your phone is fully paid for. It requires a phone call (or online form) to AT&T, then you have to do a full reset (backup all data to cloud or local computer, set to factory defaults, then restore). When we arrived in Zurich I went to the Swisscom store in the Zurich airport train station, but they were fresh out of microsims for the iphone 4. It was Saturday and late afternoon before we got to Lucerne, so I was not able to do this until Monday. I guess that's one argument for trying to get a sim before you leave. In any case, Monday I got to the swisscom store in Lucerne and bought a "pay as you go" microsim. It was a great deal...I spent 20 CHF. For that I got the sim card, 100MB of data, and a 20CHF credit towards everything else. Local calls were 60cents a minute, texts were 50 cents (I think), and an additional 100MB could be bought for 9CHF. I ended up buying 2 more 100MB packages at 18CHF, and using a couple of bucks worth of local calls, basically using up my credit. I had excellent coverage everywhere, even the top of Jungfraujoch. I loved having the access to the swiss train schedule app, in particular, so figuring out when the next train/boat/bus was going to arrive was always possible. This was probably $100 cheaper than doing the same thing via AT&T international.

Swiss pass: we bought the first class, 15 day swiss pass. I have not done the math to figure out if we got our moneys worth, but we used so many boats, trains and buses as well as a few museum admissions that I would be surprised if we did not. I loved the ease of use...never bought tickets for anything except for a couple of the mountain top trains. And we did things we might not have if they weren't covered...like late afternoon in Montreux, we both had sore feet and decided rather than hanging out and resting in our room, we'd just hop on the lake boat and do a loop. We bought a bottle of wine and a cheese plate on board the boat, and relaxed and watched the scenery. Or when I got tired while walking around Bern, I saw a tram that said "Hautbahnhof" and just jumped on.

First class cars were never full. In fact, they were usually nearly empty. First class on the boats is definitely worth it. I think 2nd class is fine, but we enjoyed the space and peace and quiet in first class. I would think in busier tourist season it would be even more worth it.

It rained the day we took the Golden pass train from Zweissimen to Montreux. It was still really cool to be int \he front row VIP seats. Certainly worth the small reservation fee ($15 CHF each).

We used the swiss fast baggage service twice. in both cases for various reason we had to give it an overnight before we could pick up. But it worked out well for us.

The Chocolate Train: yes, definitely touristy. Yes definitely you could do this day on your own with not too much trouble. But the Belle Epoque train cars are really nice, with extra comfortable seats. And we rather enjoyed letting someone else do the planning for that day, we just went where we were supposed to go. I would say the only disadvantage is we did not get as much time in the town of Gruyere as we might have liked. One note that for a group tour, this didn't feel as "herded around" as we would often feel. You are on your own most of the time, or on self guided tours. It was a good day..worth the money? perhaps not entirely but it worked for us.

Getting to Zermatt: we didn't plan an overnight in Zermatt, but I really wanted to go see the Matterhorn. We ended up doing it the day we were traveling from Montreux to Wengen. We sent our luggage on the fast baggage service to Wengen, though we still had some carryon bags. We checked the webcams first thing in the morning, and the forecast was good and the skies were clear, so we went ahead with it. Train from Montreux to Visp, then Visp to Zermatt. Stash the carryon bags in a locker, then walk across the street and get tickets for the Gornergrat. Up to the top, and just WOW. https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/EHOwH_SYujs7_cMIloQK-_LBSSwFBwLdInmwcX7e-X0?feat=directlink

then we came back down. Got our bags, got back on the train to Visp. From there it was a train to Spiez, one to Interlaken Ost, another train to Lauterbrunnen, and finally the cog rail up to Wengen. It was approximately 6 1/2 hours on trains. But it was entirely worth it for me. I was happy to check off the Matterhorn on my bucket list.

I guess that's it. As I said, there is way more detail on the blow by blow stuff in my blog. Feel free to comment here or any questions I can possibly help with, I'd be happy to.

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