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TR: yk/rkkwan + parents' 2-week mostly Swiss sojourn; Sept 2010

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Oct 4th, 2010, 02:35 PM
  #1
yk
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TR: yk/rkkwan + parents' 2-week mostly Swiss sojourn; Sept 2010

PREFACE
Last month, my brother (rkkwan) and I traveled to Switzerland with our parents for a 2-week trip.

I'm not sure how this TR will turn out. I will mostly be the narrator here, as rkkwan has deferred to me as the "trip reporter." But I'm sure he'll butt in and correct me whenever I post something incorrect.

This mostly Switzerland trip is all about natural scenery and places that are meaningful to our parents (which you'll find out why shortly). I will try to post photo links of shots I took within the trip report. Rkkwan took thousands of photos on this trip; I assume it'll take him a while to get them sorted and he'll post his links at a later date.

I will also try to refrain from being too verbose, which I'm known for. We'll see how it goes.
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Oct 4th, 2010, 02:51 PM
  #2
yk
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PROLOGUE
This story began 40 years ago, in 1970. Our parent had just gotten married in late July. Shortly after, they embarked on a month-long honeymoon in Europe. One of the stops on that trip was Switzerland. It was the first time our mom set foot in Europe, at age 27. Our dad, OTOH, had spent 6 years in Germany then UK for his graduate and post-grad studies during the late 50s and early 60s. He had visited Switzerland a number of times then.

Between 1970 and 2010, they have been back to Switzerland only once, in 1981, with rkkwan and me in tow.

We thought it was fitting to go on a trip to Switzerland together as a family for their 40th wedding anniversary.
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Oct 4th, 2010, 03:50 PM
  #3
P_M
 
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A joint trip report from the Kwans--how exciting!! Keep talking, I'm listening.
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Oct 4th, 2010, 06:59 PM
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Looking forward to it. Hahaha.
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Oct 4th, 2010, 07:10 PM
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I had absolutely noooo idea you two were related.
(I've been reading the wonderful Tibet trip report.)
Kudos is due to both of you for this family trip!
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Oct 4th, 2010, 07:18 PM
  #6
yk
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CHAPTER 1 - THE BASICS

We were in Switzerland for 14 days/13 nights. We flew into Geneva and out of Zurich.

[IAD/EWR/GVA, ZRH/EWR/IAH on Continental for rkkwan and our parents, as they live in Houston;
BOS/JFK/MAD/GVA, ZRH/LHR/JFK on a combo of AA/IB/BA for me - complicated story]

Our itinerary
Days 1-3: Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux; then Golden Pass train to Interlaken
Days 4-6: Based in Interlaken. One day for Luzern/Mt Rigi/Bern; one day for Brienz/Ballenberg; one day for Jungfraujoch (rkkwan & our parents). I did some hiking instead.
Day 7: Glacier Express from Visp to Celerina (town right before St Moritz)
Day 8: Bernina Express from Celerina to Tirano, then onward to Lugano
Day 9: Lugano and environs
Day 10: Bellinzona, drove up St Bernardino Pass, then onto Heidiland
Day 11-12: Eastern Switzerland with brief visits to Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany
Day 13: Zurich
Day 14: depart for US

From Day 2 through Day 9, we used the 8-day consecutive Saver SwissPass (320 CHF per person for 2nd cl). From Day 10 thru Day 13, we had a compact rental car for 72 hours.

Accommodation list
Geneva 2 nights at Hotel Sagitta http://www.hotelsagitta.ch/en/presentation.php
Interlaken 4 nights at Swiss Inn
http://www.swiss-inn.ch/index.htm
Celerina 1 night at All in One Hotel Inn Lodge
http://www.innlodge.ch/index.php?id=1422&L=2
Lugano 2 nights at Hotel San Carlo
http://www.hotelsancarlolugano.com/en/index.html
Unterterzen (on the southern shore of Walensee) 3 nights at an apt rental
http://www.interhome.com/holiday-apa...0.1/EN-LI.html
Zurich 1 night at Hotel Leoneck
http://www.leoneck.ch/en/

Some of our trip highlights documented by rkkwan
[Information provided by rkkwan will be posted in italics]

One aerial tramway: the Weggis-Rigi Kaltbad aerial cableway.
One subway: M2 line in Lausanne (the only city in Switzerland with a subway system)
One international border crossed on foot: Italy to Switzerland at Ponte Tresa, Lake Lugano.
Two paddle steamers: Savoie on Lake Geneva, built 1914; and Uri on Lake Luzern, built 1905.
Three funiculars: Two at Monte Brè, one at the train station. All in Lugano.
Four lakes cruised on Seven boats: Savoie & Ville de Geneve (Lake Geneva); Brienz (Lake Brienz); Uri (Lake Luzern); Ceresio, Morcote and Milano (Lake Lugano)
Five UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited: St Gall, Berne, Bellinzona, Jungfrau & Rhaetian Railway.
Five cog railways: two at Mt Rigi and three at Jungfrau.
Six countries visited: Switzerland, France, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria & Germany.
Eighteen of the 26 Cantons visited or at least transversed.
Forty MPG from the VW Golf TDI we rented for 3 days. Used only 40 liters for 700km. 1.719CHF/liter (diesel)


Money/Costs
During our visit, 1 CHF = 1 USD

Many NON-food items cost about the same as US, eg, bus rides, museum admissions. However, food is very expensive in Switzerland. The average main dish costs in most sit-down restaurants is 30-40 CHF. That's not because restaurants over charges the customers. The fact is, food prices are high even in supermarkets. Most of the things we saw at supermarkets are 40%-100% more than US supermarkets.

Examples of food prices observed by rkkwan:
5.8CHF for a small latte at Starbucks.
11.3CHF for a Big Mac meal at McD.
2.9 to 4CHF for a Magnum ice cream bar (similar to Dove Bar).
~18CHF for a roast chicken sold at a roadside carts.
3CHF a kilogram of bananas at supermarkets.
19.5CHF for a bowl of Cantonese noodles in Zurich.


There are 2 exceptions though: local Swiss cheese and Swiss chocolates. Both are significantly cheaper there.

Eg, Appenzeller cheese was 2.20 CHF/100gm. The same cheese sells for $16/lb at my local produce store in Boston.
The most basic, generic brand milk chocolate bar (100gm) was $0.45 CHF. A 100-gm generic brand 60% dark chocolate bar was under $1.50 CHF.

Advanced Bookings
There were several things we booked in advance of our trip. Apart from basic things such as lodging and rental car, I have booked in advance
• Opera tickets at Grand Théâtre de Genève
• Seat reservations on Glacier Express train, and on the Tirano->Lugano leg on Bernina Express bus

The Glacier Express reservation can be done online in advance, but once you booked, payment is immediate via credit card, and it's not changeable or refundable. The cost is 33CHF in addition to ticket price. http://www.glacierexpress.ch/EN/spez...s/default.aspx

In contrast, the Bernina Express reservation can also be done online in advance, but you do not pay until you pick up your "seat reservation ticket" at an SBB ticket office. The BE train from St Moritz to Tirano reservation costs 12 CHF, and the BE bus from Tirano to Lugano reservation costs another 12 CHF.
http://www.rhb.ch/Bernina-Express.33.0.html?&L=4

Weather
We were fortunate for the most part. We had beautiful weather during the middle segment of our trip when we had lots of scenic train and boat rides, and ascending to mtn tops.

It was overcast during our first couple of days, and towards the end of our trip, we encountered heavy downpours one day.

On average, temperatures were in the 60sF. It was warmest on sunny days in Lugano where it was over 70F. The coldest was in the mid 40sF the day we went to LI/Austria/Germany.
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Oct 4th, 2010, 07:19 PM
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Hey, where are you-- I thought you would have the whole thing written by now!
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Oct 4th, 2010, 07:20 PM
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Oh OK (posted at the same time).
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Oct 4th, 2010, 09:50 PM
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Yay! YK, I've always enjoyed your trip reports, so please don't leave out important details to this trip report.

That's wonderful that you and your brother took your parents for their 40th wedding anniversary. Our family is sort of in the early, early planning stages of a possible trip to Europe for our parents 40th anniversary also. They have never been to Europe, and my mom has dreamed of going to Europe for years. I hope you don't mind me asking you lots of questions along the way!

Can't wait for the next segment!
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Oct 5th, 2010, 01:12 AM
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Glad to see you posting a report, can't wait for the next installment(s), either! ;-)

Regards,

Ingo
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Oct 5th, 2010, 05:48 AM
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Can't wait to read more, yk!
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Oct 5th, 2010, 06:51 AM
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Oh good, another yk report! And Switzerland - I only got to see a little bit before I broke my wrist in Murren and had to come home.
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Oct 5th, 2010, 07:59 AM
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Wow! Thirteen days in Switzerland! It's like being in heaven. I'm loving your report and I really like the website of Hotel Leoneck in Zurich.
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Oct 5th, 2010, 09:01 AM
  #14
P_M
 
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There are 2 exceptions though: local Swiss cheese and Swiss chocolates. Both are significantly cheaper there.

Good info, these are my 2 favorite Swiss foods!! On my next Swiss adventure I will eat nothing but cheese and chocolate. Who needs anything else??
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Oct 5th, 2010, 09:04 AM
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I'll skip the cheese and eat nothing but CHOCOLATE!!
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Oct 5th, 2010, 09:08 AM
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P_M
 
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That works for me too scatcat. Chocolate can be a full meal.
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Oct 5th, 2010, 09:24 AM
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Great information...always enjoy reading your trip reports!
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Oct 5th, 2010, 09:57 AM
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We're heading to Murren next spring...looking forward to what you did during your stay in Interlaken.
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Oct 5th, 2010, 10:03 AM
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LOVE your trip reports YK, so glad to see yours here today. I was wondering when we would see your Switzerland report...
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Oct 5th, 2010, 10:12 AM
  #20
yk
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Thank you for all your encouraging words here, and thanks for being patient! It's been rather hectic since I got back, and I still have to sort out my photos. I'll try to get the next installment up later today.
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