Since the Gaya Traveller team members were on a whirlwind European adventure, we tried to cram a lot of countries during the trip. It was quite hard not to be greedy and not make the most out of one trip, as European countries are close to each other and easily accessible. Alas, we decided that Switzerland deserves the longest stay during this particular trip: four nights!
Mind you, the cost of travelling around Switzerland is considerable. While it was not our ideal length of stay in this postcard perfect country (1 month in Switzerland would be best!), we had fun chasing trains, busses and boats during our five-day Swiss adventure.
We made our way to Switzerland from Brussels in Belgium by train. We took the early train and decided to stopover at Luxembourg for a few hours to discover a new country! The train ride from Brussels to Luxembourg was 2.5 hours. The train stops at Gare Letzebuerg (Luxembourg Train Station), a beautiful 100-year old building. We left our luggages at the station for a daily fee of EUR3 per luggage and boarded the Hop On Hop Off bus just outside the train station. The bus ride costs EUR11.50 per adult and the ticket is valid for 24 hours.
LUXEMBOURG, A Brief Affair
You will be interested to know that Luxembourg is the only remaining grand duchy in the world. “Grand duchy” simply means that Luxembourg is the territory in the world whose head of state is either a grand duke or a grand duchess. Luxembourg is also one of the world’s smallest sovereign nations in the world, with only 2,586 square kilometres of area. Although it is small, Luxembourg is a developed country, with an advanced economy and the world’s second highest GDP per capita. Just by taking a good look around, we were so impressed by its huge gleaming modern buildings and facilities built in the newer part of the city. We, of course, prefer the well-preserved ancient part of the city, with its narrow and tiny streets filled with unique shops and historic attractions. Luxembourg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is hard not to see why.
The country makes a good short getaway should you have the time to stay for a few nights, with museums, palaces and art scenes listed as its attractions.
After a brief sightseeing, lunch and some souvenir hunting, it is time to board our train and head to Zurich. An interesting incident happened while we were walking towards the train station – a marriage proposal!
A man had seen us walking towards the traffic light in front of the train station and had come out
from the shop he was in, to meet us. With his limited English vocabulary, he had managed to ask if we were single and available for marriage; all within that time we were waiting for the green light. We politely declined the offer and he was good natured about being rejected. We had come across this type of warning on travel websites while researching for this trip and never thought that we would experience it first-hand. We are sharing this so that you will be prepared if it happens to you. So ladies, beware!
SWITZERLAND, Here We Come!
After collecting our stored luggage, we continued our journey. We headed to Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city. The train ride was approximately five hours, passing through France. What a nice train ride it was, beautiful panoramas of mostly countryside, fields filled with mustard and wild poppies!
We have mentioned before that Switzerland is an expensive holiday destination, and our research has made us come up with two important money saving measures: stay at hostels and obtain Swiss Pass to get around Switzerland, offering unlimited travels on trains, busses and boats within a certain period. That is why we love Swiss Pass for the convenience it offers!
Browse www.swiss-pass.ch for more information.
ZURICH, A Gateway To Other Destinations
We are making Zurich our base for two nights because of the convenience that the city offers. From Zurich, we took off to other towns and even neighbouring countries for day trips! We are making full use of our Swiss Pass, travelling as far as the pass allowed us to.
LIECHTENSTEIN and AUSTRIA Day Trip
PLACES: Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Not far from Zurich is a country called Liechtenstein, which can be reached using our Swiss Pass. With a land area just 160 square kilometres and a population of 35,000, Liechtenstein is the smallest yet the richest (by measure of GDP per capita) country in the world and the only country to lie entirely in the Alps. To get to Liechtenstein, we took an hour train ride from Zurich to Sargans station. Upon reaching Sargans, we boarded the bus and headed to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. We pretty much discovered this little country on foot, as its main tourist attractions are mostly located at the city centre. Museum buffs will be pleased to know there are many museums here. Be sure to visit Liechtenstein Centre, where you can get not only brochures and information about the country, but also have your passport stamped for a fee of 3 Euros. Liechtenstein Centre is also where its Kilometre 0 is located. To get to the centre, get off the bus at Post Vaduz stop and walk uphill at the back of the bus stop.
PLACES: Feldkirch, Austria
Our Swiss Pass even allowed us to travel up to Feldkirch, Austria! The chance to discover a new country with no extra cost will not go to waste. Feldkirch is a nice and quiet small town, with many beautiful fountains in the middle of the cobblestone streets. Head to Katzenturm, a very prominent tower in Feldkirch. There is a Tourist Infromation Centre here. Get the walking map and discover the quaint town on your own. There are no public toilets available, but many cafes welcome the public to use their facilities with no purchase requirement. The list of toilets available is included in the walking map. Being in Switzerland and Austria reminded us a lot of the classic movie The Sound of Music and made us want to sing out loud like we are part of the Von Trapp family!
En-route to Interlaken, we stopped by at Lucerne, a popular tourist city in Switzerland. It is also the most populous city in Central Switzerland. Due to its location on the shore of Lake Lucerne (der Vierwaldstättersee), within sight of Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps, Lucerne has long been a destination for tourists. At the city, we visited the famous Lion Monument (Lowendenkmal), Lake Lucerne and Chapel Bridge or (Kapellbrucke).
An icon of Lucerne is the Lion Monument, Bertel Thorvaldsen’s famous carving of a dying lion is found in a small park just off the Lowenplatz. The carving commemorates the hundreds of Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when an armed mob stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris.
A must visit in Lucerne is of course the beautiful Lake Lucerne, the fourth largest lake in Switzerland. The lake is buzzing with activities in summer when we visited. Our Swiss Pass entitled us for boat trips too, so we hopped on a boat for a tour of the lake that lasted for a couple of hours.
Chapel Bridge is a 204-metre long wooden covered bridge originally built in 1333, the oldest covered bridge in Europe, although much of it had to be replaced after a fire on August 18, 1993. Part way across, the bridge runs by the octagonal Water Tower (Wasserturm), a fortification from the 13th century. Inside the bridge are a series of paintings from the 17th century depicting events from Lucerne’s history. The Bridge with its Tower is the city’s most famous landmark. We feel that a visit to Lucerne will not be
complete without walking across this bridge.
LUZERN – INTERLAKEN Express: What A Pleasurable Ride!
After we are done visiting Lucerne, it is time to head to our next destination, Interlaken! We boarded the Luzern–Interlaken Express, and what an unforgettable journey right into the heart of Switzerland it was! This two-hour ride took us along the shores of crystal-clear lakes, past romantic waterfalls and over the magnificent Brünig mountain pass. The train’s large panoramic windows made the experience more amazing, as we get to view some of the most spectacular views the Swiss Alps have to offer.
Interlaken sits in between two lakes; Lake Thun and Lake Brienz that make it unique, and it doesn’t stop there. Interlaken is also in the heart of the magnificent Jungfrau Region that offer views of the world-famous icy icons: the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau! The views from this side of the region is jawdroppingly beautiful.
Adrenaline junkies will love Interlaken, as there are many extreme sports activities here such as skiing, paragliding and whitewater rafting.
We see a lot of Arab tourists in Interlaken than other parts of Switzerland. Even when we arrived at the train station we were greeted by a billboard written in Arabic. It is interesting to note that there is even halal barbeque sunset cruise attraction in Interlaken.
GOING UP TO THE MOUNTAINS
A trip to Switzerland would be incomplete if you do not go up the mountains. Our Swiss Pass brought us only to Lauterbrunnen and Murren, which are already amazingly beautiful. 50% of the fare is available for Swiss Pass holders if you decide to travel further. The valley town of Lauterbrunnen (795 m) is the starting point for some of the best known excursions into the Jungfrau region. Lauterbrunnen is situated in one of the most impressive trough valleys in the Alps, between gigantic rock faces and mountain peaks. With its 72 thundering waterfalls, secluded valleys, colourful alpine meadows and lonely mountain inns, the Lauterbrunnen Valley is one of the biggest nature conservation areas in Switzerland.
From Lauterbrunnen, we stepped off the train and boarded the cable car to Grutschalp. From there, we continued our journey to Murren on a tram. Though it sounds complicated, but it was actually a straightforward journey.
Lying at the foot of the Schilthorn, Murren has nevertheless remained a cosy mountain village. Murren only has a population of 450, but has 2,000 hotel beds to welcome visitors. Murren is truly heaven on earth – we spent a huge portion of our day just staring at the mountains. Too beautiful to give it a miss!
Bern is about an hour’s train ride away from Interlaken. Thanks to the very well preserved medieval townscape, the historical old town of Bern joined the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing since 1983. Bern is ranked among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life. With a description like this, how can we not visit Bern, the capital city of Switzerland!
Visitors must take a walk through Bern’s world heritage status Old Town, with its cobbled streets, arcades and fountains, and cross the turquoise River Aare to see four bears in Bern’s Bear Park (Barenpark). The key attraction of the Old Town is of course the Clock Tower (Zytglogge), which was built in the 13th century. No other city in Switzerland offers such a wonderful wealth of culture, leisure and entertainment like Bern. You might also be interested to know that this is the birthplace of Einstein’s famous Theory of Relativity.
We only had one single mission in Basel. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany. We had read that it is in this city where travellers can find The Three Countries Bridge (German: Dreiländerbrücke, French: La passerelle des Trois Pays), which is an arch bridge that crosses the Rhine between the commune of Huningue (France) and Weil am Rhein (Germany), within the Basel (Switzerland) metropolitan area. It is the world’s longest single-span bridge dedicated exclusively to carrying pedestrians and cyclists. Its overall length is 248 metres and its main span is 229.4 metres. Despite the almost impossible attempt to ask for directions from the locals, we finally found the bridge. Mind you, the locals in Basel do not speak English as much as those we encountered in other cities.
WHAT TO BUY
Switzerland has to be THE chocolate capital of the world. It would be a sin to not eat and bring them back for your loved ones.
- Victorinox Swiss Army Knife
This knife has been around since the 1800s, its quality and functionality is very well known. A Swiss Army Knife bought in its origin country would make an awesome gift.
There are many famous Swiss watch makers. Among the brands that hails from Switzerland are Rolex, Omega, Oris, Tissot, and Swatch, just to name a few.
- Knick Knacks With Swiss Flags On Them
Souvenir sellers are getting very creative with knick knack type of souvenirs. We have never seen so many souvenirs with the country name or flag embellished on them. Bags, mugs, kitchenware, keychains… all proudly display the Swiss Flag.
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