Just back from Switzerland - trip report

Old Sep 13th, 2006, 06:51 PM
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Just back from Switzerland - trip report

I know I canít write an eloquent trip report like others have, so Iíll just report the basics of my trip to Switzerland and will be happy to answer any questions I can. I flew into Zurich, getting in early at 7:30 a.m. on August 30th. I went to the Swiss Rail Office located in the train station at the airport to validate my Swiss Rail pass, then hopped on the first of 4 trains that would take me to Pontresina (in the St. Moritz area). The trip took a total of 3.5 hours. The connections were amazingly easy to make and convenient. You can set your watch by the Swiss train system. The scenery was more breathtaking than I thought it could be - which was really the theme of the trip and would continue. On one train, when the food/drink cart came by, I bought a small bottle of water (still) for 4.5 Swiss francs - about $4 US. That was the last food or drink I bought on the trains!

I loved Pontresina. Itís a very small, quiet town with lots of hiking opportunities and is on the Bernina Pass train route. The Bernina Pass train trip is, again, breathtaking. Arriving in Tirano, Italy for lunch, I knew immediately I was in Italy. It was the combination of coming close to being run over and breathing exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke that did it. I just took the local train system, not having to bother with making reservations. In Pontresina I stayed at the Rostasch Hotel which is very comfortable, clean and located in the center of the village. The desk staff were all very helpful and spoke English. In this region of Switzerland, German is really the only language prevalent, although you hear a lot of Italian. Walking around Pontresina without a walking stick made me feel like an alien, so I bought a walking stick. It took awhile to find one that would collapse down small enough to fit in my 22Ē suitcase. My last night here, I decided to take the train to St. Moritz for dinner to see what it was like. It was a 10 minute train ride and when I got off in St. Moritz I immediately wanted to head back to Pontresina. Maybe it was having to walk up steep slopes to get to the main drag from the train station (after a rigorous day of hiking) - but I really didnít find St. Moritz to my liking. I didnít even stay for dinner.

After 3 nights in Pontresina, I took the Glacier Express to Zermatt. I forgot that I had to make reservations until the night before I was leaving, so I got to the train station early in the morning. When I said to the young man at the ticket counter that I wanted to make reservations for that morning, he looked very startled and said ďTHIS morning?Ē But he checked and was able to get me reservations for the 9:17 train leaving Samedan. He said that half an hour later it would not have been possible. The Glacier Express train ride is nice, but I liked the local trains because you could lower the windows. I was also stuck in a car with a tour group from Germany, who started drinking early and often, getting a little loud by the end of the trip.

I wasnít sure what I would think of Zermatt, but I really liked it. It is very touristy, with restaurant menus in many languages, but it has a certain charm. Beware, the local kids love to have fun with tourists! I stayed at the Style Hotel (used to be Biner) - a recently remodeled, very modern place. I loved it - very stylish. It takes a while to figure out how things work. After I figured out how to get the balcony door open (versus swinging out at the top), I looked out on the balcony to realize that I had a wonderful view of the Matterhorn! I only stayed in Zermatt for 2 nights, so my full day there I spent going up to Rothorn. Unfortunately, there was a low cloud cover, so the top of the Matterhorn wasnít visible. The next morning I woke up to brilliant blue skies and the Matterhorn in its full glory. I went back up the first level to Rothorn to get a few pictures before leaving.

Next stop was Lauterbrunnen, my true love of Switzerland. The valley is gorgeous, with tall rock cliffs bordering the valley and mountain peaks visible behind. I stayed in the Silberhorn Hotel for 5 nights. The desk staff was very nice and spoke English, but I did have a run-in with the restaurant staff, who were reluctant to give me ice to take to my room. Also, be aware of the funicular construction going on immediately adjacent to the hotel, which is very noisy. The construction work started before dawn and lasted until after dark every day I was there. The construction is supposed to be completed by December 2006, according to the sign at the site. I think a hotel down the valley a bit might be nicer. I stayed in a single room for which I only paid $450 Swiss Francs for the 5 nights, so I canít complain. I would recommend spending more and getting a room with a balcony in the front, side or back building, all of which would have wonderful views of the valley.

Lauterbrunnen is a perfect location for visiting all the little towns in the Berner Oberland area, as well as the lakes surrounding Interlaken. There are lots of gondolas and cable cars going up to the towns and hiking areas. The trip to Jungfraujoch was really spectacular (half price at $71 Swiss francs with my Swiss rail pass). The altitude is something most people feel - I felt very light headed when I was there, and after 2 hours I was ready to come down for more oxygen. The views are wonderful, as they are everywhere in Berner Oberland. The Schilthorn is very nice as well, but I really enjoyed hiking through pastures of cows with their bells ringing most of all.

Since I was flying out of Geneva, I took the train to Morges, on the north side of Lake Geneva, for my last night in Switzerland. Morges is a charming small town along the lake. Somewhere between Bern and Lausanne on the train, the language changes to French and is all French in Morges. I stayed at the Hotel Mont-Blanc au lac, which was very nice. My room had a view of Lake Geneva.

I had an amazing trip - my first time to Switzerland and I loved it. The chalets with flowers hanging on the balconies and the whole yards that were gardens were spectacular. The cemeteries are amazing as well - all the grave sites are planted with flowers, which makes them very colorful. I also had wonderful weather - in 12 glorious days in Switzerland, my rain jacket did not leave my suitcase!

If anyone has any questions, Iíll be happy to try to answer them.
Martha

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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 07:06 PM
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Hi Martha,
Wonderful trip report, I have just been "talking" on a post to PalQ who is helping me plan our train travel in Switzerland for next year. We are looking at spending our first 2 nights in Pontresina too so your info was just what I needed and I will certainly look into the hotel you stayed in.

Thanks so much for sharing, I can just about smell the flowers!
Maudie
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 07:09 PM
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Martha,

I just googled the Rostasch and couldn't find it, do you have the website?

Thanks
Maudie
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 07:49 PM
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Maudie -

The website address is hotel-rosatsch.ch. I think it is only in German, but it seems like if you do a search on Yahoo, you will be asked if you want them to translate it.

Martha
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 07:52 PM
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Thanks Martha - I shall give that a try.
And you did a great job of writing your trip report!
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 08:00 PM
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The hotel looks great, I will translate it on Babelfish.

Did you have any trouble walking from the station to the hotel and about how long did it take you? I would love to read about any walks you took.

Did you take the Bernina Express or just a local train to Tirano?

Thanks again
Maudie
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 11:04 PM
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Very nice trip report. You described it just as it is. Well done!

Drinks in the train: Yes, they are expensive. It's better to get something at a local store (or kiosk) and bring it with you. But it's nice that something is sold for those cases when people just don't have anything with them.

Trains on time: Your watch had better be on time! The trains do not wait unless you've spoken to the conductor.

Pontresina and St. Moritz: It's the beauty of the area that really makes it special. The community council regulates building and architecture in every town. I think the council did a terrible job in St. Moritz. The buildings are a real sore spot.

Glad you could come in September. We had a rainy August but September has made up for it. Unfortunately, the weather is now changing and it's rain for the next.
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Old Sep 14th, 2006, 04:00 AM
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Thank you! Wonderful report.
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Old Sep 14th, 2006, 04:32 AM
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Yes! I also really enjoyed your report! It was a wonderful little vicarious trip for the Swiss-deprived me!

Loved your very accurate descriptions! And just to add a note, there is always a grocery store or kiosk in the train station, and there are a few grocers in the basement of the Zurich airport -- always better to stock up for the trip there. I always add 15 minutes to my schedule to get food! I usually buy cheese (SWISS cheese, yes!!), fresh bread, chocolate, yogurt, and water, then enjoy being "home" as Switzerland swizzes by.

Thanks so much!!

s
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Old Sep 14th, 2006, 06:00 AM
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Thanks everyone for your kind comments. Maudie - the walk from the train station to the Hotel Rosatsch takes about 10 minutes uphill, but not bad at all. The hotel does have a van that will come pick you up at the train station, as well. After being on the train for a while, I found the walk refreshing. From the train station, just walk up the main road to the town which is on the other side of the river. There are signs across the river which point you in the direction of the various hotels. I took the local train to Tirano which was very convenient, and again, you could open the windows to take pictures. The walk that I really enjoyed from Pontresina was the walk that starts above Pontresina (you take the chair lift up) and then walk across the ridge to where the funicular can take you back down to the valley. It takes about 2.5 hours and is really gorgeous. Back down at the valley it is easy to catch the train back to Pontresina (it is one of the stations where the train does automatically stop, but you push the button and it will stop).

Martha
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Old Sep 14th, 2006, 06:29 AM
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Martha,

What a wonderful trip you had!

Thank you for such a good report on one of my favorite places. Aren't Swiss trains great (and punctual)?

Byrd (who almost missed a train in Lucerne)



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Old Sep 14th, 2006, 07:32 AM
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As another lover of all things Swiss, I'll chime in with my thanks for your report. And yes I always bring food on the trains. Often train stations have bakeries with sandwiches ready to go, along with possibly a small grocer as already mentioned. Glad to hear the mention of Morges, it's on my future to-do list as I usually stay in Vevey or Montreux. kindly, Suze
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Old Sep 14th, 2006, 08:23 AM
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We recently spent 3 nights in Lauterbrunnen (in May) and loved it also. We stayed at the Hotel Oberland with a balcony overlooking the street and those amazing mountains! We never heard any noise from the funicular construction though we could see it when driving past. I think the rates at the Silberhorn and Oberland are comparable as I checked both before our trip.
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Old Sep 14th, 2006, 10:09 AM
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My favorite place to eat in Lauterbrunnen was the Hotel Oberland. It was always packed, usually with the same people (like myself when I was there). Nice to know that the hotel is nice as well.

Martha
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Old Sep 14th, 2006, 04:30 PM
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Martha,
Thanks so much for the information.

Maudie
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Old Jun 10th, 2011, 07:22 PM
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