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Big on Quality, Small Enough to Care
By Marie Phillips
Day 2 - A very early start, meeting the Swiss Travel Centre rep and the rest of the FAM trip group at Heathrow T2. After check-in we flew from Heathrow to Zurich with Swiss Air, which took 1 hour 40 minutes. After collecting our luggage we took the train into Zurich main station and then the cogwheel railway to Arth Goldau, we were joined by Olivia Wang sales manager for Mount Rigi Railways, we took the historical carriage ascent from Arth Goldau to Rigi Kulm, admiring the outstanding views as we climbed higher and higher into the mountains. Queen Victoria is said to have visited Mount Rigi and quoted as saying "we are amused"!
We had a short visit to Hotel Kulm and again took the opportunity to take some photos after which we ascended to Rigi Kaltbad, a small mountain village and the location of our accommodation for the night, the Rigi Kaltbad Hotel and Spa, here we took a horse and carriage ride to the Kanzeil view point, where there are endless views of alpine mountains and lakes including Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug and Lake Zurich, we then we checked into the hotel, some of the group used the hotels spa facilities including mineral baths and outdoor pools, I took a walk around the area to look at the stunning mountain flora. We later met for dinner in the hotels sunset restaurant.
Day 3 - Today we checked out of the hotel early and started our journey to the Schilthorn, we descended on the 07.20am Rigi Bahn from Rigi Bahn First to Vitznau, the serenity of the early morning was spectacular, on arrival at Vitznau we had a short walk to the bus stop to catch the bus to Kussnacht am Rigi, then the train to Luzern, Luzern to Interlaken Ost, Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen, a short walk to catch the bus to Stechelberg (base of the Schilthorn), from here we took the cable cars to Gimmelwald-Murren-Birg and finally the summit of the Schilthorn aka James Bond mountain due to the film 'On Her Majesty's Sercret Service' being filmed here in 1969! We had a delicious "James Bond brunch" in the revolving Piz Gloria restaurant and then took in the glorious view of the surrounding mountain peaks including the Jungfrau, Eiger and Monch and of course the inevitable photo opportunities.
We then retraced our journey back down to Murren via cable car and checked into Hotel Blummental for the night. Murren is a beautiful mountain and car free village, once again surround with amazing view of Mountains and Meadows, in the winter months its popular ski resort. I really loved this village, so peaceful and tranquil, with the traditional Swiss style wooden chalets, a fairy tale village, we had some free time to explore after which we enjoyed a lovely evening meal in the hotels Italian restaurant.
Day 4 - After breakfast we took
the cable car back down to Gimmelwald and Stechlberg, onwards Via bus to
Lauterbrunnen station where we took the train to Interlaken Ost, then to Speiz and finally
Speiz to Brig. Today it was the 'Glacier Express', we departed from Brig
but you can enjoy the full journey from Zermatt,
we travelled 1st class and were served a fabulous 3
course lunch whilst admiring the most amazing view through the
panoramic windows, the train winds its way through remote
valleys, past sheer rock faces and through the impressive deep
Rhine Gorge, the Grand Canyon of
Switzerland, the highest point is the Oberal Pass 2033m above sea level, and
the iconic Landwasser Viaduct, after approximately
6.5 hrs we arrive in St Moritz, the famous winter ski resort of
the rich and famous, we then had a leisurely walk around the
Lake St Moritz to our hotel for the night, the Corvatsch, dinner was served at their
sister hotel the Laudinella.
Day 5 - Today we boarded the 'Bernina Express' from St Moritz to Tirano in Italy, again we had 1st class seat with panoramic windows, the train departed at 09.17am and it is just over a 2 hr journey to Tirano, once again the scenery was breath taking as we travelled over bridges, viaducts, through galleries and switch back tunnels hewn into the rock, past waterfalls, ravines and rushing meadow streams, the highest point is the Ospizio Bernina Pass and Alp Grum, this was my favourite part of the journey, the melting Glacier lakes with the snowcapped mountains were unforgettable, we stopped for a few minutes at Alp Grum, another photo opportunity, then descended into the Engadine Valley.
I was amazed how the railway line at times runs parallel with the road and also the closeness of the train to homes, we arrived in Tirano just in time for lunch at a traditional Italian restaurant, and then the inevitable "Gelato".
We boarded the Bernina for our return journey at 14.24pm, returning this time to Chur the end point of the Bernina Express which takes just under 4 hrs, on arrival at Chur we checked into our accommodation the Hotel Stern for our final night in Switzerland, here we were treated to a traditional Swiss cuisine from the Grison kitchen, consisting of Capuns, Maluns & Pizzoccheri pasta.
Day 6 - On our last day we had a guided tour of Chur old town, known as Switzerlands oldest city, it has a rich history and some beautiful building, with painted murals, after a site visit to Hotel Chur we had a welcome lunch of Barley soup and Capuns before collecting our luggage and making our way to the railway station to board the train to Zurich airport from our onward flights home.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to Switzerland and would highly recommend it as a holiday destination, it appeals to all ages, for the adventurous, there are many activities and excursions from hiking, cycling, extreme sports or if you just want to admire the most spectacular scenery and landscapes from a train, or marvel at the ingenious mountain railways then Switzerland has it all.
Most of the excursions I experienced are featured in Railtrail's tours to Switzerland, for the rail enthusiast I would recommend the 'Swiss Glacier Express and Bernina'.
You can find our fabulous collection of Swiss Rail holidays by clicking here!