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Trip Report/Boston Family: Part I: Lauterbrunne 12/23-12/27

Trip Report/Boston Family: Part I: Lauterbrunne 12/23-12/27

Old Jan 15th, 2006, 05:30 PM
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Trip Report/Boston Family: Part I: Lauterbrunne 12/23-12/27

Returned from family holiday with husband and two children, 20 and 24 to Lauterbrunnen, Bern, Basel and Konstanz, Germany. Extremely memorable trip, report is long, I am listing itinerary short version here, followed by separate postings for each city. At end of Konstanz posting, I list miscellaneous planning experiences, who I used for air, rail passes, tickets, helpful web pages, suitcase thoughts w/ train, insurance,etc.

First, MANY thanks to all of you for your suggestions and assistance, and forgive if I leave someone out, but from my notes of threads I had with me, thanks to Edward2005, Ingo, Schuler, BobBrown, Phil, Pleiades, Cicerone, Ellabella, Jean, Frosyev and more - you made it much easier to quickly find bag storage at trains, suggested walks, restaurants, negotiate trains and yes, Ingo we have Etter Pear liquer from Globus and lots of chocolate and Schuler your idea to sled was a fabulous adventure with many laughable moments. Also used Fodors guide, Michelin Green Guide and some web sites which are listed at end of Konstanz post.

ITINERARY: Short Version:
We loved and would highly recommend all our hotels:
12/22: Boston to Zurich
12/23: Zurich at 8am: train to Luzern, planned a 3 hr. layover until
GoldenPass train to Interlaken/Lauterbrunnen
12/23-12/27 Silberhorn in Lauterbrunnen
12/27-12/29: Belle Epoque in Bern
12/29-1/2: Hotel Krafft in Basel
1/2-1/4: Steigenberger Inselhotel in Konstanz
A particularly amazing Christmas Night in Lauterbrunnen and New Years Eve in Basel, a few fabulous restaurants, canít wait to return to Switzerland again. Train travel as well as all in-city transportation was a breeze & delight.

And I love, love, love all those immaculate public restrooms that are always close by.

Note: Never would have included Konstanz in this itinerary except we had to drop our college son off there, otherwise, I would have used those two days for somewhere else in Switzerland, like Zurich, while we enjoyed Konstanz old town and Meersburg Castle, the rest of that area, I think, would be better enjoyed in spring/summer......we loved everywhere we were in Switzerland, but now canít wait to also visit in spring/summer for other activities and sites. I think this is definitely an area worth seeing in different seasons.

ITINERARY: Long Version, posting by city.
LAUTERBRUNNEN

*when we travel, I assign each family member an overall responsibility and each one gets assigned a city to organize our days: I give them a packet w/ copies of pages from Fodors, fodorite threads, any addíl info Iíve found, a few things I choose that we canít miss, they add what they want to do and map out the days/nights. Responsibilities have increased with age. This trip son is in charge of navigating us thru all rail/transport and daughter dinner rezzies and each gets a city.Each night, we go over the next day, at this age over a drink in the bar, and of course, mom has final veto power if necessary. This usually includes a little splitting up, which also helps everyone not get on everyones nerves.

12/22: Evening flight arriving Zurich on 12/23 @ 8am.

DAY ONE 12/23: Claim baggage easily, stretch legs, have coffee and take train about one hour later to LUZERN for 3 hour layover b/c we reserved GoldenPass to Interlaken: Wanted scenic train, didnít want to rush from Zurich to make connection for earlier train or worry if flight was delayed, and opted instead to break for a few hours. Freshen up, put bags in holding area, overcast, but nice temperature and we walk, covered historical bridge, through side streets, light lunch and a beer (ok, but not memorable enough and didnít write down name of restaurant), through market stalls selling fish, food and holiday greenery: started to get in Christmas mood as people were passing us buying greens, wreaths and particularly branches of green w/ white opaque bud - mistletoe ?- or at least this is what it appeared to be to me - but if anyone knows what that was if it wasnít mistletoe, Iíd love to know.). We also saw single branches of it hanging on many doorways all through Switzerland and I kept meaning to ask but forgetting!

GOLDEN PASS to Interlaken/Lauterbrunnen: one of my favorite parts of trip. We wernít out of Luzern five minutes, sky cleared, plenty of sun. We rserved first class seats and were the only 4 in the car -stretched out, had coffees and hot chocolates off the rolling cart, sat back and enjoyed amazing views.

It was just like we envisioned from reading/movies (starting to feel like Iím chanelling Heidi a bit) - everything we are surrounded by is magical, - mountains, valleys, water, bridges, snaking up, down and around the mountains..some still very green areas in valleys and plenty of snow and ice above, ....love the group of children waiting on one mountainside curve to pelt our train with snowballs while waving and laughing.

INTERLAKEN: We easily walk from our train , downstairs and to train to LAUTERBRUNNEN.
Look up from train station and see our hotel- a small walk uphill to the Silberhorn, run by the von Allmen family. Excellent choice for us. 30 room hotel, welcoming, cozy, friendly and extremely helpful owners and staff. Decorated perfectly for holiday atmosphere with lots of fresh greenery, twinkling lights and candles all around.

A quick settle in rooms: great views of surrounding mountains and main street of Lauterbrunnen. Son is busy planning our days; daughter and I walk main road to get acclimated. Small, a few restaurants, ski type stores, Trudyís Bazaar, Internet/Laundry, church, cemetary. I am on quick emergency hunt for boots, b/c in Luzern I stepped on what seemed like gum but when I picked up my foot, a huge chunk of my sole was left on the ground. First shop does not have type I want or want to spend on, and owner directs me to another place in town where I will find what I want - so friendly owner loses sale to make customer happy - who doesnít love that?

We notice Santaís climbing up the side of houses, on ladders and have not seen this so plentiful anywhere before. They are everywhere so must be one of their holiday traditions.

SILBERHORN has two dining rooms, one for public (and guests) which is pub style, light wood, good size tables w/ a bar area that curves around to a few booths with fireplace in middle of both as well as an attached sunporch with wicker furniture; and dining rm for guests (since dinner is included in our lodging) which is nicer then pub style but not fancy and has an attached small but cozy bar, dark wood, and several small cocktail tables with comfy upholstered tub chairs.

DINNER: Two of us have severe seafood/shellfish allergies and they were extremely accomodating telling us upon arrival they will make us whatever we want any night.
Dinner always includes an excellent salad bar: fresh greens, veggies, several slaw and potato type sides and always one hot starter usually a pasta type.

Tonight we opt for simple dinner of pork chops, rosti, green beans, and I do my normal first night arriving in Europe deal so by second glass of wine just as dinner is about to end Iím struggling to keep my eyes open and doing the classic head bob. We are all off to early bed by 9pm

Rooms: It is dark, Staubbauch falls is lit up with a Christmas Star, lights are hanging over the streets and on the holiday lights on trees in town below us.

Love the beds: the type with the ratchet so you can raise the head area as much or little as you like. Perfect for reading and comfortable sleep. Love that we get two separate twin down comforters (and thatís it, no sheets, no blankets- so when hubby tosses in his sleep I am not left without covers. Definitely shelving our king duvet and adapting this idea at home.

DAY TWO: 12/24: JUNGFRAUJOCH/WENGEN: We have breakfast: the cheeses, fruits, mueslix, yogurts, breads and the hard boiled eggs that are dyed lilke our Easter eggs all in bright orange shaded swirls....which matched the color scheme of the Ovomaltine plastic containers on table for eggshells, etc....until we are later in Basel grocery shopping and see that is how they are sold. I am still curious about this if anyone knows anything about why the eggs are sold dyed. Anyway, kids - and mom - are thrilled to have Ovomaltine as it is seems basically Ovaltine, a favorite when they were little.

Silberhorn tells us dinner is early tonight at 6pm so their staff can be with family and our special dinner with them is Christmas Night (special isnít the word, it was fabulous)... a bright sunny day we are off to Jungfraujoch journey. Cogwheel rail from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen and onto Klein Scheidegg. Truly the views here are indescribable - peaceful and lovely and breathtaking.

KLEIN SCHEIDEGG: Almost an hour till the next Jungfraujoch excursion -we have a hot drink and snack in the tee pees ( ok, can someone explain the indian style tee pees at the top of this mountain to me?) and onto Jungfraujoch train just as big bang brings on small avalanche on mountain above which is fascinating to watch. Wonder if it was natural, or planned to control snow, but either way it was something watching that snow roll down and puff up and hearing the noise echo.

JUNGFRAUHOCH: Ride was fun, a few stops to look out viewing point windows, arrive at top to perfectly clear, sunshine, fabulous views. Sphinx Terrace, and Ice Palace... well, not quite what I could call an ice palace - I would say more of an ice tunnel with sculptures but it was fun and suddenly my 20 and 24 yr old were creatively ďspeed skatingĒ around the bends and filming crazy videos with their digitals and giggling like 8 yrs olds -. Iíd like to say the altitude affected there brain, but didnít care b/c worth seeing them laughing and being silly together. We are the only ones in there so they act like nuts. Must admit, final videos and voice overs pretty funny, I tell them maybe Iíll embarass them by showing someday at their weddings.

At the top, clear and breath taking. Lots of Kodak moments by the large Swiss flag on top, and the kids are again laughing hysterically imitating the comic Eddie Izzards flag routine ( if anyone familiar with that outrageous man, he does a bit about countries taking over other countries just because there isnít a flag, no flag, you donít own the country Iíll put down a flag and then I own it, doesnít repeat well on paper, but ifyou are familiar with it there is some humor there). About ten other people on top, one couple from Ohio who we enjoy chatting with. Not crowded, no lines, no wait anywhere. Noone bothered by altitude.

TOP OF THE WORLD Restaurant for lunch: table by window, enjoy fondue, salads and beer before we head back w/ stop at Wengen to stroll around for an hour and then to Silberhorn.

SILBERHORN DINNER tonight is interesting - one large plate, with one pork chop, which is surrouned by inserts in the dish that holds various things like dipping sauces (curry, mayo mixture, salsa type thing) and star fruit, papaya, melons, olives, pickles. Lovely light dessert, a few after dinner drinks in the adjoining bar with the fire roaring and to our rooms. Waiting in our rooms are hand made, decorated gingerbread men type holiday cookies.

We planned on the Christmas Eve service at local church at edge of the town at midnight, but no one made it past 10pm.

DAY THREE: 12/25 SCHILTHORN: MURREN: GIMMELWALD: and special walk and evening meal.

Merry Christmas sunny morning- off to Schilthorn early. Funicular from Lauterbrunnen then mountain rail to MURREN. The town is so quiet you could hear your breathing, everyone still sleeping so itís eerily beautiful walking through the Murren to the other end. We take our time, a few residents pass us walking their dogs, we enjoy looking at the homes, holiday decor set up in flower boxes, homemade manger scenes - baby dolls in the mangers with use of stuffed animals and wooden Virgin Maryís that kids had hand painted faces on, - unique and beautiful in their simplicity. Enamored of the many unique ways of stacking wood in and around alcoves in the homes, they made for interesting photo ops.

Sensational ride up to SCHILTHORN - fabulous, steep, gorgeous. First time we talk about maybe regretting not skiing this trip. Views from top picture perfect on this clear day of Monch, Eiger, Jungfrau, - far reaching and miraculous, boy do we feel small and insignificant surrounded by all this. Watch movie on James Bond film ( I forgot Telly Savalas was in and remember why all the guys loved Diana Rigg) and the short film on the area in general.

Window seat lunch at Piz Gloria was much better than I expected, excellent - had a ďzurichĒ style veal sliced thin with spatzle and sauce and some warm Ovomaltine as restaurant rotated an entire turn - then headed back down. Again, no crowds, but restaurant was starting to fill up as we left and the skiers were out and about.

Stop on way down after first cable ride to soak up some sun and watch some birds doing acrobatic turns on the sun deck while people skiied- then headed down to Murren.

Walked from Murren to GIMMELWALD. Not sure if we were on the right path, as many sledders passing us, but we easily got out of their way. More incredible views, a cute shop selling knitted items, and a fun chat with a family having sled races down one hill nearby.

GIMMELWALD also quiet, but oh so lovely! Stroll through the town, great photos of barns, troughs, some kittens all curled up sleeping on a tractor. Chat with woman emptying her stove ashes on her porch. She is from Chicago and rents this house two months every winter and two in the spring/summer time. Very friendly, tells us many stories about when she first arrived for business in the area and then she and hubby deciding to return each year renting same house.

Locals greeted them first with some trepidation as who were these outsiders, but slowly they have become more of the fabric of the community since they also took it slow, as she said residents of Gimmelwald very private people. Now, she helps some bring in their cows, or walks their dogs when they are busy in their high season and truly loves it and finds it very welcoming and a second home.

She gets around mostly by sled and encourages us to do same. Son is putting it on his list.

Cable down to STECHELBERG. Husband and daugher opt for bus back to Lauterbrunnen and some down time, son and I walk back, although sun is gone it is still a beautiful late afternoon time and light still nice. A walk Iíll never forget. So silent, so still, surrounded by miraculous scenery. We pass only one cross country skier, and one couple taking a stroll. We start on the road, then cross over small bridge and walk closer to base of mountains. Trickles of snow melting, once we hear a big bang and look up to see snow falling (guess you would call this a small avalanche?) beautiful.

As we approach LAUTERBRUNNEN, we hear church bells ringing, followed by music and more church bells. We pass barns covered in cow bells, sheep and then the cemetary where many people are taking votive candles and red glass holders out of a bin and placing them next to headstones.

CHRISTMAS DINNER begins at 6pm in the outdoor garden for aperitifs.

They have lined the walkway to the garden with votives in beautiful bags and containers and the trees are covered with real candles. There is a fire, tables set out with appetizers and aperitif - something Mrs. von Allmen has been concocting all day with wine, spices, and a splash of champagne before serving. Delicious. Everyone is welcoming everyone and toasting happy Christmas and the von Allmens and their son Bert are asking everyone about their day and plans. Lovely.

Inside for dinner with surprises between courses. Salad bar, hot accompaniment, followed by Smoked salmon-rose on winter salad flowers. (they made other accomodations for the two with allergies).Broth with Sherry and parmesan stalk. (delic), Brasato Ravioli on Ratatouille.

Mrs. von Allmen formally greets us along with one of the staff.shares a poem with us she feels is about the true spirit of the holidays and something we should think about all year long, - about how important a single smile, kind word, or someones presence can be. She reads it in German and another woman reads it in english. Applause and teary eyes.

Next, she announces the grandchildren have a treat for us. Six of them walk through the dining room with lanterns of votives as they sing Christmas carols in German and then we continue dinner.

Pink roasted duckling breast with orange sauce, potato with truffle, brussel sprouts with chesnuts and another surprise. The grandchildren carry in two alphorns and lay them on the floor at the entry. Two men dressed as Father Christmas with long red robes, hats, beards, the whole outfit follow and play several songs. Between the glow of the candles, the music filling the room, the food, the wines, the lights twinkling outside, itís perfect.

Next, baby pineapple filled with delicous custard and champagne. Mrs. von Allmen passes out sheets of the words to Silent Night and Hark the Herald Angels sing, but tells everyone to sing them in whatever language they want. Peoples voices mix in german, english, french and who knows what else but it sounds beautiful and while we sing the grandchildren deliver to each person a small burlap bundle tied with a ribbon and filled with peanuts, clementines, individual toblerone chocoates and a chocolate santa.

After dinner drinks in the bar and plan our next day of sledding with some help from their son on our destinations.

Our Christmas giggle: At bar, son and I are going over his plan for next day, he has already scoped out rental of sleds downtown. Young man asks Mrs. vA if they sell rolling papers at the bar. I look at my kids, and son leans over and tells me some bars sell cigarettes and/or rolling papers. Mrs. vA tells this young man they donít sell them, but she might have some downstairs of hers that he can have because he must want to be like Father Christmas. She sends a staff member to get, who returns, and hands a roll of toilet paper to Mrs. vA who then hands over bar to this young man. You should have seen his face. We are laughing. Young man tries to explain what he wants, but she is at a loss. He leaves. She turns to me and I try to explain what he wanted. Suddenly she laughs and says Ďoh i am too old. I thought he wanted to be Father Christmasí; and explains how the local kids sometimes take the toilet paper wrapping it around their head and down their chin to look like Father Christmas. We go to bed laughing.

DAY FOUR: 12/26. SLEDGING: Rent sleds at local shop. A quick lesson in how to sled on these tiny wooden sleds goes against everything I always told my kids when they were little - keep your feet up less you snap an ankle. But we are told to steer with our feet (no brakes, no steering, just a rope coming off the front middle fo the sled) and to stop we should pull up on the rope and tip the front of the sled up. I am assured we will get the hang of it quickly. We go up to Kleine Scheidegg and look for the, I think, Eiger run down with plans to stop for a snack at Alpiglen.

We slip, we zoom, we jump off when we canít stop rather than go over the edge. We end up on the snow, in the snow, and up to our knees in snow at times. But we are all laughing and enjoying more mind blowing views. Thank goodness the slopes are not crowded. We get the hang of it and some are getting far too confident and it becomes competetive as to who is the best ďsledgerĒ as they whip by mom with a smirk on their faces. Dad ends up once on his backside sliding down the mountain and daughter does a great save as she reaches out and catches his run away sled.

Somewhere we miss a sign and end up at Brandegg, which is past Alpiglen, where we see people coming down the actual sledding run. guess we were on a ski trail. We enjoy rosti and the best apple fritters witih vanilla sauce and head out again. We end up in Grindewald Grund which wasnít our plan, but we had fun. If we had another day, everyone would vote for more sledding.

Kids check their emails and see a sign that says the hostel behind will develop your digital cards onto a cd in one hour for 5 francs. They willingly run our laundry while they wait for their photos, which the lady has you check before taking on her computer. They are happy for that and to not have to hand wash underwear and wet sledding clothes.

Dinner is great, and daughter and I have night cap in bar as she goes over her plans wtih me for Bern.


LAUTERBRUNNEN and the area was perfect location to be over the 23/24/25/26 when in other areas many things might have been closed, here with the outdoor activities and everything up and running we didnít have to worry about what was open or not. We had thought of starting in Basel or Bern, glad now we went this route instead. Silberhorn spotless, friendly and food, while not 4 star restaurant, is good, homey ďcountry foodĒ and we would return.

Next post, Bern and Basel....






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Old Jan 16th, 2006, 02:37 AM
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Hi E,

It is easier for all of us to follow if you put all of your posts together on one thread.

Here are the links:

http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...2&tid=34737452

http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...2&tid=34737456

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Old Jan 16th, 2006, 02:59 AM
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Hi escargot,

I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying this! I love your descriptive details so I can imagine almost every sight and scene! You lucky dog!

Thank you so much for taking the time to post this!

s
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Old Jan 16th, 2006, 04:52 AM
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What a lovely report. Your trip already sounds magical.

One question....in June our family of four will be flying into Zurich and heading directly to Wengen for 3 nights. I have never heard of the GoldenPass train, especially as distinct from others on the way from Zurich to Wengen. Could you tell me more?

Other question....we are staying in Wengen, but plan on visiting Schilthorn and Murren one day. Will that be difficult from Wengen - I know we will have to go down and then back up, but is that a big deal?

We are so excited for our June trip, but your description of being there in winter has me interested in that as well.

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Old Jan 16th, 2006, 04:57 AM
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For fun4all4,

Here's a link that should give you some information:

http://www.goldenpass.ch/GPL/main.asp

escargot, forgive my stepping into a question asked of you, but I am SO bored today!

s
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Old Jan 16th, 2006, 06:40 AM
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Oh Ira, I am still a novice at this - I thought if I put them all together it would be waay too long and I wouldn't have room on one post - guess I made the wrong decision - thank you for providing links, so now should I just copy and paste them all together and have one long one? But then what happens to the 3 separate ones I've posted - can I delete them once I get one long one together? If you return to this thread, or someone else who knows how, let me know please - thanks again.
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Old Jan 16th, 2006, 06:49 AM
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Fun4all4: As far as going to Schilthorn from Wengen, I don't think it is too difficult to go from Wengen down and then up, although it may be more crowded in June and lines may be longer (we had no lines at all) - and there is going to be some work done I think soon on the funicular from lauterbrunnen up, there was some signage as such when we were there - but on this site there is a recent thread titled "1st time swiss traveler - please help with itinerary" and I noticed many transport questions and Bob_Brown answered (he was most helpful to me when planning and very knowledgeable) so you might want to read that thread.

As far as the GoldenPass, the man at BETS, who I used to pre purchase our rail tix, as well as posters here and the Fodors book on Switz, first recommended that to me. My impression was it was the more scenic ride from Zurich to Interlaken, but they don't run as often as the regular route. The windows on this train were huge, sort of a window dome effect, and views unmarred, but I really can't compare not having taken the other train. Maybe there is a thread on GoldenPass on here also and comparing....or someone else like BobBrown can tell you more on that one. But I can tell you this, I will be amazed if you don't want to go back - I miss it alrready.
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Old Jan 16th, 2006, 06:51 AM
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fun4all4, also , at end of my post of Trip Report/Boston Family: part III: Konstanz, I listed some web sites, etc that helped me learn more about the area that you might want to look at if you haven't already found them.
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Old Jan 16th, 2006, 06:55 AM
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sorry fun4all4, I need more coffee today having a had time getting going - the other recent thread with lots of info for you (again, BobBrown is on it) is Europe: Berner Oberland. lots about the rail/funicular/cable in Wengen/Lauterbrunnen.
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Old Jan 16th, 2006, 07:35 AM
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Thanks for all the great info, escargot.

I will do more research and get back to you if I have any questions. It sounds like all the moving around once in the Berner Oberland (cable cars, funiculars, etc...) is pretty easy, right?

Did you find it worth waiting for the Golden Pass train? Did you have time for lunch or a walk around Lucern? Was everyone too tired and grumpy to get there or was the break good (in your opinion)?

As for the trip report. Yes, I find it best to put it all on one thread. Much easier to follow. You can simply post it in 3 sections (ie. initial post, then reply posts). If you can copy and paste it together that will be great. Don't worry about the other posts as they will just "fall off" the board with no activity - you could make one last posting telling people to use the other one. If this is not the best way, please say so experts

Can't wait to finish reading the rest of your report.
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Old Jan 16th, 2006, 12:10 PM
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fun4all4: I did put this and the other two posts up on one, Switzerland Trip Report. But yes, I felt it was worth the wait to take the Golden Pass, but not having ever taken the other option, I have nothing to compare it to, maybe that one is just as lovely.

We had about a 3 hr layover in Luzern which was fine w/ us after being on a plane and a short train ride from Zurich to Luzern...checked out bags, walked around, light lunch and found the ride on the Golden Pass delightful. I thought it was worth the layover in Luzern, but depending on where you are coming from, or what time you land (if say, in Zurich), your timing might be different than ours.

There was an earlier GoldenPass - without a layover - but I didn't want to chance that, (possible plane delay, whatever) and wanted to reserve first class on the Goldenpass and not chance there would be openings on a later one if for some reason plane delayed and we missed first one - So that is why I went with the later Goldenpass and having some time to kill, but that's me, I'd rather have extra time than be harried - plus, if we didn't do the Luzern layover, we wouldn't have seen Luzern at all and posters answering my queries were also saying, hey, why not visit Luzern if only for a few hours.

The break was good in my opinion- but it depends on how your family travels, kids ages, etc. It was an "easy" layover, light walking, light lunch, nothing exhausting - and it wouldn't matter where we were headed first day, as we always keep going, even if at slower pace, until bed time - I am the family travel general and allow no naps before bedtime
although a few did shut their eyes on the Zurich to Luzern train.

Cable/funicular/cogwheel trains were all extremely easy to get to and figure out in the Lauterbrunnen area - really a joy - and even if you have to ride down from Wengen to get the car to Schilthorn, who cares - it's another beautiful ride and scenery all around you - your pass will cover everything anyway, except the entire Schilthorn/Jungrau which you woudl get a discount on.
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