A few months ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Switzerland. I had never been to Switzerland before and frankly I had never thought of going there. Not because there was anything wrong with the country, it just wasn’t on my radar. However, having been bitten by the travel bug, when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it.
Switzerland is a fascinating country, just under 16,000 square miles nestled between France, Italy, Austria, and Germany. More than half of the country is mountainous, home to the Swiss Alps and the Jura mountains. There are four official languages spoken in Switzerland, French, Italian, German, and Romansh which is only spoken in the canton of Grisons.
Switzerland is a politically neutral country, home to the United Nations and the International Red Cross. It is divided into 26 cantons, with a population of 8.5 million people.
When I visit a country that I’ve never been to before, I like to go with a tour group because everything is set up for you, the flights, hotels, transportation, most dining, and fees for attractions on the itinerary. True, your freedom to explore is limited but the upside with a tour group is you get to see some of the country’s highlights. I know that there are many, many tour groups out there but the one that I have used for several of my international trips is Steve Bertrand Travel.
After arriving at the Zurich airport, we gathered our bags and boarded a bus headed to our first destination, Interlaken.
On our way to Interlaken, we made a quick stop in Lucerne. Just enough time to snap a few photos and note it as a place for a future visit.
In Interlaken, we stayed at a lovely four-star hotel called the Hotel Metropole. The staff was very friendly and helpful, and our room was clean and comfortable. The hotel had a well stocked gift shop with a wall of Swiss clocks and even had a hookah bar.
From our balcony we had a spectacular view of the Interlaken skyline which included an amazing view of the Jungfrau mountain peak. The Jungfrau is part of a famous trio of mountain ridges which include the Eiger (translated as the Ogre), the Mönch (the Monk) and the Jungfrau (the Virgin or Maiden).
Sunday morning we were greeted with an incredible view of paragliders taking tourists on silent wind current dances and landing in the grassy field in front of our hotel. It was mesmerizing!
One of our excursions while staying in Interlaken was to Trümmelbach Falls near the town of Lauterbrunnen. The Trümmelbach Falls are a set of 10 waterfalls that are inside a mountain in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. They are responsible for carrying glacier ice from the Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau.
You can explore the caverns that the Trümmelbach Falls flow through via a tunnel. Concrete stairs take you up into the mountain where you will find numerous observation decks for watching the swift moving waterfalls. One stop in particular filled me with a sense of terror. As I stepped into the spacious observation alcove the roar from the raging water was deafening, as thousands of gallons of water per second surged past the observation deck. You couldn’t get within 10 feet of the railing without getting soaked from the spray. It was alarming to realize how close we were to such a powerful force.
As we emerged from the mountain tunnel, we were able to capture amazing views of the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Our last excursion from Interlaken was to Schilthorn, made famous by the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It takes four cable cars to get from the Lauterbrunnen Valley up to the Schilthorn summit (2,970 metres (9,744 ft)) and on a clear day I’m sure that the 30 minute cattle car ride would be worth it for the magnificent 360° view of the Bernese Alps. Unfortunately, we were not so lucky. The higher those cable cars took us, the cloudier it got and the mountain tops played peek-a-boo with us the entire time we were up there. On the plus side, lunch in the rotating Piz Gloria was delicious.
After two nights in Interlaken, it was time to head west to Destination #2, Montreux which I will share in my next post.