Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Switzerland Day 1 - Interlaken - Trummelbach - Lucerne


The Plan
         With three days earmarked for Switzerland, we decided to go around with Swiss Flexi Pass that can be utilised for train, bus and boat. We  split the entire Golden  Pass Panoramic line that stretches from Lucerne to Montreaux, into two days. The first day was to show us the panoramic view of the Swiss Alps with the Golden Pass Line starting at Zweisimmen and culminating at Montreaux. The second day was to take us to Lucerne with a brief stop over at Trummelbach Falls near Interlaken. So walking and chugging on trains,  were our  means of transport. Backpacks ready with packets of food, cameras, lenses, towels and bottles of water! The last one can be very expensive if you are travelling with kids. You feel the pinch when you have to keep replenishing the fast diminishing reserve especially with all that walking around!

                                                   Golden Pass Panoramic
                                                       Courtesy  www.switzerlandholidays.com

The Goof Up
 So off we were, trying to figure out for ourselves if Yash Chopra did justice to this Alpine country, little realising that Murphy's Law was to raise its sneering head! Leaving Dietikon, our base near Zurich, on a grey morning, with dark clouds threatening to give a generous glimpse of the Swiss rains, we boarded the train for Montreaux via Berne completely trusting the Swiss perfection. It was only at Basel did we realise, that we were in the wrong direction and  on the verge of crossing over to France.

Oblivious to the German announcement at Aarau where we had to change trains for Berne, we hopped on to a train at our scheduled platform at the scheduled time, not realising that ours was delayed by a few minutes. So admiring the countryside and a Lindt factory on our way, we were redirected from Basel to Berne by a kind soul. The Supervisor on the train further helped us to plan our trip ahead since we lost out on a couple of hours. With   inclement weather forecast for the day, she suggested that we visit Trummelbach Falls since we would cross it on our way to Berne. The train ride through the Swiss Alps is best enjoyed on a sunny day. So with the routes swapped, we headed for Bernese Oberland to Interlaken where we changed trains for Lauterbrunnen. Interlaken itself is a tourist's paradise sandwiched between Lake Spiez and Lake Thun with Jungfau, Monch and Eiger looking on. But then every part of Switzerland is charming, I guess. From Lauterbrunnen bahnoff ( station), a very comfortable public bus took us to the foot of the mountain that housed the Falls.

                                                           A view of Interlaken

Trummelbach Falls
The Trummelbach is a series of ten glacial falls, that plummets down inside the mountain. These falls drain the glaciers of Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger.

                                             Path leading to Trummelbach Falls

It was a picturesque  five minutes walk from the bus stop to the base of the mountain through a flowery meadow and towering Alps on both sides. A lift took us through the mountain to the first view point. From then on, it was a climb up the illuminated tunneled stairs to the other chutes inside the mountain.


                                                                   Trummelbach Falls

A thunderous roar greeted us with volumes of water tumbling down in  twists and turns, cutting right through the mountain. What an amazing sight it was! At every point the water gushed out, churned and plunged disappearing into a crevice below. We continued on the wet steps taking in each of the falls, with  sprays of the ice cold water stinging our face.

Sometimes the steps gave way to guarded walkways around a falls. It was an awe inspiring and humbling experience. Tearing through the mountain, the water cascades, carving out its path for centuries and finally gushing out into the Lauterbrunnen valley.

Lauterbrunnen Valley

Coming out from the exit, damp with all that spray of gallons of water,the lift man regaled us with anecdotes of how he had seen lady tourists walk up to the falls well-coiffed and well- heeled only to return as wet sparrows with hair all awry and the stilettos in their hands. Shaking off the droplets from my own hair, I wondered if he was just trying to make the visit a more memorable one. No one in their right mind would venture into trekking to a mountain fall in that attire.

To Lucerne
For a trip that started with wet grey skies and a wrong turn, we looked ahead, much energised by the Trummelbach. From Interlaken we boarded a train to Lucerne through the picturesque Swiss region of lakes. This part of the country speaks predominantly in German. Practising our "Sprachen zie English bitte?" (Do you speak English please?) just in case we need some German in an emergency, we passed through Brienz, a pretty town with  lake Brienzersee on one side and pretty Swiss chalets with colourful window boxes on the other.   


 Far beyond the lake were the cliffs from where many falls dropped - first teasing us with a glimpse and then giving a regal revelation as the train took a bend. Just as we admired one, another appeared as a speck first and then a full- on show as the train moved ahead with a stream beside for company.
                A Cascade near Brienz
The train started a climb from Meirengen and from Lungern it trundled down the mountain with glimpses of pretty lakes, chalets and chapels. Between Giswild and Sarnen we went around lake Sarnensee skimming its periphery with a clear view of the reeds in the lake. At Alpnachdorf the edge of the lake was dotted with many  boathouses and homes that had  steel rungs(like in swimming pools) on the shore for the owners to take a dip in it. How lucky! 

And finally we arrived at Lucerne! Walking out of the hauptbahnoff ( main train station) with a self-guided walking tour city map, we followed the red trail marked on the road. Hmm...that was an interesting thought, for tourists who wanted to discover the city at their own pace.

Ambling along the river Reuss that straddles the city before draining into lake Lucerne, and past the Jesuit church, we found ourselves in front of the most photographed spot of Switzerland,the Chapel Bridge with the Water TowerThe Chapel Bridge with the colourful flower boxes, is the oldest covered bridge of Europe- a fourteenth century landmark that was revived after a fire broke out in 1990s. 


     Chapel Bridge

Chapel Bridge with Water Tower

The Water Tower has taken on various roles in its history - from dungeons to archives to treasury and now an exclusive club house. As a part of the the city's medieval  fortification, the Chapel Bridge with the Water tower with its beautiful paintings under the roof, is now easily one of the most picturesque spots one can hope to see in the middle of a city.  Sometime in the past, it was supposed to have directly led into St.Peter's Chapel on the North bank and hence its name.
            Travelling with kids does not give one the luxury of stopping by for a moment or stepping into a nook to discover something. But I managed to quickly step into the Franciscan church, tucked a little away from the riverside promenade and gaze at the exquisitely carved pulpit.


And  once out of the church,  this pretty fountain spout, nestled in the flowers and foliage,  greeted us. We continued our walk to the second covered bridge Spreuers Bridge. This bridge, a little younger than Chapel Bridge, was built to connect the mills with the baker's quarters on the other side of the river. The baker's quarter was separated from the medieval living quarters. This isolation was necessary to prevent  fire from breaking out since the bakers always had a fire burning through the night. Incidentally this was the lower part of the river from where medieval people could throw their spreu (chaff) into the water. Also known as the Mills Bridge, it boasted of a series of painting under the roof by chief painter Kasper Meglinger "Dance Of Death" and a  Nadelwehr, wooden water spikes, that help to control the level of the water. 

                                           Spreuer Bridge with Nadelwehr Extending Into The Water 

"Dance Of Death" is expression of fragile human life, especially in the face of epidemic plague that ravaged medieval Europe - Death embraces all whether a beauty, a peasant, a royalty or a clergy. I found this an intriguing theme that seemed to resonate in most medieval European art form. Perhaps it was a reassurance for all, cutting across all boundaries, of the ultimate truth. 

We walked across to the other side of the city through this bridge, to the old town that was pedestrian friendly with its Miller plaza, Kornmarket, Wein Market, Town Hall with their quaint squares and alleys. We huffed and puffed up the old city wall with its seven watch towers, the only part that was preserved. I preferred to sit at the base while the others climbed up the narrow and steep wooden stairs to one of the towers. For me the quietness of the stretches spread out, was a balm for the aching muscles and soothing to the eyes.

Lucerne or Luzern  is a city that entices you and charms its way into the heart. There are times when you just want to sit by the Reuss and watch the swans glide, looking for tid-bits. Then there are those moments when you gaze at the sail boats or the Alps around the city. Maybe some day, I will go back just to seep in the magic of Luzern all over again...                                                                                                                                      




  1. In a place like Switzerland, getting lost also would lead to new experiences eh?

  2. Fantastic tour. I was there and I want to be there again.

  3. Thank you Indrani for stopping by :)I guess one can never have enough of the place.

  4. Jaish! I wouldn't have minded getting lost there forever :D


Your words keep me going :)