Two weeks in Switzerland – Part I

It all happened in a jiffy.

Our daughter, Shaguna, who was doing a project along with three of her colleagues at Geneva, called my wife and asked if it would be convenient for her and me to visit Switzerland for a couple of weeks.

Eager to see our daughter more than a visit to Europe, she called me immediately and asked to make the requisite travel arrangements. Our Travel Agent advised that all we needed was a valid passport, an invitation from our daughter and a copy of her work permit and of course, money to buy the tickets. The formalities were completed in a week’s time and since my wife had not been to London, we decided to spend 4 days at London and then head for Geneva.

British Airways flight from London to Geneva took around an hour and half and after clearing our baggage and custom formalities (which took less than 15 minutes), our daughter drove us to her apartment at Rue de La Athenee. It was around 8.00 p.m. After settling down, we along with Shagun, Ankur, Sachil and Aditya (now our son-in-law) were on our way to Gare Cornovini (Railway station) to buy “Swiss Rail Pass”, which entitled us to 6 days unlimited travel by train, tram, bus, boat, etc in any specified part of Swiss. It cost us around Sw. Fcs. 308- each. We had our dinner at one of the small time Thai restaurants and had some mouth watering dishes.

With a view to make the best use of our investment in the Swiss Rail Pass, we planned to visit the Bernese Oberland (2 days), Lucerne (1 day), Zurich (1 day) and Zermatt (2 days).

The Bernese Oberland

The Bernese Oberland is one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world, the most accessible and also the most spectacular, best known for a grand triple-peaked ridge of Alpine giants – The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, cresting 4000m. Additionally, two of the largest lakes, the Thun and the Brienz are located in this area. Between the twin lakes of the Thunersee and Brienzersee, the bustling town of Interlaken is the main transport hub of the region. Interlaken is most popular as a summer resort, while Gstaad, Gridelwald, Kandersteg and Murren are both summer and winter playgrounds.

We started next morning at 5.02 by bus to reach the station (the bus was dot on time) and after a quick tea and croissants at the station bakery shop, we headed for the platform and within 2 hours and were in the tourist capital of the Bernese Oberland. Cableways and cog railways designed for steeply inclined mountains connect it with the most of the region’s dazzling sites, including the snowy heights of the Jungfrau. Switzerland’s most popular (and perhaps most expensive) mountain railway excursion, emanates from Interlaken.

We decided to go to Jungfrau straight away from Interlaken Ost. From Interlaken, there are two routes for reaching Jungfraujoch – one through Lauterbrunnen , Wengen and the other through Grindelwald. This is sort of a triangle, which meets at Kleine Scheidegg, from where one has to take a cog rail.

The Lauterbrunnen valley is simply stunning, perhaps the most beautiful valley in Europe. It’s a U- shaped valley with bluffs on either side and is reported to have 72 waterfalls. Lauterbrunnen village lies on the valley floor, while the slopes above nurture two of Switzerland’s most attractive little resorts – Murren (transfer point for cable car ride to the Schiltron Peak) and Wengen (a stop en route to Kleine Schedegg). Both these places offer some of the best hiking and skiing in the Alps. Both Wengen and Murren are car free.

Above Wengen, the train line passes through Wengernalp before arriving at Kleine Scheidegg (around 2000m), which is also the terminus for trains arriving from Gridelwald. All the trains terminate here and you must change for the final pull to Jungfraujoch. The normal practice is to go up one way and down the other.

We reached Kleinne Scheidegg at around 11.45 A.M., had our breakfast in the bright sunshine at one of the restaurants at the station. From there we changed to the highest rack railway in Europe, the Jungfraubahn.

The train passes through some of the most spectacular hill terrains and tunnels carved into the mountains. It touches the villages of Eigerwand (2865m) and Eismeer (3160M), where we could view the sea of ice from the windows. When the train emerges from the tunnel, the daylight is momentarily blinding. So it is prudent to carry a pair of sunglasses to help your eyes to adjust.

Once you reach the Junfraujoch terminus, there is chance of getting giddy until you get used to the environment. There are a whole lot of attractions in this eerie world high up Jungfrau, but it would be prudent to go slow and let your body get acclimatized. Otherwise you could get tired quickly.

Most of the tourists get into the resort complex, where there are five different restaurants to choose from. There is a cafeteria too, where you can have a quick cup of coffee and snacks. Beer and other hard drinks are also available. To my surprise, at the open restaurant, we saw the packets of sandwiches and burgers marked in English and Hindi. Probably the traffic of Asian population made them to do this gesture. We did meet some of the Indians from Gujarat and West Bengal and there were quite a few Japanese tourists too. It seems that the Japanese like to travel a lot. Recently, I met a Japanese girl on train from Jaipur to Delhi and she told me that India was the 43rd country she had visited.

We Indians, wherever we go, wish to leave our footprints behind. True to our nature, we saw the names Sandip, etc scripted on the walls of the resort complex.

I wrote a picture post card depicting Jungfraujoch, stamped and posted at the resort. When I called back home, my elder daughter, Smita confirmed receipt of the post card within 4 days of posting. I was impressed with the efficiency of Swiss postal services.

Close to the post office, an elevator took us to a corridor leading to the famous Ice Palace. Every thing in here is made of ice, including the replicas of vintage automobiles. After returning to the station, we took the Sphinx Tunnel to another elevator, which took us to an observation deck called the Sphinx Terraces, overlooking the saddle between the Monch and the Jungfrau Peaks. Someone pointed us to the Aletsch Glacier – a 23 km river of ice – the longest in Europe. We were told that the snow melts into Lake Geneva and eventually flows into the Mediterranean.

If you are a little adventurous, you may take a sleigh ride, pulled by stout huskies. Little more adventurous can take a helicopter ride to see the different mountains in its full glory.

Jungfraujoch is known for its snow sports and you can see these there in plenty. We could see at least a dozen of tourists carrying their skis’ and moving merrily from one hill to another.

On our way back down the mountain, we returned to Kleine Scheidegg at around 5 in the evening and took the train going through Grindelwald, which offered an equally panoramic view. All through the route you could see cable cars transporting tourists from one resort to the other.

We reached Interlaken Ost Railway Station at around 7.15 P.M. and headed for our youth hostel, the “Funny Farm”, which, we were told by the cafeteria owner outside the station, was around a kilometer walk. The place was moderately good but provided a good evening’s stay.

We got up early in the morning and right through our windows could see the snow clad peaks of Jungfrau. The weather being very pleasant my wife and daughter ventured into the beautifully maintained lawns of the hotel. The huge black dog relaxing near the reception area was probably taller than Shaguna.

We had our breakfast at the hostel and headed for railway station, where Ankur, Aditya and Sachil were to join us on their return journey from Mount Titlis.

Since we had time at our disposal, we deposited our luggage at the station cloakroom and decided to take a stroll in the close by areas. The hospital clean town of Interlaken (for that matter the entire country, which believes in cleanliness to the hilt) has an excellent transportation system. Bus service being totally dependable, we hopped from one bus to another and could do a bit of shopping at the market places. The Swiss Military Knives being a specialty of Suisse, most of the tourist buy these. Vitoria Jungfrau Hotel was well worth a visit.

We decided to take the “Golden Pass line”, which connects Central Switzerland and Lake Geneva for trip back to Geneva. The panoramic Golden Pass steamed through some of the most beautiful flower-bedecked age old chalets on its way to Gstaad, favourite playground of the rich and famous. The brochures picked up at the Interlaken station announced that Gstaad was visited/ home of some of the dignitaries including Elizabeth Taylor, the Italian auto magnate Giovanni Agnelli, Blake Edwards and his wife Julie Andrews.

Then the train makes an electrifying descent towards Montreaux passing through vineyards and country estates.

Mostly known for the scenic Chateau de Chillon and the Jazz Festival, it was well worth a wander through the streets of Montreaux with the half a day at our disposal.

On a breezy afternoon with slightly overcast sky, the walk around the lake was simply mesmerizing. The Freddie Mercury Memorial facing the lake, the Chateau de Chillon, a historic castle on a small island in Lake Geneva, only a few meters from the shore, (is also famous for having inspired Lord Byron’s poem, The prisoner of Chillon) and the Montreaux Jazz Festival and other musical events which are held at Auditorium Stravinsky and a couple of small open air stages were a few of the places worth a visit.

After having a stimulating cup of coffee and some snacks at “Mokaccino”, we headed for the station to catch the 6.40 p.m. train for Geneva, which passes through Lausanne and Lyon.

Before concluding I would like to say one thing – Switzerland is not only a country of chocolates, cheese fondue and banking, it is a country with great culture too, about which I will write in my post on Lucerne and Zurich.

Thanks for visiting.


  • nandanjha says:

    Very elaborate and detailed log. A guide-book.

    You found the ‘great bengali tourist’ there as well ;), I see them at every place I visit. Also next time, you hit into someone who is as traveled as 40+ countries, then share the ghumakkar business card with them.

    Welcome and be around.

  • smitadhall says:

    Very nicely written and well described. I wonder how you remembered all this, especially the names of the places! Congratulations.

  • Terence D'Souza says:

    Ram, You bring the journey description to life with your simple yet personalised style.
    This has useful tips for those travelling to Switzerland.
    Guess you have another back up occupation just in case you ever had the time from your current work!!
    Thanks and warm regards

  • Diptish Banerjee says:

    Really it is a excellent Guide Book about Switzerland . Very well described and also useful for the person who will travelle to Switzerland. Thanks Ram Sir, wish u all the best.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    It was quite engaging read, detailing the various places you have seen. Good that its only Part -I, so we would be reading more soon :)

    BTW, I think some credit goes to Indian postal department too in delivering the postcard on time. I have heard that indian postal department is also improving.

    The information about swiss rail pass could be very useful for fellow travellers.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Thanks everyone for your kind responses.

    Nandan: Bengalis seem to be fanatic tourists . The best thing is that you can spot them from a distance. I find them everywhere.The only thing I have not been able to understand is that how these “Bhaat / Maach ” loving people manage at weird places without these.

    Terence : As a back up occupation, I am training to become an “English Speaking Tourist guide” in China or Japan, where not many people understand english.

    Thanks Manish. I do appreciate your remarks.

  • Shaguna says:

    Interesting! Since i was a part of the trip, the article made me relive each momemt. Waiting for part 2…

  • SilkRoad says:

    Nice photos. It seems you are very lucky and get to travel quite a bit.

  • Very nice pictures. I need to visit Switzerland more than every before. Thanks for the article.

  • backpakker says:

    Your travelogue brought back memories of my trip..Jung Frau was something sharath and I enjoyed the most and seeing your photographs were a real treat …thanks for sharing .. Ive posted some more pictures on my blog ..

  • Rahul says:

    I haven’t had a chance to visit either the French or Italian parts of Switzerland.
    And also, your travelogue showed me how much of Bernese Oberland we missed because of terrible weather in 2002 as part of the Amsoft trip. The pictures of vast expanses of snow at Jungfrau are awe-inspiring.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Thanks every one for your comments.

    Thanks Backpakker. I do appreciate and value your comments. Honestly, you write very well. Would look forward to your further contributions.

    Thanks Rahul. Yes I remember you guys drove down from Vienna to Interlaken and were struck in the unfriendly weather. Never mind. We will always get another opportunity to make it up.


    Thanks for sharing such a joyous and wonderful experience. I sincerely hope that life gives me an opportunity to visit such a heaven on earth and cherish every moment of my life. Waiting for Part II

  • zarin and johnny says:

    thankyou for bringing back memories of our happy visits to friends in zurich and berne and travels around with them.such a different world in the heart of europe.we did not keep an account as you have done of your’s good to do that as memory’s wishing you more travelling!!

  • Gaurav Malhotra says:

    I really appreciate the way you have described the place. It seems as if i was also roaming with you. The beauty of switzerland is more enhansed by the way you have described it. I wonder how you remember every minute detail espessaly the names of varoios plases .EAGERLY WAITING FOR PART -2.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Thanks Zarin. What a joy seeing your heart warming comment.

    Yes, you have very correctly said – memory fades over a period. This portal has given us a good forum to share our travel experiences with friends.

    I will ensure that I meet you and Johny during my next visit to Mumbai, just to benefit from your treasure of knowledge about the Renaissance period and the great works of the artists and legends of that period.

    Thanks Gaurav. I do appreciate your views.

  • Celine says:

    An interesting and informative post that initiated a desire to visit the place. Beautiful photographs. Thank you for sharing these and the details of your trip, which can be useful for prospective travellers.

  • Mohit Kumar says:

    Dear Sir, If in the future I get an opportunity to visit Switzerland, it will help me as well as others who are planning to visit Switzerland as this is an excellent piece of information. Such nice photographs and the brief description shows that how interesting you are to discover the new things. I do appreciate your work. Thanks for sharing the same I hope in the future you will also share some more journeys with us. Thanks and Warm Regards

  • Subhash Gupta says:

    Dear Ram Bhai,

    I happen to read your second artical first and my comment on the same now I feel, are more than justified on your new found talent.

    Pl keep enriching us with your lovely articals.

    Warm regards

  • Jyoti Chugh says:

    Sir, fabulous description. looking forward for more additions under your name.

  • Subash Kapoor says:

    Very engaging description of how enchanting & beautiful Switzerland is. Your way of describing the place speaks of you having an eye for details. You have been able to generate the excitement in me to visit the place at the earliest. By any chance were you a travel/tour journalist earlier or an amateur who can write better than them?
    Subash Kapoor

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Subash ji,

    Thanks for your very kind words.

    All through my life I have worked for banks and presently also I am working for a company that is a service provider to the banks. This incidentally, was my first post on this site. I am glad that you have found it interesting.

    Please do keep on visiting and share your views with us.


  • sskagra says:

    Rearly this is a very good travel guide book and remarkable about switzerland. and also usefull photograph

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Thanks for liking the post Kagra ji.

    This was my maiden post on ghumakkar. Seeing a comment on this humble submission after all these days is heartening.

  • Hansini says:

    namaste taayaji…
    i just loved the post…you make all of it seem so if the reader is right there…seeing all of this for himself….amazing description..and the pictures seemed to make it all the more better…
    you kept me engrossed right from the start..till the end!

  • Rohini says:

    Thank you. Your blog is of immense help as I am planning a 2 week Switzerland trip and I can plan my itinerary with this info.

  • B. M Chadha says:

    hi ram,
    hope u r doing fine. i read ur article, it seemed u had so much fun. i didn’t know u write so well.

    keep it up buddy!

    warm regards
    b.m chadha

  • Nandan Jha says:

    As part of our ‘Featured Author Celebration’, re-publishing Ram’s first story at Ghumakkar.

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Very informative post, and well written good photos. Thanks for it.

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Ram Sir,

    The post and the photos are still as fresh as Swiss Cheese Fondue even after five years. I am sure the places you have written about would have only grown prettier except the walls where more Sandips would have scrawled their names.

    Also by now the sandwiches would be carrying markings in Bengali and Gujarati because some Bengali/Gujarati traveller raised a ruckus of not finding Bengali/Gujarati language option! And that ruckus would have echoed across the hills. And Swiss given their neutral nature dont want to mess with Bengalis or Gujaratis or risk losing their hearing!

    All in all a great informative post about the country most people here would like to visit once in their lifetime. Just looking at the green meadows and snow is making my Delhi smog wheezing go away!

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