One glorious week in Switzerland-
So many thanks for all the helpful hints. You made our trip go so smoothly and better than we imagined!
Our trip began in Germany and on Thursday September 29 we drove into Lucerne and dropped our car by the train station. No need for that anymore!
We stayed 2 nights at the Hotel des Alpes. We splurged and got a balcony room overlooking the river and the bridges. We had a beautiful view of the mountains, bridges and lakes. It was a nice splurge. We had gotten in to the habit the previous week of hitting the grocery store in town, so we found the coop, bought a bottle of wine and enjoyed! One low cost dinner suggestion is the roof of the Manor department store. Food was good, nothing fancy, food court style – but the roof top dining with the views was fabulous.
We had rented the Travelers wi-fi based on this website and found it worked everywhere and really helped us to use the SBB app. Once you get the hang of the app (practice at home to get the correct spelling/meanings of the places you want to visit) and plug in your start and end locations and it lays out everything for you. You can see the platform you are coming into and the one you leave from without stopping to look around. We had most connections in the 5 minute range and made them all. Even when we were hauling our luggage.
Day 2 was Mt Pilatus. We used our app and got to the cogwheel train with no problems. We had decided to do the circle cogwheel up and gondola down. At the ticket booth at Mt Pilatus show your pass and ask for a round trip. Very easy. In most cases of multiple stops, trains, gondolas etc, you might have to show your ticket many times. Keep it handy until you reach your destination and save it for the trip down too. In this case we might have scanned the one ticket 5 times. We had a clear day and it was stunning up there. We did several hikes at the top (stuck to the moderate level) and had a great time. We shared some lunch from the self-service at the top and sat outside soaking in the sunshine and the view.
We had the 8 day Swiss Travel Pass and it was very easy. You just board a train. No need to validate, no need to do anything. Look for the big “2” on the side of the train (2nd class) and hop on. The pass states that you need to have your passport to validate your ID. In general I don’t like to travel with mine but did. We were asked on 2 occasions to show our passport. It seemed random and I don’t know why, but I had them.
Day 3 – Golden Pass line to Montreux. Once again using the handy app (and routing myself using the “via” feature through Zweisimmen we had a smooth trip. I had booked the 1st class panoramic seats at home. I carried that reservation paper with me and bought the 1st class upgrade from Zweisimmen to Montreux at the station. It cost 12chf each. The rest of the trip is done on regular trains and in second class, no need to reserve or pay extra. The views were great; the train ride was awesome and went by quickly. It had started to rain by the time be descended in Montreux so we missed that view on the way in.
We took the opportunity of a rainy afternoon to have a long lunch. We went to Caveau de Vignerones and had the best raclette of the trip! This stood out as one of my favorite meals!
My husband is a fan of “Smoke on the Water” so we made our way to Funky Claudes to have an expensive drink, watch the bartenders and look around. Very entertaining!
Day 4 – Golden Pass heading through to Murren. Once again the SBB app had it down. Even the 3 minute walk from the train station in Lauterbrunnen to the BLM to take us up the cliff. On this trip the rain had stopped so we saw the view of Lake Geneva as we were heading back. The views were just a nice as the previous day, different direction made it worthwhile to us.
Murren was our home for the next 4 nights. We stayed at the Hotel Edelweiss and booked a balcony room in their newer section. The staff at the hotel was top notch. We really enjoyed talking to Daniel at breakfast every morning. Another splurge that was worth it to us. Back to the coop for wine beer and snacks on the balcony. The day we got there was cloudy but sun was promised for the next day.
Day 5 – Jungfrau. Upon waking it was still cloudy but sun was promised so we got ready in case the weather cleared and headed to the train station in Murren to ask about buying tickets to Jungfrau. Even buying the extra tickets was so easy. You showed your pass and they knew where your pass stopped and what percentage to charge you. We asked a few questions and said what do you think about the weather? He said, it’s going to be a nice day and we were on the 8:58 train down the mountain to Lauterbrunnen. He was right, by the time we got down and back up to Wengen and further to Kleine Scheidegg is was crystal clear from the bottom of the valley to the peaks. We consider ourselves very blessed by our weather for 2.5 days! All the train stop and switches were easy. Everyone on the train was doing the same as you. It didn’t get cutthroat until the final train leaving Kleine Scheidegg to the top. The cars are color coded depending on if you are a group or an individual without a reservation or if you have a reservation. The tour groups at this point are overwhelming and people are running. Most of the busy trains, gondola etc have a people counter going and they tell you on a screen how many free seats. It is helpful to know if you are going to make it or not. But I’m not going to lie, on several occasions it got ugly. We made it to the top a bit before 11:30am. It is not a quick trip from Murren, but we were only doing it once.
We spent about 2 hours up there and enjoyed it all. There was a fair amount of waiting your turn for the perfect photo opp, but it is certainly a place like no other.
We got on a train back to Kleine Scheidegg and once we got there is was such a beautiful day we decided to hang out and enjoy the scenery. The sun was so warm we ate lunch outdoors in our shirt sleeves by the train station. At that point we got inspired to do some walking so we walked down to Wengen. It was lovely. It was fun to be on the downhill ski course for a bit and of course the views all around are stunning. Hopped back on the train to Lauterbrunnen and back up to Murren (we had that drill down pat now!).
Day 6 – Hiking and Schilhorn. We got up to another sunny day and took off for the Northface hike above Murren. It was fabulous. Not too hard, scenery upon scenery and a symphony of cow bells! So I am one of the ones that fell in love with the cows and their bells. The wind chime noise they make just felt so perfect with the scenery. We happened upon a woman letting a couple of her cows and new calves out of a shed for the night by Pension Sonneberg. She was so kind to let us feed the cows some bread treats, answer a bunch of questions and just visit with us.
After a yummy lunch back in Murren, we jumped on the gondola to Schilthorn. We liked the sun on that side later in the day and figured some of the crowds would be gone. We had an easy ride up, enjoyed the views and the Bond movie making info and came back down to Birg to sit and enjoy more views. Had a beer and a snack on their terrace before making our way back to Murren.
Day 7 – Hiking and biking in the valley. Today we hiked the other way out of Murren with the end result being at the station in Grutschalp. Once we made it there we took the funicular down to Lauterbrunnen and rented bikes. Our weather gods at this point had clouded up the valley, but that was ok, we were biking and waterfall visiting. We rented bikes and rode to Stechelberg, stopping along the way. We had a good lunch in Stechelberg and returned the bikes by 4. Back up the mountain to Murren for our last night. At this point Murren was total socked in. Couldn’t see anything but a wall of white out of our hotel windows.
Day 8 – Travel to Zurich. We said good-bye to the mountains and made our way to Zurich. We had an early flight the following day back to the US so we were staying near the airport. We figured out the tram system and jumped on one to Central and from there wandered the shop, restaurants, history, river etc. Very nice city, I was happy I had an afternoon and evening there.
Overall Switzerland really is a magical place. We enjoyed so many of our adventures. We made lists of other towns on our train trips that looked interesting to us in hopes of returning. You can do so many different things. You can be in a city or country. You can be with crowds of people of totally by yourself walking without seeing another person for hours.
This trip just scratched the surface of what Switzerland has to offer, I hope we get to return!
I am attempting to put on some pictures. I can't see how to label them so if anyone wants to know where it was taken, let me know. I have more than 10 pictures to put up so I will start another thread.