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Switzerland - Travel Update

So we traveled to Switzerland from Paris on the morning of 2nd September. The day was quite eventful. Here is a brief account of Day 1. We will be here for 5 nights.

Day 1:

  • Landed in Zurich HB station at 11:26am. TGV Lyria train. Quite nice. Had a nice dashboard inside the train which showed the speeds the train was traveling at. Lots and lots of greenery on the route along the French border into Basel and then Zurich. Booking early is really useful, apparently - we got tickets at 37 euro per head, might have been even cheaper earlier.

  • Need to withdraw money from an ATM. Cards dont work. Bank of America. TD Bank. Both Visa debit cards. Panic. We only have a few euros and I have some 600 $ in an emergency.

  • Suddenly card works on the 5th ATM and I can get 500 CHF out. Try again. Fail. Not enough money. Switzerland is expensive.

  • 2nd card works on the 6th ATM or so and I get another 500 CHF out. Dad's card works as well and we get 200 out there. Phew.

  • Need a place to store luggage. Awesome self managed lockers for 9 euro. Fit 4 bags very easily. Need change though. So have to buy some stuff, request some coins and use them in the luggage store locations.

  • Eat lunch. Its now nearly 1:30. All this running around has been extremely stressful and Dad who is not calm in the best of days is practically in panic mode right now. All is eventually well.

  • Go to tourist office, get travel advice, get half rate card as advised by them (and Sam on an earlier thread) and book tickets by 7:02pm to Lauterbrunen.

  • More hunting and I figure out that a Zone 110 day card for 24 hours is the best bet for Zurich. 6 CHF a piece and we can spend a few hours here and there.

  • Finally head down Banhofstrasse. Dad's leg is already shot sadly. So we jump into a tram and go down Banhofstrasse. Hop off a couple of stops later to look at and click pics of a big clock on a church. I was searching for St. Peter's church but couldn't find it on the main street, and too little time in Zurich meant we couldn't walk and rest..walk and rest.

  • Hopped on and off at Lake Zurich. A really nice calm lake. We all loved it and spent a while strolling around it. Cruises seemed quite expensive, not sure if the half rate card would have been applicable.

  • More tram travel, quick hop off at Bellevue Square, but nothing as such to see, its just a central location where a lot of roads intersect.

  • Hopped off at a Coop store and got some food. Lots of precious time wasted here figuring out how to weigh produce :)

  • Walked to a little Chinese garden and took a peek around. Not too much to be seen, can kill half an hour maybe. Nice overall park though.

  • Took more trams randomly around the city, had some lunch and got back to Zurich HB at 6:25, 35 minutes before the train. As usual, Dad was a bit panicky about us being late etc. Got the luggage out of the locker quickly and boarded the train at platform 16.

  • Train's very nice. Hop off at Bern and catch a connection in 6 minutes. That's really very hard for Dad, its a long way to walk in a very short time.

  • Get in. Ask someone if its a second class compartment. They say NO. Panic. Change compartments. The next one looks just like the previous one, but hey ..that's what it is, and the ticket is validated.

  • Get off at Interlaken West and goof up. I had a feeling this was the wrong station but should have ascertained before going. Tooo much stress everywhere and..really I'm not only to blame here...but we're stuck there at 9:15 pm and having to check in to Lauterbrunnen before 10pm at the Valley Hostel.

  • Decide to take a cab. Less risky. More expensive. One guy magically appears. Talkative guy but a nice guy - drops us at the hostel for 70 CHF. That's a lot of money wasted but its the best option under the circumstances. Hostel's nice. We check in and I sit and plan Day 2 :). Finally.

Posted by
233 posts

Really enjoyed your report! I've had the ATM panic before in two other places :) Glad it all worked out.

Posted by
137 posts

Day 2:

  • Get up a little late. Really tired from yesterday.
  • Clear day. Decide to go to Jungfrau.
  • Head off to the Coop and buy some food. All the bread contains egg. Looked at 10 brands. I'm fed up off having to search for vegan food everywhere. Ended up getting a loaf, but turns out that was a problem too and I misread at the grocery store.
  • Ate breakfast and we head off to the Jungfrau. Train to Kleine Scheidigg. Getting cooler all the while. Its 10 C here.
  • Views are spectacular though and we can see the mountains very clearly.
  • All good all the way up through the Eiger stations and we hop off every few minutes at the various viewpoints and get some great views.
  • Go right through the tunnel and reach Jungfraoch :). The whole ride is just genius engineering. The people who thought about this are ... just wow. Wow.
  • Pack Dad up really warm :). Start walking around.
  • Nice 4 minute panoramic experience video. Go up the Sphinx elevator, unfortunately some bits are by now cloudy and we can't see too much - still we go out nad experience how it is to be right at the top of a mountain. Eat some chocolate - which luckily doesn't have egg in it.
  • Walk all the way through the Alpine sensation, which is a nice little experience of how Switzerland is.
  • Plenty of long slow escalators so we can admire the works on the wall which describe how the Swiss rail was constructed.
  • Enter the Ice palace. Dad is all panicky on how he will walk on the ice palace. But somehow we manage between all of us and drag a very reluctant Dad through everything :). He enjoyed it all, but was very scared that he would slip on the ice.
  • Pretty cold though. But some lovely ice sculptures. Really creative. I loved the penguin sculpture :). Clicked a lot of pics for Dad - he was too cold to click too much.
  • Actually walked on the Ice Plateau, and made Dad turn around 360 degrees and appreciate what there was around him, so he knew where he was and what he had done. We took an insane amount of time to get back inside, but we eventually did it :)
  • Lindt chocolate store. Some awesome chocolate balls. Bought chocolate worth 35 CHF. I've never eaten as much chocolate as this in all my life, but hey..its also Switzerland :)
  • Back to Lauterbrunnen. They didn't let us take the Grindelwald route :( because my ticket was valid only for the Wengen route..apparently. Oh well.
  • Ate some salads, chips, cheese and juice and ..did all our accounting. We've spent around a 1500 CHF (room rent for 4 nights included) in 2 days..for 3 people. Sounds a bit expensive, but hey that's how Switzerland is..I guess.

Tomorrow I will try to look at the Staubach falls which is very close to Valley hostel (which by the way is very nice :)) and Trummelbach falls. Maybe also Reichenbach falls... but need to see where what is first. All other recommendations for some nice travel around the area after we see the falls are welcome.

We also thought of walking to Murren maybe from Lauterbrunnen. Is that doable? I have 1 more day after tomorrow in Lauterbrunnen, how would you guys suggest we can spend some time? I could do Schilthorn but that'll be similar to Jungfrau and I'd rather do something else .. if the opportunity presents itself.

Posted by
137 posts

Thank You Kyla :). I love writing and thought this is the best way to do it - while I travel, instead of all at the end. Its a bit harder this way, but its worth it.

Posted by
57 posts

Hi Arvind,

To get to Mürren from Lauterbrunnen you'll have to take a cable car. The cable car leaves right from the village and goes up to a station called Grütschalp. At Grütschalp you'll board a small train which travels a few miles to Mürren. If you are curious about going up to the Schilthorn it's actually quite a different experience than going up to the Jungraujoch. You take a cable car all the way up and the views are incredible.

Posted by
10344 posts

Ah yes, some of the joys of European travel. If only Europe was next door, used the same moneym
You know, easier.
And less expensive.
Dang.

Posted by
806 posts

Arvind, I'm enjoying following you and your parents through these posts! I will be in France and Scotland for 3 weeks this fall with my 87-yr-old mother and am already stressing a bit - your patience is admirable and I hope I can emulate when it's my turn next month. Enjoy the rest of your trip, and the memories in years to come.

Posted by
86 posts

This is an awesome write-up. I love it because it's so transparent and honest and it alerts me to things to be aware of in our upcoming trip! Thanks!!

Posted by
672 posts

Arvind,
I so look forward to each of your posts! My husband and I are older than your parents (but, fortunately, still traveling independently), so I'm reading them from your parents' point of view as well as from yours. They've been so much fun to read. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by
137 posts

Erica: Thanks. That does tie in with what I see on the map. I'll probably skip the Schilthorn this time though, have had fantastic views wherever I look.

Kent: Indeed. One world currency would solve a lot of the world's problems, let alone travel :)

Kathleen: Thank you very much. I am sure you will be fine with your trip as well. Older people are much more understanding than younger ones, and are happy with such little really. Just treat them respectfully and be sensitive to their needs and they're great companions. I've been impatient with Mom and Dad at times and have yelled and we've had little fights - but as long as you quickly make up - it's fine. I'll be happy to talk you through any of your plans if you so wish :) at any time.

Chris: Sounds like a great plan. Although, after today, my route'll have to change a bit. More in my update post in a while. Thanks for the invite - if I do stop off at Winteregg somehow, it'll be nice to meet for sure :) - how can I meet you though? The skyline looks great, let me see if I can do it.

Shirley: Thanks. I try my best.

Nancy: Thanks very much. Dad's 69 now and Mom 64. If Dad didn't have his awful arthritis, he'd love to be independent - like you guys. Sadly, its hard. There's no cartilage around his left knee cap, so the bones kinda rub each other - cant be fun. I'll keep writing - all the best with your travels.

Update for Day 3 follows shortly.

Posted by
137 posts

Day 3:

  • Got up at around 8 am. Valley hostel is a nice place, but the kitchen closes at 10 so you have to get up early and finish your stuff in the kitchen quickly, as it crowds up the later it gets.
  • Went to the Coop store and bought food that should last the next 3 days. If it gets left over, I'll just leave it here in the "free food" basket. I love the hostel culture though and we got a nice little private room with bunk beds, just wish there was a vegetarian area :( - too much to expect really.
  • Went off to the Tourist office and planned my day a bit. Mom had to make a second trip to the grocery store because of some bill inconsistencies. Switzerland is great though, honesty wise, they just trust you blind and I doubt anyone misuse the freedom either.
  • Kitchen closed. My cereal is on the platform. Uneaten. Eat a banana and some cookies instead. Shave and have a bath. Water's cold. Brr :)
  • Its nearly 11 by the time we head out.
  • Short walk to Staubach falls. Dad sits on a bench while I guide Mom up slowly, right to the back of the falls. Big props to her for coming all the way up. Down is obviously trickier but we make it in 1 piece.
  • Bit of a rest. Catch 141 to Trummelbach falls. I forget to show my half rate card and pay 4.5 CHF extra :(. Don't forget - all travel is discounted by the half rate card. Hardwire that in your brain :)
  • Trummelbach has too many steps. The nice lady at the front warns us. Dad can't come in and waits for us outside. Mom and me go in and see all the mind blowingly awesome falls.
  • If you don't have time for Jungfrau, it's ok... but don't miss Trummelbach - it is truly truly unique - not a single waterfall I have ever seen has that much power and is so realistic. And don't get me started on what an engineering marvel it is.
  • Mom says Dad can see some falls for sure - but not all. I agree. We finish seeing all the falls, then go out with the permission of the nice lady and convince Dad to go back in. Mom takes him up again while I wait - too narrow inside for 3 people, and frankly, since Mom can handle it - I'm happy staying out and planning our next steps.
  • Ask for route information in my broken German :). Fail. Fallback to English.
  • Mom and Dad come back just in time for the bus to Stechelberg. Catch the bus.
  • Hop off. Cable car to Gimmelwald. Mom's quite scared, but we all make it.
  • Lunch at Gimmelwald station. Its a very tiny village but I love it.
  • We order some bread and fondue for Dad but the power gets cut midway through the preparation apparently :) .. so no bread and fondue for Dad. Back to stale bread and jam. Ugh.
  • Walk through the village. Mind blowing views of the Alps on 1 side and lush greenery on the other side. Its almost as if the village is a road divider between the two.
  • Dad sits at the station after some time, Mom and me go around the village and come back. Cable car back to Stechelberg and bus to Lauterbrunnen.
  • Cook a meal after washing vessels at the hostel well. Good food after a while :)

Mostly go to Murren tomorrow and maybe Birg and the skyline. Last day in Lauterbrunnen. Do chip in with other suggestions. I'll check once tomorrow morning before leaving. Thanks :)

Posted by
5213 posts

Hi Arvind-I believe you mentioned that some other days on your trip you were eating bread and cheese. Fondue has those same ingredients, but it's F-O-N-D-U-E, and it sure beats simply a slice of cheese on a baguette. Hope your Dad (and you and your Mom?) all can enjoy fondue while in Switzerland.

Also, be on the lookout for Raclette (cheese, potatoes, small onions, pickles). Great!

Swiss eat more chocolate per capita than anyone else in the world - and now you know why. I bet the 35 CHF for Lindt chocolate was a better deal than that cab ride the night before!

If you were there in April, the seasonal specialty at that time of year is spargel, white asparagus. The Swiss do some great vegetarian dishes, but the beef is good, too. Those cows aren't all just for cheese and chocolate ;-)

Posted by
137 posts

Looks cloudier yes Chris. Is it a good idea to at least come to Birg and the skyline views? Or should I replan?

Posted by
137 posts

Day 4:

  • Breakfast and leave by 10:15 or so.
  • Book my tickets to Geneva by train on Saturday morning. Note that booking internal Swiss travel is very easy and there are rarely any long queues.
  • Booked tickets to Murren.
  • Grustchwalp by cable car. Get out. Hike a bit.
  • Train to Murren. Hop out at Winteregg. Hike a bit.
  • Views are great wherever you go in Switzerland. Green, Grey, Bare rock and snow - fantastic combinations.
  • Walk around Murren a bit. Murren is a little bigger than Gimmelwald where I went yesterday - lots of small, twisting roads everywhere.
  • Take a funicular (which is just a tiny train :)) to Almendhubbel - fantastic 360 degree views here if you hike a little grass patch up there. Probably go here, see what you can see and then go to Birg to see the skyline platform or to Schilthorn. If its cloudy here, its unlikely to be any better once you go higher. Maybe anyway.
  • Took the funicular down back to Murren. Mom accidentally put a wrong ticket in to validate, and the system did it all the same. Wonder how.
  • Murren to Stechelberg by cable car. Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen by bus. Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken OST by train.
  • Get off on 1 side of Interlaken. See Lake Brienz. It is very very quiet - just a few benches and an icecream stall which promptly closed as soon as we reached, as if to say - nothing here move on :). Lots of people, came, looked around in disbelief and moved on. The lake itself was really nice though, I haven't seen something that calm in a while - a change from the roaring waterfalls of Lauterbrunnen.
  • Went off to the other side of Interlaken, much more lively.
  • A little shopping in the Coop store, a little souvenir buying and we come back to the station via a shortcut. Haha.
  • Nice waiting room at Interlaken - we read a number of magazines till the train comes. Also note that every station in Switzerland seems to have self-serviced luggage storage space. That's pretty awesome.
  • Back to Lauterbrunnen by train. I have only around 50 francs for the last day, which means I've spent close to 2000 francs (not exact) in 5 days. That's certainly more costly than the other countries. It's fine though - its beautiful country to spend some time in :)

Off to Geneva tomorrow morning and a flight to Rome in the evening. 4 nights there and that will end our long long trip :). Will start a post for Rome tomorrow evening if I have internet at the hotel.

Aufvidazeen :)

Posted by
2005 posts

I'm new to your adventure and don't know your situation but ... you sure spend a lot of time and effort on cash. I would advise you use a credit card as much as possible esp. on the big stuff (as in lodging and transport), settle up when you get home, keep some cash in your pocket just for small stuff and walking around money.

Posted by
137 posts

Thanks. Its easier to withdraw a lot of cash, so I don't incur fees every time I use it - that's all. I do use a card when I have absolutely no other option.

Posted by
137 posts

Day 5:

One of the worst days of the trip to be frank. Here's a summary, don't feel like writing more.

  • Checked out of the hostel at around 9 am. Valley hostel is a great place to stay, wholly recommend it to everyone.
  • Caught a train to Interlaken OST. Run to catch a connection - its pretty crazy to have connections to catch in less than 5 minutes, the ramps help though - so its all good. Dad has a hard hard time though.
  • Interlaken to Bern. Repeat.
  • Bern to Geneva. Reach at 12:30pm. Dad's leg is bad already today and he is having trouble walking. All that running to catch the connection hasn't helped 1 bit.
  • Store luggage in Geneva. Automatic machines to do this. Make sure you look at the correct display for your locker once you choose one. We struggled for 15 minutes before finding this out. It's all self service too so you might be stuck for a while.
  • Starbucks. WiFi. Plan Rome route after getting to the hotel.
  • Try and think of something to do in Geneva for a couple of hours. Decide we'll just buy a 1 day pass and go and see the Jet D Eau at least.
  • Screw up bus routes. Get in to wrong buses and directions many times. Dad's super slow walking isn't helping either - he can't help it though ..really.
  • Eventually get somewhere near the Jet D Eau. Dad sees it from a distance. Its a pretty cool spot. Mom and I try and get as close to it as we can. It looks deceptively close though, I'd throw in a couple of hours atleast to get there and see it properly, if you do plan.
  • See a flower clock too at the entrance of the garden..it even works perfectly - really nice to look at.
  • Back to the station. Collect luggage.
  • Train to Geneva airport. Easyjet.
  • We'd already checked in online, just had a single bag to drop. I go ahead and stand in line. Halfway through I realise I have forgotten my passport with Mom. Only hope is that Mom finds me before I get to the start.
  • Mom gets there just when I'm next in line, I see her but she doesn't see me. Ugh.
  • Get passport and do all of it again. Everyone on edge by now.
  • Go through security. For some reason we put all our passports into a basket through the machine, I never do that.
  • Pick my stuff up. Suddenly I realise I cant find my passport. Everyone in panic. Ask security. Ask everyone. No one has a clue. Panic.
  • Kind security officer helps us sort our stuff. Its in Mom's hand, underneath somewhere...why we missed it.. no one knows.
  • Lots of high tempers by this point. Everyone needs to chill.
  • Flight's delayed by another hour and a half. More pain.
  • Get something vegetarian on the flight - luckily.
  • Flight's good, reaches in time. Get off at Termini, search for a bus while Mom and Dad get our bag from the luggage belt.
  • Once you go out, you cant go back in though - I have to go through security again.
  • Bus at 10:30pm. Makes good time. We reach by 11:15. Its super cheap at 8 euro for a return ticket.
  • Cant find the hotel, its midnight by now. Everyone is panicky as usual. I lose my cool and tell Mom and Dad to be patient. Its just been a bit of a long trip for me :)
  • Hotel's on the other side of Termini, I find it eventually.
  • Luckily there is an elevator, albeit a really really old fashioned one.
  • Family hotel. Very nice lady who kindly lets us in, doesn't check ID or anything - just tells us to sleep and we'll do it in the morning.

Crash. Terrible day. Remember NEVER to try and see a city in 4 or 5 hours - its a disaster whenever I've tried it, unless you've been to the city before or are willing to spend vast sums of money on cabs everywhere.

Posted by
8 posts

Hi Arvind.i am sitting in the airport waiting area waiting to board the flight to geneva n doing the things n route u are doing. Thanks for writing.i shall follow the itinery of yours in lauterbrunnen. I also have a few hrs in geneva then off to bern.
Hope the rest of your holidays went well.
Take care.
Ysh

Posted by
9 posts

Enjoyed reading post, especially your candor about travel woes. I have experienced some of these same problems traveling, and I remind myself that they are all part of the experience. Traveling with parents or close family member is better in a way than with others because they love and forgive us no matter how we badly we might act or what we might say. I will be sailing on the Rhine River Cruise in mid-November with an acquaintance and ending up in Lucerne for two days. I will be flying back to Tennessee the day before Thanksgiving, so I fully expect lots of Sturm und Drang. I am praying for patience and tolerance all ready.

Posted by
137 posts

Thanks Susan. Good luck with your trip - yes it's true - what you said about parents and close people. It doesn't matter what all you see really...as in...even if you don't finish 100% of all u planned, its ok.

Just enjoy yourself and adjust to the other person's needs as well and all will be good :)

Posted by
4365 posts

Arvind, I suggest that you ask the Webmaster to move all of your trip reports to the 'Trip Reports' section of the Travel Forum; otherwise, all of your posts will simply be lost to time and the crush of other threads. It will be much easier for people to find your trip reports in the proper category (and the 'Trip Reports' section is much, much smaller than the scattered, general sections you're posting in now!).

Posted by
137 posts

That is a good idea Eileen. I will contact the webmaster. Thank you.