Switzerland: The Beating Heart of Europe

It’s been 8 months since we embarked on our journey of being a Digital Nomad Family, and living at the German-Swiss Border in a hotel room – where we luxuriate quite profoundly and very lovingly call it our home. We have been extensively travelling around Europe with our base at Constance, however visiting the Swiss Alps waited all this while for the winters to go away or rather i would confess, that we didn’t have the heart to brave the temperatures dropping to a -20  degrees during the deep winters in Europe, which we now think, we definitely would attempt it the next year if we can, to experience those breathtaking landscapes deeply laden with snow giving us a feel of wintry fairly land.

Also read: Apartment hotel Home away from home

Also read: Life beyond borders: How did becoming a digital nomad family change my perspective of a Great LIfe?

Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world – You know it already! But it’s not just the Alps which can be credited with the sumptuous gorgeousness of this beautiful piece of land, but there is so much more to savor. We had 4 nights in June’18 at our disposal, and for the first time, we could very meticulously utilize our time – making the most out of it. There wasn’t even an hour,  which we did regret for, may be doing something else, and not what we actually did. Through this post, I promise to take you through the most splendid journey of the Swiss, presenting to you some spectacular shots of the places we visited along with the complete details of travel. You can close your eyes and pick this up as an itinerary if you have only 4 days to discover the ” Helvetia” ( The nickname of Switzerland – also the name of an idolized woman who is pictured on Swiss franc coins until today. Later they added a “C” and named the widely used swiss font called the – ” Helvetica”)

In spite of our relentless pursuit of avoiding the touristy stuff and moving away from crowded places, we often end up visiting them, so did happen in the Swiss as well, because they were simply too beautiful to have been knocked off from this memorable trip of ours. Switzerland being so expensive, it would take another lifetime to come back and relive these moments unless sponsored by someone else or at least is driven by a passionate reason. So in situations like these, we often try to mix both and taste the best of both the worlds. We cross out places which will certainly cause waiting in long queues or eat up the most productive time of the day in some way or would be way too crowded and add a few offbeat places where we can enjoy being close to nature, relax and quench our souls and tread through the lesser known paths. You will surely see this, as you go along reading this post.

Places covered during this 4-day trip

Lucerne, Interlaken, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Jungfraujoch & Murren

If the journey is so splendid, how wonderful would the destination be? – On our way to Luzern from Constance. What do you think – Would you want to explore these villages someday?

Day 1 – Luzern

Luzern( in German )is a city in central Switzerland and is one of the most visited- You will know why. We took a 2-hour train from Constance to Luzern on a Thursday and reached there by early evening so that we could well utilize the long day of the summer season and go around the city.

Where did we stay 

Our home here for 1 night was at the hotel – ” Royal “, up on the hill at Rigistrasee which is at a walkable distance from the Luzern Bahnof. The uphill walk to reach here, could be daunting esp with a toddler who refuses to sit on the stroller or walk, however, the views from the outside of the hotel and few rooms facing the Lake Luzern are to die for – With the proximity to the lake and the snow-capped mountains, as if you can almost touch them. The rooms are quite spacious, with a balcony and best suited for families. Get cheaper rates by booking well in advance. Our go-to place for all our hotel bookings has been Booking.com and for flights, it has been the Sky scanner app.

Also read: 5 Easy travel hacks – For aspiring travelers and young parents

While away the evening marveling at the Chapel bridge

There is something really special about the bridges and the cemeteries in Europe. They would just leave you in awe of the sheer beauty of theirs. Chapel bridge( also known as Kapelle-Brücke in German)- A covered wooden footbridge, is one of the most famous truss ( The oldest type of modern bridge – a superstructure of connected elements forming triangular units) bridges in the world. It has triangular-shaped wooden paintings inside every block which have survived the fire of 1993 and have been restored for the travelers to marvel at. Most of these paintings depict the history of Luzern. The 113 ft tall water tower on its right was built 30 years before the bridge( built-in 1333) and was predominantly used as torture chambers and prison. It’s unbelievable how these structures which were built centuries ago continue to hold interests of people and still can transport you back to history and leave you longing for more.

My personal favorite shot which was taken before we entered the Chapel bridge.

 

How selfless can the flowers be ?- They so perfectly add to the beauty of this centuries-old wooden bridge.
The view opposite the bridge was equally dramatic.

Do not miss visiting the Lion Monument

The very famous mortally wounded lion which was once praised by Mark Twain as – “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world”, is a rock-cut relief sculpture ( usually cut out of a living rock or a cliff, and not a detached stone). It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution. You may not spend more than few minutes in admiration of a great piece of rock-art that lays in front of you, however, what I was particularly mesmerized is, with the atmosphere there, which was quite hushed – Its covered with greenery from all sides, a handful of tourists sitting on the benches around the beautiful pond – just below the monument which is adorned by the pretty water lilies. When I researched more about the monument I stumbled upon Mark Twain’s exact words which really brings out the essence of this artwork.

In the words of Mark Twain – “Around about are green trees and grass. The place is a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise and stir and confusion — and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings. The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is.”

Take a leisure walk along the River Reuss

This made my day as I could click some picturesque shots of the boats, the river and the mountain across – playing hide and seek with the heavy clouds around which made the sight even more breathtaking. Along the way, you would find a few restaurants on the river, and cafes on the opposite – families, friends, and couples sitting on benches relaxing, while the fitness freaks run along the riverside. We usually love to do these kinds of stuff as the locals do, in spite of having less time – which means we let go a few more of the touristy list and instead choose to live like a local for some time – which is immensely satisfying.

Shot this while taking a solo walk along the riverside – Moments like these are mixed with both melancholy and joy for me. And these stills defining those moments of solitude are my most treasured photographs.

 

The dusk is a promise of a new dawn. Can it get prettier than this?

Day 2 – Luzern

Golden round trip to Mt Pilatus

We chose to opt for the day trip to Mt. Pilatus over Mt Titlis which is also famous as ” the mini Jungfraugoch” as we had plans to go to Jungfraugoch – The Top of Europe, the next day from Interlaken. And honestly, this decision treated us really well.

Details of the round trip

This round trip comprises of a 1-hour fast boat ride around the Lake of Luzern before you disembark at Alpnachstad to take the cogwheel train ride, and then make your back via the ” Dragon Ride” cable cars and the Panoramic Gondolas to Kreins and then come back to Lucern taking a public bus. You may also take the entire trip in the exact reverse order, as per your choice. Get complete details here.

The cost per ticket for this trip  – 106 Euros.

Its covered under the Swiss Pass or the Half card and hence you can take the benefits of having one. We have the half card and hence we had to pay only half the price. Click here to know everything about the Swiss Rail pass.

Total duration – 5- 6 hours

What can you expect during the trip?

The boat ride to Alpnachstad is worth the entire 1 hour as you would always feel time racing ahead of you, giving you the most magnificent view of the landscapes that surround the Lake of Luzern. You will not even have enough of the serene beauty before your journey gets over. At Alpnachstad there are a few restaurants where you may eat or drink and then hop on to the cogwheel train to experience the most unforgettable train ride ever. This cogwheel train was commissioned in 1889. It has a gradient of up to 48 percent and travel time of about 30 minutes. This is the steepest cogwheel railway in the world – 4618 meters long. It makes its way through the most scenic Alpine trees and flowers adorning the mountain streams and the vast green pasture lands. When you board the train, try to sit on the top seat just behind the driver to experience it more significantly. After you reach the summit of Mt. Pilatus( 6995 ft.), you can take a stroll, or drink the afternoon away, soaking yourself completely in the mesmerizing panoramic beauty of the Alps.

The view of Amazing Alps and the lake of Luzern in front, coupled with lush greens on one side and wooden houses on the other on a beautiful sunny summery morning – Can you ask for anything more?

 

The size of this cogwheel train doesn’t really help to anticipate – What an outstanding ride it would be?

 

Not sure if you can gauge how steep this line is?

 

View from the top – while taking  the cogwheel train ride to Mt. Pilatus.

The Dragon trail at Mt. Pilatus

You can also take a brief walk to the dragon trail which has many legends and myths associated with the Mt. Pilatus. In the Middle Ages, people believed that dragons with healing powers lived in the rugged clefts and crevices of the Pilatus. It’s a nice walk inside the dark trail and makes up for a great place to shoot some lovely pictures.

My dearies posing inside the Dragon trail. The inadequate natural light in here ensured we get this amazing click shot on oneplus5 in the portrait mode. Traveling with a toddler who shows equal interest in everything that we do, not just photography, carrying a DSLR becomes a challenge 🙂

On your way back

You can choose to descend from the summit via the same route or take a cable car from Frakmuntegg Krienseregg for another experience of an “adrenaline rush” followed by a Gondola ride to Kriens before you board the public bus to head back to Luzern.

The Gondola ride overlooking the breathtaking Alpine trees.

Enjoy beautiful scenic views during the train ride to Interlaken

At Luzern, we boarded the immediate next train to Interlaken. Sit on the right side window seat inside the train( if you facing the direction in which the train is moving) to enjoy the views esp. of Lake Brienz where you wouldn’t really like to blink your eyes. Taking pictures through the glass of the train wasn’t really doing any justice to the real view. So we did refrain.

Day 3 –  Interlaken 

Interlaken – As the name suggests, this delightful and lively little city is quietly tucked away between two picturesque Alpine lakes – Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. Its presided over by the three mighty mountains, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and is the starting point for many activities.

Where did we stay

Hotel Bernerhof – Right at the city center with the Interlaken West train station slightly on its right and the prodigious mountains right in front which makes every view through the balcony so much worth your time. The world seems to have taken a pause, while you marvel at the beauty and sip a cup of coffee. The proximity to all Indian restaurants from this hotel is unbelievable – that you are spoilt for choices to treat your taste buds at different places for all your meals. What we were also very impressed was with the hospitality of the hosts – Very warm, welcoming and extremely forthcoming in suggesting how to plan your day with extremely careful detailing. Right outside the hotel on the left is a crepe seller nook– You must try the one with the Icecream and chocolate sauce – It was the tastiest crepe I have ever tasted.

Day trip to Jungfraujoch

When you search for  ” Things to do in Switzerland” on google, the obvious results that show up are about the  Jungfraujoch – it is a notable saddle in the Bernese Alps, at an elevation of 3,466 meters above sea level. Well, it’s certainly a fantastic experience to visit the ” Top of Europe”, however, what’s more worth, is the route that you got to take to reach the station before you hop onto the most marvelous piece of engineering that it is – The cogwheel train, that mostly runs through a tunnel.

Details of the trip

There are two ways to reach Jungfraujoch from Interlaken and both routes are extremely scenic, hence doesn’t matter which one you choose. But it’s understood as most of the localites would suggest too, to take a round trip so that you go by one and come back via the other, enjoying the entire trip in awe of the fact – Swiss is so much more than just the Alps. What you may also do, which we plan to do when we visit Interlaken again later this year for Sandee’s Marathon, you can choose to stay at one of the villages on the way – Wengen, Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald. You would love to be so up and close with the majestic beauty around you and being literally in the coziest lap of nature. Wherever you choose to stay, this trip is definitely worth at least one visit, if you come to this part of the world.

Right outside the train station at Wengen.

 

stole few minutes between the two train hops and took a brisk walk straight inside following the cross of this church – What a sight it was?

At the Jungfraujoch which is at 3454 meters above the sea level, the Icy air streams across your face, snow crunches under your feet, and the view nearly takes your breath away. There is an array of interesting things that can be experienced there apart from being on the highest point and immersing yourself in the beauty of the magnificent Alps. For eg. Alpine sensation, Ice palace, Jungfrau Panorama, Sphinx observatory, Snow fun park. More information on everything that you would want to know about the activities at Jungfraujoch is available here.

Route 1 – Interlaken West – Interlaken Ost( change train) – Lauterbrunnen ( change train)- Klein Schedegg ( Hop onto Cogwheel train) – Junfraujoch

Route 2 – Interlaken West – Interlaken Ost( change train) – Grindelwald ( change train)- Klein Schedegg ( Hop onto Cogwheel train) – Junfraujoch

Get complete details of this trip here.

The cost per ticket for this round trip  ( with a 50% discount of Swiss half card )- 100 Euros

This is what we paid in the month of June( Prices depends upon the month that you make a visit)

Get complete details on pricing and rail pass  here.

Total duration – minimum 6 hours

It took 16 years to build this 9.3 Km route and sacrificed lives of 30 workers due to blasting accidents.

You can read about the history of Jungfraujoch here. It’s an interesting read.

View of the glacier from the station at Eismeer, inside the Eiger mountain.

 

View from the Sphinx observatory at the Jungfraujoch summit.

What you need to keep in mind before you take this trip

  • It’s nice and worth a visit in a lifetime, but expensive and quite an overrated trip in our view. So you need to keep an array of things into consideration before you plan to venture into this.
  • You need to check the weather condition before you embark on your journey. A bad weather would play a spoiler with making it impossible to enjoy any view.
  • Start as early as possible as you need to change three trains from Interlaken( though the connectivity is awesome!). But peak seasons may necessitate, reservation of seats, else you may have to stand and travel.
  • It’s a no-brainer! Get discounts with your rail pass – Buy a Swiss Pass, or a half card to save yourself from paying this hefty price.
  • Carry warm clothes as up there, the temperatures are always below the freezing point( Obviously :)). The difference in temperature would be at least -20 degrees wrt the temperature at Interlaken.
  • Carry a power bank for your mobile or charge the DSLR batteries to full, because believe you me- You will not get tired of clicking.

Day 4 – Interlaken

Day trip to Murren

We have very fond memories of travelling to this traditional Walser mountain village in the Bernese Highlands of Switzerland, at an elevation of 1,638 metres above sea level and its car-free, which is so wonderful as you can breathe in the fresh mountain air and walk around just about anywhere and explore every nook and corner of the village care-free. The village features a view of the three towering mountains Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. You will absolutely fall in love with the mesmerizing landscapes, charming little wooden houses, and wildflowers in full bloom. If you want to have a look at the complete gallery of pictures that we shot at Murren, please click here. What we loved most about this village was its very scantily populated with about just 450 residents and even the inflow of tourists at least when we visited wasn’t much and you get to enjoy the tranquil and the peace.

The cost per ticket for this round trip  ( with a 50% discount of Swiss half card )- 22 Euros

Total duration – 5- 6 hours

A rustic wooden house clinging on to the side of a hill overlooking the magnanimous Alps.

 

Me and Mayra enjoying the thrill of posing at our favorite point in the village.

 

The wildflowers adorning the entire village of Murren, are one of its highlights in itself. You need to come here in between Spring-Summer, to treat your eyes with these gorgeous beauties.

Sometimes any amount of words, pictures and videos may possibly fall short while trying to paint an exact world in front of the eyes of the readers and viewers. Its best experienced when visited in real.

What are your favorite places in the world that you have traveled to and found it extremely difficult to describe your experience in real? 

Hope this post was helpful to you, for planning a short visit to Switzerland. If you need more details you may DM me at tanushree.h.m@gmail.com.

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