Last year, I had an opportunity to visit the beautiful Switzerland with my friends. I was there just for a weekend but I think it was a great little trip. We flew to Basel airport. One thing to remember about Basel is that it can be very confusing- there is a Swiss part and a French part. Though both parts have a common airport, they have distinct train stations, right next to each other. It is kind of complicated to explain, so I highly recommend that you read up a bit about it if planning to visit. We visited during late September. The weather was quite pleasant during this time and we could make do with light to no woollens if we wore thermal wear, except for Engelberg and Mt. Titlis where is was freezing cold.
Some quick tips:
1. We stayed at a place called St. Louis in France which is really close to Basel and then went to Lucerne each day, which is about an hour from Basel by train. Lucerne is one of the largest central train stations in Switzerland which is very well connected with other touristic parts of the country. I would recommend that you find a hotel close to the Lucerne station.
2. We also purchased a Swiss Pass online which you can buy even before you reach the country. It is a cost effective way to travel in the country with a lot of inclusions- do check it out and see if it makes sense for your travel.
3. The Swiss pass is applicable only on public transport in Switzerland and cannot be used to travel from St. Louis to Basel- you will have to buy separate tickets from St. Louis station if you want to travel to Basel.
4. Also, please remember that the train timings and frequency applicable in Swiss part of Basel station is not applicable to the French part.
5. Another tip- the trains almost dry up at around 7:30-8:00pm on Sundays in the French part of Basel, so if you plan to stay in St. Louis- you would have to return quite early to the French Basel station to get your train back to St. Louis, on weekends.
6. Switzerland does not accept Euros and France does not accept Swiss Francs. So, please ensure you carry the correct foreign exchange. It is so easy to confuse the two because you can really walk from French to the Swiss part in Basel. It is sometimes hard to say which part you are in.
On Day 1, we went to Stanserhorn from Lucerne. We got off at the Stans station and walked to the Cabrio ride, which took us up a mountain called Stanserhorn. We first had a furniculaire ride and then a ride on an open cable car ride up to Stanserhorn. The open cable car ride was one the best rides I have taken. There are times it gets a little scary, especially if you look up during the ascent as the mountain can be very steep and vertical. A few of our fellow visitors were from Switzerland and showed us during the ascent, the birthplace of Switzerland. Upon reaching the top of Stanserhorn, the views were breathtaking! The pictures below do not really do justice to the beauty we experienced. This was the mountain where Heidi's grandpa's cottage was supposed to be and they also had a model cottage of her grandpa. We planned on spending an hour here but we were so mesmerised in the beauty of the place that we ended up staying here for several hours.
|Both the above pictures are that of Funiculaire|
|View during the Furniculaire ride|
|Open air cable car|
|During one of the steep ascents|
|From here, we can see the birthplace of Switzerland but hard for me to point out to the exact spot|
|All of the above are views from Stanserhorn|
|The station to take the rides from|
As we decided to stay for a few additional hours in Stanserhorn, we made a few changes to our plans. We went to Lucerne lake for a nice evening of boating and shopping before heading back to our hotel in St. Louis.
|Sights and scenes during the boating in Lucerne Lake|
|The busy Lucerne station- Lucerne in French and Luzern in German|
Day 2: We had to visit Mt. Titlis and take a train ride on the Golden Panaromic route. We travelled to Engelberg from Lucerne. From Engelberg, we need to take a cable car ride followed by a rotair ride to reach the top of Mt. Titlis. From Engelberg onwards, all the way to Mt. Titlis, is a popular tourist destination for Indian tourists. So, do not be surprised if you find some instructions etc, written in Hindi. Actually, on top of Mt. Titlis, they had a cut out of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol from the movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, a big part of which was shot in Switzerland. Unfortunately, my friends and I are posing before this cut out, so cannot put up the picture. We partly did a cliff walk over very very slippery snow/ice. Following this, we did a tour of Glacier Cave. There are a few other rides covered in our package but due to rain and general bad weather on the day, they were cancelled. It was a fun trip to Mt. Titlis nonetheless. Just FYI- If you are into cheeses, Switzerland is home to many varieties. Engelberg cheese is a popular Swiss cheese to carry home. However, just consult a local person- some can be really stinky.
|Cable car ride from Engelberg to Mt. Titlis|
|View en route Mt. Titlis|
|From Mt. Titlis|
|Cliff Walk at Mt. Titlis|
We then took a Golden Panaromic ride to Interlaken. The ride had scenery of indescribable beauty. We also saw several Swiss cows grazing which was somewhat reminded me of the animated telivesed version of Heidi. Unfortunately, we reached Interlaken at around 5pm. The only main tourist attraction is boating on the two lakes which closes at 5pm and we narrowly missed it. However, we toured the city on foot and did a bit of shopping before we head back to our hotel in St. Louis.
|Pictures taken on the move during the Golden Panaromic train ride|
Day 3: We were to return after our weekend trip to Switzerland on this day. We had some time at hand before we could board our flight. We did a bit of shopping of chocolates and cosmetics. We still had some extra time, so we went to see one of local tourist attractions in Basel- the Munsterplatz and visited the Basel Minster cathedral. The cathedral was an alluring structure. We then took a tram to and bus to the Basel Airport.
|Basel Minster- Munsterplatz|
With this ended this leg of the Swiss trip. This trip focussed on some of the off-beat places. I hope to return some day to other attractions like Geneva, Zurich etc.