Switzerland Tourism hosted a group of travel industry professionals from around the globe in 2010 in honor of Jungfrau Railways 100th anniversary. The railway was erected in 1912, and in 2012 would be celebrating its centenary. I was lucky enough to join in this wonderful experience. While the Jungfrau was the focus, I experienced a number of Swiss rail products that significantly enhanced my trip and left me anxious to get back to test out the rest.
This was actually my second trip to Switzerland. When I was 18 I passed through on a bus from Germany to Italy, and stayed a night in Lucerne, taking the next afternoon to travel by cable car up nearby Mt. Titlus to take in view of the Alps. I looked forward to seeing more of the country and traveling by rail instead of a bus.
I boarded the train straight out of the Geneva airport baggage claim, and traveled to Montreux with Lake Geneva blanketed by a faint mist on one side, and the terraced vineyards of the Lauvaux on the other. I smoothly changed trains within minutes of arriving in Montreaux, and took the Golden Pass Express scenic train from Montreux to Interlaken. Sipping wine and looking out the panoramic windows of the train, while weaving through the fields and mountain towns of the Golden Pass line, was the perfect pick me up after a trans-Atlantic red eye flight.
Interlaken proved to be not only a beautiful small city nestled in an Alpine valley, but also a base for year-round activity including skiing, hiking, mountain biking, hang gliding, and river rafting. Each day our group traveled up the mountains by rail for a different experience. The first day we traveled by rail to Grindelwald then took a cable car up First Mountain (pronounced feerst). We ate lunch at a lodge looking straight out at the Eiger then harnessed up for a ride down the First Flyer, a .5 mile long zip line travelling up to 50 mph. After catching our breath we boarded scooters and flew down the mountain to Grindelwald, careful to avoid the occasional goat or cow crossing the road.
The next day we rode the train from Interlaken to Kleine Scheidegg where we boarded the Jungfrau railway, the highest railway in Europe at 11,333 ft. We enjoyed the spectacular views of the Alps and the bordering countries of France, Germany, and Italy while eating a gourmet lunch at the Crystal restaurant. We headed back to Interlaken late in the afternoon but not before a game of curling and a shot of whiskey in the ice bar.
The next morning we took the Harder Kulm funicular from Interlaken straight up the face of Mount Harder. We looked out on Interlaken and the Jungfraujoch during breakfast at the Harder Kulm restaurant, which is a Swiss Heritage site and well worth the visit in its own right. That afternoon we took the train to Lucerne, a vibrant city with a modern culture set amidst medieval architecture. We walked straight from the train to our hotel on the lakefront. The next morning we walked to the pier and took the ferry to Weggis, then boarded the Rigi Kulm cogwheel train which took us to the top of Mt. Rigi. The panoramic view of Lake Lucerne was one of the major highlights of the trip, and a fabulous send off before our train to the Zurich airport then next morning.
I learned two valuable lessons when I returned to Switzerland. Staying one night is a crime, and the train is the only way to go. The efficiency and punctuality of Swiss rail travel along with the striking natural scenery makes getting from point A to B a beautiful journey rather than a chore.
Be sure to check out Gaby’s article on the Swiss Pass (2-for-1 deal going on right now!).