A Swiss road trip..

“I’m afraid of heights”…I mumbled. He gave me a WTF look.. Are you kidding? He probably wanted to ask. He was not wrong. Here I was going to jump off the cliff in few minutes. how the hell was he going to believe that I was actually scared of heights…it’s not the height. It’s the steep downhill slope.. I can go uphill and probably reach heaven like Juthisthir did. But no one can make me go back downhill if it’s more than 30-degree angle…I had walked the whole 16km journey to kedarnath dham. But I had clearly refused to come back by walking and had chosen a mad crazy horse instead. That’s a long story…coming back to the main one…

He said wait here…I heard wait here and die.. I can’t stand here like this!!…He said you’ll have to run really fast…I thought he was joking. “ You are going to push me..Right?” How the hell I’m supposed to run on an almost 70 degree downhill slope in Alps??? I was going to start the paragliding in a few minutes and I just realized I surely didn’t think this through.

Spectacular Switzerland


Few days back.

Friends were coming over to Switzerland and wanted me to plan a relaxing weekend trip. I suggested we drive to bernese oberland region of Switzerland. From that point onwards everything just got bigger and better.

We were not getting any car from Avis. Europecar was asking for almost 500 FR for two days…then we just called up another center of Europe car and got a VW golf for 330..Sweet ..Right? Wait..as I said it got better when we went to collect the car we got Skoda Octavia at the same price…

Having already out for quite a few road trips in Europe and Switzerland I can lay down one simple rule…if you can drive and hold a valid Indian driving license then you must must must drive. Yes I know trains are good and all. But trains are good in case you are interested in the special trains here like the glacier express and the Bernina express. Else always opt for car rental…but I must warn you mostly it is either two lanes or single lanes mountain road…but the roads are smooth like butter and journey is picturesque and you’ll feel like driving through fairy tale kingdom.

Rule2 :If you have local colleagues or friends, try to find out the off beat destinations and customize your journey accordingly

Which we did and thus skipped Interlaken (we’ve been there before) and added a small village “Iseltwald” as our first morning destination in the GPS. This village is surrounded by lake Brienz and lies in the Interlaken municipality. This quaint dreamy place has a population of only 440 but there are hotels here, which can be booked by the travel websites. We stopped here quite some time and during the whole time we just didn’t feel like talking to each other. It was quiet and we just sucked into it.

Iseltwald - Heaven on earth

Instead of going directly to Grindelwald we now decided to drive through Lauterbrunnen valley. The name Lauter Brunnen means “Many fountains” there are almost 72 waterfalls and it boasts of First, Schilthorn, Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfraujoch. These are all high altitude points in alps and all of them have impressive views of the alpine peaks. Jungfraujoch, having the highest altitude railway station in Europe, is the most famous one. I’ve been there and Kleine Scheidegg in last October. Both of them are reachable through cog rails from Grindelwald. Here in Lauterbrunnen valley we drove with amazing snow peaks on one side and magnificent rock faces on the other.

Now cut to Rule3

GPS is good. But sometimes you should just disobey it and head towards the opposite direction.

As I said Lauterbrunnen has many waterfalls and we had Trummelbach Falls next in our mind. This one is a series of 10 glacier waterfalls and can be reached from back by tunnel lifts. Just when we thought we can reach the waterfall and come out of it like Phantom we found out that it will reopen from 1st April. Disheartened as we were we just switched off the GPS and few random turns in the roads we realized Schilthorn is just 5 kms from there. We had no idea that Schilthorn was that close. Placed at an altitude of 2970m, it can be accessed by a 32 minutes cable car ride from the base Stachelberg. We parked our car, bought our return tickets and got into the cable car. Unlike Matterhorn glacier paradise and other Switzerland cable cars Schilthorn one is more of a manual one and there is always only one or two for upward or downward journey. So it’s kind of crowded but the view on the way upwards was amazing.

On our way to Schilthorn

There are 3 stops in between and every time you have to get down and change the cable car. Schilthorn is famous for the revolving restaurant Piz Gloria at the top, which was featured in the James bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. The panoramic view of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau is breathtaking from here.

View from Schilthorn

And of course we did have a sumptuous meal in the revolving restaurant. The seating areas revolve and the outside circle does not. Just grab a seat and be assured you get to see the whole panoramic view.

Piz Gloria- The revolving

It was already 4 when we came back to the Stachelberg base and immediately started for Grindelwald.

We had stayed in Hotel Central Wolter in last October (very close to the station) but this time we could not book any hotels close to the station. We drove to Hotel Bellary which is around 5 minutes driving distance away from the station. If you plan to travel by train always plan in advance to get a hotel nearby the city center. Our rooms in hotel Bellary were facing mountain Eiger and once the lights were out we could see the twinkling lights in the Grindelwald village houses.

Grindelwald does not have many options for eating out except for the fine dining restaurants available in the city center. My suggestion make the best out of the local bakeries and get some ready to have meals from MIGROS. Our hotel owner was really sweet and she told us we could use the microwave to heat up our meals.

Day2

We were up quite early and started for First. Firstbahn station is at a walking distance away from the railway station and there are ample parking spaces available near Firstbahn. Our friends wanted to go to Kleine Scheidegg (there is a train in every half an hour and it takes 31 minutes to reach). So we postponed our gondola ride to First and thought of driving to Oberer Grindelwald Glacier (means upper Grindelwald glacier). With an altitude of approx., 1400 meter this is one of the lowest glaciers in Europe and the best part is the path to the glacier was open and drivable. To mention that it was the most amazing drive I ever had would be an understatement. In the summer you can go for hiking.

Drive to Oberer Glacier

Firstbahn station to the last station of ‘First’ is a 25 minutes cable car ride. A completely automated one, this one is a pure treat to your eyes and there is a chance that you’ll get a full 6-seated car to yourself. You can get down at every intermediate stop for skiing. It was a spectacular view of different mountains the Wetterhorn, the Eiger and the Schreckhorn. Difference between Schilthorn and First is that the first one gives you an amazing range of mountains while the latter one makes you feel more close to the mountains and there are ample snow everywhere.

at the top

We quickly grabbed a bite in the first restaurant. Just when I had totally forgotten what a blunder I’ve made, a tall man came to our table and asked if we are the one with the 2:30 slot appointments for Paragliding.

Hubby wanted to know where do we start it from he said 4 minutes down the way. Did he say “Down”?

Yes, we did book two slots for paragliding and I was keen on having the experience but I surely didn’t think this through or probably I thought it was just a plan, which would never actually be put into action. Sure I set my alarm at 7 but does that mean I actually wake up at 7. I put it in snooze..No?

But there was no escape…

“I’m afraid of height,” I mumbled.

I was completely blank and this guy was telling me the minute details how we should run and take off. My friend was grinning wide and comforting me.

1, 2, 3..I just ran and ran. And before he said 9 we were flying at an altitude of 2200m above the sea level. It was freezing like hell but it was awesome, most exciting adrenaline rush ever. Mountains were closer and I was even flying above them sometimes.  It must have been more than half an hour before we landed.

That's me flying

Just Do It!

Rule 4: Just do it J

On our way back we drove via Thun. And as every other lake in Switzerland, Thun Lake did look great with Alps standing strong behind it.

 

The serene surface of Thun Lake

Points to be noted

Schilthorn Ticket Price: 94 FR (return). With half fare cards we got it for 47. You get the same benefit with Swiss pass as well. If you are travelling Switzerland by train it’s good to get the tourist half fare card for 110 FR. But do get it from any of the major train stations like Zurich HB or Geneva. It’s not available at the cable car stations

 

First Ticket price: 54 FR (Return)

Paragliding Cost: 205 (170 for flying + 35 for the photos and videos). You should call and try to book the slot in advance. Ph: +41797799000

Website http://paragliding-jungfrau.ch

 

Car rental: Avis or Europe car. You should always call them or visit the centers to book the cars. Internet reservation doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the car

20 Comments

  • Neeraj Jat says:

    great post.
    I couldn’t load pics due to my slow net speed. Will come here again.

    • Wow Sangha, i know Europe is like heaven. And you have proven using your post. It must be a wonderful experience driving throug heaven. And specially in summers its even better. Just reminds me of the beautiful scenes show in DDLJ.

      Thanks, its really nice.

      Regards
      Anupam Mazumdar

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  • Giriraj Shekhawat says:

    Sanghamitra …….. The post was very captivating ….. well it got started off with your inhibitions and phobia concerning heights while it seemed as if you were listening to Aerosmith’s song “Living on the Edge” ……. and then you vroom into U2’s song ” Fly High Elevation” ………. It might have been an amazing experience gliding over the majestic Alps …scaling its towering altitude ….

    Superlatives fall short if i talk about the pictures clicked by you especially the “Istelwald” picture …..

    So,where’s your next excursion ………..

  • Patrick says:

    oooooh that was a lovely mouthwatering post. Wonderful photos too. What are those costs like in Rs.? I mean what is the conversion rate?

    • Sanghamitra says:

      Thanks!!
      Apart from the airfares our total trip cost came around 830 FR (including the 200 fr for paragliding) for 2 persons. Considering the current conversion rate of approx 55 the total cost in INR would be 46000.

  • ????? ??? ?????, ???? ???? ??? ??? ?? ??? ?? ?? ????? ?? ????? ??? ????? ??? ????,
    ?? ??? ????? ???????? ?? ????? ?????????? ???? ?? ????? ???? ??? ??? ?? ??? ??, ????? ??? ?? ?????? ?? ???? ?? ?????? ??, ????? ?????? ???? ?? ????? ?? ???? ?????? ?? ?? ??? ???? ??? ?? ????? ??????, ????????, ??????, ??????? ??? ??? ?? ???? ???? ?? ????? ???? ???? ?? ????? ??? ?? ???????? ??????????? ???? ? ????? ??? ???? ??????

  • Santosh says:

    Awesome post….the photos are really fabulous!!!!

  • Nandan says:

    I browsed thorough it once on phone and then read it just now. And frankly, would want to read it all over again :-). The story telling with flashback twist is interesting. There have been stories on Switzerland here but I do not remember anyone which is a road-trip and has these destinations.

    Thank you Sanghamitra. :-)

    • Sanghamitra says:

      Thanks Nandan..
      Given the expensive train fares in Switzerland, renting a car can indeed be a cheaper option here…and as i said I always prefer road trips…train journeys are more like point to point journey..with cars you can just take the path you want to..

  • abhishek kashyap trainman says:

    amazing and lovely presentation..
    swiss n geneva are deserving one to be visited …
    thanks for share..

  • DR SUBRATA GHOSH says:

    I am proud to see my daughter’s amazing mountain height achievement. We shared your experience and delightful enJoyment.

  • priyama says:

    I read it once, twice and then all over again! what an awesome post it is!!

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    Very Nice Post & Pictures are very good & awesome…..

    Thanks

  • Sandip says:

    Wow, just too good, pictures are amazing. You must be having be a lifetime experience.
    Keep writing…….

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Fantastic post, Sanghamitra. The pics, the write-up, the paragliding experience……simply WOWWWWWW.

  • Superb Sanghamitra. Its really heaven out there in swiss. Also the way you started the post was something different and i liked it………

    Very beautiful pictures and nice description and thanks for giving info also………….

    Keep Travelling and posting

    • Sanghamitra says:

      Thanks..it was indeed heaven out here in swiss…Also the infrustructure and transport facility is amazing…the cable cards are just wonderful taking you to the Alpine peaks or the view points..

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