Switzerland in September - 3 week planning help

Switzerland in September - 3 week planning help

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kperigo
kperigo
41 posts
active member
Jan 11, 2018 - 11:17 PM

Hello. First trip to Switzerland. Will be staying at least 3 weeks!

Will leave US (Ann Arbor, Michigan) on September 5 flying into Paris. After 5 days in Paris will train to Basel. Have 3 nights booked in Lucerne on September 15-17. Hotel in Wengen is booked for 7 nights , September 18-24. These are other places we definitely want to see: Kandersteg (3 nights), Sils Maria (4 nights, taking the Albula line route), Zermatt (2 nights) Thought we would end the trip by going from Basel to Colmar/Strasbourg and then back to Pars to fly home. So where makes sense to stay before heading back to Basel? Thought we would do the Glacier Express from St Moritz to Zermatt after Sills.

There is a hole before Lucerne that needs to be filled, Basel maybe? What else? Will be travelling by train, likely Swiss Travel Pass.

Flights have not yet been booked.

Thank you in advance. All advice is greatly appreciated.

Kay

Arno
Arno
11140 posts
expert &
moderator
Jan 12, 2018 - 2:23 PM

Hi Kay,

I noticed you e-mailed us, and you'd like to clarify your questions. Since this is your first post in the forum, we needed to review your account before you could do anything else like edit your message or submit more posts (this is for spam prevention). That's been done now, so please feel free to reply and add anything else that helps us providing advice.

Welcome to MySwissAlps!

Arno

kperigo
kperigo
41 posts
active member
Jan 12, 2018 - 5:46 PM in reply to Arno

First of all, thank you Arno for your quick reply. I just assumed once my post was on the forum it would be available.

I realized I was not clear in my original post. As background, I made some hotel reservations based on a shorter trip. We decided to focus on Switzerland so have had some scope creep. Here are the things I am struggling with in my planning process:

1. We are flying into Paris and spending 5 days there. Then train to either a) Strasbourg/Colmar for 2 or 3 nights then to Basel. Or, train directly to Basel and visit somewhere before our reservations in Lucerne. St.Gallen maybe? What else makes sense? This would mean going to Strasbourg/Colmar after Switzerland.

2. Knowing that we want to go to Sils Maria and Zermatt, where do we fit in Kandersteg?

3. Since it looks like we are so close to Chamonix from Zermatt, should we go there? I have usually seen folks asking about Chamonix from Geneva. Which we may or may not include in the trip.

We will most likely go back to Paris and spend a few more days before flying home.

Thank you.

Kay

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jan 13, 2018 - 12:14 AM in reply to kperigo

Hi Kay-

Lucky you. I wish I could put together 3 weeks in Switzerland and at just the right time of year.

I'm still a bit confused by your descriptions, so, could you please tell us what dates you are likely to arrive in and depart from Switzerland?

If you are visiting the high alpine areas that you mention, you should push them to the earliest part of your trip. By the time you get into October, although it is generally still nice at high altitudes, weather can become a bit chancy. Would you consider putting Paris at the end of your trip?

Just for perspective...there was snow in August 2017 at Männlichen , above Wengen. Unusual, but not unknown.

So, for planning purposes, perhaps it would be best to think about going to Basel as soon as possible after Paris. And, both Luzern and Bern are only a short ride further from Basel, as is Zürich, so you might be able to skip Basel if you choose to. At that time of year, hotels are generally not full, so you can likely adjust reservations, unless you booked in some way that does not allow cancellations. Not surprisngly, different people seek different things in Switzerland. So, When we look at an itinerary, we think about these things first , then select locations, considering available time and transportation options -

1.- Scenic beauty, majestic mountains,

2.-Old towns, as in St. Gallen, but not only there,

3.-Hiking or walking, near major cities, in the Alps, or in the rural and farming regions - it is bit early for skiing ;-),

4.- Museums and cultural experiences,

S.- Scenic train rides,

6.- Good food and fine restaurants,

7.- Experiencing the (rural) countryside in places that tourists don't overload.

8.- Photography,

9.- Places your Swiss ancestors (if any) came from.

Can you give us some guidance on those items and perhaps a general idea of their their priority before we offer further comments?

Switzerland has a lot...perhaps too much ... of all of those things, which requires choices. ;-(

Perhaps you have seen this, since you have noted a reasonably adequate time in Wengen...;-)

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/tips-about-wengen-and-the-jungfrau-region-by-kim

If you want to do some thinking about what makes sense, purely from a scheduling point of view, these two links can be helpful. A map is always useful -

In the map link, use the menus. Oddly enough, "Gastronomy" includes places to sleep.

map.search.ch/?pos=642304,246272&z=2

Note the proximity of Bern, Luzern, and Zürich to Basel.

And, for schedules, to see just how often the trains run-

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

The first page is full of useful information...please check it out before you dive into the timetable.

As I read your comments, I see that you have some clear ideas of places that you want to see. However, I'm not sure why you have selected them. You seem quite well informed. Could you give us some clues? By any chance, do you speak any of the 4 Swiss national languages? None are needed, English works well, but Ann Arbor has a lot of well educated people. ;-)

Random photos attached

Slowpoke

Last modified on Jan 13, 2018 - 12:21 AM by Slowpoke
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rockoyster
rockoyster
3908 posts
expert
Jan 13, 2018 - 2:20 AM in reply to kperigo

Given you have hotel bookings in Lucerne and Wengen the most efficient routing would be Lucerne - Wengen - Kandersteg - Zermatt - Chur or St Moritz (on Glacier Express) -Sils Maria.

After Sils maybe to Lugano via Bernina Express for a bit of Lakeside R&R? Gothard Panorama Express Lugano back to Lucerne then off to Paris via Montreux?

Peterli
Peterli
552 posts
top member
Jan 13, 2018 - 3:54 AM

Hi Kay,

Since you are looking at September, my favourite time of the year, allow me to put in a plug for the areas around three lakes in the western part of Switzerland, namely Lac Neuchâtel, Lac de Bienne (Bielersee), and Lac de Morat (Murtensee) which seem to be largely neglected in this forum. You say you are arriving in early September but also indicate some flexibility as to the duration of your stay in Switzerland. If by any chance you are still around on the weekend of September 28-30, may I suggest la Fête des Vendanges in Neuchâtel: www.fete-des-vendanges.ch/ as well as la Fête de la Brocante in nearby Le Landeron: www.avvl.ch/brocante-landeron. If you are not going to be around long enough, another interesting event (see Slowpoke's list number 4, "cultural experiences") is la Fête de la Désalpe in Lignières: www.fetedeladesalpe.ch /.

The last two photographs that Slowpoke included above are taken along the western shore of Lac de Bienne (Bielersee).

Last modified on Jan 13, 2018 - 3:57 AM by Peterli
kperigo
kperigo
41 posts
active member
Jan 13, 2018 - 8:33 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Slowpoke, thank you for your thoughtful reply. Yes, so much to take in and consider.

Arriving Switzerland after 5 N in Paris on September 11, 2018. Flying home from Paris on October 5. It looks like 22 days in Switzerland.Not bad for a first trip. We are retired and active. Looking to spend most of our time walking/hiking. Extreme sports highly unlikely. :) Enjoy big cites and small towns. I keep telling friends and family I want to hike the Alps. Love trains. In a former life worked for Union Pacific RR. Known to take a photo or two. Thank you for the pictures you included in your post by the way. Beautiful.

I do all the planning of our trips. My husband is happy to pack his bag and come along. His only request is Zermatt. Well cheese too. Pretty sure cheese is the easy part.

Hope this helps .

Kay

kperigo
kperigo
41 posts
active member
Jan 13, 2018 - 8:44 PM in reply to rockoyster

rockoyster, thank you for your reply. I find what you propose quite interesting. Before seeing your reply I came up with this plan:

Arrive Basel on 9/5 via train from Paris

Kandersteg 4N

Lucerne 3N

Wengen 7N

Sils Maria (via St. Moritz) 5N

Zermatt 2N

Montreux 2N

Train to Paris 2N

Fly home October 5

What do you think of this?

kperigo
kperigo
41 posts
active member
Jan 13, 2018 - 8:47 PM in reply to Peterli

Peterli, glad to hear we are travelling at a favorite time of year. Slowpoke said the same. We will be in Switzerland from September 5 though October 3. Will spend more time with your suggestions. A fete is never a bad idea.

Kay

rockoyster
rockoyster
3908 posts
expert
Jan 13, 2018 - 9:13 PM in reply to kperigo

Ah, I had assumed your Swiss Trip was starting in Lucerne.

Kandersteg to Lucerne to Wengen involves a bit of backtracking but no big deal.

From Sils you will go to Zermatt via Glacier Express? As a train buff it is a shame you can’t fit in the Bernina Express.

If you go Wengen - Lucerne - Andermatt - St Moritz you will see the best the Glacier Express has to offer, the Oberalp Pass. If you could swap 1 night in Wengen or Sils for a night in Lugano you could take the Bernina to Lugano then Centovalli Express from Locarno to Domodossola and on to Zermatt.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jan 13, 2018 - 9:17 PM in reply to kperigo

Hi Kay-

That certainly helps.

First-

Hiking-

Switzerland has an extensive, nationwide, well-marked sytem of hiking trails. In the German-speaking regions - die Wanderwege. Peterli will refine my sad attempt at French - Randonee Pedestrienne.

General styuff-

www.myswissalps.com/hi king

The signage -

www.alpenwild.com/stat icpage/trail-signs-in-the-swiss-alps/

The trails-

The premier web site for all forms of personal tranportation in Switzerland is "Switzerland Mobility."

I have set the site to it's opening page, where you can choose "Hiking" which I have done.

I zoomed in near Lauterbrunnen and Wengen.

You'll not the heraver green lines amongstthe profusion of lighter weight one.

The heavy ones are named routes or national routes. Click on a heavy green line, and follow the pop-up. Several menus further will give you more detailed maps, an altitude profile, accommodation information, etc.

The site has s earch function. I have trouble mmaking it do what I want, but I've had the vbest luck searching for place names.

More ina bit...got to take a break here.

I'll pick up with this map:

map.geo.admin.ch/?topic=ech&lang=en&bgLa yer=ch.swisstopo.pixel karte-farbe&layers=ch.bav.ha ltestellen-oev,ch.swisstopo.swiss tlm3d-wanderwege&layers_visi bility=false,true&E=26 36058.56&N=1158154.71& zoom=5

Slowpoke

kperigo
kperigo
41 posts
active member
Jan 13, 2018 - 9:55 PM in reply to kperigo

Correction we are in Switzerland from September 11 to October 3.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jan 13, 2018 - 10:38 PM in reply to kperigo

Hi Kay-

The map from SwissTopo - the Federation's Land Office - is full of all kinds of stuff used by geologists and geographers. It is major professional resource. Much in it that tourists do not need.

For hiking purposes, it gives excellent and quite detailed information.

If you open the menu, and turn on Hiking Trails, you get the kind of map that I linked above, and will repeat here:

map.geo.admin.ch/?topic=ech&lang=en&bgLa yer=ch.swisstopo.pixel karte-farbe&layers=ch.bav.ha ltestellen-oev,ch.swisstopo.swiss tlm3d-wanderwege&layers_visi bility=false,true&E=26 36058.56&N=1158154.71& zoom=5

You can see three classes of trails matching the descriptions in the link in my previous post.-

1.-Yellow( may be easy, or may be hilly), but don't demand special gear. I wer boots anyway,

2.- Red, so called "Mountain Trails" rough enopugh to demand boots or sturdy hiking shoes and hiking staffs - a "Spazierstock" in German.

3.- Blue- technical climbing. Need specialized gear. A guide would not hurt.

I use this topo map as my best resource to understand the subtle details and altitudes of a possible hike that I an considering anywhere in Switzerland. It also can show transport stops, in the menu.

It may have too much information for general planning, but altitude means everything in Switzerland - the weather,when the seasons come and go, and the state of your knees after a descent, the steepness of an ascent or descent...

For general traveling information (sadly lacking altitude information), a map which shows a lot of information on transport, hotels, restaurants is:

map.search.ch/?pos=640216,160424&z=32.

At that zoom level, it makes it easy to spot the train lines. Turn on the icons under "Gastronomy" ( seems to include hotels) and lots of useful stuff pops up. Under "traffic" 9both headings are under "Points of Interest") you can geticons for transport stops. Mouse ove them and you get the exact name of the station...useful in using the timetable, and a near term short timetable.

If you combine that map with the SBB timetable, you can do a lot of trip scheduling and planning.

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

It pays to read the instruction page. The link for Jungfrau Region lista a lot of hikes of widely varying difficulty near Wengen. Check Kim's article linked in my first post for first hand descriptions of several good trails, too.

If you do not have experience at hiking at high altitude....say, above 1600 meters or so, you may need a bit of acclimation, on shorter trails at first.

Slowpoke

.

Last modified on Jan 13, 2018 - 11:24 PM by Slowpoke
Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jan 13, 2018 - 11:14 PM in reply to kperigo

<<"Love trains. In a former life worked for Union Pacific RR.">>

Switzerland offers a bonanza...nothing like a Big Boy 4-8-8-4 on the Unlimited Power road, but you can ride 75 cm gauge, 80 cm gauge, meter gauge, one line at 1.2 meters ( almost standard gauge), and, of course, standard gauge.

We discussed some of that in this thread:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/glacier-express-mid-october-2018

There a few pictures in that thread....

My favorite book describing every single one of the Swiss rail lines and their history is:

Switzerland by Rail, by Anthony Bradt.

Mine is 1996 edition.ISBN 1-56440-701-2.

I believe that his more recent versions are something like "The Alps by Rail" or similar.

The Transport Museum in Luzern ( local German spelling) is quite nice, and of generous size. You can see some of the horsepower race that the Swiss were leading for a while in large electrified locomotives, as well as all kinds of railroad stuff that don't look much like the UP.

www.myswissalps.com/mu seumoftransport

www.verkehrshaus.ch/en

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Swiss_Museum_of_Transp ort

The first pages in various internet links emphasize all kinds of transport, but the largest displays are rail.

Attached is an image of one locomotive that I rode behind - actually, in front of - a few years ago, during the 100th anniversary of Swiss Rail. Old Number 7 used to run on the Rigi, until it wore out.

The vertical boiler was a design used to keep water on the boiler tubes even on steep ascents and descents.

If you can fit it in, take a ride on the old, higher line over the Gotthard Pass. Recently bypassed by the worlds longest rail tunnel below it, but the engineering is spectacular . It is now part of the Gotthard Panoramic Express:

www.myswissalps.com/go tthardpanoramaexpress

To combine your interest in hiking with your interest in railroads, you might find this hike interesting:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/bls-sudrampe-trail

Slowpoke

Last modified on Jan 13, 2018 - 11:22 PM by Slowpoke
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Peterli
Peterli
552 posts
top member
Jan 14, 2018 - 3:53 AM

Bon soir !

The old translation for Wanderwege into French is Tourisme pédestre but I notice that on the following website www.wandern.ch/de/home they refer to Schweizer Wanderwege, Suisse Rando, Sentieri Svizzeri, and Sendas Svizras, for the four official languages of Switzerland: German, French, Italian, and Romansch, respectively. This website is set up in the first three of these languages and no English (je suis navré !). What is important to know is that the Swiss have an incredible network of walking trails, and if you click on Signalisation, you will see examples of the ubiquitous bright yellow signs at trail intersections which indicate which trail to take for different destinations and also the time it will normally take to get there (ohne Pausen = without stops), given in hours and minutes (hr, min). I have seen signs in the German speaking part of Switzerland that use Std (for Stunden) instead of h (hours). Don't confuse Stunden with Uhr, which also mean hour. Stunden refers to to the passage of time whereas Uhr refers to a certain point in time, like 8 o'clock. Along trails you will see smaller arrows in the same colour to assure you that you are still on the trail.

Last modified on Jan 14, 2018 - 3:55 AM by Peterli
Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jan 14, 2018 - 2:43 PM

Hi Peterli-

Some hikers still like to work with paper maps, especially for planning, even if they use an app on their smart phone while on the trail. The latter is quite practical, because of the excellent mobile phone networks in Switzerland. In a ty[pical Swiss fashion, there are maps available from various sources which identify the Wanderwege. The best are surely those from the Federal Governments Land Office (Swisstopo) .

The home page of the Federation Land Office offers the online map that I linked to before, but also paper maps at various scales and a smart phone app:

shop.swisstopo.admin.c h/en/

I still keep a stock of the paper hiking maps at 1:50,000 that show the Wanderwege in red....die Wanderkarten.

shop.swisstopo.admin.c h/en/products/maps/lei sure/hike/hiking_maps5 0

I wonder if you have noticed the clever feature designed into the SwissTopo paper map collection. That is, all the places where I want to walk are at or close to the intersection of 4 quadrangles, thus requiring the purchase of 4 maps for one small area. ;-(

Slowpoke

Peterli
Peterli
552 posts
top member
Jan 14, 2018 - 8:20 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Hi Slowpoke,

My Swiss maps are all at home (and I am not) but when I read your mention of 1:50,000 scale maps I said to myself that this seemed different from what I have bought. So I did a bit of internet digging and came across the 1:33,333 maps, which I use, because one is able to see greater details than one could see with a 1:50,000 map. See attached screen clip. They are very rugged (water-proof and tear-resistant), printed on two sides, and just perhaps their coverage does not require you to buy even more of the adjacent sheets. However, the mathematical odds of this happening are even more in favour of the publisher.

If you go to SwissTopo: shop.swisstopo.admin.c h/en/products/maps/lei sure/hike/hiking_maps3 3 and lower on the page click on "Additional Information" you will see that the first item listed is a Map Index for the 1:33,333 maps. You can see there that the coverage is not all of Switzerland, but each map covers two overlapping rectangles.

Last modified on Jan 14, 2018 - 8:21 PM by Peterli
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Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jan 14, 2018 - 8:54 PM in reply to Peterli

Hi Peterli -

I was aware of the 1:33,000 Wanderkarten but did not think of them as money savers.

In fact, I currently use a still more expensive alternative, which possibly could be displaced by the 1:33,000's.

I plan from 1:50,000, and markup my 1:25.000's especially for the areas with difficult terrain. Then, I hike from the 1:25,000's in my pocket or backpack. The latter (1:25,000's) could possibly be replaced by the smart phone app, but my use patterns are such that perhaps Google Maps could also be used. Recent travels near Romainmôtier did not work smoothly, however, because Google Maps ( or my brain) did not give clear distinction about the driveability of small roads or paths. If I were hiking in mountainous areas, I'd prefer to trust the accuracy of a SwissTopo map.

Slowpoke

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jan 14, 2018 - 10:45 PM in reply to kperigo

Hi Kay-

I've been looking at your proposed itinerary, and the ideas offerd by Rockoyster.

My thoughts are not yet a coherent whole, but hare they are as the exist at the moment:

If I look at your list, I'd simply move Luzern to after the Bernese Oberland, and then the geography makes sense.

However, from a seasonal/ climate perspective, I'd try to put Luzern near the end, so that the Bernese Oberland, especially , was early in the trip. That word is "try." If you were traveling 3 weeks later, I'd make it a much stronger recommendation.

That gets awkward from a geography perspective, but remains a goal .

As Rockoyster suggests, I'd try to find a way to do the Centovalli line from Locarno to Domodossola or vice versa ; not sure how. The Bernina Express is also a famous for good reason scenic line, notable for the using exclusively gravity traction through mountainous terrain on the section between Pontresina and Tirano. The 14-1 ruling gradient (without a rack) of the section south of Alp Grüm to Poschiavo is an engineering masterpiece.

Even more, I'd try very very hard to travel the Gotthard Pass on the old route. That suggests a link from St. Moritz to Luzern, and could include the lake boat from Flüelen to Luzern on the final leg.

The Bernina Route and the Centovalli line are scenic delights. The original Gotthard line, as described in this Wiki article :

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Gotthard_railway

was, until the new 57 km "basis" tunnel opened, a heavy rail line, doing the kind of work that the UP does. It was part of the major rail axis from Amsterdam ( and the Netherlands) to Basel and on to Italy for Mediterranean ports. The Alpine scenery is spectacular, as are glimpses of the old roads through the pass .

As such, the schematic map of the line in the Wiki article is especially intriguing. It is hard to believe that it was a heavy service line. The viaduct work is impressive, and the spirals to gain and lose altltude are clever. The train passes lets you look at Wassen four times, as it circles to gain altitude, and some of the spirals are dug inside the mountains.

If our previous experience includes rail operations, that ride is a "must see."

The Swiss rail network has enough options that circle rout e day trips ar often a good posibilit.

What I'm trying to do is think about ways to put special rail experiences most efficiently into your itinerary.

This link might be interesting in that regard:

www.myswissalps.com/ac tivities/scenictrips/t rain

and

www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/panoramare isen.html

and:

jerrygarrett.wordpress .com/2013/03/15/switze rlands-eight-greatest-train-rides/

Slowpoke

Last modified on Jan 14, 2018 - 11:30 PM by Slowpoke
Peterli
Peterli
552 posts
top member
Jan 14, 2018 - 11:12 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Hi Slowpoke,

I was in Romainmôtier this past September 29. It was a long day after having visited les Grottes de Vallorbe (well worth the visit: grottesdevallorbe.ch/e n/) and then circling le Lac de Joux and heading home to Neuchâtel. I was losing my daylight as the two photos will attest. The first image is of the commune de Romainmôtier and the second is a sign for nearby Envy just as one approaches on la route de Juriens. It's fun taking photos of out-of-the-ordinary place names. A few years ago I was in the Schwarzwald riding the train (yes, I do like trains !) from Schluchsee to Freiburg im Breisgau, and the first stop along the way is a place called Aha. The Wagen I was riding in was full of a group of young schoolkids and you can imagine all the Aha's they yelled out after the automatic voice said that the stop was Aha (and what side of the train one had to disembark from).

Last modified on Jan 14, 2018 - 11:14 PM by Peterli

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