A mid-night Swiss Air flight from Mumbai landed Zurich early morning on the schedule time. After picking up our check-in baggage and clearing immigration, we walked down to Zurich Airport railway station and validated the tickets for 07.43 a.m. Inter-city Express train to Interlaken-Ost (East) - our first destination. The double-decker train arrived on time and we boarded the one of the train compartments that was almost empty. Interlaken was a 2.20 hours journey from Zurich and the train reached Interlaken-Ost on schedule time at 10.00 a.m.
Interlaken-Ost railway station
Music 'concerts' at Hochemattee meadow
After lunch at an Indian restaurant, we continued our walking tour on the main street towards Interlaken-West railway station which was a town side. A leisure walk from one side to the other side took just 45 minutes. We realised that our hotel was much nearer to Interlaken-West station than the main Interlaken-Ost station. In the evening, we spent time in Hochemmatte meadow and watched para gliders landing on the meadow.
Interlaken's main street
A para glider landing at Hochemattee meadow
At Kliene Scheidegg, we had to again change to red and yellow strips train for Jungfraujoch. Some of the tourist who were travelling with us did not board the train to Jungfraujoch which came on the other side of the platform after few minutes. My guess was that they must have gone on trekking or on walking trips to the surrounding areas. The first 15 minutes journey up to Eigergletscher station was through vast meadows. The remaining 45 minutes journey was in the tunnel through the Eiger mountain.
Eigerwand (2865m) was the first station in the tunnel where train stopped for 15 minutes to enable the tourists to get down from the train to have a panoramic view of the Alps glaciers through big windows carved out of the rocks. We saw one of the the glaciers which was very close from the viewing windows which looked stupendous.
View of the glacier from Eigerwand tunnel cave windows
Sculptures made from solid ice
Coming out of the ice gateway to Jungfrau snow plateau
We on the Plateau with Sphinx in the background
Our next place of visit was the Sphinx Observatory (3570m), the highest view point on the Alps. A lift located at the extreme end of the railway platform took us to the Sphinx. Around the observatory, there was a platform made up of steel and iron grills where we could take 360 degree view. From the platform, Mt. Eiger (3970m), Mt. Monch (4107m) and Mt Jungfrau (4158m) can be seen from the close range. Tourists are not permitted to go inside the Sphinx as it is an office premise used by the scientists.
On the way to the Sphinx platform
Sphinx platform for 360 degree view. Mt.Monch in the background
1- View from Sphinx platform
2- View from Sphinx platform
From the Sphinx, we came down to have lunch in one of the restaurants located at the mid point between Plateau and Sphinx. We were pleasantly surprised to find the Bollywood Restaurant. The four walls of the restaurant were full of posters of Bollywood actors and movies. This was the place where one could have snow view from the windows while eating. At these altitude with tourist crowd, the lunch had to be very expensive.
Bollywood Restaurant where we had buffet lunch
After lunch, we walked through a tunnel to which led us to the base of the Aletsch glacier. We walked over the glacier for few meters but soon gave up as in the absence of crampon and sticks, it was difficult to walk on the slippery snow. There were options available here for activities like skiing, sledge dog rides and glacier crossing from one end to the other by sliding on the hanging ropes.
On to the glacier
It was around 3.00 p.m, when we returned to Jungfraujoch station to catch the train for return journey to Interlaken. We boarded 3.15 p.m. train to Kliene Scheidegg. As the train came out of the long tunnel, the weather remained clear to our delight as we could clearly see villages in the valley from the train. After changing trains at Kliene Scheidegg and Lauterbrunnen, we reached Interlaken-Ost at around 5.00 p.m.
Valley view from the train window on way to Lauterbrunnen
The alpine train journey gave me glimpses of the trekking possibilities in around Jungfraujoch. Apart from many easy day-treks which can be undertaken from the Interlaken, there are number of treks originating from Lauterbrunnen and Kliene Scheidegg. There are many village resorts which provide staying options for trekkers. In case of any emergency, there are options of cogwheel railways and cable cars on some of the trekking routes. However, trekking at the higher altitude involving snow and glaciers may be of a technical nature. For instance, trekking Aletsch glacier would require equipments that are necessary for snow trekking.
Day-3 : To Lucerne
We boarded the 10.00 a.m. train at Interlaken-Ost for a two-hour journey to Lucerne (Luzern in German). On the way, the train halted at Brienz. The station was located at the bank of Brienz lake and one could walk to the other hand of the platform to catch ferry for villages in around the lake. The train passed through the villages located in the midst of meadows around Brienz lake.
Brienz lake by the side of Brienz railway station on way to Lucerne
View of the valley from the train to Lucerne
View of Lucerne railway station building from the lake side
Road from the station skirting the Lucerne lake going towards old town
The lady at the tourist counter gave me the direction of NH Hotel where we had resevation. The hotel was located in the old town area which was about 15 minutes walk from the station. In fact, almost all the main hotels and tourist attractions in Lucerne were within the walkable distances from the railway station, the nearest being the Chapel Bridge (5 minutes).
After lunch, we strolled around the old town area which was full of medieval buildings. The town was situated between Reuss River and the lake front which lent beauty to the town. Later we walked on the Lucerne lake front towards railway station. It was a bit warm afternoon but the breeze coming through the lake side lent some coolness. The view across the lake surrounded by mountains with forest was spectacular. The quay located in front of the Lucerne railway station is the boarding point for boats going to towns located on the shores of the lake. We did not go for a boat ride as we had decided to visit Mount Pilatus the next day via the boat cruise through tha lake.
After crossing the road from the lake front, we reached the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbruecke in German). It is at this point that Lake Lucerne joins Ruess River. The wooden bridge is almost diagnol to the river. A walk through this bridge gave us the glimpses of the history of Lucerne through the paintings hanging on the rafters of the ceiling. On the right side of the bridge, a Water Tower (Wasserturm in German) made up of bricks was located. The Chapel Bridge with Water Tower is the most important trademark of Lucerne. There are hotels and open restaurants on the other side of the river which are great places for relaxations.
One of the medieval bulidings on the shore of the lake in Lucerne
One more view of Lucerne from the lake
The boat ride revealed that the uneven shape of the Lucerne lake which gave different perspective as we moved along its shores. There was a solitary house (or castle) with a great location surrounded by lush green meadow sliding down from the hill side to the the lake shore. It was very romantic place indeed.
A cogwheel train moving into a tunnel on way to Pilatus Kulm
Pilatus Kulm is located on a narrow mountain top where two hotels with restaurants and a viewing terrace are located. Black crows with their yellow peeks welcomed us. I guessed they were so much used to the tourists crowd here that they came closest to us expecting some eatables like nuts from us.
Yellow peeked crows come closest to a tourist
A steep climb to one of the mountain peaks
It was a steep trail of about 1 km through the rocks, boulders and the man-made steel staircases. In about 30 minutes we reached the mountain summit. It was a worthy effort as we could get 360 degree view of the magnificent Swiss Alps ranges, forests, meadow, lake and the Lucerne town.
Top of the mountain - our destination of the trail
On the lake promenade opposite Jardin Anglais (English Garden)
Near Jardine Anglais was the statue of two women standing arm-in-arm in a fond embrace. This was a national monument representing the merger of Geneva canton with Switzerland. There was a flower clock and a fountain in the garden but it appeared that the hot conditions had taken a toll of flowers and the fountain as well.
From the lake front, one gets a good view of the old town. The high range hotels are located on the lake front. Some of the international organisations like World Trade Organisation (WTO), Red Cross Society, and many UN organisations are located near the lake front. After walking for about 1 km, we moved towards parks which were adjunct to lake front. At least the tree shades made the walking in the park more pleasurable than on the lake front.
We boarded the 8.30 p.m. train to Zurich. On the way, it rained heavily for about 30 minutes accompanied by thunder and lightening affecting the train services for sometime. We reached Zurich at around 12 midnight (45 minutes late). We had to run for catching the last connecting train to Zurich airport. As we boarded the early morning Swiss Air flight to Mumbai, the memory of Swiss Alps, the lush green meadows, the medieval buildings and above all the friendly and helpful Swiss folks lingered in our mind.