Five enjoyable days - Alps, Bern, Lausanne, Zürich

Five enjoyable days - Alps, Bern, Lausanne, Zürich

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Posts: 41
2sk21
2sk21
23 posts
new member
Apr 13, 2017 - 9:02 PM

Just got back home from an enjoyable trip and thought I would start writing my trip report. It will probably take a few postings to complete but let me get started. I offer the highest praise for this forum as many of the tips I gathered here were invaluable.

We departed Newark, (in the US) on April 7. United Airlines gave us some anxiety by delaying the flight nearly 90 minutes but thankfully we finally departed. Passing through immigration and customs was very quick. Following tips, I had reserved a Travelers WiFi device that I picked up at the service desk. A word about this device: it works very well indeed but it drains it's internal battery very quickly so you must carry a spare battery pack when traveling around with it. The connectivity speed was excellent and I did not have to turn on data roaming on my phone at all.

The other thing that came in invaluable was the SBB app. I used it extensively in planning the trip to get an idea of travel times. I also used it extensively while traveling as well.

We had bought our Swiss Travel Pass from Rail Europe who are the SBB agents in the US. Unlike the print at home version, these passes looked like little booklets. I used booking.com to do all the hotel reservations.

We took a local train (it was on one of the new Stadler RABe 511 multiple units) from the airport to Zürich Hauptbahnhof and paused a bit to get some lunch from the Migros takeaway. Migros is a popular Swiss supermarket chain. These Migros take-aways proved to be very useful for packing picnic lunches and can be highly recommended.

We then caught our train to Chur (Intercity hauled by an Re420) and enjoyed our ride. The tip here is to sit on the left side of the train so you can get a beautiful view of Zürichsee and Walensee. My thirteen year old daughter who has never really experienced a long train ride in her life found this first journey to be a revelation. She told me that this was the only way she wanted to travel hence forth!

I had reserved a room at the Post Hotel in Chur (located on Poststrasse). It was a very short walk from the station. The room was very pleasant and cheerful. Even though wife and daughter were tired, I got them moving and we went back to the station and caught a Rhätische Bahn train to Filisur. The journey was spectacular and I got to ride over the Landwasser viaduct (was on my bucket list!).We spent a pleasant hour at the Filisur station and enjoyed beer (for myself and wife) and an ice cream for my daughter at the station buffet. This is one of the most photogenic places I have ever visited and the view of the Album valley is spectacular. We caught the next train back to Chur. We had dinner at the Cappelerhof Restaurant (Italian) based on the recommendation of the hotel proprietor. It turned out to be exactly what we wanted.

We had to keep the window open as it was surprisingly warm - unfortunately some revels made a lot of noise in the night as they were walking around outside the hotel. More to come in the next installment (our ride on the Glacier Express).

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Adelaidean
Adelaidean
78 posts
active member
Apr 14, 2017 - 1:07 AM

What lovely weather you had :)

I love trip reports, they introduce me to new places I would not have considered otherwise...looked up Filisur and it does indeed look gorgeous.

On train travel.... my sons have never forgiven me for a train ride "from hell" they say, 12 hours on a Vietnamese train that only covered about 250 kms, broken arm rests, hard seats, hot, a toilet none of us dared to use... so when we took them to Europe they were thrilled with the comfort, speed, punctuality of the train system.

I look forward to reading more.

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1088 posts
top member
Apr 14, 2017 - 4:03 AM in reply to 2sk21

Interesting trip report, thank you! I look forward to the next instalment.....

Alpenrose

2sk21
2sk21
23 posts
new member
Apr 14, 2017 - 9:04 AM

Thanks for your kind comments. We were indeed blessed with bright sunny weather for the entire five days that we were in Switzerland. We had gone fully equipped with umbrellas and raincoats but it was not needed at all.

On the second day of our trip (Sunday April 9), we woke up relatively late since I did not have any specific activity planned for the morning. We had breakfast at the Post hotel and then wandered around the old part of Chur. This is a truly beautiful city and we loved the views. Most remarkably, there are vineyards actually within the city on south facing slopes.

We then made our way to the station at about 11am and spent some time watching a folk dance on the platform that was organized for the travelers on the Glacier express. Our train came in from St Moritz and we boarded the train. The panoramic windows are great but on sunny days like the day of our journey, you should definitely bring sun glasses and a cap as it becomes almost unbearably bright (especially on the Oberalp pass). The Glacier express, which reverses direction in Chur, was hauled by a Ge 4/4 III locomotive for the leg from Chur to Disentis Muster. There was ample space for our luggage in the luggage rack at the end of the car but space might become tight during the peak tourist season if all of the seats are full (our train was about 75% full) and people bring a lot of luggage.

The lunch was served at our seat - there is no separate dining car. I had already prepaid for the meal and it was delicious. I also ordered the excellent local Calanda beer (brewed in Chur). I have attached a photo from the Glacier express. There was a long stop in Disentis Muster where the RhB locomotive is exchanged for an MGB locomotive. There is a steep rack-and-pinion section soon after leaving Disentis Muster so the MGB rolling stock are all equipped for this.

All too soon, we arrived in Brig after a 4 hour 20 minute journey. We walked across the street to the SBB station and waited for our next train that I had picked, a Lötchberger local train to Bern. I specifically picked this to see the mountain section and travel over the famous Bietschtal bridge. This train started out empty from Brig but rapidly filled up with hikers who had gone hiking in the mountains for the day. In fact, not a single seat was empty after passing Kandersteg. I was impressed by how fit the people looked - all of them were carrying skis.

After the Glacier express which is mainly aimed at tourists, this was at the other end of the spectrum - we were the only obvious tourists on this train. In any case, the views were spectacular and we loved the view of the Rhone valley as the train climbed up the pass and then the Kander valley. BLS ticket inspector said that we would really enjoy the ride and she was right. The Lötchberger can definitely be recommended as a fun experience on its own.

We arrived in Bern by 6:25pm and walked to the Kreuz Hotel where I had made our booking. The Kreuz hotel was very comfortable and my daughter even had her own separate alcove so she was thrilled. Our room had been recently renovated and had USB ports in all of the electrical outlets - very up to date! We all travel with so many electronic gadgets that all need charging - more on this later.

Next installment will be about our trip to Jungfrau on Monday.

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Adelaidean
Adelaidean
78 posts
active member
Apr 14, 2017 - 9:25 AM

Sounds like you had a wonderful time :)

Arno
Arno
9569 posts
expert &
moderator
Apr 14, 2017 - 11:37 AM

Thank you for sharing your trip with us 2sk21! Switzerland is heaven on earth for train enthusiasts like yourself (and myself). You literally can't stop exploring as there are so many longer and shorter scenic routes and interesting rolling stock. Was this your first trip to Switzerland?

I was wondering if you've used the round button on the TravelersWifi to turn it off when not needed? It will turn off automatically after a while, but I found the battery easily lasted a day if doing it manually. If you continuously need it though, an extra battery is indeed better.

Note that you can buy Swiss Travel Passes from any of the websites listed here. Rail Europe is indeed one of the options, but you're not restricted to them. Just wanted to make sure you knew. They offer print at home passes too, as well as most of the other retailers.

Last modified on Apr 14, 2017 - 11:43 AM by Arno
2sk21
2sk21
23 posts
new member
Apr 14, 2017 - 12:59 PM in reply to Arno

Arno - this was actually my first visit to Switzerland but I have read about Swiss railways for many years so I had a big list of things that I wanted to see. A few years ago, I bought a wonderful book called "Railway Holiday in Switzerland" that was published back in 1965! This book was aimed at British train enthusiasts and many of the tips from this book from 50 years ago are still valid. Now that I am back I would like to get some N-scale models of the trains that I rode on in Switzerland to run on my train layout :-)

Arno
Arno
9569 posts
expert &
moderator
Apr 14, 2017 - 1:26 PM in reply to 2sk21

Great to hear that! Well, now you know there's more to come back for :-) But the models are fun too. The possibilities with a miniature cogwheel train are endless. Have fun!

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1088 posts
top member
Apr 15, 2017 - 5:28 AM in reply to 2sk21

Thanks again, enjoyed this report too. Looking forward to hearing about your trip to the Jungfraujoch as well.

Alpenrose

Last modified on Apr 15, 2017 - 5:28 AM by Alpenrose666
2sk21
2sk21
23 posts
new member
Apr 15, 2017 - 9:52 AM

The weather promised to be extraordinarily good on Monday April 10 so I decided that that that would be the day we would go to Jungfraujoch. We slept a little late so it was nearly 10am by the time we reached the Bern SBB station. We visited the Migros take away and then the SBB office to buy the ticket from Wengen to Jungfraujoch. Since I was unsure about navigating the ticket machines, I went to the SBB service center and they were able to help me buy the tickets very quickly. Note that you only get a 25% discount even with a Swiss Travel Pass.

We then caught a double-deck BLS local train that went directly to Interlaken Ost. The tip is to sit on the left side of the train to enjoy the views of the Thunersee - the train goes along the lake shore from Thun to Interlaken. The BLS train was not crowded at all.

In Interlaken, we switched to the meter gauge Berner Oberland Bahn (BOB) train - this was a Stadler EMU. There was just 5 minutes to make the connection but it was no problem at all.

In Lauterbrunnen, we changed to the WAB (Wengeneralpbahn) train (a two car EMU) that went to Kleine Scheidegg. The section from Wengen to Kleine Schedegg is truly spectacular. I have attached a photo that I took from the train but these small photo attachments don't really do justice to the scene. We were blessed with a clear cloudless day and the view of the Lauterbrunnen valley is just gorgeous! I got to stand right behind the driver's cabin which had a glass wall so it was added fun :-). I will post a link to Flickr album later.

Then in Kleine Scheidegg, we changed yet again (fourth train) to the final train of the journey, the Jungfraubahn. I was amazed at how quickly it went up the mountain. The intermediate stop in in Eismeer for five minutes gave a spectacular view. And finally we made it to Jungfraujoch at about 1pm.

We first went up to the Sphinx observatory and enjoyed the views for a while. Since the sun was so bright, we did not feel the cold at all. We went down the so called "Ice Palace" but it was really very unimpressive. We get more than enough snow every year in New York! We then then had lunch in the restaurant in the self-serve section. Considering the location, the prices were very reasonable so we saved our Migros take away sandwiches for dinner.

On the way back, the trains were all very crowded and we were barely able to find seats. Indeed,some people had to stand all the way from Kleine Scheidegg to Lauterbrunnen. In peak tourist season, making reservations is a good idea for sure. We did not get a direct train from Interlaken to Bern but had to change in Spiez. Finally, we took an IC from Spiez back to Bern and that was very crowded as well. I somewhat regretted not getting first class passes on this journey but we did get seats so I can't complain too much.

Finally, we picked up a few snacks and beer at a Coop store and had dinner of our take away sandwiches in our room. Next installment will be about our trip to Lausanne, Evian and Chateau de Chillon on Tuesday.

2sk21
2sk21
23 posts
new member
Apr 15, 2017 - 9:55 AM

Here are the photos for the Jungfrau trip - for some reason they did not get uploaded earlier. Edited: the photo upload function is not working right now so I'll post the photos later.

Last modified on Apr 15, 2017 - 9:56 AM by 2sk21
Kathie
Kathie
4 posts
new member
Apr 15, 2017 - 4:18 PM

Thanks for all the great info. I am a fellow New Yorker (central NY) and will be leaving on Monday for Switzerland. I had read that the train trip to Kleine Schedegg is not open yet this time of year, but apparently that was not accurate info, if it was running in early April for your trip. I will be in the Lauterbrunnen Valley area early May.

SureshSrini
SureshSrini
48 posts
active member
Apr 15, 2017 - 5:24 PM

2sk21 and Arno, i couldn't agree more. The trains were such a beautiful part of the country. Whenever it was possible, i went into the engine compartment of the train that i was riding in (the mountain trains, that is).

Like for instance the steam engine of the Brienzer Rothorn Rail - 2sks21, did you consider that ride?

Another beautiful place to visit, which i could not, is the Blonay Chamby museum railway. Pls see www.myswitzerland.com/ en-in/blonay-chamby-railway-and-museum.html

Suresh

Arno
Arno
9569 posts
expert &
moderator
Apr 15, 2017 - 7:14 PM in reply to 2sk21

Hi 2sk21,

There are some technical issues at the moment. Perhaps they prevent you from uploading images. We're working on it. Please try again tomorrow. Sorry!

Arno
Arno
9569 posts
expert &
moderator
Apr 15, 2017 - 7:16 PM in reply to Kathie

Welcome to MySwissAlps Kathie!

The trains to Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfraujoch operate 365 days a year, except during extreme weather.

Kathie
Kathie
4 posts
new member
Apr 16, 2017 - 8:35 AM in reply to Arno

Thanks for that info, Arno. Will be sure to fit that in.

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1088 posts
top member
Apr 16, 2017 - 8:54 AM in reply to 2sk21

I'm glad you had such a wonderful day for your trip to the Jungfraujoch and were able to enjoy the extraordinary scenery at its best!

I know what you mean about the ice palace, but I think the fact that you are actually walking around inside a glacier is pretty cool! The other thing is that going through the ice palace is the only way to get out onto the plateau (as far as I know). The plateau offers a different perspective from any other viewing points at the Jungfraujoch, so I think it is definitely worth going through the ice palace for that reason alone. When I was there at Christmas, they had a Christmas tree out on the plateau, which was a nice touch. It had to be held in place by cables though!

Like you, I have been impressed with the reasonable prices to be found in mountain-top restaurants, including at the Jungfraujoch and the Schilthorn, and nearly always take advantage of eating there.

I find it surprising that the train back from Jungfraujoch was so crowded at this time of the year - unless it was one of the last ones down.

In Switzerland I generally travel second class. However, when I am travelling with luggage, and the train is crowded, I do a last-minute upgrade to 1st class, which is usually much less crowded, and it's easier to find a good place to stow your luggage.

Looking forward again to the next instalment!

Alpenrose

2sk21
2sk21
23 posts
new member
Apr 16, 2017 - 9:35 AM

Thanks for the kind comments - so here is the next installment.

We woke up relatively early on Tuesday April 11. I had decided that we should visit the French speaking part of Switzerland, east of the Röstigraben :-), but I had not made detailed plans. My thought was to take the Golden Pass train to Montreal via Zweisimmen but both my wife and daughter were not enthusiastic about a lot of train travel and I could not blame them. So instead, I came up with a different plan: Go to Lausanne by a fast Intercity train, take a CGN boat along the coast to Chateau de Chillon and then come back via fast train. Things worked out differently but the outcome was equally good.

We took the train to Lausanne as planned and then climbed up the hill to the Cathedral and toured this imposing structure and enjoyed the views of the city. Then took the Lausanne Metro down to Ouchy and ran to the CGN (the company that runs the public boats on Lake Geneva) dock as I expected the boat to be leaving at 12:35 as per the timetable. However, it turned out that I had misread the timetable and the boat to Eastern Switzerland ran only on weekends until mid April. However, a boat was getting ready to leave to Evian in France and my wife suggested that we take it. This turned out to be a very enjoyable excursion and fully covered by the Swiss Travel Pass. I was expecting a passport check but I belatedly remembered that Switzerland is also a part of the Schengen area so it was not needed (of course we did carry around our passports all the time in Switzerland).

The view approaching Evian was spectacular but covered in a mist. We spent an enjoyable two hours eating our picnic lunch in the gardens along the shore and strolling along the shore gardens. My daughter had a photo taken standing with a bottle of Evian water near the Evian spa building in Evian to send to her friends :-) We then caught the 2:45pm boat and returned to Lausanne, and took the Metro from Ouchy back to the main station.

We then took a local train to Villenuve (a new Stadler FLIRT) and then the 201 trolley bus along the Corniche to Chateau de Chillon - the bus ride itself was short but enjoyable. The Chateau was wonderful and we spent an hour walking through the castle and enjoying the views. We then took the next 201 bus to Montreux. We stopped at a small patisserie called Fleur de Pains outside Montreux station and had some delicious pastries for an afternoon snack.

As a side note, my daughter had wanted to see what Montreux was like since she plays the song "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple on her guitar. This song was, in fact, recorded in Montreux and begins with the line "We all came out to Montreux"!

The return journey was nothing special. The trains from Montreux to Lausanne and Lausanne to Bern were both very full, being the evening rush hour but we did find seats. The train from Lausanne to Bern was a double deck train pushed by an Re460. Dinner was in an Italian restaurant on Neungasse near the Bern station as nobody wanted to walk too much. Both wife and daughter loved the days excursion overall.

Next installment will be our final day in Switzerland, heading back to Zürich.

2sk21
2sk21
23 posts
new member
Apr 16, 2017 - 9:37 AM

Also, remembered: here is a link to a Flickr album with larger photos from the trip: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk XPJJ3b

Arno
Arno
9569 posts
expert &
moderator
Apr 16, 2017 - 10:15 AM in reply to 2sk21

The technical issues are solved now, so I hope you can upload your images. If not, it's often caused by the file size. If you shrink them before uploading it should work. I enjoyed your images on Flickr. A really nice mixture of scenery, trains and food!

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