The flight to Geneva was a little bumpy as the aircraft descended through the fluffy cotton clouds. The turbulence kicked me awake as I had been sleeping happily all along, hearing the captain announced we were flying over Paris at some point. Having a window seat (which I only found out on the return flight that I was on the wrong seat lol), I had the advantage of nice aerial views. When we got through the clouds and my first sight of Switzerland came into view, I fell in love with it instantly! The hint of emerald green in the lake, the pretty traditional houses sitting around…it was surreal from high up in the sky.
Upon arriving in Geneva Aeroport, we bought our Swiss Passes and set off immediately for Interlaken. Heading north east along Lake Geneva and up to Bern before going south east again past Lake Thun to Interlaken, the train ride gave much more scenic views than I expected. Lausanne at the north tip of Lake Geneva has such breathtaking views of the lake and the French alps on the other side I envy the people living there!
It was dark when we finally reached Interlaken West station where our B&B is just 2 mins away on foot behind a huge local supermarket Migros. We spent the night wandering around the quiet town filled with watches shops, getting a little shocked at how many are actually ran by Chinese and that the customers/visitors are mostly Chinese too. Somehow we ended up having Mc Donald’s for dinner – the first of few more to come. :P
View near Interlaken West.
Day 2 can be considered the highlight of our trip – UP the mountains! :D Interlaken is actually just a connecting town situated between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz for tourists to stay or change train lines to head up the amazing mountains in the south. There are three high peaks – Jungfrau (elevation of 4158m – slightly higher than our Mount Kinabalu!), Monch and Eiger. Our destination of the day was however Schilthorn – a 2970m peak lying to the west giving a good view of the three peaks. We had to change transportation around 5 times going through Interlaken Ost, Lauterbrunnen, Grutschalp, Murren and Birg before reaching the Schilthorn summit!
Train from Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen.
Lauterbrunnen from the cable car going up to Grutschalp.
Up and up!
Reaching Murren, the car-free beautiful village atop the mountain!
The white wintry forest! *love*
Reindeer sledge outside a shop! :P
Snow-clad Murren. This village compensates for missing the chance to visit Hallstatt, Austria in winter!
Respect for the people who built all these cable car systems and station!
At the Schilthorn view point. This was where James Bond ‘Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ was filmed!
Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. You can see Grutschalp station – the little speck on bottom left corner! Gives you an idea of the scale.
Such majestic wonders God made!
Pan-fried cheese dumplings. Yummeeh.
Forgot what soup is this…but I know it has beef in it. Hot soup with bread sticks. Awesome in the cold weather!
After the wonderful views and a yummy lunch, we set off for our toboggan session! Little did we know the challenges awaiting us hahaha. We rented three toboggans from a shop and took the funicular up Almendhubel – we were the only ones carrying toboggan instead of ski equipment on the train. The funicular took us up higher than we thought XD the shop owners told us it’s just a ‘short ride’ down. Hmmm. We probably have different definitions for ‘short’.
Ready to go!
At first, we couldn’t make the toboggan slide on its own because the gradient was too low. I have a very cute video of Vh attempting to slide but failed even with a good kick from me. We half pulled and half slid down the first part before reaching an intersection point with the ski route. Our toboggan route was closed! But the main ski route signboard says ‘Multiple Use’ and included the toboggan symbol as well so off we went. No other way down anyway. And here comes Loohzhen’s crash because her toboggan uncontrollably slid down the steeper path. She was all over with snow and tried to walk down the remaining slope. Vh suggested letting go of the toboggan and have it slide down first so she can walk more easily. Next thing we knew – LIMELIGHT, we were witnessing the toboggan whooshing down the slope and instead of crashing into the snow edge and stopping, flying off it.
…It was stuck in the clump of fir trees on the very steep slope beneath. We decided not to risk rolling down the mountain for the toboggan and moved on with two toboggans left. Due to the potential risks and dangers, we only managed to toboggan a little for quite some time. Felt like I was on a roller coaster ride except I have no brakes besides my Primark boots, which do not function very well as brakes in the snow. The final leg of the extremely exciting journey down the mountain was a proper toboggan track! It was still hard to control the direction however, and I spent half of the time crashing hard into snow at turnings. Glad we all returned to the base safe and sound before sunset though! And thank God for the kind shop owners who did not even mention charging us for the lost toboggan and even said sorry upon hearing our dramatic story of coming down…we must have looked awful and I was literally shivering so badly that the guy had to hold my camera for me as I tried to explain where we lost the toboggan. Wet jeans from melted snow in high altitude temperature is NO JOKE!! Had a warm end to the day nevertheless, snuggled up in the sofa with hot instant noodles for supper, watching a dinosaur movie in French.
Departed Interlaken and had a 2 hours visit to Bern the capital. Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage, with the River Aare flowing gracefully in a U-shape around it.
Chocolate pastries? Look so good!
View of Bern from the Confederation Building.
We reached Luzern by 12 noon and took a bus to our hostel very near the Lion Monument where a huge lion sculpture is carved in memory of the Swiss guards killed in a massacre during the French Revolution. A little path at the corner led us to the ‘Gletschergarten’ (Glacier Garden) where we learnt about the 200 million years history of Luzern when it was once covered in glaciers! There were glacier potholes from the Ice Age and many interesting stuff in the museum. Had a bit of fun in the mirror maze with a random rabbit garden. An observation tower gave a higher view of the town which is much bigger and developed than I have always imagined!
Lion Monument carved by a sculptor from Rome.
Glacier marks and effects.
Church of St.Leodegar has a typical Roman basilica structure and is tastefully decorated. We took a moment sitting on the benches taking in the architecture and went on our way to the ‘Kapellbrucke’ (Chapel Bridge) on River Reuss. The people walking across bridges and the old buildings lining the river gave such a peaceful feeling to the town. The Chapel Bridge used to have old paintings dating back to the 17th century on wooden panels all along the bridge but many were destroyed in a 1993 fire and restored after…means my mum got to see the original ones!
Dinner was at an Italian restaurant we spotted earlier on because the prices for cheese fondues elsewhere, especially our initial target Old Swiss House, scared us away. Pork schnitzel, tartelloni, tagatelle for mains and a local Swiss dessert – chestnut vermicelli served with cream and grapes. Sweet!
Inside Church of St. Leodegar.
Kapellbrucke on River Reuss. (:
My pork schnitzel with chips.
Chestnut vermicelli for dessert.
Picture perfect Lucerne.
A little of sightseeing around the train station in the morning and we hopped on the train for Geneva with fresh cheese and sesame pretzels. Had a second and even more stunning view at Lausanne. The mist was hovering around the mountains base on the opposite bank and the lake was shimmering from the sunlight. It looked like the mountains were floating that maybe I won’t be so surprised to see a fairy or an angel popping out somewhere.
The fairytale mountains.
Our purpose of returning to Geneva so early was because of CERN – the European Organization for Nuclear Research as it was closing for the season the very next day – last chance to catch it! This place is actually the largest physics particle laboratory in the world, the birthplace of the ‘www’ in our URLs, the operating centre for LHC (Large Hydron Collider). What is that? It is an enormous equipment lying 100 m underground of Switzerland and France with a circumference of 27 km. Being the world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator, it is hoped to help with the research and understanding of physics theories; Of most interest is the existence of Higgs Boson particle which the physicists are trying to prove! Six gigantic detectors are built in caverns excavated at points along the LHC. The CERN museum was certainly an eye-opening visit for us and is strongly recommended for science or physics nerds heh. Well, even if you are not, it is still so interestingly informative! (: High respects for the scientists. *in awe*
Photo speaks for itself. :)
In front of the Globe of Science and Innovation.
Tadaa! A sketch layout of the amazing stuff.
At night, we had a loong walk on the streets of Geneva, straying from the city centre after looking at the church on the hill – St. Pierre’s Cathedral. Took us some time to get back to the central area along Le Rhone (Rhone River). The lighting from the row of buildings on the river bank opposite cast a colourful reflection in the water. We had fun counting the swans (20+ of them!) and watching them duck their heads as they pass under a string tied to a buoy or a stilt.
On a shopping street.
In our dinner place hunt, we unintentionally came across the most high-class supermarket we have ever seen. Everything is sooo pricey because of the exotic and wide array of expensive food they sell. From wine to olive oil to seafood to chocolates to fruits…they have lychees and mangosteens etc placed like high tea fit for the Queen. We had our 3rd McD meal in Switzerland after that.
This orange thingy costs CHF 3989 = RM 13374 = GBP 2704. Gulp.
The last day came so quickly! :( We woke up in our cosy French-style ‘hotel’ with breakfast served to our door on a large wooden tray. A basket of croissants and buns, butter and jam, a jar each of hot chocolate and coffee, four glasses of orange juice. Good start of the day and good way to get everyone out of bed!
Breakfast in the room!
Tour of the day begins with St Pierre’s Cathedral. Another beautiful basilica with an equally magnificent chapel at the side. We unknowingly ventured into the archaeological site underground, seeing the church remains of the different eras on the same ground up to the 4th century. Glad to learn so much history and geo stuff this trip – Vh in glee haha!
Inside St. Pierre Cathedral.
Jet d’Eau – the 140 m fountain, landmark of Geneva.
After a lunch of bread (sorry Loohzhen!! XD) in a little random garden on the hills, we made our way to Patek Philippe museum, passing through a flea market selling many old stuff. I am not most interested in watches but the collections in the Patek Philippe museum were great works indeed. Every single one was so carefully made with meticulous designs or paintings and little details – pocket watches, pendant watches, little clocks on pens, fans or delicate ornaments and the wrist watches we have nowadays.
Of course, we did not forget to have our last Mc Donald meal before going to the airport. (:
If the living cost is lower, Switzerland is perfect. ♥ For me, at least. Would love to come back in summer time one day and explore this beautiful place in a different light, walk on the mountains and meadows to hear the cowbells ring!