Saturday, January 23, 2016


Savoring Switzerland

Day 7

Rivetting Rhine Falls, Switzerland

In just over an hour's drive from Germany, we entered Switzerland. 
How pretty the buildings looked on mountain tops - in true picture post card style! We were told that many of them were chalets - homely hotels. Sushant enlightened us about the Swiss people - they are soft-spoken and hardworking. The Swiss guards are world famous. Interestingly the crime rate in Switzerland is 0 percent. And it is famous for its banks and lakes and tunnels. There are SOS lanes and emergency exits in tunnels too.

We drove to the natural wonder - Rhine Falls at Shauffhausen. (The Rhine river flows through Germany as well as Switzerland).

 We enjoyed the boat ride - with water spraying on us - to the rock for a spectacular view of the falls - a mini Niagara. We also climbed up several steps, enjoying various points with exciting   views / sounds of the gushing falls.

After that we had a photo stop at the picturesque Zurich Lake. 

We enjoyed a rare treat - tasty, garam garam vada-pav and masala chai at 'Gourm India'. Who would have thought of such a unique Indian experience in Switzerland? Well, this was just the tip of the iceberg - more surprises were in store! We left the place at 6.15 and drove to Lucerne. 

After dinner at an Indian restaurant, we checked in at a chalet 'Banklialp'. We were allotted rooms. We were the only ones who couldn't locate our room on the two floors accessible by elevator. On inquiry, Sushant told us that we would have to take the stairs from the second floor and assured us that our bags will be brought to our room by the room service guy. 

I was far from pleased as we climbed up the narrow spiral staircase and felt Sushant should have known better and allotted this room to youngsters. 

But when we stepped into our room, I was totally bowled over by its size, the number of wardrobes, the dining table and chairs ...Interestingly the sloping roof was just a few inches above our heads.....   
We had a balcony and a fabulous view from the top of the hotel on a mountain top. 
Our room - the only one on the top level (on the left)
Ours was the only room right on the top level! 

The bonus was the kitchenette - complete with electric stove, microwave, fridge .... - not that we needed any of these but at least I could boast to the lesser mortals about what I got and watch them go green! And we were staying in this hotel for three days. Yipee! Sushant once again regained his recently lost status and went up in my esteem. 

Day 8

Mt. Titlis

We were as usual the early birds for breakfast. Breakfast was laid out for the different tour groups at different spots. Sushant informed us that in addition to the regular breakfast, there was a surprise item waiting for us on the side. We headed straight for it and opened the lid - we gave a cry of delight - steaming hot 'poha'! Though we hadn't missed Indian meals, this was the first time we were having an Indian item for breakfast. 

Needless to say we had two helpings of 'poha'. What I noticed was that that by the time the first lot of our batch were done with breakfast, there was just a spoonful of 'poha' left. I felt guilty about my extra helping. But I didn't have to - the pot was replenished with more hot 'poha'. Man, wasn't I relieved! Oh yes, we had good Indian coffee and tea too.

Switzerland was cold, not that the rest of Europe wasn't - we found ourselves using all our warm clothes - all at once to beat the cold! In fact we were getting sick of the sweaters and jackets and we ladies were dying to show off our colorful tops. 

We left at 9 am for Engelberg to experience Rotair at Mt. Titlis. A five minute drive saw us there. Sushant wanted us to enjoy ourselves - become SRK and Kajol and relive DDLJ scenes ......

 As usual we took in all the clear instructions of Sushant. We got into the first cable car (6 seater) and got down at the second station Trubsee. 

Then took another cable car with a capacity to carry 100 and reached the next station. 
From there we took the third cable car again with a capacity of 100 - this time  revolving one - the world's first revolving cable car ride to Mt.Titlis. We got out of the cable car to enter a huge building. 
The first level was the arrival-departure lounge. The second and third levels had restaurants and restrooms. The fourth had photo shop and the fifth was the Panorama Terrace and Snow Flyer and Glacier Park. We were to enjoy Mt.Titlis from 9.30 to 11.45 am.

We headed straight for the fifth level - to the Ice Grotto and enjoyed the white snow all around. Many were experiencing snow for the first time; we had gone several times to the ski slopes in Salt Lake City, USA. 
Still the vast expanse of snow and the majestic Alps were indeed an experience to cherish. 

I was particularly fascinated and proud to see the life-size cut-outs of Shahrukh Khan and Kajol in DDLJ pose and every Indian posed with them for photos. 

Most of us took a few steps on the ice and snow, walking with utmost care. I didn't have the confidence to climb up the icy 250 steps to the Ice Flyer and Glacier Park after slipping a couple of times, so I chose to linger on the 'snow-land'. Very few went for the Ice Flyer ride as it was really cold even at 10 am. The sun chose to come out much later, so we were not so lucky. 
We relished the free Swiss chocolate samples. 

We got ice cream treat at 'Movenpick' - even as it was chilly - I wouldn't advocate ice creams even in Indian winters, but I made an exception. After all, this was a unique experience.

I had another surprise awaiting me when I used the restroom - instructions were pasted in each restroom in Hindi and Chinese in addition to English!

We moved around and had a good look at the various restaurants and shops there.
The photo shop on the fifth level was interesting too.

For lunch, we came down by two cable cars to the first level and seated ourselves at the restaurant for lunch - hot tomato soup, Pav bhaji, Dhokla and Carrot Halwa were the highlights. 

We loitered around for a bit more, enjoying the snow-capped mountains and then took the cable car to Engelberg. Hot masala chai warmed us up as we left at 2.45 pm.

Lake Lucerne
                          After a half-hour drive we reached Lake Lucerne. We got down from the bus at 3.30 at the shopping area near the lake. 

First we saw the Lion Monument. 

Then it was shopping time. The ladies especially were excited to indulge in their favorite pastime. 
Sushant granted us two hours and directed us first to Casagrande - a one-stop-shop with reasonable rates. Swiss chocolates and watches were the hot favorites. We also walked around other imposing Swiss watch shops - Bucherer, Tissot ... 

After that both of us walked around the scenic Lake Lucerne and then ....

... sat by the lake watching the friendly ducks and swans.

Dinner Cruise on Lucerne Lake

We walked around the lake for 15 minutes to reach the Boat Stand at 6.45 to enter our cruise for dinner and Swiss folklore music, followed by dance on the upper deck. 

We sat at the tables, the boat was decorated with lights. 
An old musician played several traditional instruments and ......
..... allowed us to try them too. 

There was wine, music, and tasty food (including pakodas, noodles, lachcha parathas, spinach-corn and dal halwa) against the beautiful backdrop of scenic Lucerne. What more could one ask for? Dinner lasted till 8.
Then the group moved on to the top deck. As latest Bollywood songs were being played, all took to the floor and were grooving to them under the star-spangled sky - very romantic indeed. 

We returned to our hotel at 9 pm.

Day 9


We walked to the breakfast lounge with anticipation. The day's special was 'upma'. And of course everything from croissants to corn flakes ....

As we all gathered to board the bus, Sushant took our group photo in front of the hotel. We started the picturesque two-hour drive at 8.30 through Interlaken city to Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe, at a height of 11782 ft. above sea level.

Interlaken, the heart of Switzerland, is a place of idyllic beauty. How did the place get its name? 

Earlier, the Lake Thun and the Lake Bern formed a large lake together. Over the years, rivers increasingly fed the lake with depositions. A plain developed bit by bit in the middle of the lake and separated it into two lakes. This plain came to be known as Interlaken; soon people settled there. We also passed through long tunnels. Sushant also told us about Gothard - the longest tunnel in Europe (32 kms) connecting Switzerland and Italy.  

We reached Trummelbach Glacial Waterfalls and enjoyed the cascades. 

After that we took the Cogwheel train from Lauterbrunnen to Europe's highest railway station Jungfraujoch.

As we were going up there were a lot of waterfalls all around.

As we travelled higher and higher, the scenes changed from green valleys and waterfalls......

 ... to snowy slopes ......

.... to icy mountain-tops. 

When we got down at Jungfraujoch, Sushant distributed a small packet of camphor to each of us with the instruction that we smell it if we felt a little breathless which was nothing to worry about as we were at such a high altitude and reassured us that we'd soon be fine. 
With great enthusiasm we went around taking in the surrounding snow slopes. Within minutes, I started feeling a bit out of breath and chose to keep quiet and rest for a while to conserve my energy. Soon I felt fine.

We had a nice Indian lunch at the restaurant there - it further restored our warmth and energy and all were up and about. 

We went around Ice Palace with fabulous ice sculptures - penguins and .......

..... bears, eagles, lions and cats..... and then went over to .....

.... Sphinx Terrace to experience the snow and ice. 

We really felt on top of the world as we stood here on top of Europe. The temperature was -2 degrees Celcius.


After enjoying the snow to our heart's content, we relaxed in the lounge with hot coffee. It was when we were about to take the elevator down that one of the senior members in our group fainted and the doctor couple in our group rushed to give first aid. Within minutes para medics too arrived on the scene, thanks to Sushant. But our valiant patient was up and said he was feeling fine and volunteered to walk the few steps to the elevator. Thankfully everything was fine and we went and took our seats in our bus. 

It was 9 pm by the time we drove back to Lucerne. We had dinner at our hotel and continued to dream of Switzerland in our sleep.

Next morning after breakfast with special 'dhokla' on the menu, we checked out of Hotel Banklialp and set out for Liechtenstein.

1 comment:

  1. Incredible! !! It's hard to believe that even Indian is readily available at Switzerland. Your content on Switzerland is full-fledged, meticulously written keep it up mam