Our report from Switzerland
We have just returned from a month’s stay in Switzerland with plenty of happy memories. Not everything went exactly to plan – I had a sore Achilles which hampered my walking, my husband has a cataract which made reading difficult for him, the card-reader I was using to upload my photos “lost” or hid in a rogue folder a large number of photos and finally the weather! Fortunately we know Switzerland well by now and were able to adjust our plans according to the forecast for each day and because we were staying in an apartment were able to stay indoors when the rain was too heavy to venture out. So here is a week-by-week account of our stay.
Tuesday 15th July.
Travel day, flew into Zurich on direct flight from Birmingham then transfer by train to Thun, our base. (We like Thun as a base as it is less crowded and touristy than Interlaken but close enough to the Jungfrau region and with excellent train links to other regions as well.) We borrowed a shopping trolley from our hosts and went to buy in food supplies at the local supermarket, unpacked and settled in.
Wednesday 16th July.
Enjoyed shopping in Thun market for fresh fruit and salad vegetables in the morning then went by bus to Interlaken where we renewed our acquaintance with wood-carver Gabriela Schild in her shop. We had our first trip on Lake Thun by taking the tea-time boat back to Thun. (our first class Swiss Pass entitled us to the best seats on the upper deck!)
Thursday 17th July.
We went to Alpentower at Planplatten above Meiringen – great views of mountain ranges and somewhat cooler higher up than it was in Meiringen.
Friday 18th July.
According to forecast it would be a clear day in Zermatt so we went there and took cogwheel train up to Gornergrat to see the Matterhorn without it being hidden by clouds! Travelled there by quick route via Visp and returned by scenic route through Goppenstein.
Saturday 19th July.
Still hot so another mountain top required to keep cool so we went up to Niederhorn where we knew from previous visits there should be a cooling breeze – great views over Lake Thun. It started to get a bit cooler and cloudy so after cablecar down to Beatenberg we took bus to Interlaken West and boat back to Thun.
Sunday 20th July.
It was a bit cooler and rather cloudy so we went to the massive openair museum at Ballenberg near Brienz. It is a fascinating place where they have gathered together old buildings from all over Switzerland and furnished them as they would have been and in some they have special exhibitions and demonstrations of typical Swiss crafts. The area is so big you probably need 4 visits to do it justice! One of this year’s special exhibitions was of silk-worm farming and silk weaving, another building had traditional swiss costumes and also musical instruments. A very interesting day out.
Monday 21st July.
Very overcast and rain forecast so only went out for lunch and some shopping before the rain started.
Unfortunately our second week was blighted by quite a bit of rain so we were limited in what we could do.
Tuesday 22nd July.
Heavy rain to start the day. It stopped after lunch so we took train to Solothurn but by the time we got there it had started to pour again so we didn’t stay long!
Wednesday 23rd July.
It looked a bit brighter so after doing some shopping and washing in the morning we went to Zweisimmen, took gondola ride to Rinderberg which was a bit cloudy though we enjoyed very nice late lunch up there – just about got back before rain started again.
Thursday 24th July.
Woke to pouring rain! Stayed in all day – luckily apartment has all main British TV channels so watched Commonwealth Games!
Friday 25th July.
It was dry so we went to Lucerne by train, took boat across the lake to Vitznau where we took the cogwheel train to top of Mt. Rigi. It was dry but a bit hazy so though we could see the mountains and the lake below it wasn’t good light for photos. We returned by different cogwheel train down to Arth-Goldau to catch train back to Lucerne from where we took the slow scenic route back via Interlaken.
Saturday 26th July.
More pouring rain so only went out for lunch!
Sunday 27th July.
Weren’t sure what weather would do so went back to Ballenberg to explore more of this open-air museum – had some really tasty barley soup for lunch! On return trip we included boat ride from Brienz to Interlaken.
Monday 28th July.
Started dry but rain forecast for later – took bus to Heiligenschwendi above Thun and walked part of way back down – photo opportunities of flowers and butterflies – had lunch in Thun, caught bus to Wimmis where we visited lovely old church but then showers started and we caught buses back and just beat downpour!
Tuesday 29th July.
Weather not promising so did some cleaning, washing, went out for lunch and uploaded last week’s photos. Hoping for improved weather soon!
Wednesday 30th July.
Again started out wet! Rain stopped late morning so went to Interlaken then up by funicular to Heimwehfluh where we enjoyed a lovely lunch (highly recommend the restaurant there), then enjoyed the model railway display. Had icecream in interlaken but sky looked threatening so returned to apartment – just in time to avoid another drenching as it poured all evening.
Thursday 31st July.
Dull but dry so went to Murten where we visited the Catholic Church which has some spectacular modern stained glass windows, then the German Church before clambering up the steps to the town ramparts. Some fabulous views over the town as we walked along them. Returned to apartment again just before the rain started.
Friday 1st August.
Started off clear so we went to Allmendhubel (funicular from Mürren.) Good clear views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfraujoch. Walked the flower trail, then had lunch – returned via Stechelberg (bus was very very full!) Had early tea at apartment as we had tickets for the August 1st “Flottenparade” – parade of boats on Lake Thun accompanied by firework displays en route. Unfortunately the heavens opened as we were about to set out so reluctantly we decided not to go.
Saturday 2nd August.
After some market shopping we decided to go to Bern as we could get back from there quite quickly if rains returned! Shopped in market, had lunch and visited new Bear Park where bears obligingly entertained us and just got back before the rain.
Sunday 3rd August.
Forecast for today was poor so did some washing, uploaded photos, had afternoon tea with our hosts and enjoyed bi-lingual conversation with them with aid of dictionary!
Monday 4th August.
Started clear so set off early to catch train to Zweisimmen, then to Lenk. Caught bus to go to Betelberg gondola but missed the stop so ended up riding all way to Iffigenalp (great view of waterfall from bus) and back again to correct stop! Took cable car to Leiterli where we walked to Flower trail – bit of a scramble for me but I made it. There were lots of labels along route but no pictures so unclear what labels referred to – have been on better trails but the views from top were worth the effort. After a late lunch decided weather might turn so returned to Lenk where we visited two churches on way to station. Rain just starting again when we got back to Thun and rained heavily later.
Tuesday 5th August.
Again woke to heavy rain but when it stopped we went by train to Winterthur where we enjoyed a late lunch and a wander round the city.
Wednesday 6th August.
Thankfully it dawned bright and dry so we set off to go up to First – lucky we weren’t heading for Jungfraujoch as while we were in train from Spiez to Interlaken they announced over the train’s tannoy that tickets for Jungfraujoch were sold out! Obviously the result of the first clear day for some time! No trouble getting up to First and after we had lunch, Mike did the walk to Bachalpsee and back while I indulged in people-watching, a little reading and some photography. By the time Mike got back the clouds were gathering again and it was getting chilly so we returned to Thun.
Thursday 7th August.
Also started dry so we took train to Schönried and a sesselbahn to Horneggli. There was a Blumenweg round walk via Hornberg which was supposed to be a 50 min walk but it took us about 1 and ½ hours to do the 20 min stretch to Hornberg (we kept stopping to read all the information boards and take photos) so after an excellent lunch there we returned by same route which only took us 27 mins! So we returned to Schönried and found a bus going to Gstaad so took that for a change from trains – we found a local academy wind band was performing in the street so enjoyed listening to them while eating ice-cream – nice surprise! Returned to Thun by train.
Friday 8th August.
Because Friday also was a reasonably clear day we were able to go to Frutigen, then bus to Adelboden Unter dem Birg to take gondola to Engstligenalp where we enjoyed a nice flat Runderweg – less strenuous than yesterday’s trail – lovely scenery and peaceful though mud and puddles were testament to the amount of heavy rain we’d been having. After returning to Adelboden we took bus ride to Kandersteg intending to wander but as clouds were gathering again we took next train back to Thun and just beat the rain. That evening very high winds and a heavy downpour and a dramatic display of lightning were the entertainment!
Saturday 9th August.
We stayed local on Saturday, visiting an exhibition of Bergbahnen at Schloss Hünegg, had lunch in Oberhofen then visited the Bärenfest at Sigriswil which was great fun – never seen so many teddy bears in one place! We had been invited by our hosts to join them for dinner and spent a very pleasant evening with them – good food and good company, again managing our bi-lingual conversation!
Sunday 10th August.
Actually started hot so we went to Interlaken Ost to take boat to Brienz where we had lunch and a wander – we returned by train to Interlaken where we intended to take boat to Thun but yet again weather threatened to break so we went by bus instead.
Monday 11th August.
Our last day was spoiled by heavy rain – we went to local garden centre to buy plants as a gift for our hosts and got thoroughly wet. After lunch we packed our cases to take to the station for transport to the airport. Then Tuesday regretfully we had to go to Zurich airport to fly home.
Despite the weather testing our ingenuity and ability to change plans at the last minute, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Switzerland and will definitely be back next year.
Our 1st class Swiss Saver Pass again proved to be great value as after doing the maths to add together cost of pass and discounted tickets and comparing with cost of point-to-point tickets our pass option was about a third of full price tickets. We have been very lucky in our choice of apartment also as after 4 years we are now regarded as friends by our hosts not just clients and we keep in touch by email through the year which is good for my attempts to improve my German. Regular readers will have noticed we try to visit some of the less obvious and busy tourist spots are there are many beautiful places that are less well-known and just as much worth a visit. Well worth doing the research beforehand.
I will attempt to attach a few photos to this report – hope it works! Just from 1st 2 weeks as I am still trying to deal with upload problems from later weeks.