The grand road trip across Switzerland.
We decided to rent a car, as the costing was very less compared to getting a 5 day Swiss pass. But there were two main concerns after we had rented the car.
1. Traffic rules(exorbitant fines)
I will try and describe what it was like driving in Switzerland over the next logs.
Day 7 :
Our previous day in Paris ended with the night view of the city from Eiffel Tower. Now it was the moment of truth. We had decided to do a road trip across Switzerland, in spite of being advised not to do because of traffic and parking issues in Switzerland.
We had been planning to do a road trip outside India for a long time but could never materialize it. Finally we decided to do it in a country where our Indian licenses are valid.
We headed towards Gare de Lyon to catch the train No 9 2 11 yes (9211) to Zurich main. It was a high speed TGV lyra. The fare was around 5k per person. Journey time 4 hours. The train left for Zurich at 10.20am. the journey was smooth and once we saw the speed reach 350km/hr there was nothing much left to do , except sleeping and mustering the confidence to drive .
We arrived at Zurich main station at 2.30pm. we had to pick up our car from Zurich airport 11kms away. We decided to take the train as it was most convenient. The price 6.5 francs(Rs 500 approx) for a 10 minute journey ! And we were welcomed in Switzerland !
We reached the airport and it was very easy to find the car rental , it marked clearly which you will not miss.
As we approached and gave the staff our booking voucher , we were told that the car that we had booked (an Audi A3) was not available, but they will provide an upgrade for free. A Seat Leon automatic. We have never heard of the company so searched the internet for images and also asked them if we could see the car physically. We were given the keys and we went for a look. It was good, but we were hoping to get an Audi or BMW. So we requested the receptionist to see if can get us something else. She did whatever see could, made phone calls , talked with her colleagues and supervisor, but there no other car. She apologized by saying that any other day she could have given us any car but that particular day there was no other option. So reluctantly we took the automatic ( but later we realized that it was an absolutely correct decision to take an automatic with GPS seat rather than an Audi with manual transmission and no GPS).
So we went to the car, loaded the luggage without any issues as the boot space huge. We then realized that if we had got the Audi, our luggage wouldn't fit in. I decided to drive first so I sat on the driver seat, on the left side. It was my 1st time in an automatic car. So i went to the reception and asked if anyone could explain the functions and features.
A gentleman came can explained everything he knew. We entered the address of the BnB in the GPS and we were ready to go.
With a few hiccups during the first few seconds to adjust driving without a clutch, we headed towards the exit. We were worried that we might get some tickets as we are accustomed to driving with no rules whatsoever in India. Slowly we reached and intersection. The traffic light was green, very carefully we looked left and right and as we moved I noticed that the signal was red again and I had crossed the stop line( Spent too much time to look around for other vehicles)! Anyways with my heart pounding I eagerly waited for the sign to turn green again. I could not reverse the car as there was a queue of cars behind me.
As soon as the signal turned green, we were moving and without any major problems we were covering good ground. The GPS was a great help, from speed limit to lanes and traffic congestion, it provided vital information.
After the initial moments the driving was not that difficult at all.
With the help of the navigation GPS we covered 90kms in around 70 minutes or so. On the way we stopped at a supermarket to buy some bread and rice for dinner. Finally we reached our bnb in Wirzwelli a small mountain village. The room was a Swiss chalet with all the modern amenities. We went for a walk around the village and then spent the rest of the evening breathing the fresh mountain air and savoring the view of the greenery with the ice clad mountains.
Day 8 :
We had a long day ahead of us. After a quick breakfast in our bnb we headed towards Engelberg for an excursion to Mt Titlis.
The place was a mere 20 minutes drive from our location and we reached there at 10am.
There are 2 huge parking in front of Titlis Bahn, the cable car station. So parking space was not an issue. But the parking was not free.
We took the return ticket without any discount card for 92 francs (Rs 6500). As we had reached early the crowd was somewhat less and we got on the cable car with took us to an intermediate station. From there we again boarded the rotating cable car which took us to the summit. We were blessed clear weather and sunshine, but it was very cold and windy at the top. There is an ice cave included in the cost. There is another open chairlift which we skipped due to the cold weather. There is a restaurant and some shops at the top.
The prices of chocolate was cheaper than most of the shops in the town. The watch shop had a lot of variety and range.
After spending a good amount of time at the summit we headed back to the parking. We started our journey to Lucerne which was again 40 minutes drive. By this time we had gained enough confidence to drive in the city. One thing we noticed was that in the gps navigation we had to give exact location of the place where we were going like building number, road number, city . So we found it most convenient to put addresses of parking lots , as we would start our trip from that place. Driving in lucerne was a bit tricky as there were too many things to take care of. Traffic, speed limit, signals, pedestrians, traffic priority. But people follow the rules strictly. Priority is given to pedestrian ,then cyclist, small vehicles and so on.
We had chosen to park in the parking of Lucerne station, as there was always space available as suggest by my bnb host. Also there is website which gives you the current parking conditions of different parking spaces in Lucerne.(https://www.parking-luzern.ch/en/Luzerner-Parkhaeuser/City-Parking). Some parking are free, subject to availability and time limits.
After parking which is a major activity , we headed to COOP( the largest supermarket chain in Switzerland) for some quick snack of freshly baked pizza slices (2.2 francs for non veg and 2 for veg).
Then we headed for a walking tour of lucerne. 1st we visited the chappel bridge, then Spreuer Bridge, Hofkirche St. Leodegar, old town area, then headed to the lion monument.
All these places are within walking distances.
There are a lot more places to visit but we decided to spend some time on souvenir shopping. Lots of options , lots of ranges. Swiss watches are quite famous but they are pretty expensive. Ranges start from Rs. 4000 to any number you put , it there.
Anyways after some shopping , we spend the evening walking by lake lucerne.
Later we headed back to our bnb , driving at night did not pose any issue at all. We reached our bnb after 20 minutes of driving.
I would like share some pointers regarding driving in Switzerland.
1. Traffic : People are extremely strict about rules and so is the govt. Speed limits are followed and to cross check there are several sensors and cameras installed on the roads( we had one such experience which i will share on my next log). Driving on the opposite side of the road took few minutes to adjust but then it felt normal. We only had to be extra cautious when in an intersection so that we don't go to a different lane. Driving on the motorway was the easiest. Just follow your lane, maintain your speed and nothing else. GPS will tell you where to exit, when to exit and which way to go after exit. Driving in the city is a bit trickier as lot of traffic and turns complicate the situation. But keeping a cool head and eyes open can help a lot. And another thing as Indian drivers, we can drive anywhere in the world.
2. Parking : We were also concerned with this but solved this issue by searching the parking lot in google and putting its location in gps. Our bnb had free parking. So it not that of an issue.
So if you are planning on a road trip , go ahead no problem at all.
I will share my road trip video , where you will see all the experiences in my later logs.
Next Day 9-10 The DDLJ Trail ,
Grindelwald First, Zweisimmen, Gstaad, Interlaken.