Archive for January, 2012

Sunday 16 to Wednesday 25 January – Maidenhead

We have spent the past 10 days enjoying spending time with our gorgeous grand-daughter, Ella and her Mummy and Daddy.  In preparation for Janet, Adrian and Ella’s BIG move home to Australia, and while Adrian has been at work, we have been helping Janet to sort through the flat, room by room, putting things into piles of “to be shipped home”, “to come in Janet and Adrian’s suitcases”, “to go to friends/charity” and “rubbish”. Well, actually, Sandy helped Janet sort, while Richard (aka Poppa) was in charge of entertaining Ella!

Over the past week, Ella has really mastered the art of crawling and at one stage, when she and Poppa were in the lounge-room and she could hear Mummy’s and Nanna’s voices in her nursery (where they were sorting) she crawled out of the lounge-room, down the hall-way towards her room (with Poppa walking beside her, encouraging her progress) and she did a little wiggle/jig when she could finally see her Mummy and Nanna – it was so cute!  Ella is also able to pull herself up to a standing position, using the lounge as leverage and holds on with one hand while she gets up to mischief with the other hand, eg tries to “play” with one of the laptops.

Ella, who is now 9 months old,  has 2 teeth and now weighs a healthy 8.18kg – right on the 50th percentile line and she is 70cm tall – which is also right on the 50th percentile line for her age………. “perfectly average”!!!  She is on solid food and is a good eater – has weetbix for brekky, yoghurt and fruit for lunch (pieces of fruit that she chews before swallowing) and she has veggies and small pieces of meat for dinner.

On Sunday 22 January, we all went out to The Horse and Groom, which is on the A4 motorway near Twyford, for a lovely English Pub lunch.  Ella sat up in a high chair that was attached to a normal chair and was pushed into the table as a normal setting – she was the cutest thing, thoroughly enjoying her lunch and then some bread, while we ate our lunch.  The food was very nice and the atmosphere was a typical English Pub, with a big fire crackling in the fireplace – very cosy!   When we first arrived at the Horse and Groom, the place was empty, but by the time we left, it was packed with people enjoying a lazy, warm, Sunday lunch.

Although it rained most of yesterday, the weather here is still very mild (today it is currently 10°) and not looking like there is a snowflake’s chance in hell that it will actually snow!!  There were a couple of mornings where there was thick ice on the cars and on the ground, which didn’t completely thaw until around lunchtime.

We have done a couple of walks into town (Maidenhead) and have been enjoying the normal day-to-day activities here.

 

Day 9 Geneva to Zurich to Maidenhead – Sunny -2°

We left the hotel this morning in the dark at -2° to walk up to the station to catch the 8.14am tilt train to Geneva. Our first class carriage was comfortable and not very busy and we settled ourselves in for the 3 hour journey.  Neither of us had been on a tilt train before and we were impressed at how fast it went and how obvious the tilt was around corners at speed.  A man came through our carriage several times, with a trolley filled with tea, coffee, cold drinks, baguettes, muffins etc

As the sun came up and we travelled along past Lake Geneva, we could see across the lake to France, however, it was almost impossible to get a clear photo because the sun was creating reflections on the double glazed windows of the train.

The train skirted Lake Geneva for a short time and then headed to Yverdon-les-Bains and then along the shore of Lake Neuchâtel, where we started to get back into snow country.  The train continued on through Bienne, which was quite large, then Solothurn, Olten and then through to Zurich.

We arrived in Zurich just before 11.00am and made our way to the main station area, went downstairs and put our suitcases in a large luggage locker (for 9 Swiss Francs) so that we could go off and do some more adventuring.

We headed out of the station to the Bahnhofstrasse, where we caught a number 6 tram to the Zurich Zoo. The tram took us on a 20 minute ride through the suburbs and dropped us, not far from the main entrance to the Zoo. We enjoyed wandering around looking at the animals and taking heaps of photos, especially of the lions and tigers and the penguins.

We caught the tram back to Bahnhofstrasse, walked back to the station and had a lovely late lunch in the Brasserie.  After lunch, we headed downstairs to collect our suitcases and find Platform 52 for the train to Zurich Airport for our flight back to London Heathrow.

By 7.45pm, we were back in Maidenhead with Janet, Adrian and Ella after spending a lovely 9 days in Switzerland.

 

We thoroughly enjoyed our 9 day Switzerland adventure.  One of the smartest things that we have done for quite a while is getting our 8 day Swiss Pass before we left Australia.  It entitled us to travel on public transport – trains, trams, buses and ferries – by just producing our pass.  This meant that we didn’t have to line up to buy tickets and with the number of trains etc that we caught during our stay, it was a huge saving.  On some specialised services, eg the Golden Panoramic train from Interlaken to Montreux, we needed to book our seats and pay a booking fee;  and on the final stages of our Jungfraujoch journey, we needed to pay a 50% reduced fare for that section only.

We were impressed with the quality and punctuality of the Swiss Rail system.  The trains were always clean, modern and very frequent – sometimes scheduled 10 minutes apart – the longest was an hour apart and that was from Geneva to Zurich, which is one end of Switzerland to the other.

During our visit to Switzerland, we travelled on a number of different modes of transport – trains, trams, buses, gondolas, cable cars, cog wheel trains, taxis, and Shank’s pony (for those of you who don’t know what that is, it is using your own legs, or walking). A fair bit of our sightseeing was done on foot, walking through the historical sections of the places we visited.

We were very lucky with regards to the timing of some of our adventures eg when we arrived in Interlaken, we decided that we would leave our day trip up to Jungfraujoch until the day before we were leaving Interlaken, because the weather predictions showed that it would be sunny that day. And, of course, our day trip to Jungfraujoch was spectacular because the weather was fine and we could see for miles up in the Alps. We really enjoyed our adventures in the Alps, being able to go out in the snow.

We especially enjoyed Interlaken because of our introduction to snow and being snowed on when we walked from the station to the hotel.  The view from our hotel was spectacular, overlooking the three famous mountains of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

We enjoyed the food in Switzerland, tried a number of different dishes, but we did find it a bit expensive in comparison to Australian prices eg in the hotel in Geneva, it would cost 29 Swiss Francs (approximately $AUD29.00) for a hamburger – needless to say, we didn’t have one.

We found the people we met in Switzerland to be very friendly, very helpful and all of them spoke English.

So, all in all, a wonderful snowy experience!

Day 8 Territet, Chillon and Lausanne – Foggy 2°

We set off this morning in the cold, foggy weather to do some sight-seeing and to visit Richard’s second cousin, Rev Dr Paul Dalzell, who has recently taken up a position as the priest with the Territet/Montreux St John’s Anglican Church, an English speaking church. We caught the train to Lausanne, where we changed trains to Territet, via Montreux.  The train stopped right opposite the church and the church house, which is next door.  We had a lovely visit with Paul, who made us a nice morning tea and then showed us his church, which has some beautiful stained glass windows and is rich with history – there has been a church on the site since 1875.

A painting of the Madonna and Child, which had been part of the church for years and everyone had thought was a copy of the Italian renaissance artist, Andrea Previtali, turned out to be the original.  The painting was sold and the proceeds were used to build a new roof and provide much-needed renovations.  A copy of the painting hangs in the church “to remind us that miracles really happen!”

We got to meet Paul’s dog, Suzie, who is also an international traveller, having come with Paul and Robyn from Australia.  Unfortunately, Robyn was in Paris, so we were not able to catch up with her.

Paul showed us where the walking path from Territet to Chateu de Chillon (Chillon Castle) is and the two us headed off along the path beside the lake for a brisk 20 minute walk.

We hoped to get some good views of the lake, both on the train and as we walked to the castle but the fog didn’t lift at all during the day.  We had hoped that we might see France across the other side of the lake, but it was not to be.

The original part of Chillon Castle dates back to the 12th century and it has had many different alterations over the years.  The castle stands on a small rocky island, which acted both as a natural protection and as a strategic location to control movement between the north and south of Europe.  We wandered through the castle, climbing up and down dozens of stairs, viewing some of the rooms and up into the Sentry’s Gallery.

We walked down to the Veytaux-Chillon train station, about 5 minutes from the castle, and caught the train back to Lausanne for some sight-seeing.  We went down to the harbour area, walked along the waterfront, which was still shrouded in mist obscuring the lake almost completely.  We visited the Parc Olympique, including the Museum, where they had some interesting displays of past Olympic games’ medals, clothing, equipment, etc.  Had the weather been better, we would have had some spectacular views of Lake Geneva looking across towards France.

We hadn’t realised that Lausanne is so hilly and that the Old Town is set high on a steep hillside overlooking the lake.  Because we were trying to fit in as much as possible, we decided to catch a taxi back up the hill to the Cathedral, set overlooking the city and that we would walk back down the hill through the cobblestoned streets of the Old Town to the station.

We were a little disappointed that we couldn’t get any decent photos of the Cathedral from the outside because it is big and other buildings have been built around it, so when Richard got far enough away to take the photo of the whole Cathedral, only the spires were visible.  We were able to have a look inside the Cathedral before heading off down the steep hillside, including walking down about 80 steps, along the cobble-stoned streets of the Old Town, past the St Francois Church, to the station.

We caught the fast train from Lausanne back to Geneva, arriving back at our hotel at about 5.00pm.  The fog didn’t clear all day and so we don’t have any magnificent photos of Lake Geneva that we were expecting to have!

After writing up some of our blog, we headed off to the little Pizzeria, La Grappa d’or, around the corner from the hotel.  We discovered it on our first night here – they have a varied menu eg pasta, pizza, grills, traditional swiss food – at reasonable prices, with two very friendly English speaking waiters/owners.

Again, we have had a really enjoyable day and managed to fit in a lot.

We have done our on-line check in with Swiss Air for tomorrow evening’s flight back to London and we are planning to catch the 8.00am tilt train from Geneva to Zurich.

Day 7 Geneva overcast/foggy/sunny 3° to 5°

This morning, we had a leisurely breakfast and went for a walk along the lakeside, out onto a cement jetty where there was area for summer swimming etc. We had morning tea in a quaint little Tea Room, where there were different kinds of chairs – normal dining type chairs, lounge chairs etc – with people sitting chatting or reading the paper and some just watching the world go past.

At 1.30, our Geneva Tour began on a nice big comfortable coach bus.  The guide gave each piece of information three times: English, French and Spanish.  We were the only English speaking people on the bus, one French speaking person and the rest were Spanish.

The first part of the tour took us through the areas occupied by various agencies aligned with the United Nations and associated organisations.  We drove past buildings occupied by International Telecommunications Union; World Council of Churches, with 350 Christian Church members; World Health Organisation; Palace of Nations, where they had flags from 193 countries of the United Nations; International Committee of the Red Cross; World Trade Organisation, to name just a few.  All of these buildings are modern high-rise and we can only wonder how many people are employed by the UN and its agencies.

We also saw a statue of Ghandi and in interesting “sculpture” of a huge wooden chair with  part of one of the legs missing, which symbolises the campaign against the use of land mines – very dramatic.

From there, we drove along the lake and we found out some interesting facts about the water fountain in the lake – the Jet d’eau – it shoots water 140 metres high at 200 kilometres per hour, which is an impressive 500 litres per second.

Then we were taken to the Old Town, which was built on a hill and originally surrounded by walls, overlooking the lake and the River Rhone, which the lake runs into and the river runs to the Mediterranean Sea.

We were taken on a walking tour, where we saw the Geneva Flag, which is made up of two parts, one symbolising the Roman Empire depicting the Eagle and the other is a key which symbolises the original ruler, who was a Bishop.

We walked to St Peter’s Cathedral, which is actually a Protestant Church – inside, there were several stained glass windows and an interesting wood-carved pulpit.

We continued through cobble-stoned streets to the Old Castle, with its old cannons and murals etc.  We also saw the oldest house still standing in Geneva from the 14th Century.

In the grounds of the University of Geneva, just outside the Old Walled city, stands the Reformation Wall.  It is 100m long and the central section is 5 metres high.  Various figures have been carved into the wall by the same sculptor that made the Christ overlooking Rio de Janeiro.  In the middle section of the wall are the four most important figures to Geneva:  William Farrel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza and John Knox.

On our way back to meet the bus, we came across an ice skating rink, where a lady was teaching a little girl how to skate by using a wooden frame that the little girl held onto for support, while the lady pushed them both around the rink – a very clever contraption!! – see photos in gallery.

We also saw a statue of General Dufour on a horse – one of his many claims to fame was that he was one of the founders of what was to become the International Red Cross.

When the bus dropped us back at the Bus station, the sun had come out and so we decided to go back to the lake to see if we could get any better photos.  We did get one of the fountain going straight up in the air, unlike yesterday when it was being blown by the wind and not long after Richard took the photo yesterday, they turned off.

Unfortunately, while it was sunny, it was also quite foggy/misty so we decided to come back to the hotel and start our blog.

We had dinner in a restaurant not far from the hotel and came back to the hotel to plan tomorrow’s activities.

Day 6 Interlaken to Geneva -3° to 3°

After spending four wonderful days in Interlaken and surrounding areas, we packed our bags and headed off to the station this morning to catch the 9.08am Golden Pass Panoramic train to Montreux and then to Geneva.  While we thought this was one continuous train journey, it turned out that we needed to change trains at Zweisimmen to a second smaller, but newer, Golden Pass Panoramic train to go over the mountains to Montreux, where we changed trains for the rest of the journey to Geneva.

The sun was shining when we left Interlaken and the train took us along the shores of the Brienzersee again, before heading into the mountains, past small towns covered in snow, ski resorts and just breathtaking scenes, to Zweisimmen.

The journey from there to Montreux also took us through beautiful countryside and up through the mountains. As we came down into Montreux, we could see the beautiful Lake Geneva, which was partly shrouded in mist.

We were surprised to discover that both of these trains were fairly full and we were pleased that we had booked our seats from Australia, which was good as they had reserved signs them on and at one stage we were able to nicely ask someone else to move.

Again today we were frustrated when trying to take photos out of the train as the sun created a lot of reflections on the double glazed windows.

When we arrived in Montreux, we made our way to another platform, in time to see our train pulling away from the station, so we had a cuppa while we waited for 30 minutes for the next train.  The train took us along the shores of Lake Geneva for a short time and through some towns and vineyards – after approximately one hour we arrived at Geneva Train Station at about 2.00pm.  We called in at the Tourist Information office and collected a map before heading off on foot to the hotel.

We checked into our room, dropped our suitcases in and, with map in hand, headed off to see the sights.  We walked a few blocks down to the lake, where we saw the Jet d’eau, which is a big water fountain in the middle of the lake that shoots a huge jet of water into the air. We walked along the shore for a while past the Brunswick Monument, built in memory of the Duke of Brunswick, who left money to Geneva when he died.

We then found the bus station that our tour of the city leaves from tomorrow, saw the Fountain of the Four Seasons and crossed the Pont du Mont-Blanc (bridge) to a park where there was a monument of two ladies arm in arm, representing the union of Geneva and Switzerland, and also saw a floral clock. We then headed back towards the hotel, to a little Pizzeria just around the corner from the hotel.  We had an early dinner, as we had missed lunch and then headed back to the hotel to do our blog and sort photos.

We decided to go down to the Restaurant to have dessert – a lovely chocolate cake, served with ice-cream and a small meringue, with cappuccino/tea – very nice.

More photos on the gallery.

Day 5 Jungfraujoch Sunny, Blue skies 1° to -10° Wind at summit 50kph

Another early start – we were at the station at 7.45am to catch a series of trains to get us to Jungfraujoch, which is the highest station in Europe at 3454m – the mountain Jungfrau is 4158m.  Shortly after leaving Interlaken Ost, we were in snow country again.

We changed trains at Zweilütschinen and again at Kleine Scheidegg.  With each change of train, came an increase in the gradient and an increase in the awesomeness of the scenery!  To assist the engine to pull the carriages up the mountains, a third geared track has been added in between the other two.  The last ½ hour of the journey was, however, spent inside the mountain.  Jungfrauchoch station is also inside the mountain and, via a series of tunnels and lifts, we were able to get to the Sphinx Observation Terrace.  We walked out onto the deck and were in awe of the beautiful snow covered mountains, bathed in sunshine – lots of photos were taken before we headed off to explore further.

From there we made our way back down in the lifts, along some tunnels, until we got to the Plateau, which is an area outside on the mountain.  The wind here was blowing at 50kph and it was -10, but exhilarating. We were amazed at how easily we were able to get around outside in the open air, considering the high altitude and that we had been warned that some people can get altitude sickness at Jungfraujoch. We stayed outside for quite some time on the fresh snow, soaking up the sunshine and beautiful surrounds -we loved it!

Next on the agenda was to find our way to the Ice Palace, via some stairs, a lift and some more tunnels.  We were a little disappointed as quite a large section of the Ice Palace tunnels were closed and so we only saw a few ice sculptures.  It was interesting walking through ice tunnels as we had to be careful not to slip over.

Part of Jungfraujoch was closed because of falling ice, but as we had seen what we came to see, we decided to go back down to Klein Scheidegg for a late lunch.  We had a light lunch in the restaurant overlooking the ski fields and had a wander through the snow.  We saw some people skiing and further down the mountain we saw a middle-aged lady having fun on a toboggan.  We also saw several people getting around on snowmobiles.

From Klein Scheidegg, we came back a different way than the way we went up this morning.  We got the train to Grindelwald through more beautiful scenery and took this opportunity to go for a walk through the little town, before catching a later train back to Interlaken.  By the time we got to Grindelwald it was 2.15pm and the town was completely in the shadow of the Alps and quite cold – approximately -3° or -4°.  We had to be careful walking as the streets and footpaths were still covered with snow and ice.  We enjoyed our walk through this pretty little town. On the train from Klein Scheidegg, there was a young couple with a baby all rugged up and they arrived at the train with the baby in a papoose, which was attached to a little sled – we were thrilled when we saw one for sale in Grindelwald and were able to take a photo of it.

When we arrived back at Interlaken, we walked back to the hotel, stopping at some shops along the way.

Yesterday and today have been everything that we could have imagined or dreamed that a trip to Switzerland could possibly be!

We are going to have a quiet evening because the last few days have been big days and tomorrow we are travelling to Geneva via a series of trains.

We will sort through our 300+ photos and put some of them in the photo gallery.

Day 4 – Lucerne and Mt Pilatus Mostly Sunny 1° to -6°

We have had an amazing day today that is going to be hard to describe and we know that the photos certainly will not do it justice!

After an early breakfast, we walked to the station at 7.30am in 1° temperature and it was still dark. We caught the 8.04 train to Lucerne that took us up through the mountains.  We watched the sun come up over the mountains slowly illuminating the lakes that we were travelling beside.  When the train reached Meirengen, they shunted the engine off the front and put it on the back, which then became the front and the train headed off out of the station the way we had come in, but then headed up the mountain.

We were amazed that the engine managed to pull the train up the steep incline to Brunig Hasilberg, which was almost 500m higher than where we started.  However, at times, it was slow going.

As the train headed up the mountains, the scenery changed from beautiful to stunning, with thick snow everywhere, including hanging off the trees and on rooftops. At times we saw buildings with snow up past the windowsills. There were whole villages that were covered in snow and looked like something out of a Christmas card.  As we passed through Brunig station, the railway workers were shovelling snow off the roof.  As the train made its way slowly back down the other side of the mountain, we had spectacular views of villages and lakes.  At one stage, the train came around a corner and there before us was another picture postcard –  the Alps reflected in Sarnesee (Lake Sarner) – absolutely beautiful!

The train journey took 2 hours and one hour of that was spent in the mountains amongst the snow.

We arrived in Lucerne just before 10.00 and decided that we would go to Mt Pilatus while the sun was shining and the Alps were not shrouded in clouds, and then we would look at all the things in Lucerne that had attracted us there.

What started off to be a side trip became the main event!

We got directions from the Tourist Information office at Lucerne Station and caught a public transport bus, Bus no 1 (very brave of us) to Kriens, which is about 15 minutes from the town centre.  From there, we walked about 10 minutes to the Kriens Gondola Station for our ride up the mountain.  We have been in gondolas previously but nothing like this!  It was a two stage journey – the first stage by gondola took us to 1416m, which was 1000m higher than where we started; and the second stage was in a cable car, which took us to Mt Pilatus – 2132m, a further 716m higher.

The first stage lifted us up over meadows, through snow covered pine trees and over the village of Frakmuntegg and the second stage, which rose much more steeply and swung over snow covered gorges, cliffs and rocky outcrops, took us to the peak of Mt Pilatus.  The two stages took approximately 40 minutes.  Once again the scenery was breathtaking.

We were expecting a small observation area at the top but we were totally taken aback to find not only an observation area, but two hotels!  When we first arrived we were not allowed to go outside because there had been extremely heavy snowfalls yesterday and last night, with high winds, and the staff were still busily trying to clear a pathway for the visitors to access.

Before too long, a path was cleared, using a hand operated snow plough, and we were allowed outside to take in the absolutely amazing, stunning, unbelievable view (no words can come close to describing how beautiful if was!!)

We had a lovely lunch in the Hotel Pilatus Kulm restaurant overlooking the Alps, looking down on the valley and with a log fire to complete the picture.  Richard had an Eichof Braugold beer, which he said was very nice.

We finally tore ourselves away from the views and headed back down the mountain to Lucerne for some sightseeing.

Firstly, we saw the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), which was constructed in the 14th century as park of the city’s fortification. Then we visited the Jesuit Church, which was constructed in 1666 and walked across the Spreuer Bridge (Spreuerbrücke) where we could see parts of the Old Town wall, which was built in 1386.  We walked through part of the Old Town, which is now a shopping mall, to the Lion Monument.  The “Dying Lion of Lucerne” is a famous monument, hewn out of natural rock in memory of the heroic death of the Swiss mercenaries at the Tuileries in 1792.  It was quite moving as the lion had an incredibly sad expression on his face.

We walked past the Hof Church, originally a Benedictine Monastery founded in the 8th century, and then walked along the shore of Lake Lucerne to the station to catch our train home late in the afternoon.

As we travelled through the mountains, the sun set and the last hour of our journey was spent in the dark, catching glimpses of little villages with their lights shining on the snow.

Our trip through the mountains to Lucerne was in a First Class carriage, which for the greater part of both journeys, we had to ourselves.  We are so pleased that we bought our First Class Pass before we left home – it has been invaluable because it has given us unlimited First Class rail travel as well as buses and boats.

We have spent a couple of hours since we got back to the hotel, sorting through our photos – what a task as Richard had 274 and Sandy had 113 photos that we need to cull for our gallery on the blog!  At one stage, Richard was taking photos out one side of the train while Sandy was taking photos out the other side.

Day 3 Berne-Low Cloud & showers -½° to 2°

We caught the 10.02 train from Interlaken Ost to Berne this morning.  Berne is approximately 60km from Interlaken and took approximately an hour on the train.

As we said yesterday, Berne is the capital of Switzerland and the city centre was built on a hill in a bend of the Aare River.

Armed with our map, we visited the old town, where we wandered along the cobble-stoned streets.  From the station we walked down Spitalgasse, (gasse means street), Marktgasse, Kramgasse, Gerechtigkeits-gasse and Nydeggstalden to the river. For most of this area, there were tram cars travelling in each direction only a minute or two apart and the streets had a footpath down each side and also a section in the middle for viewing the eleven  ornate 16th century fountains along the way.  Most of this area appeared to be restricted to pedestrian and tram car use only.  We passed through the Prison Tower (Käfigturm), saw the Clock Tower (Zytglogge) and made a slight detour down a short street, to see the Town Hall and the Church of St Peter’s and St Paul.  Then we continued along the main street and walked over the Untertorbrücke Bridge to the Bear Park (Bären Park).  Bears have been kept in Bern since 1513.  Until 1857, they were in the City itself, then in the Bear Pit and, from 2009, in the Bear Park.  According to legend, late in the 12th century, the Duke of Zahringen sent his hunters into the woods and promised to name the city after the first animal that was brought to him.  As luck would have it, the bears were not venturing out to the cold, so we didn’t get to see them.

We had lunch at the Altes Tramdepot, where Richard tried a Helles beer that was brewed onsite – he thought it was pretty good, so he had a second one!  We sat at a lovely table overlooking the river and the city.

From there we took a different way back to the station – we walked over the Nydeggbrücke Bridge, along Junkerngasse past the Elacherhof mansion built in the 1700s, to the Cathedral (Munster).  From there we walked to the Parliament Building, where we had magnificent views over parts of the city and surrounds – we were up very high on a section of the old town built on a hill with a very high rock wall to protect it.

As it was then raining, we made our way back to the station to catch the 2.34 train back to Interlaken Ost.  Berne Railway Station is quite big, with a large number of different kinds of shops on the lower level and hundreds of people going to and fro.

When we arrived back in Interlaken, we walked to the hotel and then decided to continue walking further towards Interlaken West, looking at shops and restaurants to find somewhere for dinner tonight as the restaurant in the hotel will be closed.

We started our blog, sorted through our photos and then headed off to the DesAlpes Italian Restaurant, which is only a few minutes walk from the hotel.  We thoroughly enjoyed our Weinershnitzel – no photos tonight as Richard wasn’t game to pull out the camera, as we were seated in the middle of a busy restaurant.  We had a bit of a chuckle because we are in Switzerland, went to an Italian restaurant, were served by an American waiter, had an Austrian meal and were seated next to a table of young Japanese.  The only thing Swiss about it was the local Rugenbrau beer that Richard has taken a liking to!  AND we finished the meal with German Schnapps.

So, all in all, another lovely day in Switzerland….. the snow is melting and it didn’t snow today.

Day 2 Zurich to Interlaken – Cool – 1°

After a leisurely start to our day, including a nice breakfast, we walked to the station and validated our First Class Swiss Rail Pass, which gives us unlimited travel on all Swiss trains for 8 days, and then caught the 11.02 train to Interlaken via Berne.  The train had two decks and we were on the upper deck with seating configuration each in groups facing each other, with groups of 4 on one side of the aisle and two on the other.  Each group had a small table and reclining seats and big windows.  We have found that all of the trains we have been on are extremely quiet and smooth – no rocking and rolling like our Queensland trains and you can’t even tell when they start moving – very comfortable. The only thing that we were not happy about was that the windows were double glazed, which made it very difficult to take photos out the window without getting reflections.  It took just under an hour to travel to Berne – an enjoyable trip with interesting scenery, but not spectacular.

We arrived in Berne, which is the capital of Switzerland, and with only 6 minutes to make the connection to the Interlaken train, we expected to have to make a run for it.  So, we quickly manhandled our suitcases off the train to look for the exit and where we had to go.  We were both surprised to discover that the train on the adjacent platform was our train and it was simply a matter of hopping off one and hopping straight on to the other!

Once again we sat on the top deck for our one hour journey to Interlaken Ost (East).  A short time after we left Berne, we started to see snow on the ground and the scenery quickly changed to beautiful. After we passed through Thun, the train meandered along the banks of Thunersee (Lake Thun) for half an hour and now the scenery was spectacular, with snow on the mountains rising from the other side of the lake.  At this point it also started snowing – WOW!!

We arrived in Interlaken Ost and were thrilled that it continued to snow as we walked to our Hotel, about a 10 minute careful walk from the station. It was interesting walking along, pulling our suitcases behind us through snow – in some places it was soft snow that had just fallen and in other places it was quite hard- packed snow, which was quite icey. We checked into our beautiful room at the Hotel Interlaken.  Our suite is quite large, with a huge bed, a separate little lounge area and windows overlooking two churches and the alps with snow on them!!!  We had lunch in the restaurant – Richard had a club sandwich and chips and Sandy had Rosti (fried potato) with ham, cheese and fried egg (see the photo gallery for a photo).

After lunch, we headed off to explore. Firstly, we had a look at the Hotel’s Japanese gardens, complete with little waterfall and pond.   Then, we walked along the Aare River, which is the longest river in Switzerland, and continued along a little path beside the river to the Brienzersee (Lake Brienz). As can be seen by the name, Interlaken, this town is situated between two lakes – Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.  Because it was still snowing, the lake was shrouded in mist – not good for taking photos – but we will endeavour to take some over the next few days.  We came back to the Hotel via a laneway that ran through, what we think, were open fields, which were covered in snow.  We came through the little town of Interlaken and made our way back to the hotel.  We had been out for about three hours and were badly in need of a cuppa.  Even although it had been snowing just about the whole time we were out, we were very pleased that our choices of jackets, shoes etc kept us dry and warm.

After indulging in a long shower in our bathroom that would be big enough to have a party, we sat in our lounge relaxing, before heading downstairs to the Taverne Restaurant in the Hotel for dinner.  We had an unpronounceable German Swiss dish of veal in a creamy mushroom sauce with crispy potato rosti followed by a magnificent dessert, called Apfelstrachen, which was apple lightly fried in a very light sweet pastry, served with toffee sauce and cream – sehr gut (very good)!!  It was on par with the sticky toffee pudding that we have had in England!  Richard has discovered a nice local Swiss ale called Rugenbrau, which he had one or two of with his dinner.

Today has been a really enjoyable day……….. in the Snow in Switzerland!

Check out our Photo Gallery.

Our Swiss Adventure – Friday 6 January 2012

Day 1  London to Zurich – Cold

We were up, dressed, had breakfast and on our way to London Heathrow Terminal 1 by 3.45am for a 6.00am Swiss Air flight to Zurich.  We arrived in Zurich at 20 to 9 local time and it was 2°.  We were impressed that we went straight through immigration and customs and by the time we got to the baggage pick up area, our bags had arrived.

We caught a taxi to the Hotel Continental to drop off our bags, but were surprised when we arrived to find that our room was ready for us, so we put all our gear into our room and headed off to explore.  We found the railway station, which was only a 5 minute walk and the bus terminal which was the meeting point for our Zurich Tour at 11.00am.  We arrived for the tour at 20 to 11 and waited and waited.  After some confusion and a telephone call to the agent at 11.15am, we discovered that the tour had been cancelled due to lack of numbers.  After some negotiation, it was decided that we would go on a trolley bus tour of the city with them and we would make our own arrangements to visit the other places that were part of the original tour and they also gave us a refund of the difference.

The trolley bus tour, which was aboard a unique Classic Trolley, lasted for 2 hours and took us to various places of interest within the city.  We saw the financial, shopping, museum and university districts, a section of the Old Town, the Fraumünster Church, a classy residential area, and Lake Zurich, where we had a view across the lake to the Alps, which had some snow on them.

After the tour was over, we caught a train to Rapperswill, which took 35 minutes and gave us the first sighting of snow on the ground.   Rapperswill is a charming little lakeside town referred to as the City of Roses.  We had a cuppa at a little café before heading off to explore. With the wind coming off the lake it was freezing, but we ignored our frozen body parts and soldiered on to discover the Old Town and, on top of the hill, a quaint old castle, which had some deer in the garden.  We had a wander along the lakeside and through the cobblestoned streets before heading back to the station to catch a different train back to Zurich.  This one meandered its way alongside Lake Zurich, which is quite large, and gave us some lovely scenery to look at, even although it was overcast and starting to rain. (We know that our photos won’t do it justice.)

Despite originally being disappointed that the tour was cancelled, we were able to see all the things that we would have seen AND were able to do it at OUR pace, taking the time to look and enjoy.

When we arrived back at Zurich HB train station, we went for a walk across one of the many bridges over the River Limmatt, into an area known for its cafés   and restaurants.  We found a charming place to have dinner before leisurely walking back through the streets to our Hotel.

So, all in all, a very pleasant first day in Switzerland.