Switzerland and Bollywood is linked intrinsically and thus it becomes the preferred destination for millions of Bollywood fans. So,when my better half decided to treat us, as a family, with a holiday in Switzerland how could we resist!!
I spent weeks researching popular scenic trails and getting the scoop from the web. Spent many more weeks trying to understand the weather and packing suitably.
With everything under control (or so i thought), when we landed at Basel, Switzerland we got a glorious sun, blazing forth at 30 degree centigrade. Oh! My !who would have thought such a tropical weather to be a part of the great Swiss summer. Well folks, Switzerland might be well known as the ski capital of the world, due to extreme winters but on the other side Switzerland also experiences proper summer, with continuous days of sunshine and heat.
Basel , the city we decided to make our base is not that well known on the tourist trail but is a unique city. It is a city which sits on the border of 3 different countries, France, Switzerland and Germany. So as i exit the airport i do notice two more exits, leading to the other countries. Interesting huh!
Basel, is a well known spot for art lovers, there are museums spread across the city dedicated to various forms of art. I decided to go to the Tinguely Museum, very famous for its art displays. Mind it, nothing is free, I had to pay to see the museum.
The high point I found in Basel is the River Rhine, the promenade was buzzing with people all ready in their swimming gear to jump into the cool waters. The interesting aspect was how people arrived with bright colored waterproof bags, filled them up with clothes and air and jumped into the cool waters in their swimming attire. The downstream current just made life easier and with minimum exertion you reach the promenade downstream. So , there i see someone with headphones plugged bobbing along with her bright red bag, Whoa! there goes a family chatting away as they float along. Amazing sight with bright bobs and bodies dotting the river. All you have to know is basic swimming.
Loved it and truly enjoyed the experience. Recommended for all water lovers.
My next destination was Zurich. I had to go there as it is known to be the heart of the country. Mainly famous for its high street displaying prominent stores,one of the world’s famous streets the Zurich Bahnhofstrasse. With all the famous Swiss watch giants on either side along with other prominent jewellery and clothing brands, this street is a shopper’s paradise. Clean roads with tram lines running through the middle, Zurich is for the brand conscious shopper.
However after shrugging of the temptations i decided to go for a cruise. I boarded a one and half hour cruise which would take me just half way to the smaller towns on the Zurich coastline, along Lake Zurich.
Magnificent coastline, as i tried to assimilate the cool blue waters, blue skies, beautiful mountains and quaint houses on it.
The boat stopped at many ports, however one port really caught my fancy. The port was called Ruschlikon. A beautiful harbor decorated with flowers everywhere seemed to beckon me and i along with my family decided to explore the place. What actually caught my fancy was a very chic lakeside. There were places to just barbeque, there were places to just swim, barricaded area. There were also relaxing decks complete with deck chairs and benches and there were shaded patios for cool shade.
I simply love water so what I did next was to take off and dive in the lake. The high temperatures and heat really made this plunge all the more worthwhile. The waters were also home to some ducks who gladly shared my biscuits and demanded more. Well, there I see my boat and so I hop back again to continue with the rest of the cruise. The cruise has a dining area and so I land up drinking some beverages.
After some 3 hours we land back in Zurich. We walk back to the train station to catch our train back to Basel.
The next day it was my turn to see the Alps. There are many great places like Jungfrau, Mount Titlis, Mount Pilatus. Each one allows you to reach the top. We chose Mount Titlis.
To reach the mountain we arrive in the town of Engelberg. A picturesque town with brooks gurgling , green mountains and pretty houses. From Engelberg we took 4 sets of cable car rides to reach the summit. At the summit we saw the glacier, covered in snow and at a temperature of 8 degrees centigrade. A steep walk up and we reach the top and seem to be touching the clouds. I was on the top of the world, yippee!
For tourists there are a lot of activities designed there, we took a chair car ride from one cliff to the other. The chair car dropped us at the glacier park, where we did snow tubing and sledging. Great fun zipping down the mountain at top speed. After a while the weather turned and we decided to head back to the summit. The chair car brought us back and then we crossed a suspension bridge , tied between two cliffs to reach the glacier cave, this was termed as the Cliff Walk.
The glacier cave was bare and was a long tunnel, it finally brought us back to the cable car station. Another 4 sets of cable car rides later we reach back Engelberg. Wait! what do i see, a shop selling samosas, vada pao, idli and masala chai. Couldn’t believe my eyes. After such a thrilling, wet adventure i sipped gladly on a cup of masala chai.
Switzerland seemed like a land of contrasts and a million possibilities to me. On one hand it had the alps and the glaciers at low temperatures and on the other side were the glistening, blue lakes at much higher temperatures.So travelling to this country in summer necessitates one to pack two sets of clothes, coats, hats and gloves for the mountains and beachwear for the lakes.
The next day we decided to visit the most scenic location in the country Interlaken. Interlaken has two zones, Interlaken West and Interlaken Ost (East). There are 2 railway stations serving these two zones.
Interlaken Ost has more natural beauty, the River Brienz and its many smaller ports and towns. Its picturesque like a postcard and beautifully surrounded by spring and summer flowers. The cruise on this river is highly recommended, I simply found the view breathtaking. The town of Bonigen in this zone is one of the oldest town and has nice walking trails, wood carved houses, beautiful coastline for dipping in the lake and some heated pools, definitely worth a visit.
Further up the lake is another picturesque location Giessbach See, a place which has a beautiful waterfall. We hopped out of the boat to visit this waterfall and what a unique way to reach the waterfall, a train up the hill running on a pulley system, a fantastic display of Swiss engineering. You could also climb up the hill and reach the waterfall if you have time and also if you want to save some extra money. The waterfalls were beautiful and looked straight out of a Bollywood set.
The cruise back to Interlaken Ost was nice, cool and very breezy. It was great to see the setting sun , the reflections of the sun’s rays on the water and the nice coastline.
So each zone in Interaken takes up a day, next day I decided it has to be Interaken West. Interlaken West is the place where you have the River Thun, another lake dotted with fairy tale castles and wood carved houses. Interlaken West is also the place to shop and eat. A good place to buy souvenirs from the innumerable shops selling them. There are also many places to eat , choices abound too. You could have authentic Swiss food, pizza, middle eastern food along with always reliable McDonald chain of fast food. There are many cafes and tearooms as well.
If I had only one day to visit Switzerland then I would straight away head to the Interlaken area to experience the natural beauty of the country. The Jungfrau mountain peak is accessible from here too. So I get to see the lakes and the mountains on the same day.
Lucerne is another small town we visited. It is famous for its carved wooden, covered bridges, pretty as ever. This town also has a beautiful lake and filled with chocolate shops all selling the magical Swiss delight, chocolates. Lucerne is near Zurich.
The country is spotless and clean. The people are nice and safety is high on the streets. But it is an expensive country and nothing is free, not even the toilets. Bottled water is expensive too but i did find many fountains spewing out clear, drinking water. So, yes that way i saved my money.
Travelling across the country was easy as I had bought a Swiss Travel Pass valid for a fixed number days. This pass allowed me unlimited travel on trains, boats and even buses for those days. Also it gave me discounts in some tourist attractions as well.
Public transportation is superb in this country, a good network of buses, trams and trains run like clockwork and is so well coordinated that I hardly lost any time in going from one place to another.
This is truly God’s own country and is a paradise on earth. Sigh!
(All images sourced from Google)