April 30, 2014

Scenic Train Ride (Bernina Express)

We started our journey from Tirano (a border town between Italy and Swiss) onboarding a scenic railway (Bernina Express) to a city called Chur (in Switzerland) and continue from there to Zurich.
The train journey was true to its name "scenic railway". The fabulous Bernina Express is a narrow gauge train with panoramic sightseeing cars. From sunny Italy to icy Switzerland the journey through the alps is about 4hrs of which not one moment you will be disappointed. Ride through the tunnels, bridges, glacier posts makes you never want to go back to reality.

Most reviews online kind of suggests that tourist prefer the other way around, travelling from Switzerland to Italy on this same scenic ride. I have no idea why that would be a better way especially if its the same route to and fro. After thoughtful consideration to our itinerary and  budget and time we chose this route and I have no qualms about it what-so-ever.

We wanted to do one scenic train ride for sure (oh ya, there are a couple of more options available) in Switzerland. We had a conflict between Glacier Express and Bernina Express, in the end we chose Bernina since it worked in our schedule. Cost wise there wasn't much difference.

Info Courtesy: http://www.rhb.ch/Bernina-Express.2188.0.html?&L=4

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Interlaken /Grindelwald/Jungfrau Mountain

Interlaken is a small town situated in between two spectacular lakes: Lake Brienz and Lake Thun (hence the name ‘Inter’ Laken…). It's a charming town. There is a high tourist influx. Most tourist hotels are located on this main street. The Jungfrau peak and surrounding alpine mountain ranges are visible from the town on a clear day.

The mountains of Grindelwald village is nothing less than heaven. The changes in the landscape are quite interesting as you gain altitude. From trees and green meadows, you start seeing snow at higher altitudes, and eventually are surrounded by glaciers. The last stretch passes through many tunnels, but with nice viewing galleries (windows) cutout through the tunnels at certain spots.

Here is how I understand this, Interlaken is set at the foot of this alpine mountain and Grindelwald is somewhere halfway towards the mountain and from Grindelwald you take a train that runs on cogwheel track (for better traction) on these steep gradients. Amazing engineering!

Jungfrau is a wonderland of ice, snow and glacier.  You will be surprised to see how much bollywood has influenced. There is a bollywood restaurant at the tallest point of Europe (Can't beat that)....There are a few attractions to be seen and experienced at the top including fun/adventurous snow activities like snow tubing, ziplining (I tried ziplining for the first time ever).

  • The air at the top is very very thin so it is highly likely that you will get light headed or dizzy or sleepy or even get a headache (especially kids, my little one suffered it ).
  • Couple of hours at the top would or should be good enough. You can easily spend more. There is a bit of walking to do in there and yes, the caves are going to be cold. 
  • Please take or apply as much sunscreen as possible. You will get tanned at least a little bit if you spend time outside in the the snow for a little longer.

We did not go to Mt.Titlis, although it was interesting to see on the website that there is a huge cutout of Shahrukh and Kajol  from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge movie! wow, some recognition!

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In and around Zurich

Public transport (trains and buses) run like clockwork so, it was easy to work our time table around that. Also we had our local guy (my cuz) along so, we almost never had the need to ask around. Most everything is electronic so the necessity for human interaction was close to zilch. But old habits die very hard, we would still go into stores at the train station and ask questions :) (Not very many could speak english though, but better than Italians).

Rhine Falls - I had no different experience than any tourist who came for sight seeing. You can decide to stay at the shore and enjoy the falls or take a boat ride that takes you to the foot of the oddly shaped rock/hill. From there you are on your own for a steep climb up top (via stairs) and take advantage of the falls and the surroundings (which is different than just watching it from the shore). Might be a little hard for oldies and kids, but there were quite a bunch who were successful in their attempt.

Zurich town - Half of your day would be just enough to go around the town (not including time at museums and cathedrals). Beware, it's an expensive city and so are its basics as well as amenities.
We gazed through the windows of shopping store and enjoyed buying those in spirits....well, I am sure some of you can afford to actually buy these in real too.
We walked alongside the picturesque lake Zurich over the cobblestone admiring the view, taking pictures and ended the evening by watching the sun go down.

For foodies there are lots to enjoy - Restaurants, bars, cafes - Pull up a chair and enjoy it outdoor watching handsome men go by. For me I went for Mcdonald's. Come on don't judge me. I love Mac's veggie burger and miss those terribly in the US. I couldn't spare myself from relishing their burger. I had every right to enjoy a good meal that I like. Besides this could be the only chance for me to get that burger to go (for the rest of my trip).

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Lucerne and the outbacks

We rented a car for for just one day to drive around anywhere and everywhere. The basic idea was to just drive in the outback and explore. Obviously the idea was to get the unique experience that I always seek in travel. I was obsessed with the black and white cows on a farm and wanted a pic :). I also wanted to go see an old church, enjoy a hearty meal in a small town, drink fresh juice, eat cheese, find a vantage point to take stunning pics and soak up in the outdoors. It was a terrific spin around the country :).
We stopped at Lucerne on our way to see the the old wooden bridge and water tower.

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