Hello, we just returned from a 7-day trip to Switzerland. First of all, I would like to thank MySwissAlps for their great website which provided all the information and advice. Our trip would not have been successfully planned and executed without you guys! Here is Part 1 of my trip report:
Saturday, 9th September
Our flight from Singapore was delayed by 3 hours. We reached Zurich Flughafen around 11am. There was a bit of a queue that morning at the passport control. Collected our bags and purchased a Salt SIM card at the Landside Shopping Centre (building just across from the airport). It took approximately 15 minutes for us to purchase the SIM card and the Salt staff helped us insert the SIM card and set up the phone. *Note: The Salt SIM was the best option for us. It was the ‘Pre-Pay’ option at CHF10 for unlimited data for 10 days – you will need to top up after that. We weren’t using SMS or voice calls, so I’m unsure about the charges for these.
*Tip: Make sure to ask the Salt staff for your Salt mobile number. It is not written on the SIM card packaging.
We had our 8-day Swiss Travel Pass ready and printed from home. Remembered reading somewhere that we had to get it validated at the SBB ticket office. However, the guy manning the counter waved us off saying that we were good to go.
*Tip 1: The Swiss Travel Pass really helped us save time. This is because the transfer times between buses, boats, and trains are very short (approx. 5 minutes) and most of the time you need to change platforms. Having to buy a ticket at every step would have made us miss the transfer and wait about half hour for the next transport service.
*Tip 2: We read that purchasing the Swiss Travel Pass with the print-at-home option is best as you can print out as many copies as you want and use them if one gets lost or spoiled. You don’t have this option when you purchase it from the train station – you only get one copy, and if it gets lost, you will need to purchase another
*Tip 3: The train station is in the same building as the Salt store (Landside Shopping Centre), one floor below.
We barely made it in time for the 12:18pm train to Bern. Apparently all passengers had to disembark at Bern as some maintenance work was being done. On the advice of the train conductor, we took a direct train to Interlaken Ost. From there, we caught another train to Lauterbrunnen, which was our base for the next 3 days. Made sure we sat in the correct section of the train as it splits and half of it goes to Grindelwald.
*Tip 1: Download the SBB mobile app. It shows you all the timings and platforms for buses, trains and boats, so you can plan ahead. *Tip 2: The train conductor gave us a tip on using the app: Under each transportation timing is a line. If you see dots only at the end of either side of the line, that means you don’t have to transfer trains/buses/boats – it goes direct to your destination. However, if there is a dot(s) along the line, it means you have to get off at a station, and transfer to another train/bus/boat.
It was drizzling when we arrived at Lauterbrunnen, so we boarded the yellow Postbus already waiting across the station (in front of the cable car station). Got off at the next stop and walked to Hotel Staubbach. A lovely hotel with wonderful and helpful staff. Angie at the hotel told us that we were in for bad weather due to the westerly winds. We left our bags in the room and proceeded to Wengen. It was cold and raining. We strolled through the car free village. We walked into the empty church. Due to the fog, we missed out on the views. We headed back to our hotel. Had dinner and went to bed early.
Sunday, 10th September
We checked conditions for Schilthorn on www.swisspanorama.com (live webcams of mountains in the Bernese Oberland – Grindelwald, Mannlichen, Jungfraujoch, Schilthorn) first thing in the morning. Foggy and low clouds so no mountain trips. We took the first boat out to Lake Brienz. The 75-minute ride across the blue waters of the lake is so scenic. We viewed the Giessbach Falls from the boat. From the Brienz station, we caught the bus to the Open Air Ballenburg Museum. We went in through the West Entrance. There were many original old Swiss farm houses and animals such as cows, pigs, chickens and donkeys. We watched a woman making hats. Many families with young children were out there. It is an educational trip for both adults as well as children. We did not see all of the museum though.
*Tip 1: If you want to participate in workshops e.g. basket weaving, bread making, etc. they are mostly closer to the East Entrance.
Went back to Brienz station where we had delicious pizza at the pizzeria. The train ride back to Interlaken Ost was a mere 20 minutes. Then onwards to Wilderswill to board the cogwheel train to Schynige Platte. The ride up was very scenic with views of Interlaken and Lake Thun. It was raining when we reached the top. Thanks to the forum we had gone well prepared! Took out our umbrellas and walked towards the Alpine garden. Since it was quite windy and our umbrellas were almost blown away, we didn’t complete our walk through the Alpine garden. We walked to the other side of the station towards the hotel hoping to get better views but low lying clouds and fog had already started to build up. Our visit up there was short-lived as we came down 40 minutes later. Due to the elevation, both my daughter and I had a headache. We cancelled our walk through the Lauterbrunnen valley and decided to rest and relax in the hotel.
Monday, 11th September
Upon waking up, we checked on the live webcam for the weather up at Schilthorn. Yay! It showed clear and sunny. From the glass windows of the breakfast room, the views of the snow-capped mountains with clear blue skies and the sun shining were amazing! The fog and low clouds had kept the mountains hidden. All the guests were clicking photos non-stop of the beautiful sight.
We took the cable car from across the Lauterbrunnen train station to Grutschalp. From Grutschalp, we boarded the cogwheel train to Murren (the train is right in front of where the cable car stops). It was a lovely walk through the car-free village with plenty of shops, hotels and apartments with planter boxes of colorful flowers at the windows. We had to get to the other side of the town to take the cable car from Murren up to Birg where we got on to another cable car right up to the magnificent Schilthorn. All the 3 cable car trips to the top were packed to the brim as everyone took advantage of the beautiful weather to check out the mountain.
At an elevation of 10,000 feet up, we played safe by lingering indoors at first. Then spent about an hour outdoors, gawking at the spectacular mountains around us, taking photos and videos and touching the ice which had formed. By then, strong chilly winds were blowing in our faces and clouds started rolling low, gradually blocking out the views. Went indoors to have a hot chocolate drink before going down to Birg. Had planned to do the Thrill Walk – a metal and plexi-glass walkway built against the cliff walls but chickened out at the last minute.
Back in Murren, we had a picnic. From our bench, we could watch the paragliders. I kept a count – almost 12 of them, one after the other. Decided to do an easy hike down (on a paved path) from Murren to Gimmewald instead of taking the cable car back. We heard cow bells and the sound of water gushing down. We passed a family with young children in a stroller having a picnic under a tree and saw a woman who waved to us while tending to her vegetable plot. Twice, tractors filled with soil passed us by and we had to step off the path so that they could pass. This is a gloriously beautiful walk with the gorgeous mountains staring at you all the time. Towards the end of the walk, there was an Honesty Store with no cashier in sight where you just leave the money in the box if you choose to buy something. My daughter commented that scenery around us was truly a sight right out of a fairy tale. It took about an hour to reach the Gimmewald cable car station from where we went down to Stelchelberg and then took the yellow Postbus across the valley to the Lauterbrunnen train station.
To be continued……….