Tag: alps

Swiss Bliss

Swiss Bliss

As I take off from where I left it in Splendid Switzerland, I cannot help but think that each excursion in Switzerland was truly memorable.

Switzerland offered me ample opportunities to click pictures, and shoot home video, and was, indeed, most fulfilling and enchanting for my mind’s eye, and soul.

I sure have a trigger-happy disposition with cameras. Thankfully, I had also the good sense to carry enough memory because I ended up clicking close to 500 pictures.

My Sony Cyber-Shot captured many unforgettable moments of Switzerland’s everlasting magic. I present a handful of them – for your viewing and reading pleasure.

Leysin
My first major excursion was to the French part of Switzerland. We were visiting the Leysin American School, one of the four English-based international schools in Leysin, an Alpine resort village near Montreux.

Leysin attracts climbers, hikers, and bikers from all over the world to explore its mountains and trails. The beauty of Leysin touched my soul. As I was returning from the visit, I felt there can’t be a better place for students to learn and grow than the tranquil ambience of Leysin. Such was the impact that for a few serious moments, the thought of turning into a full-time teacher crossed my mind, just so that I’d be able to live in Leysin.

On our way back, we took the Golden Pass Panoramic train. This took us back through a longer, but the most scenic route in Switzerland. The sights of mountains and lakes are a visual treat.

City Excursions—Basel, Lugano, and Interlaken
Located in north-west Switzerland on the river Rhine, Basel borders both Germany and France.

Basel is considered the art and architecture capital of Switzerland. Apart from shopping and strolling through romantic lanes and alleys in the Old Town of Basel, I also visited the famed Zoological Garden, lovingly known to the people of Basel as the Zolli. The zoo, which was opened in 1874, is spread over an area of 11 hectares, and is home to about 6,000 animals belonging to 600 species. I spent the maximum time in the aquarium which houses some of the rarest species – aquatic and amphibian.

Lugano was different than Basel in some ways. The city is built on the periphery of the incredibly beautiful Lake Lugano, also known as the Ceresio. Embraced by tall, green mountains, the lake has a dramatic quality. Its calm, mirror-like waters change in colour and mood through the day, and also through seasons. Another striking aspect was that no sooner than I landed in the city, I saw men that resembled Al Pacino, and women who had features similar to Sophia Lauren and Monica Belluci.

Interlaken is situated in the heart of the Swiss Alps, between the Lakes of Thun and Brienz, and at the foot of the famous trio of peaks, the Eiger, the Mönch and the Jungfrau. I went to Interlaken twice, but unfortunately I could not spend much time on either occasion. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I spotted many Indians who seemed to be residing locally. Yet, the few hours I spent there left a lasting impression on me.

Did you know?
Engelberg-Titlis is the only summer snow paradise to be reached within one-and-a-half-hours from Lucerne, Zurich, Basel and Berne. You can ski and snowboard almost all year round at an altitude of 3,000 m [10,000 feet]. In summer/fall, there is, depending on snow conditions, a downhill run for skiers, a fun park for snowboarders, a fun lift on the snow, guided glacier walks, and much more for non-skiers on Mt. Titlis.

Mount Titlis
Perhaps, the most famous tourist spot in Switzerland, Mount Titlis is a wonder. It was about 23 degrees when I left Lucerne for Mt Titlis and I was wondering if I’d get to see ice on Mount Titlis. But, I was not disappointed.

This glacier paradise at 10,000 feet offers a snow-and-ice experience on the highest point in Central Switzerland. The nearest railway station is Engelberg, from where I took three cable car rides to Mount Titlis. The first one was in a gondola for six people each. In Station Trübsee, I changed the cable car. This time, I found myself in an 80-person Gondel, where we rode up to Station Stand. Finally, it was time to board the Rotair, the first revolving gondola of the world, which offers a “round view panorama trip” to the top.

As I approached Titlis, I was thrilled to see so much ice all around. Once on the top, the experience was simply magnificent, and surprisingly the cold was bearable. Walking on a thick layer of ice, I felt I was in paradise. The “tyre ride” was one of the most exciting snow-games and I took no less than five rides!

The ghost of Pilatus and the forbidden mountain

In 1387, six clergymen were incarcerated for planning an unauthorised journey to the lake of Pilatus and an ascent of the mountain peak. Fearful thunderstorms and heavy flooding around Pilatus were harbingers of something supernatural afoot, prompting the Government of Lucerne to forbid locals and visitors alike from climbing the mountain. Even shepherds were placed under oath not to approach the dark waters of the lake, where it was rumoured that the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate had been laid to rest. Banished to this desolate wilderness, the man’s tormented spirit was said to surface every year on Good Friday, in a vain attempt to wash his bloodied hands.

In 1585, the parish priest of Lucerne, accompanied by a courageous band of citizens, ascended Pilatus to challenge any spirits lurking there. They threw boulders into the lake, churned its surface, waded through the shallows. A supernatural counter-offensive failed to materialise, and the spell was broken.
— Source: Plaque at Mt Pilatus

Mount Pilatus
Mount Pilatus was the nearest mountainous excursion from Lucerne. I reached the foothills in just about 20 minutes and boarded the cable car to the 7,000-foot summit. Mt Pilatus turned out to be central Switzerland’s most scenic peak, with a view of 70 peaks and five different lakes. I clicked the maximum pictures here, even as I discovered the area’s mystical legends [See box]. The combination of clouds, ice, mountain and sunlight cannot be described; it’s to be only experienced. It was extremely cold, in the range of 2-3 degrees Celsius, quite a departure from Lucerne city, which was around 24 degrees during daytime.

While returning, I descended by the world’s steepest cogwheel train that passes through five tunnels and runs at a gradient of 48 per cent. The occasion left a funny feeling in the tummy. It was, however, a small price to pay for the extraordinary sights that the train provided.

Rhine Falls
Located in Schaffhausen, close to the German border, the Rhine Falls are Europe’s largest waterfalls, but not in terms of their height, which is a mere 75 feet. It’s the force of the water with 600 cubic metres flowing out per second across the 450 feet breadth — simply breathtaking. The sheer drama of the place, with water resembling pure white milk, and a spray rising in a cloud of rainbow, was magnificent. The view was even better when I took one of the boats that took me dangerously close to the Falls.
Trümmelbach Falls

I thought I had witnessed the most awesome power of water in Rhine Falls till I saw Trümmelbach glacier falls. The Trümmelbach Falls are the only glacier-waterfalls in Europe inside a mountain and still accessible. The 10 glacier waterfalls inside the mountain are made accessible by a tunnel-lift. The temperature inside the tunnels was close to zero degrees Celsius and the raw power of wild falls cutting through the hard rocks was mind-blowing. Take a guess on how much water flows out of the tunnels: 20,000 litres per second!

The Trümmelbach Falls are fed by the melting snow and ice from the glaciers hugging the flanks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains.

Mürren
Not far from Trümmelbach Falls is Mürren, a breathtakingly beautiful mountain village which has a mere 450 inhabitants! Mürren cannot be reached by road – either cable car, or train. I took both: the cable car for ascending and the train for descending. Perched on a high, sunny terrace facing the famous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, the village is the highest altitude ski-resort in the Bernese Oberland. It’s also famous for the revolving Piz Gloria Restaurant, which is where the James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was shot. But, I would, any day, choose Mürren only for its unadulterated beauty.
Journey back home

As my stay in Switzerland came to end, I felt poignant. I wanted to spend more time and resolved that I will return. My journey back home was made somewhat less gloomy with a lovely in-flight experience aboard the Swiss International Airlines.

I enjoyed the in-flight entertainment thoroughly, watching as many as three Hollywood flicks, including the critically acclaimed The Pursuit of Happyness. The nine-hour flight itself was smooth, with hardly any jerks. Even the touchdown was superb.

As I stepped on home soil, I knew I had left a part of me in the “Garden of the World.”

Splendid Switzerland

Splendid Switzerland

Romancing the Alps

Gorgeous bays, lakes and creeks
Surrounded by snow-capped peaks
And adorned by sunlight streaks
This is where the soul speaks
A million different shades abound
A blissful sight is all around
As if our Planet has been crowned
By Europe’s pretty playground
Switzerland’s beauty so enchants
It gently leads one to a trance
While in the heart God implants
A seed of lifelong romance
If you wish to feel that splendour
And taste that awesome flavour
Then go, experience, and savour
The beauty of the Alps forever

— Manoj Khatri

I just returned from a trip to Switzerland and like millions of other tourists before, I have been thoroughly charmed by its enchanting beauty.

Long considered the most beautiful country in the world, Switzerland, the Alpine country, and the Playground of Europe, has inspired many a poet and philosopher.

Poetic disposition or not, the effect of Switzerland’s awe-inspiring grandeur affects everyone. After all, we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and not the other way around. And, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Each man is capable of using the natural world to achieve spiritual understanding.”

Even as I was landing at Zurich airport, the view from the aircraft windowpane was beautifully breathtaking. Though I had known that Switzerland is the world’s most beautiful country, I was not prepared to encounter perfection. From the moment I stepped on Swiss soil till the time I left its shores, I was, quite simply, spellbound.

By the time my stay ended, I pondered over and over again: how can a country be so exquisitely perfect? One thing’s sure — God, on His part, has been extraordinarily kind to this country made up of an endless string of magnificent mountains and lovely lakes, with a splendid canvas of green trees and pure white snow.

Switzerland’s scenic beauty has been written about countless times. Most of us have seen Switzerland in innumerable Hollywood and Indian movies too. So, you know it is a beautiful country.

What most people don’t know is how calming a visit to this country can be on your nerves. Living in Switzerland is too beautiful to describe in one short article — it would be unfair. So, I am not even attempting that. What I wish to share with you, though, is my experience of spending 10 enchanting days in what I call the “Garden of the
World.”

Let’s first start travelling within Switzerland, which incidentally is as important a part of touring in this lovely country — just as the exquisite destinations themselves are.

Transport
Thanks to hi-tech German engineering, travelling within Switzerland is itself an experience worth savouring. A rare combination of comfort, convenience and speed, the Swiss railways, public transport [trams and buses], cruises, and cable car rides, are among the best in the world. Swiss precision is, perhaps, why the country has been nicknamed, “Timekeeper to the World.” Like in most Western countries, the transport system is technologically-advanced.

But, it’s not just the engineering that marvels and amazes us. To pick one example: like when I entered the train headed to Rhine Falls. The colourful interiors of the coaches left me mesmerised. As the train started its journey, the dual effect of beauty inside the train and the outside — the vast lands of manicured greenery — soothed my heart and soul.

Traffic
One of the first things I observed was the traffic culture of the country. In Basel, Lucerne, Zurich or Lugano, people have an almost intrinsic sense of driving. For one, nobody honks. I mean nobody! All through my stay, I didn’t hear a single car yelling on its way — and, to think of it, I spent most of my waking hours travelling. For another, lane discipline is not enforced. It’s part of the people’s consciousness. It stems from healthy self-respect, I reckon. It’s like if you want to be treated well, you ought to treat others well too. So, everyone respects one another.

People
In almost all interactions I had with them, I found the Swiss folk courteous and friendly. One may expect that being such a rich country, the locals may have a condescending attitude towards foreigners, especially non-Europeans. But, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Wherever I went, I found it very easy to get along with the Swiss. Even when language was a hurdle, the general attitude was helpful and co-operative. From ticket checking staff and shop attendants to counter clerks, everyone served with a smile, creating a peaceful environment wherever I went.

This also got me thinking what it was that made this country so serene and Godlike. I guess, the answer lies in human nature. Result: when everything is so perfectly synchronised, our mind, body and soul, get aligned and serenity ensues.

Read the second part of the this article here

Tip: Unless you are going on a package tour, buy the Swiss Pass, during your stay in the country. It is extremely cost-effective and convenient as it lets you travel in trains, buses, trams and most cable cars and cruises free of charge.

Source of original article: http://completewellbeing.com/article/splendid-switzerland/