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Old 08-29-2013, 01:09 PM   #1
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A return to Switzerland – land of mountains, museums and moos! COMPLETED 12/4

A return to Switzerland – land of mountains, museums and moos!

Pre-trip report: we’ve only scratched the surface of Switzerland, so let’s go back and see some more of it…

Dates: Friday 30 August – Sunday 8 September
Adventurers: Me, Cheryl (40) and DH Mark (47, turning 48 )
Destinations: mainly Switzerland, but visiting four other countries: France, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Belgium
Resorts: hotels in France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg
Meets: None
Celebration: Mark and a return to Switzerland, which we love

Ever since we first took a road trip to Switzerland, back in spring 2010, we’ve wanted to go back. It was such a beautiful country, but with the itinerary we took, out of 10 days, we only actually had about five full days in Switzerland, as we spent quite a bit of time visiting parts of France and Germany. We came away feeling as if we’d only scratched the surface of Switzerland, with so much more we’d love to see, and places we’d love to go back. Add to that the fact that we went in late March, and quite a few tourist attractions didn’t open for business until April, and there were many reasons to return for another visit.

When my original plans for 2013 didn’t work out, which was to go back to Japan, I realised that we could fit in another week or so’s trip to Switzerland, so that’s what we decided to do. As I didn’t have much vacation time, we decided to go over the last August bank holiday weekend. I started to plan out our time, so I could work out what we wanted to see, and whether everything would fit in, but that’s about as far as I got.

In mid January, I was bored, which usually means one thing – I start to explore vacations. Mark had said to me that he wanted to visit the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and I figured I’d see whether I could find any cheap flights over there. Well, I did – and even better, it was the weekend of the August bank holiday. Now, you might be thinking “hmmm…. Isn’t that when she was planning to go to Switzerland?” Well, if you’re thinking that, congratulations because you did better than me… Yes, I completely and utterly forgot that we were planning to go away to Switzerland that weekend.

I went ahead and booked Northern Ireland, and it was only a couple of days later that I realised what I’d done. We decided to just move Switzerland back for a week, after I did some checking. The prices of the hotels were pretty much the same, everything we wanted to visit was still open, so it wasn’t that big a deal, although we did both have to change our vacation time off work. Thank goodness we were able to do that. Phew!

The pattern for this vacation would be almost the same as the last one we took, albeit we’d be heading out on the Friday evening, rather than the Friday morning, and then we’d be returning the following Sunday. I’m sure that these figures will look like nothing to you guys, but just to give you an idea – from us, Switzerland is about 540 miles away, with the English Channel inbetween.

As we usually do, we booked to go on Eurotunnel, as it’s only 35 minutes through the tunnel, you have no fear of sea sickness, as you can get on the ferries, and it’s just the best way to travel as far as I’m concerned…

The aim this time around is to get down to Switzerland as fast as we reasonably can and the same with the return journey, leaving as much time to enjoy the country as possible. I think, in total, we’re going to have seven days there, which should hopefully be just enough time to see everything we want to.

Let’s start off with what we didn’t see last time around:
  • Swiss National Museum in Zurich. Although we visited Zurich and toured a lot of the city, we just didn’t have time to do this, and it does look amazing.
  • Swiss Transport Museum in Luzern. A bit like the above, we visited Luzern, but we never had nearly long enough there. I think we literally had a couple of hours, so there was no way we were going to get there.
  • A thermal bath – I was desperate to experience one of these, as there are plenty throughout Switzerland, but it just didn’t work out.
  • We didn’t get to go up a Swiss mountain. We saw plenty of them from the road, but I must admit I like the idea of taking a railway or cable cap up to the top of one. Ok, so it’ll be cold, but what an amazing experience, so that’s another one for the list…
  • We didn’t have enough time to make it down to the southern end of Switzerland, which is the Italian speaking region, and I really regret that, so that’s definitely on this itinerary.
  • I was hoping to put the Olympic Museum in Lausanne on the list for this trip, as we didn’t have time to tour it on our last visit, but annoyingly, they’ve decided to do a massive refurbishment of it and it’s closed throughout 2013. In fact, it was closed last year as well for the Olympics, which seemed rather an odd decision to me. In total, it’s a two year closure, so it’s obviously one heck of a rehab they’re going through! Oh well, I guess there’s always a reason to go back, as we say that about Disney…
  • Liechtenstein – it’s a tiny country, completely surrounded by Switzerland, and I’m fascinated by small countries, so I knew that visiting it was a must, plus it adds another capital city to our ever expanding list, after we committed to visiting at least one for every year we’re married. I guess I should also say here that we’ll visit a second one on the way home, as we’re spending the night in Luxembourg, another tiny country that I last visited with my parents back in 1983. Wow, it’s only taken me 30 years to get back there – and yet it’s only three and a half hour’s drive from the French Eurotunnel terminal.
  • Perhaps most importantly, I want to see some Swiss cows, especially if they have cow bells around their necks! Considering how well known the Swiss are for their cows, I was expecting to see them everywhere we went, but no such luck. We have to put that right this time.
Then there’s what wasn’t operating during our last trip:
  • The Swiss Open Air Museum didn’t open until April, so that was a bust for us.
  • The Chocolate train to Broc and Gruyeres from Montreux only operates from May to October, so again we weren’t able to do that.
There’s also a third list of what we won’t be going back to do this time around:
  • Geneva – we enjoyed it well enough, but we felt as if we’d seen everything we wanted to there.
  • Zurich – because we took a guided tour, we got to see everything in the city, it’s just the Swiss National Museum we want to go back to.
  • Bern – we spent a lot of time there, seeing the Swiss capital and, as a result, I feel like we’ve “been there, seen that”.
  • A lot of Lake Geneva, as we saw much of it on our last visit, stopping off regularly to take lots of photos.
  • The northeast area of Switzerland, as we spent a lot of time there on our last trip.
Now these were my initial plans that governed my thinking. You’ll notice a reference to seeing some Swiss cows. Well, in February, I came across this: Cowtrekking. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was ecstatic to see this! I immediately went to their website to learn more…

I got in touch with them and discovered that they do overnight stays, so now we’re booked for an overnight stay there, with an hour and a half cowtrekking session the next morning, which will be the last thing we do before we leave Switzerland. What a way to end the vacation!

Friday 30 August:
Drive down to Folkestone and take the Eurotunnel to Calais
Drive to Saint Quentin and stay the night there

Saturday 31 August:
We’ll be driving for much of the day
Visit Nancy and Colmar in France
Stay the night in Basel and explore the city

Sunday 1 September:
Visit Solothurn
Visit Neuchatel
Visit Yverdon-les-Bains to hopefully use their thermal baths
Stay the night in Montreux

Monday 2 September:
Take the Chocolate train to Broc and Gruyeres, visiting the cheese dairy, chocolate factory and Gruyeres Castle
Stay the night in Montreux

Tuesday 3 September:
Head out to Interlaken early in the morning
Take the Top of the World rail journey to Jungfraujoch
Stay the night in Interlaken

Wednesday 4 September:
Mark’s birthday
Visit the Swiss Open Air Museum
Head to Luzern and visit the Swiss Transport Museum
Stay the night in Luzern

Thursday 5 September:
Visit Lugano
Visit Bellinzona
Visit Chur
Visit Bad Ragaz and visit the thermal pools there
Spend the night in Liechtenstein

Friday 6 September:
Explore Liechtenstein
Head to Zurich and visit the Swiss Transport Museum
Visit Baden
See the Roman amphitheatre in Vindonissa
Stay the night at Bolderhof – home to cow trekking!

Saturday 7 September:
Go cow trekking in the morning!
Head to Strasbourg in France and visit the centre of the city
Head to Luxembourg and spend the night in Luxembourg City

Sunday 8 September:
Explore Luxembourg City
Head for Calais and take the Eurotunnel home
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Old 08-29-2013, 02:38 PM   #2
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All of your plans look wonderful, but especially the Cowtrekking, which sounds perfect for you. Can't wait for all the details and pictures.
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Old 08-29-2013, 04:42 PM   #3
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What a great trip this will be! There's something so relaxed about a road trip, without the mad dash to the airport at the start-- especially if you're not driving! There's a lot on your itinerary I've not done, but I've done the train up the Jungfrau (classic alpine scenery) and Lake Lugano is one of my favorite spots. Can't wait to revisit these places and see new ones via your TR. The cow trekking will be perfect. I hope you get to hear the cowbells!
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Old 08-29-2013, 04:49 PM   #4
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What a great trip this will be! There's something so relaxed about a road trip, without the mad dash to the airport at the start-- especially if you're not driving!
So true... it's been so relaxing packing for this, not having to worry how much we take in how many different bags, where the liquids go etc.

Quote:
There's a lot on your itinerary I've not done, but I've done the train up the Jungfrau (classic alpine scenery) and Lake Lugano is one of my favorite spots.
I can't wait to go up the Jungfrau, as I know the scenery is supposed to be amazing. How were you at the top? I've heard from people that breathing up there can be tough...

Quote:
Can't wait to revisit these places and see new ones via your TR. The cow trekking will be perfect. I hope you get to hear the cowbells!
I want to hear the cowbells too!
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Old 08-29-2013, 04:57 PM   #5
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You sure have a full schedule, sounds like a great trip.
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Old 08-29-2013, 05:12 PM   #6
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I LOVE Interlaken! My favorite place in the area is Gimmelwald. It's on the way up to the Schilthorn, which gives you a great view of the Jungfrau. There are lots of friendly cows and sheep with bells in Gimmelwald too.
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Old 08-29-2013, 07:16 PM   #7
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Sounds like an excellent trip you have planned !

I had the opportunity to visit Switzerland on a work trip one summer several years ago, and extended my trip by a week to do touring on my own -- feel in love with the country and its beautiful scenery and am looking forward to going back one day.

Regarding Jungfraujoch -- well worth the visit !! -- I am asthmatic and I found that starting at either the first or second of the final rail stops on the way up (the train stops inside the mountain a couple times before reaching the top), I starting feeling dizzy, coughing, short of breath and having a headache. I told our tour guide, used my asthma inhaler, and on the advice of the tour guide took tylenol, drank water and took it easy for the few hours the tour group I was with was up at the top (I walked around slowly and did stuff, but nothing requiring lots of exertion, and I made sure to always be around other people).** The symptoms went away soon after coming back down. I did not experience the same symptoms anywhere else I visited in Switzerland, but I never got as high as the lower rail stop, again, either -- all the other mountains I went to were shorter :-)

-SW

** note: I don't know if what I did is what I SHOULD have done, but at least for me it worked out ok. In hindsight to be safe I perhaps should have aborted the ascent and come back down, or sought medical attention at the first aid station at the top...
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Old 08-29-2013, 07:56 PM   #8
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Great plans! I hope you guys have a great time and that Mark has a great birthday!
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Old 08-29-2013, 10:44 PM   #9
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Chocolate train?!?! I must know more about this! Frankly, I didn't hear anything else in the update once I heard that.....chocolate train....and SWISS chocolate, no less?!
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Old 08-29-2013, 11:00 PM   #10
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I can't wait to go up the Jungfrau, as I know the scenery is supposed to be amazing. How were you at the top? I've heard from people that breathing up there can be tough...
When I went to the top I was a junior in college and I could do a lot of things at 19 that I can't do now! I don't think I'd even attempt it today, but you never know how or if you'll be affected by altitude until you try. As Starwind says, make sure you stay hydrated and you should be ok.
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Old 08-30-2013, 01:59 AM   #11
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I LOVE Interlaken! My favorite place in the area is Gimmelwald. It's on the way up to the Schilthorn, which gives you a great view of the Jungfrau. There are lots of friendly cows and sheep with bells in Gimmelwald too.
Oh cool - thanks for letting me know!
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Old 08-30-2013, 02:01 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Starwind View Post
Sounds like an excellent trip you have planned !

I had the opportunity to visit Switzerland on a work trip one summer several years ago, and extended my trip by a week to do touring on my own -- feel in love with the country and its beautiful scenery and am looking forward to going back one day.
You sound just us - we fell in love with the country on our first visit there too.

Quote:
Regarding Jungfraujoch -- well worth the visit !! -- I am asthmatic and I found that starting at either the first or second of the final rail stops on the way up (the train stops inside the mountain a couple times before reaching the top), I starting feeling dizzy, coughing, short of breath and having a headache. I told our tour guide, used my asthma inhaler, and on the advice of the tour guide took tylenol, drank water and took it easy for the few hours the tour group I was with was up at the top (I walked around slowly and did stuff, but nothing requiring lots of exertion, and I made sure to always be around other people).** The symptoms went away soon after coming back down. I did not experience the same symptoms anywhere else I visited in Switzerland, but I never got as high as the lower rail stop, again, either -- all the other mountains I went to were shorter :-)

-SW

** note: I don't know if what I did is what I SHOULD have done, but at least for me it worked out ok. In hindsight to be safe I perhaps should have aborted the ascent and come back down, or sought medical attention at the first aid station at the top...
Thanks for sharing - that's really useful information.
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Old 08-30-2013, 02:43 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by cubfancolleen View Post
Chocolate train?!?! I must know more about this! Frankly, I didn't hear anything else in the update once I heard that.....chocolate train....and SWISS chocolate, no less?!
The Chocolate train is an old train that takes you to the Nestle factory and Gruyeres, where you get to visit the castle and sample their cheese. It sounds amazing.
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Old 08-30-2013, 03:50 AM   #14
Thomhazel
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Oh my goodness you are passing through my old stomping ground. I went to school in Epinal which is about 50kms from Nanay and we visited Colmar often. If you get time the Alsace route du vin is beautiful this time of year. There are three beautiful medieval villages, Rhiquevier, Keysersberg and Ribeauville on the route du vin which if you don't manage this trip are worth a visit. also the beautiful Chateau du haut Konegsberg is also a must do. It was built for Kaiser Bill but is now in France.

Hope you have a wonderful trip you are passing through some wonderfully beautiful places.
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Old 08-30-2013, 07:04 AM   #15
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Gimmelwald, Switzerland: Best of the Alps - YouTube

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