Our trip to Switzerland was even better than we anticipated. The scenery, particularly in the Alps, was spectacular, the food was delicious and we really enjoyed the various modes of travel ranging from high speed trains to gondolas to cog wheel railways to ships. Finding another destination that works as well for our tastes and interests will be a challenge.
On this trip we undertook two successful experiments, one to have just carry-on luggage and the other to avoid jetlag. We carried about a week’s worth of clothing for each of us, plus some specialized gear such as warmer coats for the high mountain altitudes. Using compression sacks, we were able to pack everything into two carry-on rolling suitcases and two knapsacks. We did laundry a few times throughout the trip, and this worked out very well, even with the week we spent at re:MARS before flying to Switzerland.
To deal with jetlag, we slept for only a few hours on the plane each way. The idea was that we’d get enough sleep that we weren’t exhausted and be unable to explore when we arrived, but not so much that we wouldn’t be tired in the local evening. This approach was successful in both directions. After an 11-hour flight from LAX, we arrived into Zurich feeling great and spent the late afternoon and evening exploring the city, particularly the old town where our hotel was located. And on the return, we reached our apartment mid-afternoon, went out for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, and later spent some time watching the shooting of a car commercial in our neighborhood. We slept well both first nights on the new timezone, and overall barely noticed the timezone change.
|Zurich Arrival||Lake Zurich|
After a night in historic Lucerne, we continued southwest to spend four nights in Murren, in the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps near Lauterbraunnen. There we visited amazing Jungfraujoch, where the mountains Jungfrau (13,642 ft; 4,158 m), Monch (13,480 ft; 4,110 m) and Eiger (13,024 ft; 3,967 m) dominate the sky.
While in Murren, we also visited 9,744 ft (2,970 m) Schilthorn, the setting for the fortress Piz Gloria in the 1969 James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, did the heart-pounding Via Ferrata Murren-Gimmelwald, and spent a foggy but enjoyable afternoon taking in the Mannlichen Royal experience.
The Bernese Oberland area truly is astonishing, but it’s hard to beat seeing the Matterhorn in person. After Murren we spent two nights in Zermatt, at the base of the Matterhorn in the southwest corner of the country. During our time there, we pretty much refused to do anything where we couldn’t see the Matterhorn, and viewed the mountain as frequently and from as many different angles as possible, including from Gornergrat station, the highest open-air station in Europe; the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise; and a helicopter tour with Air Zermatt.
|Matterhorn Glacier Paradise||Air Zermatt|
Next up was Switzerland’s top two scenic railway trips, the Glacier and Bernina expresses. Both are considered express trains not for their speed, but because they make fewer stops than the regular trains on the route. They actually travel relatively slowly, in special carriages with large windows and skylights, to give passengers more time to enjoy the scenery. We rode the Glacier Express northeast across the Alps from Zermatt to St. Moritz, where we stayed for a night before taking the Bernina Express southeast to Tirano just across the border in northern Italy, From Tirano we transferred by car west along the shores of Lake Como back into Switzerland at Lugano.
|Glacier Express||Bernina Express|
Historic Lugano is the third-most important banking center in Switzerland, a country that excels at banking. All of our time so far had been in the northern German-speaking central and eastern parts of the country. Lugano lies close to the Italian border and that proximity is very obvious here, where Italian is the dominant language. We spent two nights in Lugano, exploring the historic center and riding the funicular to the top of Monte San Salvatore (2,992-ft; 911 m).
|Monte San Salvatore||Lugano|
From Lugano in the south, we returned by train briefly to Zurich in the north, to transfer to Lausanne in the southwest. En route we rode through the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest railway and deepest traffic tunnel in the world. Lausanne is known as the headquarters for the International Olympic Committee and the home of 13th-century Cathedrale du Notre Dame, one of the finest Gothic cathedrals in Europe and the spiritual capital of French-speaking Switzerland.
|Lausanne||Cathedrale du Notre Dame|
We spent our final two nights in Switerzland in Geneva, taking a ferry along Lake Geneva from Lausanne. While in Geneva, we spent a day touring CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), home to the largest particle collider and detector in the world.