April 30, 2014

Switzerland - Utopia Country

We were covering 3 countries on this trip (Italy, Switzerland and Spain). Please follow my blog posts for the other the 2 destinations. This is a family vacation so the itinerary is more conducive to folks with younger kid(s). Our motive was to be able to shift our gears between being tourist (been there done that), being a traveller (get your unique experience).

Total No. of days: approx 4 days
Time of Year:  May-June (2011)
Weather: AWESOME (in capital letters).
Destinations in Switzerland: Rhine Falls, Zurich, Interlaken/Jungfrau, Lucerne, Outbacks of swiss, Bernina Pass (Scenic railway).
Travelling From: Tirano (Italy)
Itinerary (all 3 countries): Italy-Swiss-Spain
Commuting in Switzerland: Trains, Buses and one day of car rental

What would you call a country that is rich, clean, advanced and has followed democracy for over 100 years....Well sounds like a utopia country to me. But  for us (Indian's) it's the country where Shahrukh Khan danced around [Thanks to Bollywood ].
Our visit into this country clearly showed the juxtapose especially when we travelled from Italy. Don't get me wrong, Italy is developed in many ways but there is an old charm that it has retained to it as opposed to Switzerland. In Swiss even old things looked very modern to me (perhaps the settings).

Almost none of the folks I know who have visited or want to visit Swiss, are interested in knowing what the swiss people (swiss army) do with their swiss knives or how they make their chocolates or cuckoo clock or other watches or how to open a swiss bank account (How I wish I had this one).  Of course shopping for a cuckoo clock or swiss watch or knife or chocolate is always on the hit list :)
I guess the natural beauty is what we all want to consume and it almost comes free.

Day 1: Entry to Switzerland - Scenic train ride
Day 2: Rhine Falls and Around Zurich.
Day 3: Interlaken /Grindelwald/Jungfrau Mountain
Day 4: Lucerne and The outbacks

Where we stayed?
Most of our stay was at my favorite cousin's place (oh what a delight to have home cooked meal). He graciously hosted us in his bachelor pad. It's always good to have family or friends or acquaintances as locals to guide your sightseeing or even better to host you. Thanks to my bro, we saved quite a bit in lodging considering the fact that Swiss is expensive.
We did spend one night in Interlaken at a backpackers hostel. It wasn't a comfortable stay (at least for the money that we paid). Just ok for one night though. But if you go in peak tourist season, I guess that's how it's going to be.

Few things to know:

Swiss = Expensive!

Swiss people have 4 national language - German, French, Italian and Romansh! I am sure they had their own dialect with a mishmash of all these languages. So, I didn't even bother to learn any words and stuck to the few Italian vocabulary that I picked up.

All inter city train stations have cloakroom to store away your luggage for a fee (per baggage or per locker or max per day). We made use of these in all needed situations for us! I heard that your moolla could get very sophisticated locker.

My recommendation for transportation should be a perfect mix of both public and car rental. I think one should experience both and I can promise you will still find the best of experience. The only way to appreciate their transportation system, network, scheduling is by travelling in one.

The intercity trains can get crowded. So, this is how it is, you book tickets on the train and then you pay little more for reservation. A reserved ticket secures you a seat. If not there are a few open seats available which can be taken by anybody. Most folks don't pay for reservation (Which at that time was 25 Euro per person) and travel standing when the train is full. But there is a high chance that some gentleman would graciously offer you his seat (of course if you are a lady and especially with a child).

There are a lot of smokers (men, women, young boys, young girls). The smell of smoke can easily fog you. If you dislike you have to get away. They are very unapologetic. They do have designated smoking areas but its better to stay at least a mile away from it.

Don't forget to try bubbling cheese fondu, chocolates that melt in your mouth, Coffee, hot chocolate, Icecreams from any one of those old coffee houses. You can also find stalls to taste different kinds of cheese near any market place. I LOVED the mozzarella cheese on a caprice.

I would especially recommend Sprungli chocolates and macaroons. Macaroons are delish. You should be able to find outlets of Sprungli around Switzerland. We got ours from the one inside Zurich train station just before boarding our train back to Italy (Venice).

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