A Taste Switzerland

Old May 13th, 2014, 04:43 PM
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A Taste Switzerland

After 3 weeks in France it was time to change venues: We arrived in Geneva mid-afternoon, hungry and tired. We stopped at a cafe in the train station and sticker shock! I innocently told my husband i wanted the yogurt with muesli out of the case. We're talking a container of yogurt! It cost about 6-7 dollars… and the guy behind the counter pushed "dollars" before my husband could understand what was happening. That conversion cost another 3%. after that, we always chose CHF currency since I knew our credit card offered the conversion for free. That start got us cranky.

Next was to buy our ticket to Bern, our first stop. We didn't want to use our Swiss pass yet since we knew we had to spend about $75 dollars/day each to break even.

We got our tickets (about $35 each) and got to Bern and a nice lady at an info counter told us how to get to our hostel. Yeah, that's right. I tried to impress my husband with my budget choice. It was a private room and bath, but still it was a hostel. Backpackers Glocke in old town Bern. We rolled our bags about 4 blocks and we were there. One case of stairs to reception and a small elevator to the top.

it turned out to be great value. non-smoking awesomeness. I could finally do a load of laundry!! I could tell my husband was chewing his lip when we learned it was 5 Francs a load, 3 more to dry and 1 for the laundry soap. I hit the wrong button, got the longer wash and it added 2 more Francs to that. I was quite popular with my husband at that moment. My husband breathed through it… and said little. But now we had clean jeans and shirts for the rest of our trip!!

Our one night in Bern was a way to see where Einstein worked. I just finished the Walter Issacson book and it was cool to see the clock tower and his apt. We also had a great meal at Punkt, right next door to the hostel. It was crazy spicy but we enjoyed a change of pace. We split the meal and it was plenty of food. A couple of glasses of wine later and we were good.

We both agreed the long day and several train rides was too much. We would have been better off staying in Geneva. Just because you have short train rides, it doesn't matter. If you have to lift and drag your bags 3 or more times, it's taxing. This was the first day I would have changed our plan.

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annealex on May 13, 14 at 7:57pm
STOP 7. 2 nights. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. Hotel Staubbach.

We woke in Bern and had some coffee -- we had brought our small french press coffee maker and it had come in a handy several times on our trip. We strolled old town for an hour and then dragged our suitcases the 4 blocks to the train station. At the desk the agent sold us the tickets to Lauterbrunnen and activated our Swiss pass for the next day. That seemed the best use of our 4-day pass. We would see if it was worth the price!

The train took us through Interlaken Ost. (We could have taken an earlier one to Interlaken West and changed but this was a more efficient route.) From Interlaken Ost we took the train to Lauterbrunnen. It was a quick ride - maybe 1.5 hours?

Lauterbrunnen is way more scenic than the pictures. You can't breathe the pictures. You can't take in the shimmery snow-covered Alps and the waterfalls all in one scan. It was stunning.

I had a lucky streak going. I wasn't quite sure where the hotel was. I didn't do my usual planning since we had 9 stops. But it worked out. We walked toward the main waterfall since I knew the hotel had a view of it. But, there are dozens of waterfalls. And just as I was beginning to wonder we found the hotel. We had a very warm welcome at the hotel.

It's a well-worn hotel with creaky floors and tattered carpets. It also has sweet views over the valley from our standard room and an ample breakfast. We liked it!

We knew the weather to go to Jungfrau was iffy, but we hoped it would clear by our last day. The weather we had that first afternoon turned out to be the best. Good thing we took a walk that afternoon to take in the town and views. Because after that, it was rain and clouds.

That night we tried the fondue at Hotel Oberland. They have seating outside and inside. Part of the outdoor area is reserved for non-smokers which is usually not the case. We took full advantage of the area and had a totally wonderful fondue. It included a small green salad. The fondue is served with bread and small potatoes. It also has ample servings of fresh garlic, onions, chives and mushrooms which you can add to the fondue.

My biggest fear was running out of the fondue! I never wanted it to end. It was so good. Luckily, I did get full before it ran out. My husband mopped up the rest in a ridiculous orgy of a scene.

The next day it was raining lightly. After breakfast we took the bus to Trummelback Falls. WOW. This was dramatic. This highly engineered setting inside the mountain allows you to see the force of water coming directly from the highest peaks above. You take a cable car partially up and then take a series of wet stairs up and then down the falls. I was surprised people brought their young children. It's slippery and you must use caution.

This was worth the admission!

From there we took the bus again (included in our Swiss pass!) to Stechelberg, a short 1-2 miles down the road. From there we got on the cable car to Murren. (My husband was keeping a running tally of what we would have spent sans the Swiss Pass…) Not one for heights I was curious how I would fare. The ride to Murren was smooth and easy! We went up about 1,000 feet to Murren and it was snowing. We warmed up in one of the few places open. Now, this was early May so summer season had not really begun. But the hot chocolate was terrific and the peaceful snow-covered town was dreamy.

We then took the train through Winteregg to Grutschalp. The views were limited because of the clouds. We arrived back in Lauterbrunnen. After a break we took a train to Wengen. The train was so scenic -- we didn't really do anything once we got there.

We headed to Interlaken for some Indian food. My husband had found this place online. Spice indian. I was so happy to find all this spicy food in Switzerland! This place was really great. Given the price of things in Switzerland we split a main course and got some sides. Plenty of food for us.

The next day we took a train to Grindelwald just to see the town. We saw fleeting glimpses of what I believe is Eiger above the town. We grumbled a bit about our Swiss Pass. If the weather isn't good, it's hard to make good use of it. Even with all our train trips we hadn't used it enough. But there was always Lucerne!!
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Old May 13th, 2014, 05:00 PM
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Enjoyable read annealex, Hotel Oberland restaurant is near and dear to my heart, particularly the fondue, rosti and raclette, yum.

More please.
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Old May 13th, 2014, 05:41 PM
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Ah yes...fondue.
And yes, Switzerland is expensive!
Nice report. Thank you!
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Old May 13th, 2014, 05:54 PM
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Really enjoying your TR, annealex. We'll be in some of those locations in September. Your description of Lauterbrunnen cetainly speaks for its beauty. We'll definitely keep the Hotel Oberland on our list for dinners. Melnq8 gives it a thumbs up, so that's an additional "stamp of approval". Thanks for your report.
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Old May 13th, 2014, 06:38 PM
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Your post brings up some nice memories. In April Our group of 15 did a "Swiss Day Out" where we started in Luzern - Interlaken OST - Murren - Schilthorn - Stechelberg - Lauterbrunnen by train and cable car. It was a perfectly GLORIOUS! day. Up at Schilthorn was magnificent and we did the hike along the waterfalls in Lauterbrunnen. I think a little backwards from you. It was an unforgettable day
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Old May 13th, 2014, 07:10 PM
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STOP 8. 2 nights. Lucerne. Hotel Des Alppes. Leaving Lauterbrunnen was bittersweet. Little did I know we would be back.

We took a totally beautiful journey by train to Lucerne. First we headed to Interlaken and had about 8 minutes to hop to the next train which would take us to Lucerne. The trip was gorgeous. In fact, we thought we were flying as we ascended over the lakes. Could it be we were aboard a flying carpet?

The light filtering through the trees was also magical. We arrived to Lake lucerne and something strange occurred. Naturally I was tired once again. I trailed my suitcase through the train station, across the bridge -- but wait -- what were all the crowds for?

It turned out we arrived during a road race of some kind. Runners were everywhere and they were directly in our path to our well-located hotel! I had to pull my suitcase right through them to get to our hotel.

Naturally Hotel Des Alppes is well located across from the historic foot bridge. The hotel has great service and a wonderful front desk staff (thanks to Lorena!). Our standard room was just OK. Once again Swiss prices were high ($250-ish/night) and gave us a rather mediocre room where the floor was six inches higher upon entry compared to when you stood by the window. (After all the times at various altitudes I needed a level floor!)

Lucerne is beautiful in a polished sort of way. We popped by a little Italian cafe for dinner and settled in for the night. Next morning we strolled by swans lakeside and enjoyed the shops and I also bought lots of chocolate! By the afternoon we hopped a boat for a two-hour cruise on the lake. It was OK. I've been on a lot of boats; it was nothing to write home about.

For dinner we had a very nice meal at restaurant Barbatti. We were one of the very few diners that evening and everything was very good. We talked about clearing skies in the a.m. and a trip to Mount Pilates or Titlis.

We woke on the day of checkout and naturally I checked the swisspanorama.com web site to check the weather on the mountains. Jungfrau and Schilthorn back near Lauterbrunnen were clear blue and beautiful. I turned to my husband before coffee and said let's go!

He said 'let's discuss over breakfast.' We scarfed down the buffet and packed our bags. We stored our bags at the hotel and hit the train like kids at Disney. Why head to Pilates at 6,000 feet when we could hit 10,000 feet?

We trained the 2.5 hours back to Lauterbrunnen, reversed all our previous steps and enjoyed a series of cable cars (3) up to Schilthorn. We arrived by 1pm at 10,000 feet with perfect views of Jungfrau, Eiger and Monch for my husband's birthday. It's stunning from up there, a full 360 view. The skies were clear and bright. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the revolving cafe and took tons of pictures.

It was well worth the trip. And we got to enjoy the beautiful train trip again. And again on the way back. (Thank you Swiss pass!) We arrived back at the hotel by 7pm, had a very expensive fruit smoothie and headed to Zurich for our next (and last) stop.
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Old May 13th, 2014, 07:19 PM
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<<We trained the 2.5 hours back to Lauterbrunnen, reversed all our previous steps and enjoyed a series of cable cars (3) up to Schilthorn>>

Now that's being spontaneous!
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Old May 13th, 2014, 09:41 PM
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Hi annealex,

Enjoying your report! You're moving a lot more than I'm comfortable with -- but I hope it was fun for you!

s
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Old May 14th, 2014, 06:03 AM
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Hi swandav2000.

This portion of the trip was too fast-paced. It was after 3 more leisurely weeks in France and we were simply out of time. But at the same time, it worked.

Stop 9. Zurich. 2 nights. Leoneck Hotel.
We arrived at the train station in Zurich by 9pm and weren't sure how to find the tram. We found a security guard to point us to the tracks on street level and voila! there they were. I knew the tram number and we hopped on it for 2 stops to our hotel. We didn't have a tram ticket and I hoped the Swiss Pass covered it. No one checks the tram tickets apparently.

I had no interest in food upon arrival, just water. My husband took a walk around for some quick food and that ended our first night in Zurich. The hotel was OK. It's hard to get excited about hotels in this category. It was $230/night and I wasn't going to spend more.

Our full day in Zurich included exploring the Old Town area (Altstadt) and the main shopping street Bahnhofstrasse. Since I'm not much of a shopper I only wanted one thing: chocolate. We headed to Sprungli and were not disappointed.

For lunch my husband had a read about the "first Vegetarian restaurant in the world" and we headed there -- Hous Hiltl (address: Sihlstrasse 28). The quantity and variety of food displayed at the buffet was stimulating to say the least. I didn't have dinner the night before. This place is a must stop for anyone who likes gourmet fresh salads, all types of grain dishes, Indian, Asian and Italian food, etc. Expect all things vegetarian including a nice looking dessert area. We merely scratched the surface with one plate from the buffet. One plate is charged by weight -- otherwise "all you can eat" will set you back 52 CHF. I'm not making this up.

After lunch and still carrying my chocolate, we walked further in the area. We eventually bought a gift for our son in the Old Town area where there are a lot of shops, cafes and restaurants.

We returned to the area in the evening and had a nice Italian meal at Positano. This place was a little out of the action and closer to our hotel, but gave us just what we were looking for: great pizza, a nice Valpolicella and gelato!

Our short trip to Zurich was over and you could easily rearrange this trip with emphasis on Lauterbrunnen, but at the same time I believe we'll be back. This gave us a great overview. Zurich certainly got short changed. Switzerland is a a very appealing destination. Luckily we were able to share meals and dial down the spending which was a necessity for such a long trip to Europe -- 30 days on the road.
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Old May 14th, 2014, 06:09 AM
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Thanks melnq8, that's what I was going for! I mean, really, how hard is it to sit on a train? Or, a bunch of trains and cable cars! It made us feel very silly and giddy. My husband was thrilled I was up for it -- and it was his birthday, too! We had a very memorable day!
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Old May 14th, 2014, 06:15 AM
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Hiltl!!! Yes yes yes! Fabulous! A smallish salad plate with beverage is, indeed, $25, but oh my.... it's delicious. We always go to the Hiltl counter in the basement of the Jelmoli department store along the Bahnhofstrasse, but have also dined at the much bigger restaurant. We used to stay at Seidenhof and Glockenhof hotels, both very close to that larger Hiltl restaurant.

I love your spontaneous form of travel! Good for you!

I am very fortunate in that I get to travel to Switzerland twice a year, on business/pleasure trips. It is my favorite European destination.
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Old May 14th, 2014, 06:29 AM
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Kudos to my husband who found that restaurant for me. It also had a great vibe.

Lucky you, getting to go there on a regular basis!
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Old May 14th, 2014, 01:30 PM
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Annealex, love your spontaneity! That's how we like to travel. Thanks for your report. Know what you mean about 30 days on the road-exciting but tiring.
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Old May 15th, 2014, 06:21 AM
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So happy to share. Thanks for reading.
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Old May 15th, 2014, 06:34 AM
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thanks for posting - marking for digesting your experiences on a part of Europe I love.
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Old May 17th, 2014, 10:14 AM
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Thank you so much for sharing your trip. This is exactly what we like to do when traveling. We will be in Switzerland for only a week this October, but we are so looking forward to it.
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Old May 17th, 2014, 06:14 PM
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I'm sure you will have a lively trip Robertalee! Enjoy and let us know how it goes.
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