Switzerland: Scenery and Food

Switzerland is famous for its mountains, crystal clear lakes, chocolate, cuckoo clocks and yodelling. The majority of this trip was undertaken in April 2012 with a small group of friends, taking in a number of the iconic towns, spectacular mountain scenery with a visit to a cheese (Gruyère) and chocolate (Cailler) factories. Enjoy!

The best ways to see Switzerland is by public transport with trains seamlessly connected to buses, boats and cable cars. The Golden Pass route goes between Lucerne and Montreux, which was our main mode of transport, at certain times, the route has panoramic coaches which has extended height windows, while at other times, there are the standard intercity or local Swiss trains.

Lucerne

We arrived in Lucerne via the main airport in Zurich and connected to Lucerne via a train (which was unusual in that was 30 minutes later than scheduled!)

Lucerne is a small and beautiful city (population-718,000), with two wooden bridges, (originally built in the 14th century) spanning the river and linking the two sides of the town. The old town (Altstadt) is picture-postcard Switzerland with a backdrop of a lake, mountain and bridge.

Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) is a covered wooden footbridge spanning the river Reuss diagonally, it dates back to the 14th century and in its 17th-century roof panels (Painter: Hans Heinrich Wägmann) has important events from Swiss history and mythology.

Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument) is a 10-m long sculpture of a dying lion (Sculptor: Lukas Ahorn) to commerate the Swiss soldiers who died defending King Louis XVI during the French Revolution

Lake Lucerne has a number of villages/towns dotted along the shoreline with the snow-capped mountains providing numerous classic Switzerland photographic opportunities, A boat trip on the Lake was a great (if slightly chilly) way of absorbing the scenery of mountains and lakes.

One caution, it the number of day-trippers that seem to flood the chocolate and souvenir
shops in the afternoon.

Interlaken and Ringgenberg

We travelled from Lucerne to Interlaken by train (part of the Golden Pass route). it is best to
sit on the right-hand side of train; as this has the spectacular views of the lakes.

From Interlaken, we went to Ringgenberg (approximately 20 minutes by bus from Interlaken station). Ringgenberg overlooks Lake Brienz (Brienzersee), another crystal clear and beautiful lake. We visited Ringgenberg Church, built-in 1670 in the ruins of Ringgenberg Castle (first built 1230) and we’re lucky to have it all to ourselves.

The pictures below were captured using a variety of camera modes and anchored to the castle walls! My heart stopped more than once trying to anchor the camera; so I hope you enjoy the results!

Lauterbrunnen and Staubbachfall

Lauterbrunnen (population 2,452) is a small village, nestled in a valley with 72 waterfalls. With late April, between its winter and summer tourist seasons; it was quieter than we expected.

Our hotel room balcony had a view of Jungfrau, which would have been a great way to spend a lovely spring afternoon and evening if it wasn’t for the strong smell of cow manure!

Staubbach Falls (Staubbachfall) is a 297-m waterfall which has a beautiful ultra-mist spray that drifts across the cliff face, up close it is a much more solid body of water,

At Hotel Oberland, we were able to enjoy the Swiss favourite, the fondue complete with
garlic, mushrooms and onions.

Jungfraujoch and Kleine Scheidegg

Dressed in our warmest clothes, we purchased our tickets up to Jungfraujoch; which in the end totalled 137 CHF (or 100 GBP)! We then boarded the trains to the highest station in Europe from 796 m (Interlaken) to 3,454m (Jungfraujoch). The journey takes about 2 hours; despite being able to see Jungfrau from our hotel balcony!

2012 was the 100 year anniversary of the opening of Jungfraujoch, with the train passing through tunnels deep inside the Eiger mountain. Designed as a tourist attraction and took over 16 years to build. Although, I’m sure that with today’s environmental impact statements it would never be built!

Jungfraujoch is in the Bernese Alps, connecting the peaks Jungfrau and Mönch, at an elevation of 3,466 metres (11,371 ft) above sea level. It is a glacier saddle, on the upper snows of the Aletsch Glacier. It is an amazing feeling to sit on a series of 3 warm trains and suddenly emerge at the edge of a glacier.

From the Inside (i.e. warm) viewing platforms, it is possible to get sweeping views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and Aletsch Glacier fields, the meteorological station called the Sphinx and the valleys of Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald.

We braved the snow, cold winds to walk on the terraces despite some being closed due to snowfalls. The Ice Palace had ice sculptures carved in small caves within the main complex!

After a hearty lunch of wurst and rosti at Kleine Scheidegg (2,061-m), we attempted to down the mountain to Grindelwald. However, the paths were closed due to the volume of snow so it was to be the train back instead.

Grindelwald is a small town (population 3,740), though larger than Lauterbrunnen. We indulged in the chocolate shop of Läderach was still open! I definitely suggest the Champagne and Cognac batons if you are anywhere in Switzerland.

Mürren and Gimmewald

Mürren is a traditional village, with views of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau which has no public road which leads to it. While it has a population of 450, it has 2,000 hotel beds!

The cable car took us to Grütschalp (1,487m), then the train to Mürren (1,684 m). With the cable car to Schilthorn closed due to the strong winds, we changed our destination to Gimmewald.

The walk between Mürren and Gmmewald is a beautiful one, with snow-covered front gardens, waterfalls, avalanche defences, grazing cows, countless pinecones and of course a snow
capped mountain or two!

After a picnic lunch at Gimmewald with against a background of the Swiss Alps; we took the cable car to Stechelberg (922m). One of the most spectacular cable-car rides, with a single pylon and a sheer drop of about 500m against with the roar of waterfalls and the wind tossing the
cable car; it was definitely a memorable 10 minutes!

The walk back to Lauterbrunnen followed the river and involved crossing a stream, note to self for next time; bring and wear waterproof shoes!

Gruyères

The journey from Lauterbrunnen to Gruyères took approximately 4 hours and involved 4 different trains with all the connections seamless.

Gruyères is a town (population 1,789) set on a hill with cobbled streets. It has a picturesque castle surrounded by green pastures dotted with grazing cows.

Dinner was a fantastic fondue, with only cheese being Vacherin and was topped off with the other Gruyères staple of meringue served with double cream and fresh strawberries. Sorry, no pictures as we were too hungry this time!

Breakfast was described as “hearty” by the hotel, what they omitted to mention was that it included the specialities of Gruyere cheese and meringue! In the interest of research, we had to sample the various aged Gruyere on offer and the meringue with fresh strawberries and “yoghurt”, which looked surprisingly like the double cream we had the previous
night!

Gruyère Cheese – La Maison du Gruyère

The tour of the cheese factory at La Maison du Guyère was an audio tour with Cherry the cow as our “guide”, some interesting facts that we learn:
– Each cow eats 100kg of grass and 85L of water a day to produce 25L of milk
– 12 litres of milk is used to produce 1kg of cheese
– 5.7 million litres of milk is the certified AOC production of Gruyere, of which two thirds are consumed within Switzerland

We were able to see the cheesemakers at work through the various stages of production and the sample at the end was 3 small pieces of 6, 8 and 10 months Gruyere. We couldn’t agree on a favourite, so you will just have to try all of them and make your own mind up!

Chocolate Factory – Cailler Broc

Next stop, the chocolate factory of Cailler (at Broc Fabrique), the oldest brand in Switzerland, owned by Nestle since 1929. Our tour included a history of chocolate, Cailler and a glimpse into the production process.

The highlight of the tour was, of course, the tastings at the end. Cailler offered unlimited samples of some of the chocolates that they make, a tip when you next visit; hold off until get to the Ambassador range – they are by far the best………..

Lausanne

The train journey from Broc to Montreux is spectacular, going along and through the mountains before descending to Lake Geneva and Montreux; this time sit on the left-hand side!

Lausanne’s old town was a solid climb from the train station; after we almost got to Old Town; we found at least 3 different metro stations! There is a panoramic view of the city from just outside the Cathedral.

Montreux and Château de Chillon

After a breakfast of bakery treats and coffee on the shores of Lake Geneva, we strolled along the famed Chemin Fleuri (Floral Path) along the shores of Lake Geneva.

Château de Chillon dates back to the Bronze Age and made famous by the Romantic poets including Lord Byron in the 19th century. The castle has a stunning position on Lake Geneva, with a 13th-century fortress with a maze of courtyards, towers, and halls with armoury, furniture and artwork.

Travel Dates: 24 April to 30 April 2012

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