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Another swiss itinerary...please critique!

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Jan 21st, 2014, 10:28 AM
  #1
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Another swiss itinerary...please critique!

I was tagging onto another thread, and thought I should open my own to discuss my Switzerland trip. I have a few questions. All you Swiss experts have been extremely helpful already, I'm zeroing in on a plan.

Background...2 travelers, my husband and myself. We enjoy lots of different things, but top priorities would include scenery, landscape photography, historical sites, art and architecture, food and wine. yeah, like I said...we like everything. So I'm trying to include a bit of everything in this itinerary.

We don't like luggage schlepping. That is, we prefer to move less, and do some day trips. I know we'll cover less ground this way, but keeping our stops to 3 nights minimum is helpful for making us feel like we're on vacation and not rushing around.

We'll be traveling by mass transit. Probably will buy swiss passes.

We have 13 or 14 nights. I think 14, arriving on a Saturday afternoon in Zurich, leaving on Saturday 2 weeks hence. This will be sometime between late May and mid/late June. Dates are still up in the air

I'm thinking we'll arrive and go directly to Lucerne

3 nights Lucerne
3 nights Brienz
4 nights Wengen
3 nights Montreux

That's just 13 nights. I've left out Stein am Rhein which is kind of too bad. Maybe I'll take a night from either Brienz or Wengen, and my 14th night and get 2 nights at the end in SAR.

I struggled with leaving off Zermatt because I would really like to see the Matterhorn. But Zermatt itself doesn't appeal that much. I'm thinking we might do it as a day trip, possibly on the way from Wengen to Montreux (yes, I know its not really "on the way", but it seems doable). We could also do it as a daytrip from Montreux or Brienz, depending on weather.
Does that seem like a reasonable idea?

Given this, would you string the locations together in a different order?

I'd like to take the Golden Pass rail, where does that fit in...Wengen-Montreux or Montreux-Zurich at the end?

If I have a flight at 2PM out of Zurich airport, I think I can leave early enough from Montreux to make that flight...would you trust that? I'm assuming swiss trains are pretty much on time, and we would make our connections. Otherwise, we might use night #14 in Zurich before we leave. Just seems like a waste of a day...doesn't really give us enough time in Zurich to do anything.

Does anybody have any suggestions for accomodations in Brienz? Our plans for this area include visiting the Ballenberg Village museum, and most likely a cruise on the lake with a visit to Obenhof Castle. Maybe the Rothorn Bahn train if it fits. Does anyone know somethgin about the Grandhotel Giessbach? It looks gorgeous, I'm wondering how practical it is. They say its easy to get from there to Brienz, but I don't quite understand...do you take a funicular down the mountainside to a boat and take the boat to Brienz? Is there a charge for the funicular? I've been googling, but so far these answers have evaded me.

I'm also looking for recommendations for Montreux accomodations. Or should I stay in Vevey instead?

thanks in advance for your assistance.
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Jan 21st, 2014, 10:33 AM
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I'd like to take the Golden Pass rail, where does that fit in...Wengen-Montreux or Montreux-Zurich at the end?>

don't much matter - if in a hurry to Zurich then take the mainline route via Lausanne and Bern - if not then the GP via Spiez then to Bern and Zurich could work.

You are doing a lot of train and boat travel so be sure to look at the Swiss Pass or Half-Fare Card or Swiss Card but with that much travel I'd strongly look at a 15-consecutive-day pass that would cover everything, even lake boats, city trams and buses and give free entry to 470 Swiss museums and attractions - like the popular Ballenberg Open-Air museum overlooking Lake Brienz - about a $25 value in itself.

For lots of great info on Swiss trains, passes and alternatives I always spotlight these IMO fantastic sources: www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetrvel.com; www.ricksteves.com; www.seat61.com. Check out the VIP seats on the Golden Pass train - very unique - I don't know of any other train offering the chance to simulate driving the train - and in such exquisite scenery!
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Jan 21st, 2014, 10:44 AM
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kja
 
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I'm sure you already know this, but just in case -- you can see Ballenberg (wonderful place!) from Wengen (its about 2 hours each way) and you can also see Obenhof from there (also about 2 hours - do consider a brief visit to Thun as well).

I stopped at Giessbach just to see the falls, and yes, there is a little funicular timed to meet the boat. (There is a trail, too.) I don't remember if there was a charge for the funicular or not.
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Jan 21st, 2014, 10:52 AM
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I did not know about those VIP seats, that's a great tip.

I've read your other postings and perused some of the train travel sites. I'm pretty sure that 15 day Swiss pass (the Swiss Saver, as there ar e2 of us) is going to be the right deal for us. The only part that makes me uncertain is because we'll be riding a lot of the cable cars and such around Wengen, I don't know if something else will be more economical. When we finalize our plans I'll attempt to do the math.

How is the Ballenberg museum on a rainy day? is it miserable, or okay? I realize it's going to involve a fair amount of walking from building to building, I guess I'm wondering if one can duck inside during heavy rain, and generally find it manageable if the weather is bad.
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Jan 21st, 2014, 10:57 AM
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hi kja, thanks for the input. Yes, I suppose I could stretch my Wengen stay by a couple of days and do those locations from there, but it seemed like it would be nice to come stay on the lake for a few days. I will consider it, if it makes sense.
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Jan 21st, 2014, 01:11 PM
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I don't remember if there was a charge for the funicular or not.>

Yes there is a small charge for this short but steep funicular - I walked up but like to walk. Swiss Passes pay 50% off of all funicular and aerial cable cars - if the cable car goes to a town like the one going from Lauterbrunnen to Murren via Grutschalp then it covers it 100% but just to mountain tops then 50% off - still a sizable savings.
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Jan 21st, 2014, 03:35 PM
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the only other pass you may consider is the Jungfraubahn Pass, valid on many conveyances in the Jungfrau Region and you can a discounted price for it by having a Swiss Pass I believe - but you'd have to be doing a lot of things the Swiss Pass only covers in part to make its cost pay off - but if doing the Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn both it may be worth it.
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Jan 21st, 2014, 04:51 PM
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Thanks Pal, I will investigate the jungfraubahn pass.

Does anyone have recs for Brienz? The Giessbach looks great, but is both expensive and slightly inconvenient. TA reviews for Brienz are prettyseriously mixed. Would love a fodorite rec for something, quiet, convenient, and perhaps priced in the vicinity of 200chf or less?
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Jan 21st, 2014, 10:38 PM
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Hi china_cat,

Is your budget for Montreux also 200 chf or less for two? If so, that's a bit on the budget side. For instance, at the 3-star Hostellerie Bon Rivage, a room for two people is 205 - 275 chf. This is a lovely hotel that sits right on the lake in a small town bordering Vevey (you cannot tell that it's not in Vevey actually).

I just made a dummy request at the Eden Palace au Lac in Montreux (4-star, right at the lake) for 26 May for 3 nights, and they are showing specials for two people for rates of 159 to 199 chf. If I were you, I'd definitely look at that. I've stayed at that hotel two times and love its location.

Let me know if you'd like further recommendations --

s
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Jan 22nd, 2014, 05:17 AM
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Hi swandav,
Thanks for the rec. I have some wiggle roomin the budget. I was considering the Bon Rivage after reading the other thread. But the Eden looks very nice a better price. Might be just the thing!
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Jan 22nd, 2014, 06:15 AM
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There is NOT a small charge for the funicular up to the Hotel Geissbach.

It is something like 9 CHF.

I have been to House of Dark Shadows Geissbach and I would never stay there if I did not have a car.

It is daft to stay in Brienz then move to Wengen.

Just stay in one place.


Thin
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Jan 22nd, 2014, 07:22 AM
  #12
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I'm curious why you call it the House of Dark Shadows, Thin? although your point about not staying there without a car is well taken...this is exactly why I asked. I don't mind paying that 9CHF charge once, but if staying there, I could end up paying it twice a day, which kinda adds up after a while. I think there may also be a shuttle but not sure.


In another thread, someone suggested 2 bases in the B) made sense, one in the mountains and one down below to see the area around the lakes. But I'm still open to adjusting so I'm glad to have your opinion.
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Jan 22nd, 2014, 07:22 AM
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I stayed in Brienz for 10 nights on a solo trip a few years ago, but in a vacation rental, so can't helpwith hotel. Returned in 2012 for just two nights at Cafe Walz(nothing great).
Check booking.com for some good choices.
I loved having the town to myself each evening after the tourist crowds went home, wandering the narrow alleyways winding up the mountain and lined by old, weathered wooden chalets.
I've visited Ballenberg on 4 trips...not much fun in the rain as it is spread over a couple acres in a woods-like setting, but definitely worth a visit (take the bus up from the train station for new vistas).
Rothornbahn is also quite nice. I believe the FIRST trip of the day is the only guaranteed steam locomotive nowadays, but you can double-check.
And a cruise on either Lake Brienz OR Lake Thun on a summy day is great!
We visited Giessbach for the waterfalls and red squirrels, hiking a short path around. Agree not good as a home base...
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Jan 22nd, 2014, 08:07 AM
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thanks Mokka. You've zeroed in on the exact 3 things I want to do in the area. I hope we get sunny days, because all of it will be a bit dreary in the rain.

I'm looking at the Steinbock. Cheaper, and more convenient than the Giessbach. So I'm inclined to do that (and save my money to splurge in Montreux instead). Unless someone tells me that the Giessbach is so special its worth being more out of the way.
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Jan 22nd, 2014, 08:39 AM
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Do you all think it makes much difference in weather if i go say May 25- June 7, as opposed to June 7-21? Will I get less rain, or more wildflowers if I go later? Particularly in Wengen?

Also, it seems like most hotels do not have A/C, and I often see complaints on trip advisor about this, but usually people who visit in July. Will I be unhappy with no air condition in Lucerne or Montreux in early June?
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Jan 22nd, 2014, 09:59 AM
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Hi again,

In my experience, the best air conditioning is a few open windows.

Even in June, temperatures usually drop 10 degrees or so at night, so you should be comfortable sleeping. The problem may arise that there is noise on the street, so in that sense, you may want a/c to close the windows and drown out the noise.

You should have no problems with noise with the Eden Palace or the HBR. But if you were staying at the Hostellerie de Geneve or at the Negotiants or at the Rouvenaz, then I would say you might have a problem with noise.

s
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Jan 22nd, 2014, 10:09 AM
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Having stayed in more than one non A/C'd hotel in Switzerland and elsewhere I would advise that you will probably be OK, heat-wise, especially if you have windows which open. Please do not forget that it isn't so much the heat that the A/C will relieve but the humidity that causes the discomfort.
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Jan 22nd, 2014, 10:49 AM
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The Steinbock looks fine. I ate there in the outdoor courtyard. It is on Hauptstrasse (= Main street), but set back if I recall, and REALLY not much traffic, especially after evening time.
I personally like Switzerland a bit more in late May, UNLESS you plan on high level hikes, when June would mean more high altitude lifts are open.
As for rain day options, I HEARTILY recommend Bern, just 1 hr 20 by train from Brienz, for the old town/architecture/cathedral and miles of arcaded shops and cafes to keep you out of the rain.
I spent 9 days there this past October (again in a vacation apt). If interested, click on my name in blue and scroll down to read the Trip report!
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Jan 22nd, 2014, 11:22 AM
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I'm leaning now on going late May, but maybe reversing my loop:
Lucerne-Montreux-Wengen-Brienz. That way it will be June 1st by the time I get to Wengen and the lifts should all be open.

I'd been trying to figure out where to fit in Bern, and a day trip from Brienz may be just the thing. Either that or on one of the travel days perhaps.

There are just too many things to do, and not enough time! I will never fit it all in.

Thanks for the feedback on the Steinbock. I think it may fit the bill. I'm probably going to blow my budget by booking the Hotel Des Balances in Lucerne, so if I go with the Eden Palace in Montreux, the Steinbock, and I think the Hotel Baeren in Wengen, I should keep the average in a reasonable band. Switzerland is certainly expensive, but I'm mostly prepared to deal with that.
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Jan 22nd, 2014, 12:44 PM
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If you fly into Geneva and out of Zurich you would not have to backtrack as you are going now - going to Montreux then about back to the same place you came from.

why base in Brienz - day trip from Wengen - changing hotels inevitably takes a half-day packing up, unpacking, etc. Do perhpas Lake Brienz as a boat trip from Interlaken - stop at Geissbach, Brienz - perhaps take the postal bus from there to Ballenberg Open-Air Museum or the Rothorn Brienzerbahn (I walked down from the summit - an easy enough zigzagging path with the lake in frontal veiw the whole time.
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