Basel to Brig
After arriving at Frankfurt Airport (if you are wondering why we arrived at Frankfurt in order to visit Switzerland see www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/the-reluctant-travellers-swiss-adventure) we hopped on an ICE train to Basel. Pretty soon we were doing 250Kph. We only did that in a few bursts (most of the time we were only doing 160kph) but it was still cool.
We arrived at the GAIA Hotel in Basel just before 1.00pm, or 38 hours after walking out of our front door in Australia. If we managed three hours sleep in that time I’d be surprised; bleary-eyed but determined to stay awake until the evening in order to get our body clocks adjusted to local time.
First mission was to find the local Salt Store to buy one of their super-bargain pre-pay SIMs. We ventured forth into the pouring rain (see photo #1) armed with umbrellas and a Google Maps print-out of directions. Five minutes later we were lost.
A couple of Entschuldigen Sies later and the friendly locals had us back on track. At the Salt Store I handed over my CHF10 and Pascal installed the SIM and tweaked a few settings. He promised the data connection would spring into life within 30 minutes - it did. Want to know more about the Salt SIM? See www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/around-switzerland-via-stp-flex-and-sbb-mobile-app
Straight across the road from the Salt Store was a tourist information centre where we picked up a city map. Within minutes we arrived at the impressive Münster (www.basel.com/en/Media /Attractions/Sightseei ng/Basler-Muenster). We wandered around the old city for few hours and also enjoyed exploring the food stores, bakeries and chocolate shops (photo #5).
Then back to the hotel picking up a few essentials (beer, wine and something to eat for dinner) on the way. The rain stopped as we arrived back at the hotel. It was the last rain we saw for nearly three weeks. We lasted until 7.00pm then crashed for ten hours and awoke feeling remarkably bright. Jet-lag? What jet-lag?
Breakfast at the GAIA was superb. During a brief stroll through a residential part of town I snapped a few modes of transport (photos #2,#3, #4).
We had originally planned two nights in Basel to recover from the flight before pressing on to Brig to meet the Glacier Express. But in a last moment decision we decided to spend our second night at Interlaken so that we could do a brief reconnaissance of that area in anticipation of a future more extended stay in the Jungfrau Region.
On the regional express train from Basel to Luzern the conductor checked our Swiss Travel Passes and welcomed us from “down under”. Turned out he had spent a couple of years in Perth in his younger days. He returned later with another conductor who wanted to know if you could see the South Pole from Tasmania. "Only on a clear day” we told him. Being of Italian descent he offered us some words of wisdom on Lugano and Locarno. What a pair of lads. All in all it was a most pleasant introduction to our very first SBB train.
At Luzern we joined the Luzern - Interlaken Express, the first leg of the famous Golden Pass route. We had reserved seats in 1st Class. Whilst it was nice to see our names up in lights on the electronic sign above our seats we needn’t have bothered; the carriage (photo #6) only had three other passengers! This was good as I was able to leap from side to side taking photos (none of which came out all that well but see photos #7, #8 taken alongside Lake Brienz).
After checking in at the Hotel du Lac, a few metres from the Interlaken Ost station and the Lake Brienz ferry terminal, we took a stroll along the river into town. Interlaken is VERY touristy. The walk along the river is delightful but the town itself didn’t do it for us despite the squadrons of para-gliders landing in the village park. On the way back we found a large COOP open, despite it being Sunday, and determined to return there later to buy dinner. Big mistake - on Sunday they close at 5.30pm! Fortunately there was also a mini COOP at the station and despite being packed out enabled us to acquire the essentials (beer, wine and something for dinner). Anyone detecting a theme here.
Breakfast the following morning was a delight. The dining room overlooked the river and we had a Lake Brienz ferry tied up alongside our table (photo #12).
Later we set off for Lauterbrunnen, then the cable car to Grütschalp and the cog-railway (photos #9, #10) to Mürren(photo #11). We had thought of taking the cable car to Schilthorn but the peak was covered in cloud and as we were pressed for time we took the two cable cars down to Gimmelwald and Stechelberg. From there we took the bus back to Lauterbrunnen and train to Interlaken Ost. The Swiss Travel Pass was working well - no tickets to buy! That circuit was a real highlight; apart from the cloud atop Schilthorn the weather was perfect.
Next the train to Spiez along the shores of Lake Thun and a connection to the Lötschberger Express to Brig via Kandersteg. This is a lovely scenic route and avoids the long tunnel on the faster route via Visp. Note: The Lötschberger arrived at Spiez from Bern. Half the carriages went on to Brig and half to Zweisimmen. Make sure you get on the correct half of the train - it is well signposted.
Brig is a gem (photos #13, #14)! It was not what we expected but absolutely charmed us; we even thought we had found somewhere offering free beer (photo #15).
Our room at the quaint Hotel Victoria had a verandah, overlooking the Glacier Express station, from which we watched the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn trains coming and going to Zermatt (photo #16).
We had dinner at Pension Matza because it looked jolly and we had seen people eating pizza there earlier in the day. The proprietor assured us their Italian chef made the best pizzas in Switzerland. Having been in Switzerland for less than three days we found it hard to argue. They were pretty good (but one between two would have been plenty).
Coming up next, To Lugano via the Panoramics . . . . .