Switzerland - An Enchanted Journey
Swtizerland--***** Paradise on Earth.****The beauty that lies in the heart of Europe!!!!!!!
The rolling hills, the impressive scenic railways, the delicious pastries and the difficult to beat ski destinations… Switzerland is a winter playground but also has so much to offer year-round when visiting the beautiful cities and towns dotted throughout the landlocked country.
Yash Chopra's movies have made Switzerland the most popular romantic destination among Indian tourists. Switzerland govt honoured Yash Chopra for his role in boosting the tourism industry, by naming a lake as "Chopra lake" and also by installing his bronze statue in the city of Interlaken. I am sure, each one of us must have desired to visit this "Heaven on Earth" at least once in a lifetime. And once you visit it, you will definitely fall in love with it. There is so much to see and do here that I can fill up a whole book. So I'll start with what Switzerland is famous for! You guessed it right, it's the mountains and there are plenty of them.
Things to explore:-
Mountains : Jungfraujoch and Mt. Titlis - are popular among Indian tourists as these are conveniently located near Interlaken city. So we decided to visit these two in our first trip. But there are other beautiful peaks such as, Matterhorn, Zermatt, Mt. Pilatus
#Jungfraujoch - standing at 3,454 metres above sea level in Bernese Alps, its railway station is the highest in Europe, hence is known as "Top of Europe". There are two routes to get there by trains : one via Lauterbrunnen and other via Grindelwald.
The journey by Jungfrau mountain cogwheel train is literally breath-taking as it offers splendid views of the Jungfrau and Mönch Alpine peaks, glaciers, valleys on a clear day. Once you reach at the top and step out of the train, you will feel as you have stepped into a different world altogether. At the top you can enjoy a 360° view from Sphinx observatory, play in the sea of snow (I was crazy to see snow all around as it was my first time), admire Ice sculptures in Ice palace, visit Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven, where you can learn about the history of chocolate and how it's made. You need a whole day to spend at Jungfrau.
#MtTitlis - It is at 3238 metre above sea level in Uri Alps. It is accessed from Engelberg by the cable cars which connect to the summit of Mt. Titlis in three stages. On the final leg of the ascent, you take the world's first rotating cable car "Rotair" which revolves 360 degrees, treating you to idyllic panoramic views of steep rock faces, deep crevasses and snow-covered mountain peaks (Ahh....what a thrilling experience it was!!).
Once you are at the top, visit illuminated Glacier cave, do Titlis Cliff walk across the highest suspension bridge in Europe giving spectacular views across Alps (Walking on this bridge gave me goosebumps), take a chairlift ice flyer ride (One of the best experience of my lifetime) and have fun doing snow activities(like sledging) in Glacier Park. Then there is the world's highest photo studio where you can dress up in traditional Swiss costumes and have a family photo shoot to take back home as a memory. To cover all these activities, half a day is enough.
Cities : Among the famous cities of Switzerland, we visited Engelberg, Lucerne ,Interlaken and Zurich(Just fly back to India).
#Lucerne - is an ancient town and is a gateway to Central Switzerland. Here you can take a cruise on Lake Lucerne, walk across the Medieval Chapel bridge which is one of the oldest covered wooden bridges in Europe, visit Lion monument which is a huge figure of a dying lion in the rock, Church of St. Leodegar. Last but not the least you can find lotz of shops for Swiss watches and Souvenirs and girls fancy stuffs (you know what I mean :P).
#Interlaken - is a resort town between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz and is a main transport gateway to famous mountains and lakes. Take a cruise ride through the emerald green waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz and enjoy the panoramic views of surrounding mountains, visit St. Beatus caves, visit Oberhofen castle on the edge of lake Thun, even do some water sports at Lake Thun, explore the finest Swiss souvenirs shops along the main street of Hoheweg to take back home some souvenirs like watches, Swiss Knives, cow bells, Cuckoo clocks, chocolates etc. Even you can visit Swiss departmental store Coop buy some Swiss Jams, variety of chocolates, decorative items etc.
Famous Lakes : Switzerland has many fine, picturesque, huge lakes with hues of turquoise blue waters. Famous ones are Brienz, Thun, Lucerne, Geneva, Zurich and Constance.
view from Ice Flyer
Please Note : Check the weather forecast before you plan a day for mountain visit as there's no point in going up if it is covered in clouds. Dress in multiple layers so that you can adapt to the different temperatures throughout the day. Note that it can be very windy at the top. Take along gloves, sun glasses, winter hat and Solid shoes/winter boots.
I visited in mid August , the weather was clear and sunny on the mountains. But be prepared as it can change any day any time.
Public transport is excellent here. One can enjoy a day trip by panoramic trains such as Golden pass Panoramic and Glacier Express trains through scenic Swiss Alps. My personal preference is to hire a car n drive if you feel comfortable driving as per the traffic norms of the country. However, this country is so scenic that any mode of transport will take you through endless lush green pastures, traditional wooden chalet-style houses nestling in the gentle hills, glistening lakes and streams, all of it against the backdrop of towering Alpine peaks.
How to Travel : You can plan your Swiss trip in advance to make it in your budget. I have made my bookings for August in May itself.Its better to book tickets of railways and cable cars in advance online to save time. Tickets to Jungfrau are very expensive. But you can get some discounts if you have a Swiss rail / travel pass. Depending on how much public transport you are going to use, compare different types of passes and buy.
Where to stay : We stayed in a beautiful hotel which is 4-minute walk from Engelberg railway station and with a mountain backdrop, this informal hotel is within 13 minutes' walk of both a ski lift and Engelberg Abbey. We used to wake up to the dingling sound of cow bells in the morning. The view from the windows was that of vast green meadows interspersed with colorful flower beds, all wild and natural, against a backdrop of snow capped mountains. Straight out of a pitcure postcard!!
Where to Shop :- You will find lot of shops for watches and souvenirs around at Lucerne. Real cowbells are large, heavy and expensive but you can find lot of small size miniatures for the same. You should definitely buy some chocolates(like Lindt).
Currency : Swiss Frank (CHF) . I have used my Prepaid card additionally don’t forget to carry some cash (both INR and CHF).
Visa : Switzerland is not a member of the EU but are signatories to the Schengen convention. They permit 90 days Visa-free travel to all EU citizens, including those not in the Schengen zone and 90 days Visa-free travel to those approved by the Schengen scheme.
The visa applications can be submitted at any Switzerland visa application Centre (VFS) in India. All applications will be assessed by the Embassy of Switzerland in New Delhi only. The applications submitted at any of the VFS Centre except for New Delhi and Mumbai would be delivered to the Embassy in principle on 3rd working day for processing.
You must always carry your passport with you in Switzerland as it is a legal requirement to have photo ID; Swiss citizens carry national ID cards.
People in Switzerland are very friendly and polite. It is one of the most cleanest and safest country. Official languages here are German, French Italian, Romansh but people here are very well conversant with English.
If these beautiful pictures of Switzerland do not inspire you to visit Switzerland then I am not sure what will.