Switzerland (and a bit of Italy) in September

Switzerland (and a bit of Italy) in September

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Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 9:41 AM

I have trawled these forums for months so, first, a big thank you to the regular posters that patiently answer questions on these forums (Fodors, Tripadvisor, MySwissAlps) and also those who paid it forward by writing a report.

I am ‘Adelaidean’ (on Fodors and MySwissAlps), and ‘ozzie2010’ (on Tripadvisor), thanks to everyone that responded to my posts and anyone who wrote anything on these forums - I probably read it!

Itinerary:

(Switzerland) : Zürich 2N, St Ursanne 1N, Wengen 8N, Luzern 2N, Sils Maria 5N,

(Italy) : Trezzone 3N, Bergamo 2N, Casorate Sempione near Malpensa (airport) 1N.

(18 nights Switzerland/ 6 nights Italy)

Seeking a ‘taster’ of different regions, minimal travel (800km in 24 days), picturesque walking (lakes, forests, mountains), medieval/ charming architecture, mountain hamlets, small cities/ towns with ‘old town’ (wandering the streets and alleys, not interested in shopping, art or museums).

Hope to visit the western French speaking lakes regions, the Ticino and lower Engadin on another visit.

Last year’s holiday was a great success (walking in the Dolomites, Cinque Terre, a medieval hilltop town, David Gilmour concert at the Verona Arena, a very successful mix) so my partner is pretty happy with my planning….

www.fodors.com/communi ty/europe/northern-italy-and-a-bit-of-bavaria-a-family-trip.cfm

….and we knew the Swiss infrastructure / transport efficiency was second to none.

There is no denying Switzerland is expensive (it made our family trip to Italy last year look cheap) but costs in Australia are comparably high, for inferior public transport and access to sights.

You get lots of bang for your buck in Switzerland.

Anyway, we saved money by leaving the kids at home. 😀

Language :

I speak and read passable German, not necessary for travel of course, but I like to practise it. I guess it did help, not so much in service industry where most staff do speak English, but chatting to fellow travellers in St Ursanne and the Engadin which seemed to attract less native English speakers than the Jungfrau region, for example. And it was helpful in a store in Solothurn, as it turned out.

Transport :

Switzerland has an incredible network of rail, bus, cable cars, so well integrated/ excellent scheduling / efficient coordination/ ease of travel, (and hats off to those PostBus drivers' skills on hairpin roads) good platform info, station maps, can pre plan routing with interactive timetable site - really great that it is linked in the walking guides online.

Luggage :

we pack light/ wear layers/ 1 small bag each that weighed about 9 kg so checked in + a small backpack for our daily needs on outings (rain jacket/ hat / sunscreen/ waterbottle). I do take a minimum of clothing. The hiking boots were the bulkiest item, so inevitably they stayed on my feet - not in my bag, a walking sandal (non leather, so rain does not damage them), flats for dinner wear, 2 pairs of water repellant, comfortable stretch pants, 1 more tailored (but stretch) pant, 1 pair leggings for layering in the cold, several t-shirts, long sleeved tops, a warm down zip up (very compactable style), a rain jacket. Quick dry fabrics, handwashed in bathroom. Granted, I did not look glamorous at dinner.

Food:

We like muesli, sourdough rye breads, potatoes, and cheese so we weren't going to go hungry. We had a few regional specialties on our ‘must try’ list: (thanks to Ingo, Mel, Hambaghale, kja….)

Capuns or “Swiss chard wrapped dumplings” I didn’t know what that meant either, so here www.tastingtable.com/c hefs_recipes/chefs_rec ipes/Swiss-Chard-Wrapped-Dumplings-with-Bacon-and-Browned-Butter-Capu didn’t actually get to try them! Next time.

Engadine nut tart …. 10/10 from us :-)

pizzoccheri .. a regional pasta, served with cabbage/ chard and potatoes, with cheese, garlic, butter ...very sustaining, a bit rich and heavy for our taste

barley soup or “gerstensuppe” www.food.com/recipe/bu nder-gerstensuppe-swiss-barley-soup-457543 an excellent light, but filling and healthy lunch option

I love rösti (our rösti recipe of grated potato/ egg/ flour fried on our bbq, is pretty good, but nicer when someone else makes it for you and you are in Switzerland!)

cheese (did not have fondue / did try raclette ..wheel of cheese heated and scraped off melting portion, I like cheese, but this is too rich for me/ can buy fresh cheese direct from farm (honesty boxes!) and really loved the excellent variety of cheeses at hotel (breakfast and cheese tray after dinner)

Meringue in Meiringen! (thanks Alpenrose for the tip- it was on my list, but I didn’t quite have the appetite)

Great bread in Switzerland. Variety plus quality. Ryes, sourdoughs, grainy, crusty. And wonderful butter.

Quality of dinners at our half board hotels was fantastic.

Train station food was fantastic. We bought really excellent baguettes and pastries to have our picnic on trains (amazing quality and variety) - no rubber cheese on rubbish bread, or soggy rolls, like in some of our cafeterias and stations at home.

Photos

link to my Flickr album : over 500 photos, sorry!

flic.kr/s/aHsm7WHJHM

Timing and weather considerations:

-usually travel to Europe in July, but we could not co-ordinate leave, so we opted for September for fewer crowds after the summer high season, but hopefully fine weather. (I also love the flowerboxes in Europe and the intense green, and didn’t want to be there later than October to miss that) It turned out to be cooler than usual in Switzerland for early / mid September. .

-Cablecars and trails still open.

-8 nights in Bernese Oberland to maximise chance of some clear days/ 5 nights in ‘sunny’ Engadin

-Webcams check in a.m. en.swisswebcams.ch/ for mountain peak visits

-Be flexible, have alternate plans (valley walks/ lake cruises/ towns if clouded over in mountains), be prepared with wet weather gear/ good footwear/ wear layers. On this point, the weather is so changeable anyway, rain can clear quickly, wear the right gear and just go .. it might clear, or not, it will still be beautiful...but, costly mountain excursions like Jungfraujoch do require a bit of planning, check mountain webcam in morning and go if clear.

Phone/ electronics:

Salt Sim purchased for his unlocked phone, bought on arrival in Zurich airport...20 days unlimited (we thought) data prepaid 30CHF (thanks, rockoyster). Really patient staff in-store, quickly got set up. We did need a top up, however, so bought another 20CHF while in Lucerne. We were tired and likely misunderstood the initial deal, but able to recharge in-store so no problems.

Also took my ipad to store photos daily and upload to flickr, don’t want to find my memory card corrupted or lost/ broken camera and lose all photos. A small hiccup ...I managed to break my ipad / camera connector first time I used it - so did visit Bahnhofstrasse in Zürich for shopping after all on Monday before our daytrip. Luckily, there is an Apple store there, unluckily they had no such connectors as my ipad is one of the older versions. I was so frustrated. Fortunately, we were in Solothurn that same day, popped into Manor store to find husband some sunglasses and a toilet, and passed a rack of suitable camera connectors… :) and an amazing cafeteria.

SBB App was also pre-loaded onto ipad, plus had a few practise ‘lessons’ pre trip on planning on the go as my tech support (sons) would not be with me this time (although as it turned out, I still used ticket machines at station, rather than App for purchase).

Installed Google docs on ipad to write my diary.

Flights:

Our first flight with Singapore Airlines, excellent airline. This route is nearly 31 hours travel time...a 7.5 hour flight, then a 10 hour layover, then a 13.5 hour flight. And on return, it is 35 hours travel time with a 16 hour layover. So we booked the Singapore airport transit hotel for layover, had a nap and shower. (There are also transit city tours that fit in with the longer layover.) Felt much better this time, than last year with short layover, where the flights feels endless and the lack of sleep tortuous.

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 9:43 AM

Day by day coming up 😀

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 11:58 AM

Zürich : Sep 3rd and 4th

Where we stayed

Hotel St. Josefwww.st-josef.ch/en/

(lovely hotel, 5 minutes walk from station, recommended)

2N, CHF 420

What we did:

The worst thing about flying from Australia is the endurance test of our long haul. There was a ‘technical issue’ in Singapore before departure of our 2nd flight, so we spent 3 hours on the plane waiting for the engineers to check something before take off, so the 13.5 hours became several hours longer. Lucky we had that nap while in transit.

An easy process through immigration and baggage collection, then bought our half fare cards at the airport train station, as well as our sim card. Courteous, patient staff, despite a relentless stream of tourists needing help and advice. Short train ride to centre.

Arrival day : Sunday. After a 30 hour journey from Australia, Zürich worked well as a jetlag recovery city with its’ interesting walkable old town, gracious merchant guild houses in squares and along riverfront, river promenade buzzing with families on weekend, the shopping mecca Bahnhofstrasse is quiet on Sunday (stores closed), lovely Lindenhof, churches, interesting little alleys, charming small squares with unexpected greenery, couples walking their dogs, locals playing chess or boules in Lindenhof.

I rarely visit art museums, but I like artistry in buildings, so was keen to see the Augusto Giacometti murals (in the police station entrance hall, Bahnhofquai 3 - no photography, need ID, only open 9-11 and 2-4), his stained glass in both the Fraumünster and the Grossmünster (and the very famous Chagall stained glass windows in the Fraumünster) and the Polke windows (the effect of the agate) in Grossmünster. We visited the police station murals (free) and the Fraumünster (5 CHF), but ran out of steam and didn’t get inside Grossmünster.

Hubby wanted a beer, so we walked the back lanes to Neumarkt and found a pleasant spot for a drink (20 CHF for a beer and Aperol Spritz), would have returned for dinner but we were exhausted. (No dinner, crashed into bed at 6 pm, then awake at 12pm….and 2am… gave up trying to sleep and rose at 4:30am, we were at breakfast at opening time of 6:30am). Had a long, lovely hotel breakfast, quite the luxury to just slow down, excellent muesli/ fruit/ yoghurt/ variety of breads/ eggs/ cold cuts; if our boys had been with us, they would have headed for the plum cake and croissants.

We had a practise holiday (no kids) in June, and the house/ kids survived, so it didn’t take long to adjust to being away and in ‘relaxed’ mode. Zürich is a very pleasant small city, and I just felt comfortable wandering (dislike big cities), I decided I’d be happy to use it as an arrival city in future and spend longer (few more daytrips on my list ) - our long haul flights are brutal and dragging ourselves onto a train after the flights is a nightmare.

Tips for Zürich:

www.fodors.com/communi ty/europe/zurich-who-goes-there.cfm

and oller’s ideas for walking tour https://www.tripadviso r.com/ShowTopic-g188113-i337-k4259482-Must_See_for_Zurich_in _2_Days-Zurich.html

Many daytrip options from Zürich, including Stein am Rhein, Zug, Rapperswil (34 mins train/ or 2hr boat), Murten, Solothurn, - but, after reading this TR, Solothurn won

www.fodors.com/communi ty/europe/northwestern -switzerland-fall-2014.cfm

(thanks mokka4).

Solothurn, (58 min by direct train, every 30mins, return ½ fare cost=38CHF) from Zürich, an elegant Baroque/Renaissance town, pastel coloured buildings with shutters and flowerboxes, remaining walls and gates, St Ursus Cathedral, Jesuit church, fountains, Marktplatz, 12C clock tower, river, lovely 20 minute walk to Verena Gorge via upmarket suburbs and a local school, fun to see the teens on a sport lesson with their teacher running through the forest, lots of laughter. The walk is really pretty and 10 minutes into the gorge the path arrives at the chapel and hermitage. Apparently, the previous hermit found ‘solitary’ life too busy (this is popular with walkers.)

Interesting job requirements for the local hermit…

www.mnn.com/lifestyle/ arts-culture/blogs/swiss-city-employs-worlds-chattiest-hermit

www.thelocal.ch/201609 27/german-ex-policeman-is-swiss-citys-new-hermit

We continued on the path up the hill to find the Restaurant Kreuzen in a picture postcard setting in the forest. Had a much needed beer, wonderful lunch of tomato soup, salad and vegetarian lasagna, he had schnitzel (80 CHF).

I grew up living in an underground dugout in an opal mining town in outback Australia (here is my old home flic.kr/p/HENsjY not much quaint architecture here :) ) so perhaps my threshold for wonder in these delightful Swiss towns is different to others but I do not understand why Solothurn is not heaving with tourists. So lovely.

By the way, as we were toilet hunting in the Manor store in Solothurn, we passed the restaurant, buffet style options with great looking salads, pasta, baguettes, and a gorgeous outdoor terrace overlooking rooftops. Can’t comment on food quality or price, as we ate lunch at the gorge.

Returning to Zürich after our daytrip, we hit the after 5 pm commuter chaos, really busy train station, tram stops crowded, cars everywhere, police directing at intersections; yet still such courtesy on the roads, with drivers indicating to us that pedestrians have right of way at the crossings (that did not happen in Italy!). The working city vibe, naturally very different to Sunday’s relaxed vibe.

Husband fell asleep on arrival, I needed to upload my photos (with my Solothurn ‘souvenir’ - ipad connecter) and dined on a delicious Moroccan lentil soup/ bread/ glass of wine (15 CHF) at the hotel restaurant solo. Wide awake at 2am again. Husband, however, sleeping enough for the two of us.

----

A lesson learned...in my impatience to purchase train tickets to St Ursanne on the ticket machine, I forgot to press ‘half fare’ as I was focussed on the ‘adult’ fare. I had a sense the price was incorrect, but there was a queue and I simply purchased and we discovered my error en route - so paid 102 CHF (for 2), instead of 51 CHF. Anyway, I asked the conductor who suggested I could get a refund at Basel while changing trains. Fortunately, we had the time and another kind staff member who re- issued tickets and refunded 41CHF (10 CHF charge).

The train ride from Basel to St Ursanne along the valley is so pretty, forest and cliffs and little towns, with some industrial sites, a quarry, logging and agriculture. Met another charming older local who chatted enthusiastically with remarkable English, learnt at high school many years ago, stating he never practises it and only once visited England. He checked our destination on his phone for us, so we knew the station before and were prepared.

Arriving St Ursanne, a tiny unmanned station and a short, downhill walk on a cobblestone road to the picture postcard village, nestled in a green valley.

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 12:22 PM

Saint Ursanne : Sep 5th

Where we stayed,

Hotel Demi-Lunewww.demi-lune.ch/index.php/en/

1N, CHF 220 - the suite (30CHF cheaper on booking.com than hotel website)

(We had the huge upstairs suite, large bedroom and a sitting room, wooden beams, balcony, creaky floorboards, just perfect. Recommended. )

www.dicconbewes.com/20 13/06/11/the-medieval-delights-of-st-ursanne/

www.juratourisme.ch/do wnload/jura_tourisme/J T_Villes_a_Pied_2017_s ite.pdf

While St Ursanne is only a 2hr journey from Zürich, it feels a world away. I was excited to find a medieval French speaking village to visit (and rural France is not easy to visit without a car whereas of course Switzerland has excellent public transport to this tiny village). I wanted to glimpse the Jura (Doubs river) region anyway, walking options seem lovely (woods, river, rolling green hills, peaceful), like the walk from Porrentruy to St Ursanne www.wanderland.ch/en/r outes-p74 or along the river to Soubey.

Arriving through the town gate was a bit like entering a movie set. Very quiet, with a few restaurants, a cathedral and abbey, old bridge, colourful homes with shutters and flowerboxes, cobbled roads, we had a beer on the steps of our hotel and reflected on our good fortune. We added a tarte flambee to our order, our delightful hotel proprietor very engaging and chatty. A slow wander through town, even met a Swiss physiotherapist who happened to have visited Adelaide to research rehabilitation practices, enjoyed a nice chat to her. Also met some Swiss locals travelling in their camper with their dog.

I thought I might just burst with happiness. :-)

We had an afternoon walk along the river (my quest to access the riverbank had me wander through stinging nettles, ouch), had a nice encounter with an elderly French speaking walker, and with a bit of sign language we think we agreed we were on the track to Soubey (not intending to walk that far, just in that direction).

Ended a magical day with dinner at our hotel, on the terrace overlooking the river (under those red umbrellas by the bridge in the photos), steak for him, cordon bleau for me, lovely green vegetables and those delicious little mushrooms, pommes frites, wine, coffee, and an evening stroll through the village. Main dishes were about 45 CHF. Excellent meal, service and of course, location. We heard only French and German, I guess this is slightly off the beaten path.

Pretty warm overnight, had to remove my quilt from the cover and just use sheet. Gentle rain overnight. We have had lovely warm weather up to now, but heading to the mountains today. Enjoyed a lovely breakfast of grapes, yoghurt, croissants, a variety of breads, jams, ham, salami, wonderful cheeses, juice, excellent coffee, we had some fun with our French speaking waitress trying to communicate something about eggs (I tapped on the raw eggs she brought out, hoping I was ‘saying’ boiled, anyway we got delicious soft boiled eggs and a beaming smile). Everyone has been so kind, charming and patient, whether staff, locals walking, people on trains.

----

(leaving St-Ursanne, train to Wengen using ½ fare card = CHF36.70, got it right this time)

On departure, couldn’t help but notice that peak hour in the village consisted of a man walking his dog and a few schoolchildren.

………………………...

Considered stopping in Bern en route to Wengen: put luggage in lockers, easy walk to old town Bern, but rain was forecast for the weekend, so opted to head straight to Wengen and Bern could be a rainy day option.

Train left St Ursanne at 9:52 with travel via Biel/ Bern/ Spiez/ Interlaken Ost/ Lauterbrunnen, which sounds like a lot of changes but is an easy transfer, arriving Wengen @ about 1:30. The train ride to Lauterbrunnen from Interlaken is spectacular, the deep valley and cliffs a precursor for the stunning arrival to the valley town, then the ride to Wengen adding more shock and awe.

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 12:49 PM

Wengen : Sep 6th – Sep 13th

Where we stayed

Hotel Alpenrosewww.alpenrose.ch/en

8N (+ halfboard), CHF 2512 room with balcony and mountain view (Stunning mountain views, modern rooms. Recommended)

Although we opted for a hotel, there are lots of holiday rental options, bookable on vrbo, homeaway, Interhome, AlpineHolidaySevices.c h, Swiss Maid Services (apartments or chalets for accommodation), or the hostels in Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald or Gimmelwald. Our hotel had many English speaking guests, we chatted to a Scottish couple (he was a 91 year old ex psychology professor who established the clinical psychology unit at an Adelaide university) and they have been to Wengen 20 times! We felt like youngsters, some women we spoke to in their 70’s, many from the UK and US, a few Australians. No smartphones in the dining room, no photos of dinner, very quiet.

Wengen is a small, picturesque, car free mountain village (elevation of nearly 1300m!), well located for local excursions. Even if not participating in any hikes, one could still use the cable cars, trains, post buses and enjoy wonderful vistas en route and from berghaus restaurants.

Trails that are graded ‘easy’ are mostly flat groomed paths called ‘wanderweg’ marked in yellow on signs. Walking times are also marked.

More difficult walks or ‘bergwegs’ are marked with red/white stripes, have more ascent/ descent, rougher trails, good footwear recommended. Probably wise to acclimatise to altitude and get a sense of fitness level required by starting with the easier, popular routes.

What we did:

8 nights means 7 full days, so I researched walks and sights / checked the schedule on sbb website www.sbb.ch/en/timetabl e.html to help calculate travel time / then grouped them into half days … so had a ‘wishlist’ which could be adapted according to weather. A lot of tourists do just visit the Jungfraujoch, Grindelwald / Interlaken and do the Kleine Scheidegg walk, based on a 3 night itinerary, so are a bit hostage to the weather, I didn’t want to take that risk. Jungfrau marathon on also during our stay, not that we were participating. :-)

First afternoon: orientation to town, wander to Staubbachbänkli, ham/ cheese toasted sandwich and beer each (25CHF).

Our room - a south facing room with balcony, stunning ever changing views and pleasant sunshine in late afternoon, while Lauterbrunnen was already in shade, quite a negative in my opinion if staying in the valley.

Our half board was a great deal. We met tourists eating cheap meals of Mexican or pasta at 40-50 CHF. At 20 CHF our meal first night was… tomato and mozzarella salad, great bread, pea soup, chicken with pfifferlinge sauce/ potato/ peas and a salad buffet, dessert which we skipped, and a fine cheese selection, water on table, other drinks purchased. Lovely restaurant, attentive but discreet staff, and no need to book or hunt down a restaurant. Obviously the hotel is not a cheap option in itself, but we were very happy with the overall experience. And the restaurant feels homely but also kind of posh for me (3 forks at dinner, LOL). Breakfast was also excellent, coffee served in a silver pot. I had to remind myself to enjoy the moment, slow down, have a second coffee as the urge to get out and explore is strong...

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 1:01 PM

Day 1:

Bought Bernese Oberland Pass (265 CHF for 8 days, discounted with Swiss Half Fare card)

The weather forecast looked promising, so we took the Männlichen cablecar up into the clouds, and down to Grindelwald Grund. Walked to First cablecar, bit of an uphill walk (there is a bus), such a pretty valley. Mountains still clouded over, but working on the sunny weather forecast for the afternoon, we jumped on board with another couple. Had a nice chat to them in German, they were having a mini break and come from Winterthur. And, they also have been to Adelaide! Amazing. They have driven from Perth to Kalgoorlie, and have flown to Adelaide on a holiday some years ago.

Arrived First to a whiteout and had a coffee, then walked the Cliff Walk with only a few glimpses of land. Headed back to the restaurant and had a nice lunch of gesternsuppe and bread, he had bratwurst and pommes frites (28 CHF). Still no sign of a mountain (husband declared the forecast ‘fake news’), so headed back down on cablecar, alighted at surprisingly sunny Bort as that looked promising with some teaser mountaintops, then enjoyed some stupendous glacier views. A reminder for me to be realistic in expectations, not be rigid in planning; and glad we are here for a week, so can retrace steps another day as the Bachalpseeis a priority.

Walked down to the Kleine Scheidegg station and took that train to K.S, so lovely, even with limited views. Another train to Wengen, arriving back at 5.30, it really takes best part of a day these excursions.

A pre dinner drink in the lovely hotel lounge, followed by a buffet dinner (soup, cold salmon, crumbed prawns, chicken, salads, rosti, baked ham, raclette, dessert bar).

Day 2:

Webcam joy...sunshine! Off to Männlichen cablecar and the ride up through the clouds to lovely sunshine, a blanket of clouds hovering in the valleys, so beautiful. It gradually lifted, but what a sight it was, with the peaks pushing through. The ever changing views really spectacular. We did the Panorama walk to Kleine Scheidegg, and it was as lovely as expected. An easy walk, probably 70-90 minutes if you didn’t stop every 5 minutes to stare in wonder. A coffee and shared cake at a berghaus before taking the train back down to Wengen to meet a dear friend who was visiting us for the weekend.

A quick shop at the Coop, bread rolls, cheese, tomatoes, blackberries, chocolate and we shared lunch on our balcony. Then back on the Kleine Scheidegg train and a stunning walk in beautiful sunshine to Wengernalp, with mountains, glaciers, and blue sky. A helicopter delivering equipment to workmen on chairlift maintenance was fascinating to watch. A beer at the berghaus in glorious sunshine. Bliss.

Set dinner option tonight was a fillet of trout, potatoes, fennel or beef fondue. Plus a terrine, bean soup, salads, cheeses, dessert.. we only ever need 2 of the courses, beautiful food.

Day 3:

Jungfrau marathon day so a great vibe in town, cheering on the runners who had completed 30 kms and 1000m ascent, another 1000m height gain and 10km to go…! Amazing. Drizzling and cool. We eventually headed in the opposite direction, opting for Lauterbrunnen as mountains clouded in. A quick stop in the Coop for crunchy rolls and cheese for later, then a lovely rainy walk along the river to the waterfalls, stopping en route for our 5 star picnic.

So beautiful, the drama of those cliffs, the swirling clouds, the river, the lush green meadows. Another easy flat walk, probably 45 minutes but we took a lot longer. A bus tour group arrived, so we had an excellent coffee and shortbread in the pleasant cafe and waited for the crowd to thin before entering. The falls are incredible, roaring thunderous glacial water through the cavern (11CHF). Bus back to the station, then a train back to Wengen. Cold 3C, but it felt comfortable (no wind). We are definitely in the clouds, no sunny balcony today. A nice bottle of rosé (kept cold by leaving out on the balcony!) in our room before dinner.

Day 4:

My friend had to leave for a meeting in Leipzig, so a long travelling day for her.

It had snowed lightly overnight, so we popped up the Männlichen for a look (no views today, but exciting to see the snow), then headed back down the valley, cablecar back to Wengen, train to Lauterbrunnen, train to Interlaken Ost, train to Meiringen, all seamless connections. A lovely journey.

Spoke (practised my German) to an elderly Belgian lady travelling solo, inspiring to see elderly people on active holidays and travelling alone. The atmosphere on the trains is fun, sharing adventures and advice, everyone so happy and buzzing with excitement.

We wondered where the bus stop might be once we alighted in Meiringen, and in true Swiss fashion, it was right outside the train station, with timetables posted. We had a 45 minute wait, perfect for a quick lunch at the restaurant next to the station/ bus stop.

Had a lovely lunch of a shared seafood pizza, beer and coffee (43CHF), then caught the next Postbus to Rosenlauigletscherschlucht stop. Just got off where we thought we’d like to walk, as weather was nice, and countryside stunning. This is an example of a day that can be sedentary or really active, with great views on each sector and stop/ start as you wish, with transport or walking and refreshments. The signs indicate how long a walk might take and the bus stops have timetables on them, so easy to change plans as you go. Could combine lake cruise (but check timetable), Brienz town wander, stop in Meiringen (town, falls, gorge), stop/ walk on remainder of route. Could walk Grosse Scheidegg to First. Brilliant.

www.grindelwaldbus.ch/ en/hiking-and-exursions/glacial-waters-roundtrip

We figured the ravine walk might make the day too long, so walked to Schwarzwaldalp, an easy 40 minute walk, so beautiful, mountains soaring above us, a river, cows, farms, we were just low enough for perfect walking and views of mountains. Checked out the water powered sawmill there and a Postbus conveniently turned up for our drive to Grindelwald. Have all the Swiss attended charm school? We had the cheeriest bus driver, welcoming everyone on board and ever so patient with all of us.

Even when I have been particularly annoying (we mixed up our scheidegg’s one day, bought tickets from a bus driver then realised it was going to Grosse Scheidegg, not Kleine Scheidegg, he kindly and patiently refunded my tickets and pointed us in the right direction -take the train, not the bus- ...and yes, I forgot to weigh the grapes in the Coop (the checkout lady needing to go weigh them while the queue behind us grew), we never had anyone show impatience or disinterest or be less than kind.

The Bernese Oberland Pass got us as far as Schwarzwaldalp, then ½ fare to Grindelwald (13 CHF) each. The changing landscape heading up to Grosse Scheidegg and the winding road down the valley into Grindelwald is stunning, and I scored the front seat on the bus… Walked through town to Grund and the seilbahn (always check cablecar times, don’t want to miss last one) and back home for a fabulous dinner. A wonderful day.

Day 5:

Sunshine! We were off! A return to First, but this time by train via Lauterbrunnen and Zweilutschinen, to Grindelwald. A gorgeous train ride through the valley. Then the wonderful Firstbahn again, this time to magnificent views. Pinching myself all the while. Bought 2 baguettes at the excellent First restaurant and headed for Bachalpsee with everyone else. This is up there with the top 5 things to do for good reason. Such a stunning walk, first part is uphill, then easier. Dramatic cliffs, glacier views, hang gliders, moorlands, snow, marmots, then the lake. Spectacular. We had our picnic soaking in the moment. The clouds had rolled in and it was quite icy, the gloves and scarf very welcome. A few people heading to Faulhorn, that looked a mighty hike. Many options from here, for example walk to Waldspitz and Bort.

We, however, turned to First and enjoyed great coffee and plum cake. Shared the cablecar with an older gentleman, travelling for the first time since his wife passed away. He has been scattering her ashes at favourite places and has her walking stick and drink bottle with him, to keep her close. He described how he enjoyed having occasional shared experiences with other travellers, a walk or a coffee, and felt less lonely because of it. One of those nice moments connecting with people.

Just discovered that the trays outside the rooms are not breakfast trays for those wanting in room breakfast, but hiking boot trays...no doubt someone is thinking ‘dummkopf Australians’ LOL.

Day 6:

Cloudy day, so abandoned plan for a Schilthorn, Mürren, side of valley visit, and headed to the lakes. Which to do …conflicting views at dinner from various people we spoke to...everyone has their favourite. We decided on the train to Spiez, then a mini boat cruise to Thun. Bought baguettes at the Spiez train station, and had a short wander and coffee before the boat arrived. Lovely trip, stopping at cute towns on the way. Thun has a very pretty old town, enjoyed our wonderful baguettes, and a walk (brilliant blue sky and sunshine for about 20 minutes, so lucky) plus a beer in the Rathausplatz. A lovely day.

Day 7:

He wanted a helicopter ride, so we split today. I went to Lauterbrunnen, cablecar to Grütschalp then walk to Mürren (about an hour). An easy walk via Winteregg to Mürren, follows the train line, although there is a higher route. Surprised how few people were walking, most jumped on the little train after the cablecar, I thought this was a popular walk.

Anyway, it was lovely, sweeping mountain views, forest, a few little farms, cows, I didn’t stop at Winteregg but there is a restaurant there and a train stop so could jump on / off the train. Continued on to Mürren, it was raining by then and I was not yet hungry, so headed to Schilthornbahn to check webcam..fogged in, so abandoned that idea.

While waiting for descending cablecar to Stechelberg, the rain suddenly cleared, so change of plans and walked to Gimmelwald (30 minutes). Oh, so lovely, valley views, steep cliffs, peaks, farms, just beautiful. Stopped by the Pension Gimmelwald for a fantastic vegetable soup/ bread/ apfelschorle (14 CHF).

The return journey typically Swiss efficient...Gimmelwald to Stechelberg cablecar, step out of station, spend 5 seconds wondering where bus stop is when a bus pulls up, arrives Lauterbrunnen train station with announcements regarding connecting trains, train to Wengen at station and pulls out 10 minutes later. Never checked a timetable all day.

Had weather been better at higher altitude, I would have liked to see Schilthorn, Birg and walked to Grauseeli. But it was a wonderful day.

Sun came out and I read my ibook on the balcony, waiting to hear from hubby who surprisingly was still out.

His day… he bussed to the heliport in Lauterbrunnen, got his ride arranged (big splurge - 20 minute ride across face of Eiger, over the glacier), then he walked back to Lauterbrunnen (20 minutes), went up cablecar, trained to Mürren (lunch), cablecar to Gimmelwald, had a beer there, then walked down to Stechelberg, very steep but spectacular 1 hour walk. Bus and train back to Wengen. Sore knees, but he’s super happy with his day.

What we didn’t do : options on my ‘list’ - not intending to do them all, just had some ideas of things I’d be keen on and could consider based on weather, how we felt at the time, etc….walks between villages on Lakes Brienz/ Ballenberg museum / Jungfraujoch (this was my choice to skip, crowded train in a long dark tunnel makes me feel a bit ill), Schilthorn and Birg, Isenfluh to Sulwald to Lobhornhütte, Schynige Platte, Brienzer Rothorn, Oeschinensee, Bern and much more. I can see why people return, there is a lot to do, the connections are seamless, and weather plays a big part in your actual itinerary. We met a lot of people that were repeat visitors.

...Also, seems sensible to split bases and adding Brienz or Meiringen to also include Gelmersee www.momstotszurich.com /2011/10/gelmebahn-steepest-funicular-in.html/ , the Trift bridge, the waterfalls and Aareschlucht walks, Postbus pass round trip….something I might add another time as it is over a 2 hour journey Wengen to Gelmerbahn. Quite time consuming from one base.

(leaving Wengen : used final day of BO pass, considered stopping at Wilderswil for Schynige Platte, but raining and fogged in, so opted to stop in Brienz instead, however very wet there too) then train to Luzern. Beautiful journey, via Brünig pass, forests, meadows, immaculate little towns (Lungern looked gorgeous, in a deep valley, turquoise lake, dramatic church, cute houses and gardens).

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 1:21 PM

Lucerne / Luzern : Sep 14th and 15th

Where we stayed:

Aldstadt Hotel Krone Apartmentsapartment-luzern.ch/

2N CHF 532 (good value in Weinmarkt square), inc breakfast A huge apartment, with lounge chairs, kitchenette, washing machine, in a historic building. Recommended.

What we did:

Lucerne has a compact, elegant old town, easy to walk the lovely lanes, riverside promenades, the covered bridges, the wall fortifications.

But we didn’t see any of that to begin with. Our arrival in mid afternoon was in very wet conditions, a bit dispiriting. Dragged our bags through the rain to the hotel.

Then a walk around to orientate ourselves. It is a difficult time to find a meal, between lunch and dinner with restaurants re-opening at 6 pm, when we had a light bulb moment. Our Manor store experience in Solothurn was triggered when we passed one while in desperate search for a meal.

We headed to the 5 th floor, and had a very welcome hot meal of mixed grill, vegetables, salad and a lassi (43 CHF for 2 meals and drinks). It’s not at all like the dodgy cafeteria that I am familiar with, this has comfortable seating, a variety of healthy food options, good prices. The upstairs terrace has amazing rooftop views, right across to the mountain peaks, on cue the sun came out, and Lucerne showed off. So pretty.

Fortified, I headed off to explore, while he relaxed in our expansive digs.

Picked him up, for an evening walk, then a glass of wine in a wine bar - we never do that at home.

Long sleep in, relaxed breakfast, then off for a lake cruise as it was a sunny day.

Opted for a 3 hour lake cruise (from riverbank near the train station), with ½ fare card we paid 69 CHF 1st class for 2 tickets ( Lucerne to Flüelen) as it looked packed.

The BAV at 11:12 is paddle steamer (when looking at schedules, the BAT is a regular boat) and it is a delightful journey, we enjoyed the slowness of it, the rich green hills, little towns, the soaring mountains.

Bought baguettes on board, others had a dining package. Chatted to a French Swiss group, 3 couples travelling together, as one spoke German, sharing stories and a few laughs.

www.myswissalps.com/bo atlakelucerne

We took the next train back, changing at Arth- Goldau (10 CHF each ½ fare) - another lovely journey, I could gaze at those hills and lakes forever. Meggen looks especially picturesque. This route goes via the Zugersee, so pretty.

Watched a bridal party try to juggle photos against the tide of selfie sticks back in Lucerne’s old town, and it was time for a drink...a dark beer for him, Aperol Spritz for me (17CHF) on the riverbank.

Had noted the Jialu National, Asian restaurant, in Haldenstrasse, for dinner, thinking we’d be ready for Chinese, but we returned to the Manor store, because it was early and their sun terrace was just divine on this balmy afternoon.

I had a duck breast, vegetables, bread roll, mango lassi (22 CHF) and he had a steak, vegetables, roll and glass wine (28 CHF), value meal with views to die for.

What we didn’t do: any mountain excursions, as priorities were a relaxing cruise and wandering a pretty city. Could base in Lucerne or a quieter, nearby town for a longer stay and enjoy mountains, lakes, walks, village hopping, it is a very scenic region.

Opted for Albula line route to Engadin (thanks rolandp954) marginally longer, but more scenic than Vereina line.

(leaving Luzern: 9.35 am train, change in Thalwil, Chur and St Moritz, all simple connections. Using ½ fare card = CHF 46.30 each) 4 ½ hours wonderful train ride.

Low hills, lake, then half hour after Thalwil, farms, light industry, forested hills, with very slight autumnal colour change, mountain scenery near Ziegelbrucke stop, the lovely Walensee. Much to enjoy in the journey.

And then, OMG, from Thusis the line follows a ravine, deep valley, mountains, forests, monastery?, little towns, castle ruins, then near Preda, snow (!) hooray, my first sighting of snow on pine trees.

Surely the most beautiful train ride ever.

Then stops at Samedan and Celerina before change to bus at St Moritz. While waiting in the rain at the St Moritz bus stop, we saw a yellow Ferrari zoom past us, before we jumped on our yellow bus, LOL. Quick 15 minute ride to lovely Sils Maria.

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 1:41 PM

Sils-Maria : Sep 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th

Where we stayed:

Hotel Seraina” via da Marias 37, www.hotel-seraina.ch/

5N, CHF 1660 including half board (CHF332PN ) room with balcony (not the cheapest option in this hotel). This was the most expensive of our stays per night; I was not ready to try a FeWo (wanted half board). Nice to have a holiday without the grocery shopping/ meal prep this time and husband likes to ‘mingle’ with people.

This hotel also offered the ‘free mountain railway and transport card’ which was useful for our various cablecar rides (3 cablecar rides would have cost CHF 84 each) and bus trips. Our spacious room had a mountain view, 2 tub chairs, table and more seating, very modern bathroom, underfloor heating, a heated towel rack (easy to dry our hand washed clothes). Overall, a wonderful splurge. Recommended.

On rental apartments: (This was an option I considered, www.en.e-domizil.ch/vacation-home/225563/holiday-apartment-chesa-alvatern-5-sils-maria-upper-engadine-engadine-switzerland/ or the ‘Chesa Munteratsch’ apartment, Silvaplana, or in Bever www.kubusre.ch/ferienw ohnungen-bever/ and I think we will try something like this on a future trip but instead based in the lower Engadin - read melnq8 ‘s TR’s on Fodor’s)

Sils was recommended on Tripadvisor by Hambagahle and Ingo in several postings, great choice (grateful thanks!) because, oh my, did I love Sils Maria!

www.sils.ch/en/your-stay/discover-sils/sils-and-its-hamlets.html

Elevation 1800m in the valley! Sils population 700. Situated between lakes, at base of mountains, cablecars nearby, a few shops and museums, on bus route, charming houses, town is off main road so is quiet, entrance to Fex valley, perfectly sited for our 4 full days of excursions. Sils Maria is so well connected with public transport, is a gorgeous village, has lovely hotels, yet few tourists compared to Bernese Oberland. So it is very peaceful and gentle and calm, without tour groups and crowds.

Many hotels offer a guest pass, often for local transport and/ or cablecars,-

Check which hotels participate www.engadin.stmoritz.c h/sommer/en/bergbahnen -inclusive/ There is a city tax which funds these passes.

Bus information: www.engadinbus.ch/buss top/SilsSegl_Maria_Pos ta.php

Interactive trail map here:

www.sils.ch/includes/m ap/?selected=hike&lang=en

Tripadvisor Engadin forum was invaluable (read lots of responses from Engadiner, Ingo, Hambagahle, swandav, melnq8).

What we did:

Our first afternoon, lovely glimpses of peaks, and some sun! Itching to explore this gorgeous area, we wandered to Sils Baselgia, lovely buildings, river, church, and soaring mountains sweeping up from the valley. Followed a path to the Chaste Peninsula with all the walkers enjoying the sun. Incredible. Had a beer in the Grond cafe (thanks hambagahle), checked out their menu, we will definitely be regulars.

Half board dinner...way too much food, soup, pork, spaetzle, brussels sprouts, we declined cheese plate/ dessert. Chatted to our neighbouring tables, my German getting better by the day. Then went for a brisk walk in the cold light rain, so refreshing after a heavy meal...got back to our room, to look out balcony and….snowing! Hooray. Could the day get any better?

The kids back home had been to grandma’s for dinner, and she sent them home with a lasagne and a cake, as well - hubby reckons they’re getting half board too.

Day 1:

Overcast in the morning, but forecast shows sun mid morning. Our hotel is right by the Sils Maria Posta bus stop, so jumped on the bus (free with pass) to Silvaplana (8 minute ride), what a bus ride..road wedged between mountain and lake, soaring mountains both sides of valley, pure joy, then walked toward the Schloss Crap da Sass, so picturesquely sited by the lake. Early morning calm waters, snow on mountains, blue sky. Perfect.

Walked up to Corvatschbahn (free with pass) for an amazing cablecar ride to Murtel, over pine trees, then snow covered pine trees, then above tree line, with a lake and mountain panorama that is unbelievable. Lots of snow up on Corvatsch, so a few photo ops, before back to Murtel station, again, a lot of snow, so no chance for us to walk to Fuorcla Surlej. Never mind, we returned by bus to Sils Maria and had pizzocheri for lunch at Grond cafe, a hearty regional dish, quite rich and sustaining. We sat in the sun, enjoying the moment.

Took a walking trail that lead us along a gorge, very pretty, a waterfall and a few switchbacks uphill, then enters the Val Fex. Again, so lovely. It’s such a peaceful place, and such stunning beauty at every turn.

Coffee and nusstorte back at Grond cafe, to celebrate.

Tonight’s dinner was more controlled, we make our choices at breakfast for dinner that night, so we shared a salad (fresh fig, raspberries, green salad, feta..really nice combination), both had the duck breast, pasta, beans (excellent), shared a mousse dessert. Waiter seemed concerned we chose so little (!) or maybe he thought we misunderstood the ordering system. No way could we eat the full meal. Chatting to our fellow diners, all European.

Day 2:

The bus was late! We could sense the agitation at the stop. Despite best efforts of the driver, he was unable to make up the time and we missed our connecting train (hourly), so had an unplanned look at St Moritz, nice location with a lake and mountains, but busy with a lot of ugly buildings. No charm. So happy in Sils Maria.

Decided to just have a slow day after a late start and the missed train, so did the Morteratsch glacier walk. An easy 50 minute walk, but we were enjoying ourselves with lots of stops to watch the changing pattern of sun and cloud playing on the mountains, and a nusstorte break. A wonderful walk, interesting facts on posts en route, spectacular sight, we could see and hear occasional rockfalls as we sat and marvelled at the glacier.

Our returning train to St Moritz was filled with tour groups, so glad we don’t travel this way. No improvisation, no spontaneity.

I have added photos of the information boards at the Sils Maria Posta stop, just to highlight how easy it all is with public transport. The announcements forewarn of stops and connections.

Had a mid afternoon bowl of gesternsuppe (barley soup) on a sunny terrace as we missed lunch.

I sit in my hotel room writing my diary, sun pouring in, mountain view right there. Incredible.

Went for a walk pre dinner, admiring the charming homes, the now fading flowerboxes, the elderly going for their evening stroll, the gentle late afternoon light on the mountains, and boy, was it fresh….that breeze is icy. Winters must be ferocious here.

Tonight was the first time we regretted half board and not opting out… luckily due to being lost in translation we both received soup as a starter, as main was pizzocheri (yep, had that yesterday) too cheesy and rich, and neither of us felt like it, had not ordered anything after but was served a cheese plate and a dessert, so we picked at those until we were sated. So all ok in the end. But we could have just ordered off restaurant menu.

Day 3:

Today was a bucket list item for me...day trip to Soglio

As most mornings, our surrounding mountains start the day hidden under cloud, then slowly reveal themselves throughout the day. They tease us.

We took the bus that heads to Chiavenna, needing to change in Promontogno (free with hotel pass).

Quite grim and windy, really cold. Our bus filled with older walkers. Once past Maloja, the hairpin road is really dramatic, something out of Top Gear. Amazing driving skills. Wonderful valley views, and the full sized bus nearly takes out the windboxed geraniums on its’ way through the narrow lanes of these little hamlets. Vicosoprano looks lovely. The devastating landslides near Promotogno evident as we pass through.

Arrival at Soglio is via the mini bus that takes us back up a mountain. What a village. Stone houses, barns, meadows, on a mountain, surrounded by mountains. A step back in time. Very picturesque. Oh, but living here in winter, can’t imagine.

We wandered in a few different directions, a number of hiking options possible from here. We had an excellent lunch at Palazzo Salis (2x lamb bratwurst, cabbage salad, fried potatoes, Aperol spritz, beer, 2 coffees 67CHF), and visited their garden terrace. See

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/trip-report-bregaglia-valley-soglio for useful tips.

Back in Sils Maria...snow! Wonderful.

A group at our hotel are cousins (from Germany and Switzerland) who meet here every year for their catch up, what a fabulous tradition. We compared our days, they were happy we had such a fantastic day. Funny how we get joy out of other people’s delight.

Day 4:

We thought the 6 lakes walk from Furtschellas might be tricky, given the snow line we could see from the bus, and the helpful TI confirmed this. So we walked to Isola, a tiny farming hamlet, then on to Maloja, took about 2 hours. Just stunning, as the trail follows the lake and occasionally offers elevated views, the mountains and lake constantly in sight.

Checked the bus timetable at Maloja Posta stop, so we had a clear idea of timing. Then sat in the sun terrace of the Schweizerhaus, as they were bbq-ing bratwurst and hubby was lured in. Delicious lunch for me was a rösti, egg, bacon, very calorific and scrumptious (2 meals and drinks, 68 CHF)

TI informed us of damage to the Bernina train track, 2 days to repair, so our planned regional train ride will need to be changed to a shuttle bus instead, Pontresina to Poschiavo. Disappointing as it is one of the world’s great train rides.

What we didn’t do: Original plan...was to visit the Lower Engadin..and fortunately I was very gently steered away from my over ambitious plan (thanks, Engadiner, for reminding me to enjoy the beauty at my doorstep, rather than trying to squeeze too much in).

Another trip with a Scuol base might be in the future, and of course, a return to Sils Maria, which I felt enormously sad on leaving.

5 nights was too little (only 4 full days) for upper Engadin, much of interest to us in the area…lots of walks and charming towns in this area. But we achieved a fabulous ‘taster’ visit of the region.

Leaving Switzerland - Bernina route:

Even though we were diverted from this route, it is worth noting that it is not necessary to do Bernina Express, the regional train covers same route, more often and you can alight where you like, eg an hour between trains so stop at Ospizio Bernina and just walk around that lake a bit, or stop at Alp Grüm for lunch, or Poschiavo. Don’t have to whizz through. Some of the best advice we read: slow down and enjoy it.

(leaving Sils: usual route would be bus to St Moritz, train to Tirano ½ fare= CHF20, what an incredible fare for one of the most scenic journeys in the world!), it will have to go back on my bucket list.

After some thought, I reconsidered our route and returned to the TI to see if they could confirm if the Palm Express via Maloja and Chiavenna, might be a better option for us, given the problems with the train line. Fortunately, the once a day bus had availability, and we were booked (22 CHF each, half fare). A much simpler journey of a single 2 hour bus ride to Gera Lario on Lake Como, near our next bnb, where our hosts would pick us up.

And a stunning bus ride it was, after the repeat ride to Promotogno, which we did en route to Soglio the other day (hairpin roads, lovely villages, steep mountains), the bus continued on to Chiavenna in Italy where we had a short break. I bolted into the old town, for a quick look. A substantial town, looked interesting.

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 2:01 PM

Italy:

Trezzone : Sep 21st, 22nd, 23rd

Where we stayed:

“Villa Tres Jolie” www.villatresjolie.com /eng/

3N, € 390 (deluxe rooms, wonderful views, quite luxurious with indulgent massage type shower jet fittings, lovely timber, a library, sunny terrace with views, a communal hot tub, welcoming hosts, recommended - just not suitable for mobility impaired).

Admittedly, not most people’s choice for a first visit to Lake Como as it is northern end, not mid lake. The village of Trezzone sits high above the lake, as does the bnb, which has wonderful views. The town below, Gera Lario, was also described as a village, but in reality, the villages have kind of merged, with the limited land between lake and mountain.

I walked up the old mule track behind the bnb to Trezzone’s church, wedged on the steep hillside, the homes have very steep and angled driveways, the narrow roads have no footpaths. Some large homes, rambling gardens, animals (even our bnb has a horse, 3 goats, chickens, a few sheep, dogs, a cat).

We walked downhill to the lakeside village of Sorico, about 45 minutes, for dinner, and it was not apparent to us where any village ended and the next began. The main road servicing these towns this end of the lake is busy and very narrow, we walked it partly, to dinner, an occasional tiny footpath would disappear and we’d risk our lives crossing to the other side. Crumbling churches, old villas, apartments, lots of traffic, just on this thin strip of flat land.

We dined at Hotel Europa, our host recommending and booking it for us. Not a restaurant with a menu, the waiter tells you what ‘Mamma’ has cooked today (several choices). We had home made courgette stuffed tortellini with tomato sauce, so good and simple, not heavy. A pre dinner drink and a carafe of red wine. We were offered dessert and I said I was scared to walk home in the dark so perhaps we would not linger (no street lights and no footpaths up our very steep and narrow road to bnb) and the waiter offered to drive us home!

So, we stayed for dessert! Mamma’s tiramisu for me, pistachio something for him, an espresso each… €42! We are definitely no longer in Switzerland! And then we were driven home (we did pay him, of course, but he was embarrassed by this, saying that he had offered - not for money).

Day 1:

Sunny day, gentle breeze. Lovely breakfast on terrace with other guests. Most have cars and our host spends much of the breakfast period helping guests plan their days.

We were given a map and instructions on a hike to the upper medieval village of Trezzone on the old mule track. Lots of steep climbing and steps, wonderful lake views, then the tiny warren of lanes through this little hamlet. A communal medieval laundry, old stone buildings, steep vegetable gardens clinging to the hillside, chicken runs, then a walk through a chestnut forest, eventually leading to Vercana, and fortunately had a map with instructions on wandering its’ tiny laneways. Easy to miss if you don’t know it is there. Tiny, steeply terraced vineyards, I guess no machinery can get access to assist, what hard labour. So interesting and beautiful.

After about 3 hours of hiking and sore feet from those rough mule track cobbles, we arrived in Domaso (quick peek in the church), finding a restaurant on the foreshore. A very welcome pasta and fish lunch, salad, wine, beer, espresso (€65).

No way were we walking home! Only 1 road in and out, so we hunted down a bus stop and timetable, eventually catching the correct bus from Domaso to Gera Lario, but forgetting that one buys tickets at the tabacci. Oh, well, he let us on anyway. A steep climb back up the hill to our bnb, we took the shortcut and were met by the owner’s goats.

We signed up for the in house dinner tonight, no more walking for us.

Tomorrow is market day in Morbegno, and we were offered a lift by our wonderful hosts.

By the way, Giulio cooked dinner...14 of us around communal tables, (bruschetta, smoked meats, some type of frittata, lasagna, tiramisu) loud and fun.

Day 2:

Morbegno

Our hosts visit the Saturday market in Morbegno, so we hitched a ride. In the back of the jeep, their dog on my lap, the neighbour nonna in the front.

Morbegno has a great cheese store in Piazza Marconi, a must see, can wander downstairs where the huge rounds are stored, wonderful pasta selection, oils, salamis. The market was a small local one, we bought a roast chicken and some greens for our dinner. Then a wander through the old town, the charming shuttered old buildings picturesque to look at, but probably not that easy to live in...we noticed a lot empty and obviously the modern new apartments more comfortable.

Delicious bruschetta and tagliatelle with mushrooms for me, ravioli for him, 2 wines and espressos (€ 42) at the Osteria San Giovanni.

Other guests from the bnb had headed there too as we all discuss our plans over breakfast, so we returned with another couple, visiting the val Masino and its’ rock climbing area, and the little town of San Martino. Soaring mountains, really beautiful.

Yet again, our hosts go above and beyond, and will drive us to Colico train station in the morning, for our next journey to Bergamo.

We didn’t do any of the usual destinations on Lake Como, but it is a really beautiful, interesting area to the north, and we had a wonderful visit. But credit to our hosts, without a car there are limits to one’s exploring, and Dani spends much of every morning assisting guests with maps, ideas, and in our case, rides.

So, a jeep ride to Colico by Giulio, then train to Lecco, then Bergamo. This time we remembered to buy tickets at tabbachi and validate before boarding (about €7 each).

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 2:13 PM

Bergamo : Sep 24th and 25th

Where we stayed

“BnB San Lorenzo” via San Lorenzo 6 / via Gombito 4 sanlorenzobnb.com/?lang=en

2N, € 268

An old apartment divided into 3 rooms for this bnb, we had a large bedroom, tiny balcony, sofa, shared dining and lounge room, at the corner of busy via Gombito and via San Lorenzo, but quiet at night, excellent breakfast served in the common area, recommended.

What we did:

I loved Volterra (2 nights last year) and wanted a similar experience in an Italian hilltop town.

Easy walk from Bergamo train station to the funicular, huge crowds though, it is Sunday so on top of the throngs of tourists, the Italians come up to Citta Alta for lunch and a stroll.

Our bnb is on a main thoroughfare, but quiet once you get behind those courtyard doors. There is a landscaping/ garden event on as well, not sure if that accounts for the hordes or if this is the usual Sunday.

In any case, we found a lunch spot, Trattoria da Ornella, and had a delicious lunch of chicken and polenta, salad, penne amatriciana, wine, a beer, 2 espresso (€57). It was noisy with an Italian family gathering, an almost open kitchen, tiny tables, loud staff - fun vibe, and so different to our dinners in Sils Maria where we felt like we were in a library or church (an observation, not a criticism).

The following day was a slow day just wandering the Citta Alta and walked the walls, took the funicular to San Vigilio - we are winding down and ready to go home.

Chatted to a Romanian born young woman, life so very difficult in Romania, low pay even as a police officer (her brother). She is very grateful her parents left for Italy when she was 9, all are working and established now but her brother stayed behind. Her parents will receive an acceptable Italian pension, while her brother will always struggle financially, even while working.

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 2:22 PM

Malpensa : Sep 26th

Where we stayed

I Castagnie www.icastagni-bb.it/

1N, € 70

Family run bnb, near Malpensa, a 10 minute shuttle run to airport (pick up from train station was offered), well reviewed, spacious room, spotless.

Really good dinner nearby at Osteria della Pista, pizza and a grilled seafood platter, potatoes, grilled vegetables, bottle wine.

Driven to Malpensa next morning where the fun began.

Check in was simple, security not too bad, but passport control was a shambles. No queue control and a sheer mass of humanity, people walking straight past those in ‘queue’ and being yelled at, most returning to end of line.

Inching forward, tension building. Certainly some of the late comers trying to cut in the line had large duty free shopping bags, probably misjudged timing with their shopping. A few walked right to the front waving their boarding passes, indicating they were running late, a roaring crowd preventing them from pushing in.

Some were more subtle, trying to duck under the barrier, but were also being pushed back.

It was pretty ugly. I noticed those alongside us had boarding passes with boarding time of 11:25am and it was already 12:15. Yikes. More than a few missed flights, I would guess.

Arriving in Singapore was great - efficient, calm, quiet, reminded me of Switzerland 😀

Funny, when we were in Italy, the locals we were chatting to were getting stuck into the Swiss (“they’re uptight”, “don’t know how to have fun”, “they have watches - but we have time”..) but we were in awe of the Swiss efficiency, precision, ease of transport, charm. Easy for travellers, in any case.

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 2:31 PM

Budget:

There’s no denying that Switzerland is eye wateringly expensive. Once I started checking prices, I decided we were not going to agonise about the costs. So, a few hints, but no grand ideas on how to visit Switzerland on a budget (sorry).

Use www.sbb.ch/ticketshop/ b2c/ to calculate point to point fares and cablecar costs (remember that fares shown default to half fare card price).

Here is a good example of how to compare passes, where the OP ‘did the maths’

https://www.tripadviso r.com.au/ShowTopic-g188085-i1786-k10795221-Seems_like_HFC_is_the_ way_to_go-Wengen_Jungfrau_Region _Bernese_Oberland_Cant on_of_Bern.html

www.myswissalps.com/tr ain/ticketspasses/prac tical/chooserailpass

Our full fare train journeys came to 452CHF. + Luzern boat cruise full fare 45CHF

The one month half fare card is valid for train trips plus most cablecars (check exclusions)

Purchase cost of 1 month ½ fare card = 120CHF (so if point to point full fare is over 240CHF it is worth it)

Our costs using ½ fare card cost = 120CHF + 248CHF= 368CHF (compared to full fare 497HF)

We could have simply continued to use the half fare card in the Bernese Oberland, however, with 7 full days and daily excursions planned, the Bernese Oberland pass for 8 days @ 265CHF (reduced price as holder of half fare card) was also worth purchasing (in our case) for flexibility (no queuing and could repeat the excursion if weather poor without considering price) and the high cost of some of the cablecar outings from Wengen (half fare cost of Wengen-First-Grindelwald-Wengen is 83CHF and Wengen-Interlaken-Meiringen-Grindelwald-Wengen is 68CHF and Rothorn/ Brienz cruise day out is about 80CHF).

Divided up into 8 days the BO pass came to 33CHF per day. Had we been less relaxed about our sightseeing, I guess we would have ticked off more outings on my list and had even better value from it. I was happy with our choice, we just jumped on trains and gondolas wherever we wanted, no tickets to purchase.

Obviously the value of the half fare card is lessened by not using it in BO but still paid for itself just on train journeys outside the Bernese Oberland.

Food: great breakfasts at hotels/ cheap food options at Coop and Migros (for picnic food / ready made salads / or self serve restaurants) and ‘wurst’ houses/ half board at hotels (Hotel Alpenrose charges only 20CHF for set dinner!)/ fill up drinking water at fountains/ buy at fresh produce street markets and have a picnic/ lunch at a restaurant is cheaper than dinner/ train station food is amazing...we bought baguettes for our lunches while passing through

Hotels: mostly used booking.com

Hotels total cost: Switzerland 18 days = 5344CHF or average 300CHF per day (some days ½ board)

There seems to be excellent value hostels in prime locations as a budget alternative (for example the hostel in Scuol offers a twin share room at 60CHF pp) or private rentals (eg e-domizil, homeaway) and cheaper hotels in slightly less prime tourist locations.

Not having heard of dynamic currency conversion until I read about it on Fodors, I noticed that every Swiss hotel ‘offered’ payment in Australian $ as default option, had to scroll down to pay in CHF.

Some of the resources used:

Fodor's,, Tripadvisor and My Swiss Alps forums (and trip reports on all forums). Lots of reliable ‘regulars’ on these forums (Hambaghale, Ingo, pore, swandav, mel, neckervd, Alpenrose…..etc) easy to ‘build’ an itinerary on their many postings alone.

Requested Wengen based travel tips document from Kim on Tripadvisor, she will email it to you :

https://www.tripadviso r.com.au/ShowTopic-g188085-i1786-k7792090-Wengen_day_Trips-Wengen_Jungfrau_Region _Bernese_Oberland_Cant on_of_Bern.html (click on her screen name and send a private message, - don’t post your email address on public forum!) Lots of useful information on here.

It is also available on myswissalps here : www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/tips-about-wengen-and-the-jungfrau-region-by-kim but you need to login to view it, simple to register.

More on transport

www.seat61.com/Swiss-trains.htm Great site

When checking sbb site for timetables, there are the ‘via’ options, so if one connection seems tight, try other routes, eg a default route Luzern to Sils Maria had a change to bus in Celerina, but on checking Google Earth there was a bit of a walk from train station to bus stop with a short transit time, too risky for me, given we might walk in wrong direction, so I tried via St Moritz knowing the bus stop was right by the bahnhof.

My Swiss Alps website has sample itineraries and scenic train rides summary

www.myswissalps.com/pl antrip/doityourself/sa mpleitineraries

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

neckervd’s many posts are a great resource for route options….makes suggestions for stops in these threads on scenic train routes

www.fodors.com/communi ty/europe/swiss-panoramic-train-route.cfm

www.fodors.com/communi ty/europe/chur-or-st-moritz.cfm

Bernese Oberland Pass validity:

www.myswissalps.com/re gionalpassberneseoberl and/validity

Postbus options: great thread started by Pal….consider this option for a ‘rest’ day or if unable to hike much :

www.fodors.com/communi ty/europe/switzerlands -iconic-postal-busesa-whole-different-switzerland.cfm

Alpenrose's TR here:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/postbus-through-four-passes-of-the-central-alps

(…while too long a day from Wengen (another 90mins) but if closer eg Brienz, or in Meiringen, this would be a great day). (BTW, If based here, another wishlist item..the Trift bridge.)

kja’s excellent TR:

www.fodors.com/communi ty/europe/my-delightful-sampling-of-switzerlands-gems-with-many-thanks.cfm

lake cruises:

(remember ‘See’ = lake) use sbb timetable as well for boat cruise timetable eg “Brienz (See)” to “Interlaken Ost (See)”. The icon will be a boat.

Walks:

We both bought hiking boots for this trip, lightweight, good ankle support, warm, waterproof, not expensive. Some unusual footwear choices seen on some trails. Seems risky. A sprained ankle would ruin a holiday.

So many great resources on the trails-

YouTube videos, loads of them, see trails for yourself

www.walkingswitzerland .com/ dropdown menu showing regions and graded walks, ascent/descent, time, photos (a great site)

www.wanderland.ch/en/l ocal-routes/route-0351.html this website links to local transport for planning

www.maennlichen.ch/en/ wengenmaennlichen-aerial-cableway.html itemizes cablecar prices and combines with walks, again, great for planning.

Blogs with photos of walk trails : I don’t enjoy difficult hikes with steep drop offs or ridge walks, so used these to select easy to moderate graded walks.

heiligenschwendiholida y.blogspot.com.au/2014 /06/day-69-meiringen-rosenlaui.html

universal-mixer.blogspot.com.au/ 2013/08/bathing-in-sun-on-mannlichen.html

www.momstotszurich.com /category/region/jungf rau-region/ ...while this blog is aimed at families, it is really useful for viewing the trails and assessing suitability, a lovely read, so nice to see families enjoying the outdoors with their kids, too

https://www.tripadviso r.com.au/ShowTopic-g188085-i1786-k4479204-Hikes-Wengen_Jungfrau_Region _Bernese_Oberland_Cant on_of_Bern.html#332593 18

Swiss heaven’s trip report : day by day account, really helpful to get a sense of how to coordinate excursions https://www.tripadviso r.com.au/ShowTopic-g188085-i1786-k9859471-Diary_of_my_visit_to_W engen-lWengen_Jungfrau_Regio n_Bernese_Oberland_Can ton_of_Bern.html

A family holiday based in Wengen:

ukfrey.blogspot.com.au /2013/07/switzerland-week-in-wengen-hiking.html

Mel’s TR:

www.fodors.com/communi ty/europe/a-winter-wander-engadine-and-berner-oberland.cfm

other nice blogs/ posts

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/tripreports.

www.world-citizen-trail.net/guarda-to-ardez-a-hike-in-the-beautiful-lower-engadine-valley-in-Switzerland/

steverabone.com/more%2 0swiss%20walks/ospizio _bernina_to_alp_gr%C3% BCm.htm

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/scuol

www.fodors.com/communi ty/europe/graubunden-exploring-pontresina-sils-poschiavo-zernez-guarda-scuol.

www.andrewswalks.co.uk /alpgrum.html

ikeikedondon.com/e_ike don_top_swiss2-20.html

www.lonelyplanet.com/t horntree/forums/europe -western-europe/switzerland/tri p-report-two-weeks-in-switzerland

Joseantonio's photos :

www.pbase.com/joseanto nio/switzerland2013 and

www.pbase.com/joseanto nio/switzerland2014

Local weather:

www.engadin.stmoritz.c h/sommer/en/#weather

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 2:32 PM

It was a wonderful holiday, hope my report is helpful to others 😀

Lucas
Lucas
8909 posts
expert &
moderator
Sep 30, 2017 - 3:16 PM in reply to Adelaidean

Hi Adelaidean!

Thanks for your very thorough trip report - it sounds like a great trip!

I'm sure many members will get a lot of useful information from your report! :)

rockoyster
rockoyster
3924 posts
expert
Sep 30, 2017 - 8:46 PM in reply to Adelaidean

Wow, ripper report and photo gallery Adelaidean. That’s really “paying it forward”! Glad you had a great trip and sorry about the Crows. 😢😢

Last modified on Sep 30, 2017 - 8:46 PM by rockoyster
Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 11:05 PM in reply to rockoyster

Thanks, rockoyster.

Travelling in football finals season has been interesting, I would be gazing in awe at mountains at a berghaus, only to find hubby on his phone checking the footy scores 😂

Removed user
Removed user
0 posts
new member
Oct 29, 2017 - 4:51 AM in reply to Adelaidean

Hi Adelaidean,

At long last I have found the time to read your fantastic trip report! Thank you for going into so much detail - it was very useful and your descriptions really conjured up wonderful images of your experiences! It was a pleasure browsing through your lovely photos too. You have opened my eyes to the beauty of Solothurn, and I hope to include it in a future trip.

Enjoyed reading about the regional specialties you tried. One I had quite a few times was "Älplermagronen", also known as "Älpler Makkaroni" - apparently a staple for farmers staying up on the alpine meadows with their cows in summer. It's definitely filling and keeps you going all day! One of the stranger flavour combinations I came across was "Hörnli mit Gehacktem und Apfelmus": a macaroni-type pasta with a tomato-based mince sauce and a side of apple puree!

www.sagacook.ch/sites/ default/files/images/H %C3%B6rnli%2BGhacktes. jpg

Your comings and goings in the Jungfrau Region certainly made good use of the flexibility of the Regional-Pass Bernese Oberland. It's great being able to do repeat trips on mountain transport for weather or other reasons without having to think twice about the cost. We used the Hiking and Sledging Pass in the Jungfrau Region last Christmas, which offers that same flexibility in the winter, and found it fantastic.

I can see why you loved Sils Maria! I made a special effort to go back to Sils from St Moritz (where I was staying), having fallen in love with it on the way through in the Palm Express bus. I enjoyed some coffee and Engadinertorte at the Grond Bäckerei Café too - nice to hear about your experience there, and how popular it is with others.

You're right about the comparison of costs and value-for-money between Switzerland and Australia, and that holds for food, accommodation and transport.

Glad you enjoyed your trip on Singapore Airlines. Going to Europe from Australia via Singapore with Singapore Airlines is now my favoured way of getting to Europe. I have been via Dubai with Qantas and Emirates, but really dislike that enormous airport in Dubai, the long walks along convoluted routes inside the terminal to transfer between flights, and the long layovers in the middle of the night. Transferring in Singapore is a doddle by comparison and the scale and layout of the airport much more congenial in my opinion.

Once again, thanks for the time and effort you put into your trip report, and for the many useful tips you have provided for other travellers!

I would be interested to hear more details about your walk to Staubbachbänkli in Wengen - e.g. gradient, views, time it took.

By the way, you mentioned some "water repellant, comfortable stretch pants". Where did you buy them, and what brand are they?

Alpenrose

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
107 posts
active member
Oct 29, 2017 - 9:13 AM in reply to Removed user

Hi Alpenrose, nice to know someone else read my report, LOL, perhaps it was too long and I put people off....😀

"Staubbachbänkli in Wengen - e.g. gradient, views, time it took"..... This is an easy, flat walk, maybe 30 minutes ? We had planned to eat at Mary's cafe but it was closed, nothing else in that direction, so we were a bit hungry, and went back to town for a late lunch. Very lovely views.

The pants were a real winner, I bought them at Kathmandu, I asked for water repellant pants, these are stretchy, so comfortable, maybe $80?, and I think I wore them every day, once with leggings underneath. Dry quickly after washing, too, so really didn't wear my others.

Yes, Singapore Airlines were competitive on price and the long layover really worked for us, that nap in the Transit Hotel made the flights so much more bearable. Last year we went with Qatar, and that was fine, but it felt endless with the back to back flights.

I think next time will be a more budget trip (this was a significant birthday splurge), and have noted your hostels. Scuol is on my radar. And probably Pontresina, to get to some of the other things on my list that we missed.

Sils Maria was my favourite place ever, if I win the lottery, my holiday home will be there 😂

Mark
Mark
192 posts
active member
Oct 29, 2017 - 10:26 PM

Hello Adelaidean, I enjoyed your post very much. It was apparent you put a lot of effort in researching and planning your trip which paid off handsomely. I too have found myswissalps and trip advisor web sites to be very helpful. Although i have used Fodors guidebooks before, I haven't used their website. Did you find it very useful?

There were several things about your post that resonated with me. First, we travelers are at the mercy of the weather and being flexible and having a plan B is a must. I was in Switzerland this past September as well. Ten of us stayed in Wengen and Riffelalp in early Sept. and had good weather but you never know. We hiked in the Della Valley, Gemmi, and Hahenmoos passes in Switzerland a few years ago and had mostly clouds and drizzle for a week. Not much of a view was to be had. But fun is mostly a state of mind and my memories are good, just not what we had hoped for. Second, I was impressed by your overall positive attitude , which really makes traveling enjoyable. When traveling, I try to be courteous and polite and I've found most everyone reciprocates. When visiting New York and Paris, we had only good experiences and found the locals to be very helpful and friendly, not at all surly as some in US fear. Last, like you, I think the best way to experience a country is walking and hiking the countryside, especially in smaller less crowed areas if possible . We live near The Great Smokey Mountains National Park and a recent survey found that 90% of visitors never get over 100 yards from a road. Crazy! I can still do the occasional 12 mile day hike but after 64 years of wear and tear and several surgeries, I'm also content with the 4-5 miler. I believe Riffelalp and especially Wengen fit our needs perfectly. It sounds like Sils Maria might fit the bill equally well. How did you think Sils Maria compared to Wengen and the Bernese Oberland Alps?

In closing, you mentioned some places you considered but didn't visit for various reasons. If you should return to Wengen you might reconsider if possible. One was the trail from Bachalpsee to Waldspitz. We thought it was one of the prettiest sections, see attached photo. Another was the trail from First to Grosse Scheidegg,again see photo. Last the clifftop trail on Schynige Platte may have the best vistas of all. On a pretty day, I think it is in the top 5 vistas in the world and the attached photo doesn't come close to doing it justice. (strictly personal opinion of course) Last you might also like hiking the Eiger Trail, we prefer the downhill route. Mark

Please login to see the attached documents
Mittens
Mittens
33 posts
active member
Oct 30, 2017 - 1:47 AM in reply to Adelaidean

Wow Adelaidean, what a fabulous report. Sils Maria has just been put on my list. Are you an experienced hiker? We are not. The English word 'ramble' describes us- or perhaps 'amble' might be more truthful. Love great scenery though. Thank you for sharing such practical tips too. On that note, do you recall the brand of your hiking boots? Have already noted the waterproof trousers.

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