Switzerland itinerary for your review.

Old Jan 31st, 2005, 07:47 PM
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Switzerland itinerary for your review.

My dear Fodorites, please donít hijack this thread into a pro and con organized tour discussion. I know the word ďtourĒ is a 4-letter curse word here, still I would like to run the itinerary by you, experienced travelers, so maybe you can assure me itís fine for the 1st visit. My main goal is to see the Alps.

Zurich: Fraumunster church (Chagallís windows, love Chagall!), Swiss National museum.

Lucerne: Lion monument, Chapel bridge. Drive through Brunig Pass to Brienz, woodcarving factory.

Interlaken: Murren, Trummelbach Falls. Jungfrau: train round-trip to the ďtop of EuropeĒ. Grindelwald.

Berne: Old town, Bear Pit. Lunch at a working farm. Gruyere. Lake Geneva. Tasch, mountain train to Zermatt. Alpine Museum. Train up Gornergat to view the Matterhorn.

Glacier express train. Valais. Disentis. Lake Walen. Lake Zurich. Back to Zurich.

Some optionals and free time tossed in here and there.

So... please tell me itís not too bad
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 10:11 PM
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Hi Faina,
This might not be my way to see Switzerland, but I'm sure it'll give you a fair view.
One thing to keep in mind however.
You 'll visit some cities and the Swiss mountains. According to the season, this might ask you to take 'double luggage': city clothing and mountain clothing.
If you came today, it is winter everywhere, so a winter outfit would be fine. If you come in the heat of the summer, you wouldn't need to much luggage either, it will be summer everywhere. In spring however, you can have a nice springtime in the cities, but still winter conditions in the mountains.
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Old Feb 1st, 2005, 02:11 AM
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I live in Zurich. A few observations. How many days are you spending in Switzerland? I canít tell how often you will be moving. You are covering a lot of ground. Are you on a tour or can you make changes to your schedule?

1. Fraumunster. Unfortunately, the church has been under scaffolding for over a year. I would hope that by May it will be finished, but they were supposed to finish by Christmas, so no one really knows (and the delay is very un-Swiss). The scaffolding does obscure the enjoyment of the windows quite a bit. In any event if you go, go on a sunny day and go before 11 am, as the morning sunshine comes in through the windows at that time. They are not much to look at by the late afternoon.

2. While the purposes of your trip is to see the Alps, you are spending what seems to me to be a lot of time in places where you will not see them or will see them only from far away. I am not a fan of Lucerne, and it is not in the mountains, it looks across the lake at them. At least try to get to Mt Pilatus or Rigi while you are there. The small villages and areas around Lake Geneva are far more beautiful, IMO, than Lucerne. Bern is a nice city, but I would skip it for a first time visit, and while you can see the Alps on most days, they are quite far away. Although Zurich is a great place to visit, it rarely has Alp views. (The tourbook and postcard pictures are taken on the 20 or so days a year when you can see the Alps.) If you want to see the Alps, I would spend more time in the Murren/Zermatt/Engadine areas or areas around Gruyere and the eastern end of Lake Genevea.

3. The Brunig Pass may disappoint you, as it is not above the tree line and while it has some good views, but is not a thrilling drive as passes go in Switzerland. If you will have a car, consider doing the Grimsel or Susten Pass as well. You have to drive the Brunig to get to Interlaken from Lucerne and Zurich. You can add a half day to drive the Grimsel or Susten and return to the Interlaken area; in fact there is a turn off for both passes at the bottom of the Interlaken side of the Brunig Pass, and you could drive up either to the top, turn around and head back along the valley floor to Interlaken all in just two hours or so. You can also do both passes by Postbus from the Interlaken area, but these would take longer. You could also drive to Zermatt from the Grimsel Pass, high above the tree line, much of which follows the train tracks of the Glacier Express from Andermatt down to Brig. You could then head to Geneva from there.

4. You are doing the Glacier Express, but are you departing and leaving from Zermatt or are you getting off in Chur, Davos or St Moritz? If the latter, this area of Switzerland is very beautiful and very much off the US tourist path. Consider taking a train back toward Zurich and stopping in places like Guarda (IMO the most beautiful village in Switzerland, a land of beautiful villages) or other parts of the Upper Engadine. The Walensee (Lake Walen) you mention above is really quite spectacular and I would include it, however you can easily do it as a day trip from Zurich as it is less than an hour by train. (Take the train to Wessen, hike or walk around that end of the lake, ferry down to Unterterzen and take the train back to Zurich.). You could also take a train from Interlaken to Chur or Davos, spend some time in that area, and then take the Glacier Express one-way to Zermatt.

5. May is changeable here, can be warm and clear or cool and rainy. It will still be quite cool to cold in the mountain areas, so bring layers, a hat and gloves, esp for the Jungfrau. Be flexible in your itinerary in places like the Jungfrau rail trip, if it is a cloudy day, postpone the trip to the next day or skip it. On a cloudy day, you will see the tops of some other mountains, but wonít be able to see the valleys. It is a lot of money to spend to see a few mountaintops, IMO, so a clear day is best.

6. In Zermatt if it is a clear day, I would skip the Alpine Musuem and spend time walking down from the top of the Gornegrat. You can walk down to either the Riffleberg stop (an hour or so) or RiffleAlp (mabye 1.5 hours) and have lunch there, and then get the train back down to town. (The truly adventurous can walk all the way down, I imagine that would take serveral hours.) All is above the treeline until the RiffleAlp stop and offers great views. The Rifflealp Hotel has a lovely outdoor restaurant with a stupendous Matterhorn view; the Riffleberg has a cafeteria with just as awseome a view but not as awesome food. There is also small outdoor restaurant and cafeteria at the top of the Gornegrat.

7. I hve not done the Glacier Express, but have done the Berninia Express a few times. People who have done both say that the Berninia is a better trip. You might consider switching. The Berninia departs from Chur, which is near the beautiful Engadine areas.

8. May 1, 5 and 16 are public holidays here. Some museums and restaurants will be closed and things like the Jungfrau train could be very crowded.


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Old Feb 1st, 2005, 04:30 AM
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Cicerone,
You say that you are not a fan of Lucerne. I am flying in and out of Zurich in September and planned to stay in Lucerne for 2 days prior to my flight out. The rest of the time we'll be in Italy. Is there somewhere else you can recommend spending 2 days in Switzerland prior to our flight out?
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Old Feb 1st, 2005, 04:37 AM
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I'm certainly not a Switzerland expert (just a Switzerland lover) but I will add my comments.

In October 04 we took the Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano and back, and the trip was everything we had imagined and more.

We also took the Glacier Express from Chur to Andermatt and, while that portion of the trip was pretty, it could not compare with the Bernina, in our opinions.

We really enjoyed spending two nights in Chur, staying at Zunfthaus Rabluta (sometimes spelled Rebleuten), in the old (OLD!) town. Its an old guild house, now a very good restaurant, with several rooms upstairs.

And some day we will go back there...

Byrd
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Old Feb 1st, 2005, 06:09 AM
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Sounds to me like you will catch a glimpse on the fly. Not enough time, period.
You will be in transit most of the time and see Switzerland from a train window.

In Luzern, you are omitting the most interesting attraction in the city: the transportation museum. Near Interlaken, you are omitting the most interesting outdoor museum I have seen: the Museum of Swiss Life near Brienz.
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Old Feb 1st, 2005, 06:12 AM
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Sounds to me like you will catch a glimpse on the fly. Not enough time, period. You will be in transit most of the time and see Switzerland from a train window.

In Luzern, you are omitting the most interesting attraction in the city: the transportation museum. Near Interlaken, you are omitting the most interesting outdoor museum I have seen: the Ballenberg Open Air Historic Museum. It shows in capsule form the alpine life of yesterday's Switzerland. The diversity of cultures in Switzerland is huge, and the differences are unique and appealing.

But, given your limited time, you are probably striking the best compromise.
I just hope it is not too big a blur in your memory.
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Old Feb 1st, 2005, 06:14 AM
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Assuming you want to be in the mountains, take a train from the airport up to the Grindelwald/Murren/Wengen area. It is 3 hours by train to Zurich, as opposed to about an hour to Lucerne, so it does not add too much time to your journey. Best of all, you will actually be IN the mountains as opposed to looking at them across the lake. You can take the Jungfrau rail trip, and there is lots of good walking and hiking in the area. I prefer Wengen as it is up on a shelf with great valley and mountain views, many people like Murren, Grindlewald or Lauterbrunnen. You really could not go wrong with any of them.

Not sure where you are coming from in Italy, assuming the Milan or Florence area, you can get to the Grindelwald area in 5 hours by train from Milan and 7.5 hours from Florence. Great train trip the whole way. From Rome or Venice it would be a long train ride but doable and not any worse IMO than training to Lucerne from those areas..

If you prefer a city, stay in Zurich which has a tremendous amount to see and do, and you can get to countryside bits for a day if you want.
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Old Feb 1st, 2005, 06:40 AM
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Cicerone,
Thank you! I am going to research these options. We are coming from Milan on the train. Yes, we do love being in the city, but would love to be in the mountains also.
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Old Feb 1st, 2005, 08:05 AM
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Thank you, everybody, especially Cicerone. Yes, this is a fixed itinerary tour with some free time. I will check all possible weather websites and will be ready for rain/snow/heat and everything else. Hopefully Russian winter and San Francisco everchanging weather taught me enough to dress in layers and be ready for anything.

The tour is 10 days long at the very end of May. 3 nights Interlaken, 3 nights Zermatt. 2 nights Zurich and 1 night the airport area (start/end in Zurich). There are several 1/2 days free (probably for optionals) so I may be able to visit all museums and places you guys have mentioned.

The Glacier express will be taken from Tasch to Disentis, at least on the tour map it says so. I love trains The map is not detailed at all, but the direction is clear. I don't know if there will be stops on the way, I mean I don't know if our tour group will get out of the train for a picture stop. The tour bus will pick us up at Disentis to continue on to Zurich.

Yes, Al, I wish I'd have time and money to go for at least a month... As this is not a real possibility I'll take this tour. It's better to spend 10 days "on the fly" then not to go at all, don't you think so?
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Old Feb 1st, 2005, 11:11 AM
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For Desert_Sue,

Well of course Cicerone posts good advice about spending time in the mountains, but really the BO is too far to stay the night before your departure from Zurich. I did that once, pre-9/11, and had to leave Wengen at, like, 5.30 am. I really don't recommend it.

So if you have to choose between Luzern or Zurich for your last night (before a morning flight out), I'd definitely choose Luzern. I **love** Luzern; I think its scenery is spectacular and its old town is charming. So -- don't rule it out. I like Zurich too, but not as much as Luzern.

Because Luzern is only about an hour from the Zurich airport by direct train, it's very feasible for your last night.

Anyway, just another opinion.

s
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Old Feb 1st, 2005, 12:02 PM
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Well since it's a set tour in both time and place, I'm not sure how we can assure you or make any suggestions for the trip. Sounds like a done deal (which is fine, I'm sure you'll have a ball).

Personally I'm wondering what the brief mention "Lake Geneva" entails. Only because I LOVE that part of the world, and am a big fan of Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux, even Geneva itself, but it doesn't sound like you're making it there? And Gruyere is inland, from the lake... hmmm.
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