eurotrippin’ in switzerland (day 3)

Day 3 began as Days 1 and 2 hadn’t—sleeping in. Instead of waking up to the first of many hours of Swiss sunshine, all three of us decided to skip the early bird routine and wake up late. As a result, by the time we were awake, we just about had enough time to make it to the complimentary breakfast that was provided by the Hotel Rebstock (which ran till 11am).

Breakfast consisted of mostly the same things that were available in Wilderswil, in addition to fresh(ish) eggs. There was a full-time “egg cooker”-slash-everything-else-do-er who was preparing eggs and adding them to a serving area. If you were quick enough to place your plate before the serving area, you would get a fresh serving of eggs. There were omelettes, fried eggs and scrambled eggs as well as fried sausages. The breakfast was probably better than the one available at Hotel Baeren.

Once we were done with breakfast, the parents decided to take a walk outside (this was mainly my Dad wanting to go out for a walk, then guilt-tripping my mom and failing to guilt-trip me). As a result, I had to stay in the room (which had to be locked from the inside) till they returned while doing nothing. The hotel had free wireless in the library, which was a room complete with an internet-connected laptop that had an absolutely unusable European keyboard. Luckily, the room had wireless as well (in fact the whole hotel, apart from our 13th century room, did) so I was able to use the internet on my iPod touch. By the way, it is sad if a keyboard is unversatile enough that I prefer an iPod touch to it.

After mucking about on the internet, checking email and Racing Live, and various other useless social networks, I grudgingly headed up to the room and waited. Swiss television isn’t anything to write home about, which is something I figured out during the next 30 minutes. Finally, the parents returned with gifts in tow, where gifts consisted of shopping for themselves. J I think there was some chocolate, but the main focus was a small cuckoo clock with Swiss elements on it. As we have found out since, the clock chimes “Cuckoo! (cuckoo)” (the parentheses indicate an “echo” effect) every hour much like a normal cuckoo clock and it is as annoying as a normal one, as well. =D

Once the parents returned from the shopping expedition, we decided to go ahead and do the Mount Pilatus tour. The recommended way of doing the Mount Pilatus tour is to take a boat to the bottom of Mount Pilatus (a place called Alpnachstad), followed by a “cog-wheel train” up to the summit itself. The descent should be made by gondola and then by cable car, finally culminated with a bus trip back to town. This way, one gets to experience all the different facets of the Swiss transportation system contained within the Luzern area.

The happy tourists that we were, we decided to go on this suggested itinerary. The boat trip was fun, as you can see from the following photos, as we were able to look at the various different mountains/mountains with houses along the way. The boat did have an (expensive) bar, for those who got bored, since the trip was about 90 minutes in length. Once we reached Alpnachstad, we hurried through the subways to the cogwheel train station, where we were instantly duped by a tour group who ended up taking two whole trains to themselves. The rest of us got on the third train and were on our way.


On the boat, on the way to Alpnachstad… that church in the background is the one near our hotel


The reason behind those grimacing faces is the heat!


One of the many beautiful views available on route to Alpnachstad

Let me explain to you what a cogwheel train is, for those of you who, like me, have no idea what it is. It is basically one of those angled trains (so that the seats aren’t perpendicular to the slope of the ground) that is basically made so that you can go up inclined paths safely. There are all sorts of “cogs” on the track so that no slippages occur. The train was known as “the world’s steepest cog-wheel rail” at “48%” which I can only assume to be “48% vertical”. My parents deduced it to be “48 degrees”. With the Europeans strange decisions about manipulating numbering systems, I don’t know which it was… but it was pretty steep.

There were some spectacular views provided along the way, of which I didn’t capture any because I happened to be seated in the middle of an 8-compartment box. Once we got to the top, there were a lot of trails to explore, of which we decided to go through one, which took us through a little cave. The cave offered some awesome locations for photos, of which I will leave you with some:


The view from a cave in Mt. Pilatus


A different angle from the same cave


A peek at the peaks!

So, the emblem for the Mount Pilatus tourist trip was a dragon and it turns out it wasn’t just some random mythical creature. There is a whole backstory behind the Pilatus mountain range, involving  humans and dragons and the latter protecting a member of our species. There were signboards throughout our mini trail (which was supposed to last 5 minutes but took more like 35) talking about the story. My Mom read the first few out loud before getting bored. We took a lot of photo s and debated going to one of the highest points before my mother announced that there were far too many steps. So we instead retreated to a restaurant (we carefully avoided the self-service option, here) where we had lunch.

This time I went with a rosti containing chicken, my Dad went with one containing ham and my Mom went with the unexciting dish known as “fish and chips”. I also had a local brew (Eichhof Lager) whereas my parents went with wine. The meal was pretty tasty and the highlight was probably the electronic ordering system wherein the lady punched our order in and our drinks were delivered to our table within a couple of minutes. It was pretty sweet, to be honest.


I thought this was a pretty sweet look at the bottle of beer


My choice of nourishment–ham rosti


Mom chose to enjoy Fish ‘n’ Chips atop a Swiss mountain…


Dad chose a slightly more German dish–Sausage with Rosti


These yellow-beaked crows were aggressive scavengers!

There were a ton of crows around, to be absolutely honest. The same, yellow-beaked, variety that we had seen while heading to Jungfraujoch. Except these guys were aggressive. My Mom made the mistake of tossing a few French fries on the ground, which instantly attracted a whole bunch of them crows. By the time we were finished, there was a whole squadron squirming to attack our leftovers, which they did, once we got up, before the waitress attacked them and scared them away (probably temporarily).

Once done with lunch, we were filthy tired, as well as sleepy (siesta, anyone?) so we decided to go ahead and head back to town. Our route this time consisted of a gondola (a large-ish cable car) followed by a personalized cable car for just the three of us. This offered us some great views, especially of cows munching on grass. Once we got to the bottom, we had to walk about a kilometer to get to a bus-stop that took us to the train station from where we walked back to our hotel. We did stop by in the kiosk at the train station to purchase a Swiss wine (forgot the type now, sorry). We also purchased two large bottles of water that later turned out to be aerated water (ugh). Turns out that the Swiss (and the French, too) sell three types of water: Natural (normal water), Eau Légère (semi-aerated water) and Eau Avec Gaz (normal aerated water). We learnt our mistake by buying the second. We also bought a few bars of Toblerone, which made up for our folly.

After having a cup of coffee outside our hotel and freshening up, we headed out to the old city, where my parents had purchased their cuckoo clock earlier, in search for dinner. My memory fails me as to what we did for dinner that evening, but I do remember finally settling for a restaurant in the middle of the old city. Once we were done with dinner, I think we headed back to our hotel and chilled on the edge of the lake (which was but a few thrown stones away from our hotel). Thus ended our last day of serious sight-seeing in Switzerland.

eurotrippin’ in switzerland (day 2)

After our naps the previous afternoon and a refreshing night of sleep, we were up on day 2 at around 8.30 in the morning and ready for breakfast, which was provided complimentary. Breakfast consisted of several items, including cereal, milk, tea, several different types of bread loaves (which we had to cut ourselves), cheese and butter of many different types, fruits, cold cut meat slices and 4 different types of yoghurt. In short, plenty of stuff to stuff ourselves with. After eating breakfast, we decided to check out of the hotel and leave our bags there, and then take the trains to Jungfraujoch–the “Top of Europe”.

We reached the train station at a brisk jog, reaching just about 10 minutes before the train was due to arrive. We were able to hit the ticket counter before the crowd grew (by the time we had paid for our tickets, the ticketing room was full) and then waited for the train to arrive. Our route would take us from Wilderswil to Lauterbrunnen, from where we would take a separate train to Kleinescheidegg. From there, we would take the Jungfrau Mountain Railways to the Jungfraujoch station. In all, the journey took something like 2.5- 3 hours each way!


A view of Jungfraujoch from the Kleinescheidegg station


The path taken by Jungfrau Mountain Railways to get to the top


The crows in Switzerland were all yellow-beaked

The ride from Kleinescheidegg to Jungfraujoch stopped at two or three viewing posts on the way, as we got progressively higher. I don’t remember the names of these posts, but we had only 5 minutes at each station hence a lot of time was spent running around lest we missed the train. Compounding this was the fact that we kept leaving our bags on the train so taking the next train wasn’t an option. 😛 We got our first look at the glaciers there, as the following photo shows.


The view of the glaciers from one of the “scenic stops”

After we reached the top, there were several choices of what we could do. There were several locations to view the glaciers, a place where we could actually step out onto the mountain, a “snow lift” or something like that that would take us up to the highest point at Jungfraujoch, an ice “palace” or food. We obviously chose food since it was already about 2pm! We got in the self-serve line and grabbed some unmemorable grub. My Dad and I both had a German-style sausage with beer and my Mom, with it being Monday, had a salad and the “vegetarian plate” which was apparently not very good. Anyhow, the purpose of eating was to fill us up so we could explore the actual place!


The view of the mountain from the station

We visited the “ice palace” first, which was essentially a cave in the ice with various ice sculptures around. It was extremely cold and slippery and it took us a while to convince my mother to enter it. Once we were in, it was fun viewing all the different sculptures in there, but the extreme cold forced us to get out of there as quickly as we could!


Sculpture of a bear with its baby


Proof that my parents were at the Top of Europe!


An E.U. mouse doll frozen in a rectangular prism of ice

After we were done with the ice palace, we took the elevator to the next floor, which dropped us off exactly at the location where we could step out onto the mountain. Interestingly, the snowy mountain-top was a good deal warmer than the ice cave, because we were in direct sunlight since there were no clouds. In fact, it was so warm that the ice had started melting and really getting our shoes wet. That didn’t stop me from grasping the opportunity to pelt my Mom with a couple of snowballs. 😛 The views were absolutely breathtaking. I think when it comes to pretty landscapes, nothing can beat the snow-peaked mountain.


The view from outside… that railing wasn’t helpful in stopping one from falling down!


Another direction… the snow looks so smooth but I bet sliding down it wouldn’t be fun


That’s me in the white hat in the center of the image

After we were done with our little foray into the snowy parts, we came back in and warmed up a bit before heading downstairs. It was starting to get late, considering the 2.5 hour journey in front of us to get back to Interlaken, followed by the anticipated hour drive to Luzern. Hence, we skipped the trip to the top of Jungfraujoch and instead headed back to the train station to prepare for our departure. On the way back, we went through Grindelwald (instead of Lauterbrunnen) since the proprieter of Hotel Baeren as well as the railway travel clerk had suggested we do it so we completed a circle of the Jungfrau region. However, the sun had started coming out and with no air conditioners, none of us were interested in leaving the train to admire Grindelwald. Hence, we simply swapped trains and came back to Wilderswil. At Wilderswil we loaded up our car, said goodbye to Hotel Baeren and were on our way to Luzern!

Luzern (spelled Lucerne in French) in Switzerland is also a pretty touristy spot and also features a lake–Lake Luzern. The directions for the drive to our hotel were provided by Google Maps again, and they worked really well until we reached the city of Luzern. Once we reached, we had no idea where to go. Unfortunately, the roads in a real city (Interlaken/Wilderswil were nothing but little towns) were a lot more complicated and in Switzerland, there were a ton of little roads and lanes all over the place. Not to mention that there was a dedicated bicycle lane which added to the already confusing lines and stripes on the ground.

To cut a long story short, we got lost. We reached Luzern in about 1 hour and it took us about an hour more just to find our hotel. Turns out it was on a street that seemed inaccessible and even if the maps had given us meter-by-meter directions (which is close to what it had done) we wouldn’t have been able to reach. In the end, it took me walking to the hotel and getting exact directions to get there. Once we got there, it was great. The hotel–Hotel Rebstock–was set at the base of a beautiful church. Our room was supposedly in a part of the building that had been built in the 1200’s. I didn’t get any photos of the hotel, unfortunately…

Once we reached the hotel, we freshened up a bit and then headed out for a walk around Luzern. We walked along the lakeside all the way to the train station where we crossed the road and started looking for dinner. We ended up finding dinner alongside one of the smaller creeks/canals that led into the lake that we later found out was known as “Old Town”. Unfortunately, what we ate for dinner has fallen out of my memory range. 😛 But I’m sure it was delicious and expensive! After dinner we walked back to our hotel and crashed for the night, picking up brochures for Luzern to study and plan for the next two days.