No doubt London and Paris both were very clean, beautiful having good roads, greenery but Switzerland is outstanding. Switzerland as a whole is in a valley, surrounded by high mountains loaded with beautiful and soothing greenery. There are so many mountains that on moving by road you come across hundreds of tunnels coming every 2 or 3 minutes. Some of them are many kilometers long. It was told to us that these are nuclear radiation proof. In case of nuclear attack people can take shelter in these tunnels. Moreover these tunnels were all electrified, having passage for fresh air and exit gates for emergency.
Day 6, the morning of June 16, we came out from our hotel at 8.30 a.m. to reach Jungfrau situated at the height of 3500 meters. It was a very pleasant morning with cool breeze, some clouds and little drizzling. After travelling a distance of 30 Km. and seeing beautiful scenery on both sides along hilly road we reached a point from where Lake Sarnen was seen at some lower stretch. Interestingly the shape of the lake was very similar to Map of India.
Moving ahead, we come across a number of waterfalls, dropping from high mountains, also saw some military fighter planes that could take off within 15 minutes in case of emergency. There was also a small river coming out of the melting glaciers in high mountains and flowing with high speed and its water was crystal clear.
By the time it was 11.30 and we reached Lauterbrunnen, from where we boarded a train with cogwheel and reached a station Grindelwald at the height of about 2500 meters. No doubt the weather was quite cold and it was drizzling too even then we were enjoying it like anything. Now we had to board another train to reach Jungfrauch, a station at the top of Europe. In this journey the whole of the track, the train and all the stations were totally under a cover as if we are going in a tunnel. Later, when we saw outside at one of the station there was a continuous snow fall from the sky. Then we came to know that tunnel type covering was just to prevent the deposition of heavy snow on the track and the train. In spite of this safety device of tunnel, the temperature was falling down as we were moving upward. Inside the compartments there were monitors displaying the location, height, name of station and time to reach the next station and other details. Now we were moving around the snow-clad mountains and chilled blows of wind all around us. Seeing all these, we reached Jungfrau.
The station, along with waiting rooms, restaurants, shops etc. was all covered. The scenery of mountains, snow fall and heavy winds outside was fully visible through the glass windows put here and there. After taking our lunch, we started to move along different galleries in different directions as directed by our tour guide. Now we enjoyed the beauty of snow-clad white mountains and winds from many angles for two hours. In these galleries there was history and all the description of bringing the Jungfrauch to present state, how much time and money was invested and how many lives were sacrificed. The weather and activities outside was well depicted inside in different wall like big screens. There was only one open point of direct contact with chilly weather outside. Here one could feel the real Jungfrauch and fight with its power. Only few people could dare to go outside, and they too only for a very few minutes at the temperature of -50C. Having great fun and passing quality time we caught the returning train and travelling through all those enjoyable mountains, forests, rivers and water-falls we came to a very calm quite and beautiful small city Interlaken. The city is surrounded by two lakes and is famous for a shooting place of a legendary Bollywood movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayengey. There is a statue of famous director Late Yash Chopra and a road and park is also named after him. We saw the market and moved on the road for some time under an umbrella because it started raining. It was 6.30 p.m. and we started to return to our hotel at Effilton.
On its way, first we reached the city Lucerne, 35 Km. away from Effilton. There is a Lion Monument which has been made in memory of 20,000 soldiers of a particular sect of course faithful to their king but due to their might king feared and slained them in a dummy battle. There is a Kapell Buck (wooden bridge) over a pond. After some shopping and enjoying tasty herbal tea, which is its specialty, we took our lunch and proceeded for Mount Titlis.
As we were approaching it, we were getting overwhelmed with the greenery and height of the mountain range. Seeing all this we reached at mountain base. From here we reached to its first level by a cable-car and then to the top of Mount Titlis by another big cable-car which moves and revolves to 3600. Thus we finally reached the Mount Titlis which was covered in snow, more snow and some more snow. Mount Titlis is something different from Jungfrauch. The temperature here was also -50C but the weather was not so chilly. People were moving, playing, sliding on ice. Sometimes when sun comes out, it becomes very hot and one cannot see in the glare of sun but when clouds appear and wind blows it becomes very cold. Moving on the ice and having fun for about two hours we returned back and enjoyed tea, bread pakora purely of Indian style at a stall at the base. Then we started for Varese in Italy at 4.00 p.m., crossing the border of Switzerland and reached our next hotel at 7.00 p.m on Day 6. Switzerland had so much to give, so similar yet so diverse. I cannot now wait to reach Italy and see what they have to offer.
Part 4: The Italian Extravaganza
Upon arriving in Italy the day before, all we did was check in to the hotel. On day 7, Jun 18, we checked out again from our hotel in Varese and started for a suburb called Mornello in Modenna. We reached at 11.00 a.m. after travelling a distance of about 200Km. It was the unique place that houses the world famous Ferrari Museum. There are different types and different models of Ferrari Cars and sport Cars, its engine, machinery and different parts are on display. Some people were playing electronic car games like video games and somewhere making real test drive on road for which driving license in Europe was a must. From here we moved ahead for the Leaning Tower of Pisa where we reached at 4.00 p.m. We enjoyed the lovely view of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Adjacent to it there is a marvelously striped Cathedral, Church of Santa Maria dell spina, a baptistery and a cemetery (Camposanto) too, recalling the art of Roman sculptures. After going through all these monuments we visited a small shopping complex in its vicinity. Now it was time to start for the hotel in Arezzo city at a distance of 160 Km. On the way we came across a place Pistoria where there was a very amazing and dense nursery of a number of plants of exclusively different types and some of them were 7 to 8 ft. long but put in earthen pots. The stretch of nursery was extended in the range of about 20 Km. There was many small, big, decorative and attractive plants and trees. After a wonderful, rich with experiences day, we reached our hotel to have our dinner and sleep.
Roma – The historical city
The next day, (June 19) we started at 8.30 a.m. for Rome – a wonderful city, packed with history. It was 250 Km. away from Arezzo. Rome holds an oldest historic heritage unique in the world. We reached there at 12.30 p.m., took lunch and proceeded for the main monument of Rome – The Colosseum. It is the main attraction of Rome built in 80 A.D., almost 2000 years ago and was the largest amphitheater of ancient Rome. Inside the Colosseum, the gladiator fights were held – the bloody battles between man and wild beasts and duels between slaves till one of them is finished in order to fill the arena. These fights were organized just for the entertainment of the rich. The Colosseum was at the forefront of architecture and technology.
While passing through the lanes and roads of Rome, there was a long river flowing by the side of our coach throughout the main city. We saw the Colosseum with a local guide describing its history. After the Colosseum, we went to Vatican City – the cradle of Catholicism, which is world’s smallest sovereign country ruled by Pope since 1378. Its total area is 44 hectares with the population of 1000 people, located in central Rome. It is also the place where the Pope Paul resides and rules Vatican City, the most sacred place of worship of Christians of the whole world known as Church St. Basilica. It is surrounded by impressive white marble Vatican museum, the largest museum complex in the world and Pope’s private chapel from the 15th century with the ceiling beautifully decorated by Michelangelo. It has one of the most beautiful idols and sculptures on the walls of ancient times. There are a number of points worth seeing. The balcony where from Pope Paul sees devotees daily, and another one where from he gives his sermon twice in a year at the rectangular sitting area where people assemble to get blessings from Pope. After seeing all this overwhelming unique pieces of art and experiencing divine power, we returned to Arezzo.
On Jun 20, day 10 of our tour, after checking out our hotel in Arezzo, we left for Venice at 8.00 a.m. The first stop was at a city called Padova, travelling for about 135 Km. and reaching there at 11.30 a.m. We stayed there for one hour and after having our lunch started for Venice. It was another 300 Km. when we reached the city of Venice at 4.30 p.m. It is a group of 400 islands which are all connected by big and small bridges. The only means of transport here is a boat or ship. We reached the heart of city by a motor boat. Here we saw St. Basilica, most famous Church of Venice, known for its work and history. The Church overlooks St. Mark’s Square on the end of Grand Canal and is joined to Doge’s palace. There is the Bridge of Sigh that spans the Palace River connected to Doges palace with old prison. St. Mark’s Bell Tower is a part of the Basilica. The tower was originally created as a lighthouse and then a watch tower in 9th century. The famous philosopher and scientist Galileo used the tower to observe stars and making his astronomical experiments. There was another very long pillar known as Campanille. There was a famous Murano Glass Factory and its showroom where fine, decorative and colourful showpieces of glass are prepared and sold all over the world. We also got a demonstration of making of the showpieces from raw molten glass. In the end, we took a Gandola (a very small boat) ride for a while, sailing in Guidecca canal through streets of Venice. After spending a day full of fun and pleasure we returned to Hotel Airport in Bergamo.
Next morning, the 21st of June (Day 11), was the last day of our trip and we had to start for Milan to take our flight to India. Our itinerary of the tour was almost complete and we had no prefixed, busy schedule for that day, so we started from our hotel at 11.30 a.m. for Milan and reached there at 1.30 p.m. Milan is city of fashion and a financial hub. It also has a lot of art and history to offer a variety of buildings and monuments. First of all we went to see Fortress of Milan the ‘Sforza Castle’ that has the world’s largest Cathedral situated in heart of the city, with a local guide. It was a palatial building covering a very large area, having a number of beautiful gardens. Soon after that we came to see a very grand and lovely Church named as Piazza Duomo Gothic Cathedral of immense beauty and unbelievable sculptural craft. It had exceptional roofs with 135 spires and a number of statues. Just adjacent to it was the famous Milanese Historical Craftshop market. The market was inside an Art Gallery decorated with a number of colorful paintings on its roofs, walls and the floors too. In front of the market, there was a world famous shopping circle where one can make some shopping and can easily relax himself in a coffee or wine shop by the side of road. It was a real pleasure to see many people, decently dressed moving here and there and enjoying their drinks in a very relaxed mood.
Now it was 5.00 p.m. and we started for Malpensa Airport, Milan, to catch our flight for India. Reached airport at 6.30 p.m., cleared our security check and started our journey at 8.15 p.m. (European time). We were much delighted to reach our country at New Delhi Airport at 9.30 a.m. (IST).
There were many things to remember during the tour. We travelled there by road for about eleven days and travelled 300 to 400 Km. on average by road everyday but neither a single jerk was felt nor any honking was heard there. Very smooth movement, no overtaking, full regards for pedestrians. The behavior of staff at every restaurant, hotels and shops was very courteous, charming and adorable.
We are proud of our country and love it too much but there are many good things of the west which we should follow and adopt in our life to make our country greater.
In a nutshell, the tour was very exciting enjoying and loveable. In the whole of tour we were much delighted and impressed by the almost pollution free environment, very clean and well planned cities, well maintained roads and their praiseworthy civic and traffic sense all over the Europe. They should be given full credit for their hospitality, work culture and above all dignity of labour.
I have all appreciations for all my family & friends, specially to my better-half who by all means continuously made every effort throughout the tour to make it lifelong memorable and a grand success.
Lastly, I will like to thank from core of my heart my mentor and close friend Mr. Ram Dhall who inspired me to bring my tour experience in black and white. He always took great pains to go through my writing and making necessary corrections in it. I am also very thankful to Mr. Nandan Jha who gave his much valuable time from his busy schedule to get it published.