My husband and I have just returned from our first visit to Switzerland in September. Thanks to this forum, in particular Lucas, Mark, Rockoyster and Slowspoke, whose advice and suggestions helped to make this a most wonderful and memorable trip. Due to an old injury which unfortunately flared up whilst we got to Lucerne, I had to curtail many of the hiking activities but we still managed to take in a lot of beautiful scenery and hiked some of the popular trails. Below are some of my observations:
- We made Lucerne, Grindelwald and Fribourg our base (5, 5, and 4 nights respectively) and this turned out to be a good choice. Lucerne was much nicer than Zurich and it was handy to Mt Pilatus and Mt Rigi (Mt Pilatus was more interesting than Mt Rigi).
Grindelwald turned out to be perfect for my husband - not too quiet, not too commercialized like Interlaken. It's central in terms of going to various villages in Berner Oberland and the scenery was beautiful, Eiger looming in front of us everyday when we woke up, marvellous! Fribourg was close to Bern for us to make a day trip. We had planned to visit Murten and Gruyeres but did not have enough time to do so. But Fribourg was a lovely town in its own right. We toured the bridges, saw the pretty St Nicholas Cathedral and other monuments. We also took bus ride to sight see the surrounding areas and walked the old town. We particularly liked the architecture. It reminded us of Paris but of a newer, cleaner and much nicer way. Next time if you go to Switzerland, I would suggest you to make at least a day tour to Fribourg. We definitely will go back next time when we are in Switzerland.
- Grindelwald as said above was a lovely village but out of all the places we had visited in BO, Wengen had the most amazing scenery. It was just so pretty. We went back twice just to look at the lush greenery, the vista unbeatable. Whilst Murren was also nice, Wengen definitely came out the best in our opinion.
- Interlaken was the busiest town in BO with lots of shops and tourists. We agree that it is very commercialised. But if you move around the region a lot, it makes a handy base as there would be less need to change trains.
- We took the boat ride from Lucerne to Fluelen then changed to the Gotthard Panorama train to Bellinzona. This was the one major disappointment we encountered in this trip. The scenery was quite ordinary. It was similar to intercity travelling. In fact the views from Interlaken to Thun was better. The Golden Pass route from Interlaken to Montreux was much worth it in contrast.
- We took a lot of boat rides in Zurich, Lucerne, and Geneva. The best one was the low boat Limmet River cruise. It travelled around mainly in the city areas. Thus, all through the ride, we saw nice buildings on both banks passing by. Lovely! For some reasons we did not understand, the first time the ride was just under 30 minutes and went no further than the city area. The second time it was of one hour duration and the boat went up as far as the river joining the Lake. If you could only do one cruise, I highly recommend this to be your first choice.
- Both Lake Brienz and Lake Thun were worth a visit but we found the scenery on Lake Brienz more charming. River Limmet and Lake Brienz cruises will be on our itinerary next time we are in Switzerland.
- We did not get to do as much hiking as we liked due to my old leg injury. We did, manage to walk the Mannilichen to KS trail. The mist set in shortly after we started which was a big disappointment. We had plenty of sunshine during the walk from Grutschalp to Murren and from Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen after visiting Schilthorn. We had nice view on both trails but a better option would have been from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg so that we would have been walking facing the mountains.
- We did not find Geneva or Evian that appealing. Lausanne was more interesting and the Olympic Museum was worth a visit, and so was Chateau de Chillon. And I finally got a nice looking cuckoo clock at Lausanne!
- As I feared, our itinerary was overly ambitious. We planned to pack in as much as we could within the 15 days but that turned out to be impractical nor advisable. We modified our plan and found we enjoyed each visit a lot more and got to know the place better. Quality is definitely better than quantity. We did not get to visit all the museums on our list but for each one we did make it, we were impressed. We loved St Gallen and Fribourg. Each one had its own style of architecture and worth a second visit.
- I bought the 15 days STP from Happyrail and had no problem whatsoever. It was easy and we got our tickets within 30 minutes as expected. I do not know whether we were ahead with this STP but we loved the convenience of it. We simply jumped on the train, boat, tram or bus or whatever without having to queue for a ticket and it was accepted by most museums. We tried all modes of travel (except for funicular probably) and the convenience and flexibility was well worth it.
We did not get to see everything we would have liked but it was a most enjoyable trip overall. We are planning to return as soon as possible and tick off the remaining items on our to do list . Our thanks again to everyone who helped make this trip successful.