15 days in Switzerland

Jul 18th, 2019, 09:22 PM
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15 days in Switzerland

I havenít really written anything like this before, so apologies if this isnít the most elegant recount of our Switzerland trip. Overall we had a fantastic time, but I realize that, in hindsight, we may not have maximized some of the days to the extent that we could have given the helpful suggestions from Fodorís travel experts and enthusiasts. To that end, Iím a little regretful. However, we really thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scenery and culture and feel obliged to share some of our experiences. Below is a condensed summary of our daily itinerary.

Thank you all very much who has participated and contributed to the related thread for helping make this trip possible with special thanks and gratitude to the following great contributors and posters: dugi_otok, Hambagahle, neckervd, Nelson, and PalenQ.

So our daily itinerary is based on the extended planning via Fodors travel forum as mentioned. Our route is as follows: Zurich- Sion- Martigny (1 night)- Chamonix (3 nights)- Montreux (3 nights)- Grindelwald (5 nights)- Lucerne (2 nights)- Zurich (1 night)

Please follow the attached link to find photos we took along this trip (marked by day): http://switzerlandtrip86.shutterfly.com/

Day 1 Zurich- Sion

We arrived in Zurich at ~8 am on a sunny morning and took the train from the station at the airport to Sion, using the Swiss Travel Pass. The train was quite empty, seats are comfortable and spacious as second class cabin with clean toilets. The whole train ride took 2 and half hours and we arrived in Sion around noon. There were lockers at the train station to store luggage as suggested by experts on the forum and itís a short walk to the city center with tourist information and maps available. Church Valere and the Ruin of Castle Tourbillon were a 10-minute walk uphill from city center and surprisingly empty at this time of the day. The staircases were easy to climb for both sites, which are next to each other on two hills. The views of the town and valley with surrounding mountains atop were fantastic. The little church has beautiful fresco wall decorations. There was an annual spring art festival going on at the time that yielded entertaining scene and art/food stalls. There were a number of nice restaurants on the path to the site. Coming down after enjoying the views, with a quick bite, we took the train (13 minute ride) to Martigny. We stayed at Martigny Boutique Hotel, a newly renovated hotel with functional room, bathroom, shower etc. and convenient location (walking distance to train station). We found all our hotels on the trip, regardless of size, to be quite comfortable.

Day 2 Martigny -Chamonix

We stored our luggage at the train station in the morning, which turns out to be readily available and convenient at all stations in Switzerland. The morning started with some drizzle. We decided to take a route to Ch‚teau de la B‚tiaz first, then to City Center - Foundation Gianadda Ė Amphitheater. The walk up to the castle was on a wide flat road, which was roughly 20 minutesí walk up to the top, the view down to Martigny area is beautiful, likely more beautiful with better visibility. There are roughly 100 steps on a spiral staircase which leads you up to the top of the structure and demonstrates the superb construction of the castle; definitely our highlight for the day. Then walked down to the city center which was lined with quaint churches, historical buildings, restaurants and the town hall. Foundation Gianadda is around 15 minutesí walk from city center, we got inside the museum with free entrance, it was in a nice setting, did not spend too much time (not so keen to see paintings), came to the garden when there was sun coming out. After visiting the garden, which holds a number of cool sculptures, we walked to the Amphitheater, a roman remnant still in use today. We finished the day and got on the 4:45 Mont-Blanc express train to Chamonix, a comfortable ride with beautiful sceneries (all cabins are sightseeing cabins on the train). Arrived at Chamonix just past 6 pm and exited out from the train station, we were amazed by the little townís special setting Ė surrounded by the gigantic snowcapped mountains. Easy 10 minutesí walk to the hotel, hotel room has mountain views on the balcony, good buffet breakfast, with reasonable price. We ate the dinner at La Telecabine referred by the hotel receptionist, not fancy but really good food.

Day 3 Chamonix

Cloudy and rainy day. We were told the cable cars going up to Aiguille de Midi were opened only a few hours the day prior due to the lack of visibility but we decided to go up anyway. As expected, we couldnít see much, but we made the most out of it by riding up on the cable car and exploring a little on top. We walked around a town a bit, a cute tourist town with some nice shops and restaurants.

Day 4 Chamonix

Another cloudy/rainy day. We decided to stick with the original plan of taking Montenvers train and hiking, but in hindsight, may have been better go to Annecy for a day trip instead, on one of these two days because of the weather.

We took a 10 am red cogwheel train up to Montenvers, with heavy fog all the way up. We spent a few minutes on top, most people would take cable car down to Mer de Glace, there were groups of people taking the same train would do hiking training on this day. We walked towards to Montenvers Grand Hotel, from there we located the trail starting point and decided to hike up before rain started. The trail was a little rocky in the beginning, then an easy walk on the winding road up to the Signal of Forbes, on the hillside all we could see were bushes and trees next to the road, we decided to come back down after 30- 40 minutesí walk as we would not be able to see anything, even further up. So we came down to the Montenves train station and back down to Chamonix. Rain started, we decided to take train to Le Buet and walked the nature reserve walk. This turned out to be a little difficult as the rain got more intense and the road along the river towards the reserve got muddy, it was half hourís walk to the reserve. We took an abridged path at the reserve and caught glimpses of the mountain shadow but could not see it for its true glory. We decided to head back. Although we missed snowcapped mountain peaks we enjoyed the beauty of clouds, fog and drizzling rain which gave a mysterious ambiance. On our way back we decided that if the weather next day were good, we would stay during the day to give another try to Aiguille du midi, and leave for Montreux later the day.

Day 5 Chamonix- Montreux

Confirmed with the hotel manager, it would a good day especially midday to afternoon.

We decided to take Le Brevent cable car first then Aiguille du midi. The ticket price to visit both sites is effectively the same as just Aiguille du midi, so it made sense to get the combo. It was a little uphill walk to the Le Brevent cable car, the two stage cable car ride brought us first to mid station then to the top, the views of the Chamonix and valley from cable car were amazing, the ride up was great with few people and panoramic view. On both stations, we were able to see Mont Blanc massif starting to show up. We waited for a while on top, there were clouds, but sun came out once a while, with wind you could see the top of the mountains in and out, magnificent pictures. Coming down via Le Brevent car, we walked to the cable car station for Aiguille du midi, about 10 minís walk from Le Breventís. At the station around 2 pm, webcam showed the mountains on top visible. Taking the gigantic cable car again, full of people, had another thrilling ride up, this time we could see the scenery on the way. Up to the top, the view was truly spectacular. Itís difficult to put into words the beauty of the gigantic and majestic Mont Blanc. We spent more than an hour there, got to different viewpoints, took the elevator up and did the ďstep into the voidĒ skywalk, etc. Despite the setbacks in the past two days, Iíd say this worth the wait.

After coming down, we headed for Montreux. We got a corner room in a hotel with a great view of the lake near the train station.

Day 6 Montreux

It was a nice day, sunny and clear. Took bus to Vevey, without much planning, walked to the lakeside and sat on a bench people watching and eating breakfast. We didnít spend a whole lot of time here and decided to visit the Lavaux Vineyard further west, and then visit Chillon castle. We had initially planned to walk from St Saphorin to Chexbres, but given the train schedule, it was more preferable for us to take the train from Vevey to Chexbres first, and we opted to walk along the Lavaux Vineyard from Chexbres to St Saphorin, it turned to be a nice approach as we would walk downhill. Itís an easy walk, the view from the terrace was breathtaking. From there took train back to Montreux and bus to Chillon castle and learned a bit of its history. We got off from Villeneuve on our way back and walked the streets for a while but didnít find any restaurant particularly appealing.

Day 7 Geneva

Took morning train to Geneva, it was an hourís train ride. Friends picked us at the train station, and took us for the sightseeing from there. First we went to see some of the landmarks, then old town, and had fondue there for lunch, our first time trying the fondue, although it did not suit our taste it was an unique experience regardless. After lunch, we visited the UN, thanks to our friends. The building itself has great details in architecture and design, and beautiful art pieces from all over the world.

Day 8 Montreux- Grindelwald

Took the Golden pass train at 7:44 from Montreux to Spiez. Stored our luggage at Spiez train station. We initially planned on taking Nielsenbahn to the top of Nielsen. On the train to Mulenen, we met a nice Swiss gentleman who suggested, that given the cloudy weather, we could, as an alternative to Neilsen, go to Blausee (blue lake), a beautiful lake with trout jumping, and itís on route to Kandersteg and took his advice. So we went to Blausee, tickets were not included but the price is reasonable. It was indeed a beautiful lake, water is greenish blue as its name says, reflecting the blue color of the sky and green color of the surrounding trees, it turned sunny when we got there. The water is crystal clear and you can see trout dancing in the water.

We made a mistake, did not check the bus schedule (when we got off the bus), so just rushed to exit the park. As soon as we arrived at bus station, realizing we just missed the last bus to Kanterstag, could not go back in, but had to wait for an hour for the next bus. Finally the bus came, it was 15 min late, first-time in our experience, so totally we waited for an hour and 15 min. Kanterstag was a beautiful town surrounded by mountains, the sky was grey, the clouds and fog hung around mountains. It took quite some walk to the cable car station to ride up to the mountain and then another 20- 30 min uphill walk to get to the lake Oeschinensee, it was a small lake surrounded by the mountains, which we thought was a little underwhelming given the trek. Back to Spiez, picked up our luggage, and headed to our new destination- Grindelwald and checked in to the small nice hotel, without problem.

Day 9 Grindelwald

After the first few mountain excursions, we would like to see Bern today for refreshment with something different, without much plan. Itís Saturday on the train to Bern, totally different vibe, packed with passengers, groups of young people carrying their music instruments singing. It was sunny and bustling at the town, with a womenís marathon on-going and tourists everywhere; we walked to the Bahnhofplatz with glass roof, then through the old town, Zytglogge (clock tower), walked under the arcades of the old town, to the bridge, rose garden (the views of the town from there are beautiful), bear park then back to Einsteinís house.

We finished the day earlier by the time we got back to Interlaken Ost, we thought of exploring Interlaken a little so stopped by IT office. By recommendation of IT office staff, we took a Brienz lake cruise for one and half hour round trip to Iseltwald, a wonderful ride with nice weather at the time, enjoyed the ride and the lakeside scenery.

Day 10 Grindelwald

Itís the day to go up to Jungfraujoch, my priority on the list. I made the mistake of not buying the Jungfrau regional pass ahead of time. Having the pass would make the most economical sense. I realized and tried to get the pass online late at the night, but could not get through. Next morning the hotel receptionist recommended that we should go early to get tickets at the train station. We took his advice and rushed to the train station. By the time we arrived there, the first train leaving for Kleine Scheidegg was there and 2 minutes away from departure, without much thought, we got up on the train. We were probably the only ones without tickets on the train, there was no trouble for us buying tickets on the train for early birds (with 10 CHF fine per person). It is a good idea to buy the regional pass ahead of time once you decide to go up Jungfraujoch as it is difficult to buy last second.

Train ride was astonishing through the tunnel in the mountain; you could feel the elevation as train was climbing up steadily each second due to the advanced engineering of the time. Soon on the top, it was a beautiful day with sunshine, but you felt a bit chilly with crisp wind, because the mountains and glacier underneath were so close to you, the views were fantastic.

Spending sometime on top and descended to Kleine Schedegg for a brief snack near the train station. As planned next would be Mšnnlichen (Royal walk and Mannlichen Ė Kleine Scheidegg walk), taking train to Wengen, then cable car to Mannlichen, just found out the Mannlichen Ė Kleine Scheidgg trail was closed. So we took the Royal walk it was an easy, short walk, but the views of Jungfrau Massif such Eiger, Moch, Jungfrau as well as Shrilthorn were great. We spent an hour enjoying the surrounding on the top.

We decided to finish early, but it would have been perfectly possible to take another short excursion around Interlaken.

Day 11 Grindelwald

Schilthorn - Things went smoothly going up as planned route, on top views were not bad we could have a narrow window to see something when the clouds went away. Spent some time in James bond museum, my husband had fun in playing with different model vehicles used in James bond films. Getting off on Birg, the clouds dispersed a little bit, we had better views of Jungfrau massif than on the top. We did the skyline and thrill walk. Had quick lunch at a restaurant at the Birg, the food was pretty good, price reasonable. Back down to Murren, passing through the same route going up, views of the mountains and valleys were breathtaking. There was a little grocery store selling various freshly picked berries and fruits were full of people, we took a peek and could not help but buy some strawberries and plums. At this time sun came out, our plan was to take the cable car down to Stechelberg, instead of hiking down. So we went down to Gimmewald first, walked around briefly then went down to Stechelberg by cable car. Took a bus at Stechelburg and got off halfway to Lauterbrunnen, walked briefly to Lauterbrunnen. We wrapped up our day early in Interlaken, checked out city center and had dinner near city center. We could have easily fit in something as short excursion here. As a note, Grindelwald seems to have a limited choice of restaurants and fewer shops, and things were generally closed earlier. The restaurants we tried near the city center of Interlaken gave some options to choose from, the food is ok, but nothing to rave about.

Day 12 Grindelwald

Debating between doing the First, Brienz Rotherm or Aare Gorge or doing some combinations, we ended up with Aare Gorge, Reichenbach fall and Brienz boat ride to Interlaken. I would have made different choice if we had closely followed the weather forecast and knew the weather not so good for the next 2- 3 days.

We left around 8:40 by train and arrived at Meiringen around 10:00. We walked from Meiringen train station to Reichenbach fall on a nice street where we passed by the Sherlock Homes museum (not opened yet), then continued to the funicular station at the Reichenbach fall, around 20 minutesí walk. After funicular ride we walked uphill to 2-3 view points, walk was under the shade (with trees) so it was easy. Coming down from the fall, itís a brief walk to the Aareschucht West entrance. We had a quick lunch at the west entrance, then started walk from west entrance through the Aare gorge to the east entrance, the gorge is quite unique, the stream underneath the cliffs is strong, which was formed by thawed snow up the mountains centuries ago. Some parts of the gorge are narrower, which gives its beauty, one- two persons can go through each time.

Existing out from the Aareschucht East, there was a small road down to the Aareschucht East train station, the MIB train took us to Meiringen with 5 minute ride, then we boarded sbb train to Brienz. The next boat to Interlaken would be in 45 min, so we took a walk along the lake Brienz to the old town and back. The lake was blue, the mountains felt far and bleached because of sunshine, it was a peaceful lakeside town, with attractively decorated wooden houses.

Day 13 Grindelwald - Lucerne

We took a chance on visiting the open air museum at Ballenburg. Bus in front of the train station in Brienz, took us to Ballenburg east entrance. Walking from the east to west, we spent around 3 hours there, with rain heavy at times. We went to see several houses and watched the demonstration of cheese making, saw some animals (most of them were not out due to the rain), visited cow museums, etc. We decided to wrap up our visit around 1:00 pm, in hoping that when we got to Lucerne, the weather would be better. Grabbed a quick snack and took the bus to the train station, picked up the bags, then train to Lucerne. The golden pass route to Lucerne was the most beautiful one, especial when it was at Lugano area, the lake side villages with snow mountain background makes a truly paradise like picture. I could not get good catch of those scenes through the window.

Arrived at Lucerne around 3:00 pm. After checking in the hotel (which is 10 min walk to train station), and dropped the bags, we walked towards train station, to the Chapel bridge and part of the old town, it was a little cloudy, but no rain. Lucerne is beautiful medieval city with a contemporary feel.

Day 14 Lucerne

The weather was getting worse each day; rather cloudy (perhaps a couple of hours partial clouds early in the morning), no rain. Tomorrow would be worse based on forecast. Late start, we walked to the docking station to Vitznau around 9:40 am, the sky was dark grey, there were quite a lot of people waiting for the next boat, so we decided to give Mt. Rigi a try. The boat trip was ok, lake looks nice even with clouds and fog, by the time we took the train up it thereís fog and heavy clouds, not much can be seen. We got off from middle station first, we saw a few people hike up, the views were not too bad, we thought there might be a view point there, could not find it. When we got up to the top, it was totally covered by the clouds and fog, we had around 45 min there, we walked around, walked up to a few view points, waited, the clouds didnít seem want to go away. We came down by train, then by cable car to Weggis, views on the cable car was beautiful, I could only have a glimpse through a narrow space given how packed the cable car was. It was our last chance to go up on a mountain, a little disappointed but the experience was still memorable.

Day 15 Lucerne - Zurich

The rain in Lucerne continued and the weather was not going to be visibly better. At this point, we decided to pivot our plans and take a detour to visit Zurich. In the early afternoon, we got on the train to Zurich HB, stored our bags in the lockers and got our glimpse of this beautiful city. There was small drizzle at Zurich at the time. We walked on both sides of the Limmat river, through the Old Town with cobble stone streets, lined with quaint little stores and restaurants. We also strolled through the commercial (Bahnofstrasse) and financial (Paradeplatz) districts.




jane86 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2019, 02:28 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,417
“I haven’t really written anything like this before, so apologies if this isn’t the most elegant recount of our Switzerland trip.....”

please don’t apologise, people on these forums genuinely want to enhance travel planning, and it is great that you are reporting back.

I realise you arrived in Switzerland a bit before us... it was wet and dreary for us, too, until that heatwave hit. Totally unexpected to be wearing shorts on the mountain trails!

Adelaidean is offline  
Jul 20th, 2019, 05:45 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 2,904
Thanks so much for reporting back Jane! Glad to see you were able to make the most of your trip in spite of truly uncooperative weather, a major factor on a trip like this.

Your advance planning paid off and you adapted as needed, and Iím happy you appreciated what you were able to see.

I havenít seen any posts from neckervd or PalenQ for awhile (unusual for him), so hopefully they see this.

Good luck and safe travels in the future.
Nelson is offline  
Aug 12th, 2019, 02:19 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 667
thanks for your report, Jane. We are doing final planning and trying to get a few last minute details nailed down. You mention the Golden Pass from Montreux to Spiez -- we will be traveling it in the opposite direction (toward Montreux) and I'm wondering if there is a preferred side to sit on (with windows facing roughly north or facing south)?

Thanks!
GinnyJo is offline  
Aug 13th, 2019, 03:09 PM
  #5  
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To GinnyJo,

We probably sat on the left side row of the seats, if I remember right, facing the engine on Golden pass from Montreux to Spiez. If you are from Spiez to Montreux, then sit on the right side. It's not so important, you should be able to see the similar scenery on either side, Please someone correct it if this is wrong.
jane86 is offline  
Aug 13th, 2019, 04:32 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 667
Thanks, Jane. We just decided to reserve in one of the panoramic cars the 2 seats sharing the table in first class ( 8CHF each for the reservation plus the upgrade to 1st class for that leg).
GinnyJo is offline  
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