Hi all, we are now back from our trip to Switzerland. Thank you to all on the forum who helped me out in the planning stages. Once again it was far too short a time and it went very quickly, but this is how it went:
Day 1: Arrived at Manor Farm Campsite on Lake Thun late afternoon. We caught the train from Basel to get there. I had a Half Fare Card and a Family Card for the kids. My tip for newbies who are travelling about Switzerland by train is to make use of the ticket machines at the stations rather than wait in the queues at the desks. There are usually staff hovering about ready to help at the machines. Having said that, I made a big error buying my first ticket from the machine. I clicked one adult, knowing the kids would be free. However the price it came up which seemed expensive, but I paid anyway as I didn't want to miss the train. I could remember looking the fare up at home a few weeks ago and it still didn't feel right so I checked and I had pressed the wrong button. Basically on the ticket machines the top line option is for full paying adults. The next line option looks like it is for children and concessions, but also it is for half fare cards. So that is the one to press. You do not need to get any kind of ticket for the children if you have a family card. It feels a bit strange not even printing out a ticket saying 'free' but it really does work like this. Anyway, the error was very swiftly dealt with by a member of staff near the ticket machine, who gave me a refund for the extra I had paid and printed me out a new ticket. It was absolutely throwing it down with rain when we arrived at the campsite but it didn't bother the kids who went off to play (we were here last year so they knew their way around). Spent a nervous night listening to the torrential rain, hoping it wouldn't be like that for the whole trip.
Day 2: A lovely relaxing day, the sun was shining, we popped into Interlaken on the bus for supplies, then spent the rest of the day by the lake, swimming and paddleboarding. It was much needed down-time after a busy few months. My plan was to spend only one whole day up in the mountains, and having done the Jungfraujoch trip last year I had decided to go the other side this year and head to Murren and possibly up to the Schilthorn. If you have read any of my previous posts you may remember that my boys wanted to do the thrill walk at Birg but that I am scared of heights. Anyway, they were getting more excited through the day that we were going to do it and I felt bad that my fear was going to mean they couldn't do it, so I vaguely agreed that we might. That evening they showed me a youtube video of someone doing it and it looked horrific so I had to put my foot down and say no, but as a compromise said we would go up to First and do the cliff walk there instead. I don't know why I thought that one would be any less scary but at least the cable car ride to get there didn't look as bad. I didn't have many expectations of First as I hadn't really planned to go there.
Day 3: What an amazing day! It was dry and warm but grey with cloud, and with the weather forecast for the next day due to be sunny and clear, everyone must have stayed at home and we seemed to have the trains and the mountains to ourselves. We took the train to Grindelwald and then the gondola up to First. What a fantastic gondola ride! A lovely, gentle ride with a gondola to yourselves, and absolutely AMAZING views all around you. I had toyed with the idea of doing the zipline but when I got up there didn't feel any need to - just being up there is so spectacular, I didn't feel the need for any additional thrills. But of course I had to get the cliff walk over with. I don't know how busy it is on a sunny day but there were hardly any other people on the walk at the same time as us. I just looked ahead the whole time, didn't look down and got it done. The boys loved it and was probably the highlight of their trip. We then pottered about a bit at the top of the mountain, in the meadows listening to the cowbells. It was great. Then we took the gondola down as far as Bort and got off to have a picnic. It was a bit chilly at First but was warm at Bort. We spent a while here it's so beautiful you can just sit looking out to the valley with the mountains in the background. Finally we took the gondola back down to Grindelwald and the train back to Interlaken. Another lovely evening at the campsite.
Day 4: A beautiful sunny day. We got up fairly leisurely and headed on the train to Lauterbrunnen, where we then had to take a cable car up to Grutschalp. The stations and trains were so busy today, and I found the cable car ride a bit challenging as it was full to capacity (100 people!). But it was short and then you take a lovely train to Murren. This is a stunning journey, albeit more scary if you are scared of heights and have made the mistake of looking at the train route on Google Earth before you go. Once in Murren the views are really indescribable. You really get the feeling of being sat on the edge of a huge cliff, it's quite breathtaking but also feels unbelievable like it can't be real. As if my acrophobia wasn't already challenged enough, we headed for Allmendhubel. We had grand plans to do this as a hike but it takes such a long time transitting around to get into the mountains and we wanted to go kayaking on the lake later in the day, so we cheated and took the funicular railway. I didn't look down. I will try to attach some photos but at the top there were no crowds, and the view is just simply spectacular. We had a picnic here, and then even though I probably didn't deserve it after not hiking up, I took the advice of a forum member here and had a delicious slice of homemade Apfelkuchen from the restaurant. Pottered about in some meadows, and then headed back. Spent the end of the day kayaking about on the lake. That night it was clear and we happened to get up in the middle of the night and went outside - the stars were a sight, with the Milky Way clear as anything. A great end to the day.
Day 5: Already time to go home. Got to the station to find it pretty busy so decided to upgrade to first class for the trip back to Basel. With the half fare card and the family pass it only cost 22.50CHF to upgrade us all and it was well worth it. What a great trip and over so quickly unfortunately. My tips would be to take things slowly. It really does take a lot of time to get around the mountains, and if it's busy the transitting can feel a bit stressful. If you're trying to pack too much into your days then you don't get long at the places you want to be. I wanted to do a bit of hiking this year but that turned into more 'pottering' due to time constraints, which was still nice but next time I will have to build in some time for a proper walk. We will hopefully be back next year!