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Switzerland for Seniors

Old Dec 21st, 2006, 08:16 AM
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Switzerland for Seniors

I am trying to decide whether Switzerland would be a place to take my 74 year old mother. While she would love the beauty of the area, I am concerned that there is to much 'hiking' for her. We would be traveling by train for the entire trip. Is Switzerland a place to take Older, less energetic folks? And if so, what type of itinerary do you recommend for 2 weeks? She loves Trains and boats especially. We would most likely go in the May or September months. Since this would be her one and only visit, we would want to take in all of the highlights of the country.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 08:31 AM
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I actually think Switzerland is a better destination for seniors or people with limited energy or walking issues than urban vacations centered on Paris, London or Rome, etc.

You can see a great many beautiful sights in Switzerland without hiking at all. There are scenic train rides, and there a marvelous boat trips on Lake Thun, Brienz and other beauty spots. In addition, you can take a series of gondola rides all the way from the valley floor in Lauterbrunnen right to the Piz Gloria, the highest spot in Europe. Very little walking necessary.

Many charming swiss towns are reachable by train or gondola, and once you are there, the town itself is flat.

My only concern would be going so high up you are in areas of thinner air (just a handful of places) and making sure the daily pace was comfortable. Changing trains in Switzerland does sometimes involve climing stairs in the train station, so keep luggage light and number of train changes in a day to a minimum.

Two weeks is a lot of time for Switzerland, so you could easily rent an apartment in the Bernese Oberland, since there is plenty to see there with no hiking.

I'm also going to suggest that you consider spending one week in Switzerland and perhaps spending the second week in Italy. I would suggest dividing the time there between Lago di Como (Bellagio) and Venice. Even though Venice has a great many small bridges, which make walking about tiring for older knees, you could work out an itinerary put you in a centrally located hoted and focus on relaxing more than sightseeing, with a splurge on a gondola ride and a boat trip to Burano or Torcello or Murano, depending on everbody's interests.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 08:34 AM
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i spent 3 days in lucern (bout an hour south of zurich) and i would recommend something like that. while we did do alot of walking there are also many things a less mobile person could do. one of the best things we did was take a 2 hour boat ride on lake lucern. stunning, but make sure you bring a quality camera or you will kick yourself. there are also many cafes that line the alt stadt along the river in lucern. not much walking involved there. you will also find tons of great museums (gotta see the picaso museum). it will just, as with anywhere you go, take a little planning.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 08:41 AM
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I am sure she would love two weeks in Switzerland, as has been said there is no need to hike. Go to the Swiss tourist site www.myswitzerland.ch and you can order the brochures and information you need, there are some higher level flat walks that can be taken at whatever pace she is comfortable with, I'm thinking here of the walk from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg above Wengen in the Berner Oberland and the walk from the top of the new cable car above Lauterbrunnen to Murren, there are plenty of seats along the way and refreshment places and if the train doesn't there the post bus will. Go and have a good time. The tourist office wherever you decide to stay will help you with excursions. Don't forget you can get to most parts of Switzerland in a day, I would suggest though that you stay in one place and go on day trips, maybe having a day doing very little every so often. If you are going for two weeks it may be worth while buying the Swiss Pass before you go, then all your fares in Switzerland are paid, and if you go to many of the towns the buses in the towns are also free. I think if it were me I would go in September, it is still warm enough to enjoy sitting out.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 08:57 AM
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buglady59:
STRONGLY suggest you visit untours website at www.untours.com
I am not a senior, but liked the setup with apartments in small villages and no hassle preparations. I travelled with them on 4 occasions before "going it alone." Their clientele is overwhelmingly over the age of 60 and their website (check out the chat archives) is a glowing testimonial to what "older, less energetic folk" do in Switzerland and Germany, among their other country sites. I have no qualms about highly recommending Untours to seniors! P.S. Their package includes a siww rail pass good on most all TRAINS, buses to tiny alpine villages, aerial trams and BOATS on pristine lakes. R
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 09:21 AM
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If she doesn't want to hike she can sit on the hotel balcony and get drunk on the nearly always intoxicating views. Go for it and Swiss trains are great.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 09:22 AM
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I have all kind of problems: back, knees, you name it! Switzerland was a perfect country for me. Everybody can do as much or as little hiking as wanted. There are trains, buses, flat walks.

Even Trummelbach falls, you can take stairs down, or come back on the same elevator.

One warning, though, as you may not think about it: high altitude. If going to Jungfrau or similar high places, the fast change of altitude may be dangerous.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 09:37 AM
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This part of Switzerland would be PERFECT for her:

Fly into Geneva, then visit by train the towns of Vevey and Montreux, also perhaps Morges, Lausanne, or Geneva proper. They are right along the Lac Leman (lake geneva). There are ferries you can ride on the lake, the view is astounding. There is a long, flat, gorgeous lakeside promonade to walk along, with plenty of benches to sit and rest. The terrain is flat if you stay down near the lake. Although there are a couple tram rides you could take up a mountainside with little walking involved.

When I first started to read your post I thought of all the beautiful elderly ladies I see in these two towns, very "Swiss", doing their grocery shopping with their little wheeled baskets, walking their dogs, riding the bus and train.

I am lucky enough to have a friend living there and have visited 5 times now.

I have yet to go 'hiking'!

You could add day or 1-night trips in the mix, to include some other highlights. Like out to Gruyere, or the Matterhorn.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 03:56 PM
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At 74 she is a year older than I am.

DW and I have rented an apartment through Untours for the last week of May and first week of June. We selected Kandersteg in Switzerland because the walks from the apartment to the station and shopping will be level.

We will be doing lots of walking at our comfort level and relying on the gondolas and trains to see the rest of the sights.

Do as rachw suggested and look into the Untours chat archives. There is a wealth of information there.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 07:23 PM
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Now wait just a darn minute. I am 74 and if my son made me sound like a doddering old fool who is decripit, half blind, and senile, I would kick his shins.

I was in Switzerland last summer and I did not exactly stagger around like a drunk when I went hiking. We went to the Klein Matterhorn and several other places that required some effort.

I may have an artificial hip and pay senior rates, but I can still walk a couple of miles without collapsing into a quivering hulk because of fatigue.
Or how well could you carry 50 pounds of luggage up 25 stairs at the Stuttgart train station?

Seriously, just how active is your mother Mrs. Buglady?

Unless she has altitude problems I would think she could go quite a few places via mountain train and cable cars.

About the only 3 places I can think of that might give someone my age altitude problems are the Klein Matterhorn, about 12,000 feet, the Jungfraujoch, about 11,000 feet and the Gornergrat, about 9,000 feet.

There are some cable lifts near Saas Grund and Saas Fee that get up there, too. But none of them bothered either of us. My wife is 70, with bad knees. That was our most limiting factor.



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Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 08:29 PM
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My mother is by no means decripit. I was only asking because there were so many reports on hiking and my mom has bad knees. We were debating between Ireland and Switzerland and we thought since we wouldn't be driving that Switzerland sounded more doable without our own transportation.
If we were to base ourselves in one location for a week, and take the train or bus to various towns, which location would be best suited for this?
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Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 08:52 PM
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Basing yourself in one place is an interesting question. Be aware that Switzerland is about the same size as the state of West Virginia in terms of geographical area. You can literally cross the entire country by rail in about 4.5 hours

If you wanted to go to several towns in the Bernese Oberland, for example, you could stay down "at the bottom" in Interlaken. A lot of people might tell you to go further up but Interlaken has the major advantage of being a major rail hub for other places.

You could also base yourself somewhere along Lac Leman..further east than Geneva. For the Graubunden and Engadine you could stay somewhere like Chur although that town isn't the most scenic location IMO.

You might also consider Luzern or even Zurich. Tough decision unless there are specific sites you are most interested in. Have you thought about that further?



IMO a lot of this "basing" decision depends on which places you want to go.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 10:08 PM
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I took my Mom to the Ticino when she was about that age. We stayed in Lugano, did the boat tour, took the funiculars up to the mountains around town, enjoyed the city park.
Two caveats though: I took her in late May during the heat wave of 2003. When I booked the hotels, I had no idea it was going to be SO hot even in May and the Lugano hotel had no AC. It was pretty tiring. So if you are going in late May or early Sept, I would focus on hotels that have AC just in case you need it.
Second, if you do opt to visit Lugano, stay down by the lake. It's a hilly town, you don't want to be up near the train station.
Perhaps the resort village of Ascona over on Lake Maggiore would be better for her, I have no experience with that though.
Getting to Lugano from Luzern was a pleasant, scenic train ride.
One nice thing about visiting Switzerland is that there are lots of people (tourists, residents) in the 60s, 70s, etc., so your Mom won't feel out of place. (On my parents' last trip to London, when they were both in their early 70s, they came back saying "boy, there isn't a lot of grey hair in London these days", meaning that the city seemed to have been taken over by the younger set. Or maybe it's always been like that and they never noticed.)
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Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 10:16 PM
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Hi buglady59,

Like a lot of posters above, I think you should base in one place for your two weeks, and Untours is a perfect way to do this.

One advantage of staying in one place is that you get to experience a real taste, or slice-of-life, of Switzerland. You'll experience plenty of lakes and trains and Alpine rambles in your region and come away feeling that you actually know the country pretty well. Yes, you could spend the two weeks whisking yourselves to every corner of the country and come away feeling that you've seen it all -- but you may not be able to distinguish Luzern from Lausanne in your memories. If you spend your two weeks sitting in a train getting to "all" the "sights," your most memorable sight will be that train!

If you spend two weeks in one place, though, you could take one long-ish day-trip (maybe three hours each way) every few days, so you could still see quite a lot of the country.

I do want to warn you against moving too often. I assume your mother isn't a seasoned traveler -- so she may get more tired than you expect from simple things like packing up and unpacking every few days. I took my mom to Switzerland in 2000, and even though she had been a world traveler in the 1950s-70s, she hadn't been out of the country much since then. I was surprised to see how regular traveling-chores tired her out, and I was really surprised to see how poorly organized she was to travel. So one of my regrets is that I moved her around too much instead of keeping to one place.

I also want to really highlight the suggestion of Untours, above. The company seems ideal for what you want to do. They'll pick you up at the airport, so you and your parents won't have the stress of finding the right trains and the right train tickets, etc. They make sure that your apartment is well provisioned, so you don't have to worry about running out of tp or butter for your first few days. Finally, they give you a packet of information about sights and activities for the area and the region, including train schedules, ferry schedules, walks, hikes, bike rides, restaurants, shops, et al. I've never done this (it's pretty expensive, and I've always thought I could do all the pieces on my own for cheaper), but one of my friends has.

Now, as to location, which is your question after all! Untours has most of its apartments in the heartland, around Luzern, though I see there are some in the Berner Oberland now. Again, don't be too concerned about being able to "get to all the sights" from your location. Both the heartland and the BO are incredibly beautiful places with plenty to keep you busy for your stay.

If you generally buy the idea to stay put for the two weeks but aren't sold on Untours, you can easily do this yourself by looking for apartments, or Ferienwohnungen, on a town's website. You can look at places like Wengen (www.wengen.com or www.wengen.ch), Muerren (www.muerren.ch), Kandersteg (www.kandersteg.ch), Lauterbrunnen (www.lauterbrunnen.ch), Gstaad (www.gstaad.ch), etc. Usually if you click on "accommodations," they'll give you the choice of hotels or apartments or camping, etc. Then, of course, you should spend time rummaging around the town's website to get an idea of the best activities and sights in the area.

Again, if you decide not to do the Untours, you could think of staying in two locations for one week each. You could pick one in the Berner Oberland (Wengen, Grindelwald, Muerren, Lauterbrunnen, Kandersteg, Saanen, or Gstaad) or the heartland (Luzern), and then contrast it with a week in the French area (Montreux or Vevey), the Valais (Zermatt or Saas Fee), or in the Italian section, the Ticino (Lugano, Locarno).

Well, really, I think you'll have a lovely time. You'll be with your family and you'll be in a lovely place, so what could be better than that?

I hope this general patter has been helpful --

s
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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 07:24 AM
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I guess I didn't make it clear...my mother is more of a world traveler than I am. She has traveled all over the world normally spending 3-4 weeks at a time. There is no problem with us going from town to town. It sounds to me like there are 4 areas we should concentrate on. The Berner Oberland, Luzern, Vevey/Geneva, and Lake Maggiore area. What if we did 3-4 nights in each location? Would we basically be covering the essentials of the country? We are going to get a book today, but I have had such good luck with my past Italy and England trips just posting on this board, that I would prefer suggestions from all of you.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 08:42 AM
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Hi again,

Well that information about your mother does help a bit!

But, unfortunately, no, you still won't have time to cover the "essentials" of the country. I've been travelling to Switzerland about 14 times in the last 11 years and still have only scratched the surface. Specifically with your itinerary, you're still leaving out the Valais, the Engadin, large portions of the BO, and large portions of the Ticino.

But it's a good starter itinerary. Here's what I would do --

Because it's more dramatic going from Lake Geneva into the Berner Oberland (rather than the reverse), I would fly into Geneva, then spend 3-4 days in either Montreux or Vevey (www.montreux-vevey.com). Then take the Golden Pass Panoramic route from Montreux through Gstaad to the Berner Oberland. Stay in one of the mountain villages (Wengen, Muerren, or Grindelwald) for 3-4 days. Then take the train down to Locarno for your last few days, and then fly out of either Milan or Zurich (though Milan is geographically closer, the train to Zurich takes about the same time).

Rail schedules at www.rail.ch.

Good luck!

s
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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 10:28 AM
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swandav2000's suggested itinerary is excellent. I would add Lauterbrunnen to consider as a place to stay in the Berner Oberland---a smaller village than Grindelwald, situated in a lovely glacial valley with waterfalls dropping in.

You could also add a stop in Lucerne, on the lake. From there, the train goes with no changes to Lugano in the Ticino in 2 hours 40 minutes. It is a short hop from there to Locarno if you favor a different lake.

Although we go to Switzerland for the strenuous hiking, there are many, many other things to enjoy there. The scenery is incredible whether you are hiking or viewing it from the train or from your hotel balcony. The food and wine are excellent, and the hospitality is warm and welcoming.

Although you won't have time to see it all, your itinery will allow you to sample three of the language regions---French, German, and Italian.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 02:25 PM
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I'm a Senior with bad knees and spent two weeks training through Switzerland last March. We entered Switzerland through Geneva and headed straight to Montreux for one night. Our next stop was Adelboden to stay at the Girl Guide's Chalet. We spent four nights there and did some hiking but all on the level. We called a cab when we were tired.

Our next stop was Zermatt for one night where we got lucky and managed to see the Matterhorn. We next rode the Glacier Express to Chur and then the Bernina Express to Torino and back. Our last stop was Lucerne for two nights and then back to Paris.

Of course, we could have used more time in most of the stops and we passed up Zurich too. Last winter had an incredible snow and the sights from the trains just couldn't be beat.

The trains in Switzerland can't be beat. You and your mother will have a fabulous trip no matter where you go in Switzerland.

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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 03:53 PM
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I suggest one of the towns in the Berner Oberland, probably Lauterbrunnen because the hotels are fairly close to the train station.

Grindelwald is much larger, but some of the hotels are well east of the station along the main street.

I suggest Lauterbrunnen because it is a transportation hub.

From there you can get to many places including: Wengen (train), Mürren (cable lift and little continuation train), Grindelwald (train), Interlaken (train). From Mürren, you can walk a short distance to the Schilthornbahn and go to the top of the Schilthorn.


From Wengen, you can take a cable lift to the top of the Männlichen which is a ridge that towers about 4,000 feet above the Lauterbrunnen valley.

Also from Wengen, you can go upwards to Kleine Scheidegg which is the point at which passengers bound for the Jungfraujoch change trains.

Also at Kleine Scheidegg you can change trains for the descent to Grindelwald.

From the Männlichen you can descend via gondola to Grindelwald Grund, which is down the hill a ways from the main part of Grindelwald. You would need to ride the train up from Grindelwald Grund. I walked it once and it is a little of a steep upwards walk in places. Not the best for sore knees.

From Grindelwald, it is possible to take the gondola up to the station named First. (First = ridge).
The station is a ways up the street, and I don't recall if taxis are available or not because I never looked for one.

There is also a post bus up to Grosse Scheidegg where there is a restaurant. It is very scenic and you can have a nice lunch while you sit on the terrace and admire the scenery.

The bus stop is within 50 yards of the restaurant and no uphill walking is involved although as I recall you may need to climb a step or two to reach the outdoor terrace, which has umbrellas for shade or rain protection.

Another choice is to take the train from Lauterbrunnen to Wilderswil, last stop before Interlaken Ost, and ride the mountain train to Schynige Platte.
The station at the top is close to a place to eat. Views are possible without walking much.

Also, at First, there is a restaurant associated with the gondola station with an outside terrace with a fabulous view of the Eiger and the other peaks of the Berner Oberland.

As a fairly minor attraction, you can take the local bus to Isenfluh and ride a little cable car up to a higher station. (Sulwald I think it is, but memory is not clear on that.) There is a little cafe at the top. Isenfluh is relatively inactive, but the views are ok.

A good trip would be to visit Mürren and find a restaurant with a terrace. The views are stunning on a clear day. The Jungfrau and the Mönch are directly in view and they are dazzling.

There is also a restaurant on the crest of the Männlichen where you can get fine views as well of the same peaks but from a different angle.

All of those can be reached with minimal walking. As I recall, the restaurant on the Männlichen is about 250 yards from the cable car dock and the route is fairly flat. Perhaps a little uphill coming back.

The Jungfrau trip is a rather quick change in altitude, but there are elevators to take you up from the train to the viewing areas. If I were to go again to the Jungfraujoch, I think I would stop at Kleine Scheidegg for about an hour to let my cardiovascular system adjust to the change in altitude.

The last time I did it, there were no problems, but I was a little younger!

None of the other destinations are high enough to cause problems unless a person's oxygen intake mechanism is severely compromised.

I know we enjoyed our trip last year even though my wife's knees are arthritic - bone on bone. We did limit our walking at the Klein Matternorn because the snow was soft. That is a high point, however, at better than 12,000 feet above sea level. We had a clear day and the sun was warm outside while the inside of the tunnels was cold as could be.

The views from up there are absolutely stunning on a clear day. It is almost worth the whole trip just to take in that view on a clear day.

Even if you do not go all the way to the top, a stop at the intermediate stop of Trockener Steg is worth the effort.

The Gornergrat is reached with a train, and it gives fantastic views of Monte Rosa, which is more than 15,000 feet, and of the Matterhorn, as well as the surrounding peaks.

A day trip from Lauterbrunnen to Zermatt is not really feasible without a car, but you could spend the night in Täsch. We had the best meal of the whole trip at a hotel in Täsch. The hotel itself was luxury level.

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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 03:55 PM
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PS. You will not see much in Ireland without walking. I have done both and Switzerland wins in a heartbeat.

I don't know of any other place where you can see more for less effort by using mountain trains, cable cars, and a few short walks along easy terrain.

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