Well if you ask any Indian "Given a chance to travel a single nation in your lifetime, what country would it be" and the majority would answer "Switzerland". It's that fascination for this country for us Indians whether its due to the Bollywood movies we have watched all these years especially the iconic "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" or the other Yash Chopra classics with saree clad Indian actresses dancing on famous numbers, the spectacular images or comparisons with Kashmir valley, or the word of mouth from other tourists. Switzerland has always been on the top of travel bucket list for all travelers in India. And on top of that, if you get to visit the mountainous region of Black Forest in Germany, Salzburg in Austria -- the birthplace of famed composer Mozart along with the Swarovski Museum in Innsbruck, it becomes an absolute travel delight. I had the fortune of going on such a tour last year and would like to share my travel story.
On Day 1 of our trip, we boarded our flight from Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi to Zurich. The return airfare from New Delhi to Zurich and Munich (our last destination of the trip) to New Delhi is around Rs 60000 from Swiss Air per adult. If you book it in a timely manner, you can get a better deal, however since summers are the peak tourist season for European travels, the flight prices are generally high. Being the Air India Frequent Flyer member, I prefer to travel through one of the Star Alliance members in order to accumulate points however one may opt for some other cheaper airlines like Aeroflot, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways to get a better price.
We landed in Zurich pretty early in the morning and boarded a train to travel from Zurich Airport Train Station (Zurich Flughafen) to the Hotel. The hotel was located just opposite to Zurich Oerlikon and it took almost 10 minutes to reach this station from the airport. Based on the flight schedule we had already put in a request to the Hotel to provide an early check-in.
We reached the Hotel around 09:00 AM in the morning and checked-in within an hour. Swissotel is Zurich's tallest 4 star accommodation very close to the Zurich City Center (Hauptbahnhoff) and not very far from the airport too. It has close to 350 rooms depicting the panoramic views of the city and the Swiss Alps. Due to the long and tiring flight, we decided to spend the rest of the day on our own.
By the afternoon we were all ready for some sightseeing after couple of hours rest. We decided to explore the city on our own and traveled to the Bahnhofplatz. It was at a short distance from our hotel. We went past few popular places in the city like the Zurich Post, prominent shopping stores at Zurich Bahnoffstrasse. etc.
Later in the evening, we had our cup of tea back in the Hotel and decided to explore the city further. We went on the Boat Cruise at Lake Zurich.
The boat cruise gives an opportunity to hop on or hop off at any of the picturesque ports during the ride. It also has a floating restaurant where one can enjoy the piquant snacks. The boat cruises are of various types - Short Round Trip, Medium Round Trip or the Long Round Trip. We chose the Short Round Trip which lasted an hour and a half. During the journey, we captured several pictures of the scenic beauty around Lake Zurich.
The next morning, after having a wonderful breakfast, we were ready to travel to the top of Europe on a full day trip to Jungfraujoch, the Europe's highest railway station. We were picked up by the Tour operators bus service and dropped to Zurich Silhquai bus terminal.
Our journey began with a scenic coach ride to Interlaken, a Swiss town best known for its resorts and winter sports. We arrived in Interlaken around 10:15 AM and got around half an hour to explore the town on our own.
Interlaken is a town surrounded by mountains, dense forests, alpine meadows and glaciers. It has numerous hiking and skiing trails. As the name suggests, it is built on a narrow strip of land between 2 lakes (Lake Thun & Lake Brienz). The city offers sweeping mountain and lake views. It is the streets of Interlaken where famous scene of DDLJ was shot in which Shahrukh Khan pretends to apologize to Kajol however then plays mischief by spilling water from the artificial rose. To be honest, Interlaken is an absolute paradise in Switzerland.
After this we boarded a cog-wheel train in Grindelwald, a small town nestled amongst the Alps. The train traveled up through the mountains, offering breath-taking views of the landscape perfect for photographs. The village of Grindelwald is famous for skiing in winter and hiking in summer. It has stunning surroundings and is famous among travelers to enjoy Switzerland's natural beauty and charm.
In the afternoon around 1:00 pm, we reached Jungfraujoch, the highest-altitude railway station (3500m) in the Europe. We visited the Sphinx Observatory, which offers beautiful panoramic views of the famous Swiss mountains. The view from the observation deck gave a feel as though one is floating amongst the clouds.
The Aletsch Glacier - Europe's longest - and the Ice Palace are also located at Jungfraujoch. The sparkling Ice Palace is a series of rooms and corridors carved into the glacier itself and is also the home to various ice sculptures. Restaurants are located on the mountain for optional meals, snacks and drinks and we decided to have our food at Bollywood restaurant which provides authentic Indian food in the middle of the glacier panorama.
After an amazing experience, we decided to come down around 04:00 - 04:30 in the evening. The train ride down the mountain took us back to Kleine Scheidegg. Our coach met us at the designated meeting point to take us safely back to Zurich, returning around 8:00pm.
The next morning, our tour was supposed to start at 12:30 in the afternoon. Thus, after a tiring previous day, we had the opportunity to get sufficient rest and then enjoy the buffet breakfast at the hotel. We had our tickets booked for one of Europe's most spectacular waterfalls, the Rhine Falls, as well as Titisee and The Black Forest. Our bus ride began once again from Sihlquai Bus Terminal.
The tour provided an opportunity to see one of the most attractive landscapes of Southern Germany. Going along Lake Schluchsee, we reached Titisee, the very heart of the Black Forest.
Titisee Lake is beautiful and there are several enjoyable things to do here. Being the highest lake in the Black Forest, it offers spectacular views. The Seestrasse is a pedestrian area between the souvenir shops and the lake. One can also take a boat ride or enjoy the local food; the most well-known specialty being the Black Forest Cake, made with cherry brandy. A slice of the cake costs around 5 Euros.
After this, we were taken into a shop selling cuckoo clocks. One of the staff members gave a short introduction into how the local people make the popular cuckoo clocks sing, the various types of cuckoo clock, type of materials used for it followed by some free time to explore on your own. We decided to purchase one of the Cuckoo clocks for our home.
After a wonderful experience, we headed back to Switzerland driving through impressive forests and passing by the municipality of Lenzkirch. We stopped on our way back to admire the Rhine Falls, Europe's largest and most spectacular waterfalls. The falls are located on the High Rhine on the border between the cantons of Schaffhausen and Zürich. This is where several Bollywood movies and songs have been shot (especially the famous Govinda-Rani Mukherjee starrer title song from the movie "Hadh Kar Di Aapne"). The visitors have an option of going on to the boat ride for 8Euro per person which takes them right to the edge of the falls.
To our surprise, we found an Indian snacks stall right where our Bus coach was waiting to drop us back to the Hotel. It was serving Samosa, Vada and few other Rajasthani food options. This is when we decided to have Samosa and we were amazed to find out that the taste was brilliant. It was astonishing to find out such delicious Indian snacks being available at a tourist spot where the food options available were limited.
After a sumptuous breakfast the next morning, we reached the Sihlquai Bus Terminal once again for today's sightseeing tour. Just like our other tours, it was supposed to start from the same place. I was quite excited since we were going to visit one of Switzerland's main attraction - the Mount Titlis. It had been on my bucket list for a long time.
Accompanied by our guide, our journey began via Albis Pass and along the shores of Lake Lucerne to the city of Lucerne. It is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and an important tourist destination due to its location being within sight of Mount Pilatus and Rigi. We were taken on a short city tour and shown the main sites, which included a photo stop at Lake Lucerne.
Along with that, we also visited the Lion monument. The famous carving of a dying lion by Bertel Thorvaldsen, was made in remembrance of heroic death of hundreds of Swiss guards who were massacred during the French Revolution in 1792. After visiting the Lion Monument, we were given some leisure time to explore the place on our own.
On to Engelberg, our Mount Titlis tour took an exciting turn. Mount Titlis is a glacier paradise at a height of 4000 metres and offers an amazing snow and ice experience on the highest viewpoint in Central Switzerland. We ascended to the peak on various cable cars, including the Rotair revolving cable car. The Rotair cable car is the real highlight of the Mount Titlis tour and provides stunning views of the dazzling snow-capped peak and spotless white snowfields. The high Alpine panorama is magnificent and it's a sight that will be forever in our memory.
During the tour, we took a walk over the "Cliff Walk", the highest suspension bridge in Europe. The Mount Titlis tour also gave an opportunity to get closer to the cracks in Glacier with a ride on the Ice-Flyer and visit the Glacier Park where we tried snow tubing. The Ice-Flyer is certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity where one goes through the mountains in a semi-open sky chairs. By the afternoon, we were quite hungry and stopped for lunch at one of the restaurants. The tour reaches its pinnacle with a cable car descent that was as exciting as the ascending journey.
After a truly memorable tour, the coach picked us up at the base station of Engelberg and dropped us back to Zurich.
We checked out from our Hotel the next morning after a wonderful breakfast. We boarded the train from Zurich Oerlikon station to Zurich Flughafen station which is the Zurich Airport railway station. Our Swiss Airlines flight to Munich was supposed to depart at 12:15 PM. It was a short 55 minute flight and we landed in Munich at 13:10 HRS.
We had pre-booked the Holiday Inn Munich - South for next 3 days and checked into the hotel around 03:00 PM in the afternoon. After keeping our luggage in the room, we grabbed some lunch quickly and went to explore the city in the evening.
In the evening we decided to go to Marienplatz which is a central square in the city center of Munich. The first thing that anyone can easily notice is the impressive Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall). It is a 300-foot-long, elaborately decorated façade with hundreds of statues that is very prominent in the square. The building was constructed between 1867 and 1909 in Gothic style. The New Town Hall is home to the city government and the Munich Tourism Office. The tower of Neues Rathaus has a clock where there is a show everyday at 11 AM and Noon.
In the center of the Marienplatz, there is the Mariensaule, the column of St. Mary. Additionally, the Altes Rathaus (Munich’s Old Town Hall), is located on the east side of Marienplatz, and is the original city hall building dating back to the 14th century.
The Marienplatz has several eating joints and the primary shopping avenue of Kaufingerstrasse begins here. It is the main tourist area in Munich. After some souvenir shopping for the family back at home, we came back to our hotel by late evening.
The next day we started our sightseeing tour to the charming city on the border of Germany i.e. Salzburg. It is an Austrian city with views of the Eastern Alps. We met our tour guide at the Munich Central Train Station (Hauptbahnoff). Salzburg is the historic birthplace of the famous composer of classic era, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The train journey from Munich to Salzburg took us approximately 1.5 hours.
We arrived in Salzburg by mid-morning and our tour was divided into 2 parts - a guided tour of old town of Salzburg and the second half being given to us to shop and walk through the picturesque city on our own. First and foremost, we were taken to Mirabell Palace which is a historic building in the city. It is a part of the Historic Center of the City of Salzburg UNESCO World Heritage Site. We entered the Mirabell Gardens where several scenes of the famous 1960's movie "The Sound of Music" were shot. The garden is filled with colored flowers, fountains and statues which add further beauty to it.
We walked to the Salzach river where there are several bridges with their fare share of love-locks which in itself makes them an attraction. Along the walk, we also got a view of the Holensalzburg Fortress which dominates the skyline.
After this we were taken to the birthplace of the famous composer of the classic era, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The rooms once occupied by his family have now been converted to museums.
Post the visit of Mozarts house, we continued to walk through the city's old medieval shops, courtyards and restaurants. We decided to have our lunch at an Indian restaurant. Since it was almost 3, the restaurant like most places in Europe were going to close and would have reopened in evening. We requested the hotel owner to provide us the lunch and they agreed to prepare 'Paranthas' which were amazing.
Later we went to the Cathedral of Salzburg which is considered one of the best churches in Austria due to its architecture. The church has a beautiful facade and a huge dome.
After exploring the city on our own for the rest of the time, we returned to Munich by train once again. We reached back to our Hotel at around 08:00 PM.
The next day was our final day of the tour. Post breakfast, we reached Munich main railway station (Hauptbahnof) which was the start point of our tour. After showcasing our tour booking voucher, we got on to our coach and were ready for our day tour to Innsbruck and the Swarovski World of Crystals.
We ventured into Austria by driving through beautiful Bavarian Lakes and through the Karwendel Mountains. Our first stop was the "Swarovski World of Crystals". We had the opportunity to get our picture clicked at "The Giant" right at the entrance - I am sure you would remember this from the famous David Dhawan movie "Chal Mere Bhai".
We purchased the entrance ticket to the museum which was 18 Euro per person. Swarovski crystal speaks for itself as it is famous all around the world for its fine quality of crystal and glassware. We browsed through various collections and also made a purchase of few items.
After having an amazing experience at the Museum, we continued to the beautiful medieval city of Innsbruck where we were given time to have our lunch and explore the city at our own pace.
We returned back to our Hotel in Munich after another fabulous day.
We checked out from our Hotel after having our early morning breakfast. Taking away some wonderful memories, we flew from Munich airport back to our hometown of New Delhi.