If there is any place where doing nothing is also fun, its Switzerland. One of the things that does strike on reaching Switzerland is that the average age seems much higher. Right from the tourist information office the staff in stores, to the passengers in the buses, I saw a lot of elderly population around which also spoke to the sense of wellness in the country.
As we crossed the beautiful Lake Geneva on the way from the airport to the hotel, the famous Jet D’Eau could not be missed. My hotel, The Edelweiss, was located very close to the Geneva station, the Gare De Cornavin and as I walked through the various streets around it, the fountain was often visible from afar.
Being so close to the Geneva lake, a walk around the lake was must do in the evening. The first sight was the Statue of Melancholy a sculpture created by Albert Gyorgy, that portrays the void that grief leaves us with. I then walked up to the Pont Du Mont Blanc or the Mont Blanc bridge that connects the Les Paquis area with the Old Town and the shopping district. Do walk across the bridge that offers beautiful views of Lake Geneva.
The next day I took a bus to go to the Palais Des Nations, The United Nations office in Geneva, one of the city’s important landmarks. There seemed to be walking tours available at certain times but since it was the Easter weekend, the tours were closed. Right opposite to the UN office is the 12-meter-high monumental sculpture of the Broken Chair which symbolizes the opposition to landmines and cluster bombs. The area around the UN office was otherwise an office district and there wasn’t anything else to see there so I took the bus back to the Old Town. My hotel had given me a pass which made bus and train travel across the city free for me.
If you are not a museums fan, just walk around the Old Town. There was a huge flea market at the Plain Palais Square where people were selling everything from antiques to clothes and trinkets. Do bargain in the flea markets. I bought an article for 1/3rd of the quoted price. There were lots of places for children to play, skate or cycle near the flea market. The tramline goes through the square. Across the road from the flea market were quite a few restaurants.
From there I walked towards the Bastions Park or Parc Des Bastions crossing the University of Geneva which looked really small to me when I compare to the Universities of India. The main attraction in the Bastions Park was the 100 meters long Reformation Wall which was erected in honour of the men who worked for the Reformation and the creation of Protestantism. In the middle of the wall, are the statues of 4 great preachers: Jean Calvin, Guillaume Farel, Théodore de Bèze and John Knox. It was lovely to walk across the length of the wall and just lie down on the grass under the shade of the trees. The park also has 6 giant chess games which seemed to be popular with people really enjoying watching or playing it.
From the Bastions Park, I walked back towards Lake Geneva through the shopping district which was bustling with people and had all the top brands available. The eating joints seemed to be busy through the day even though there were lots of them all over. A couple of Patisseries right next to my hotel offered a good breakfast in the morning. The streets were safe even at night though the Rue De Berne ( red light district of Geneva) was just two blocks away.
After 2 nights in Geneva, I headed to Lucerne which was going to be my base for the rest of the Switzerland trip.
Based on recommendations from various travel groups, it seemed advisable to make Lucerne or Interlaken the base in Switzerland and do day trips around. I chose Lucerne due to its proximity to Mount Titlis as well as to Zurich airport.
The place I chose to stay in Lucerne after much research was Lake Villa Lotus in Stutz. Overlooking the Lucerne Lake, the villa offered beautiful views of the lake and the mountains from the balcony. It had its own pier and kayaks for those who wanted to try their hand at kayaking in the cool waters of the lake. The best way to travel from the villa to anywhere in Lucerne was to take the bus to the train station and then from there take the bus to other destinations. The care taker of the villa gave the visitors a pass which again made bus and train travel within the city free.
From the train station, the Chapel Bridge is a few minutes’ walk. It is a covered wooden footbridge spanning the River Reuss diagonally in the city of Lucerne. There is a huge shopping area next to it. Both sides of the river are flanked by restaurants. The whole area is buzzy and would definitely recommend hanging around there if you are in Lucerne. There are also lots of Indian restaurants in Lucerne offering authentic Indian meals if you are looking for some home food.
The other place I would recommend in Lucerne is the Chocolate Factory in Lucerne. The experience is delightful as you sit in an éclair shaped car and are taken from one phase of the journey of chocolate making to the other. There is a beautiful park and lake view across the Chocolate factory as well. You can spend some time here enjoying the mountain view and your Lindt Chocolates. The Transport Museum and the Chocolate factory are in the same vicinity through you would need a lot more time to go through the Transport Museum.
To go to Titlis, you need to take a train from Lucerne to Engelberg. I could buy the Titlis excursion ticket from the Lucerne train station tourist office. The ticket included the Ice Flyer ride and the Cliff Walk. The train to Engelberg was crowded and full of Indian tourists. There were buses that went to Titlis from Engelberg station.
The whole tour of Mount Titlis is very organized with clear directions at each step and staff available to guide. A cable car took us to first level from where the rotary cabin took us to the peak. The place where the rotary cabin dropped us was a building with multiple floors. Elevators and washrooms are available. There is a restaurant, a souvenir shop, a waiting lounge and the glacier cave before you get to the top.
My interest was in the glacier cave which was an ice cave. The cave was lit enough for visibility to be able to walk through, though it was quite cold. Be careful of the slippery ice flooring. Once out of the cave, you can head towards the main peak of Mount Titlis. At the peak, once I got past the shock of the DDLJ poster with Kajol and Shahrukh, I walked through the snow admiring the beautiful snowcapped mountains all around. After clicking my hearts fill of pictures, it was time to go to the Ice Flyer. The Ice Flyer ride is a must do. It’s an enjoyable experience to travel over the snow clad peaks watching the ski slopes and the skiers demonstrating their stunts below. The cliff walk is a bit scary as the bridge keeps moving a bit and it is super cold there, but definitely worth crossing over to experience the adrenalin rush of walking between two cliffs at that height.
Thanks to Yash Chopra, Titlis feels like a mini India in Switzerland. Other than the DDLJ poster at the peak, there is a restaurant at the exit which offers the most authentic Indian food. Even the washrooms have instructions written in Hindi.
The weather in Lucerne in April was sunny yet pleasant. A light jacket was needed in the evening. The lake water was cold though. Waiting at the bus stop, I would see joggers of all ages whizzing past at all times. Fitness seemed to be the primary activity there. There was no sense of urgency. It was the perfect place to wake up late, enjoy a cup of coffee soaking in the view of the mountains and just do nothing. I practically spent each evening watching the beautiful sight from my balcony with an occasional rower going past on their canoe.
Even after 4 days in Lucerne, I wished I had a few more days in Switzerland. Not because there was a lot to see or do. The lakes and the mountains would have been similar everywhere, as beautiful and as peaceful. More than the sightseeing, the fresh air, the lack of urgency, the sense of wellbeing all around, made it the perfect place to press the snooze button from the hectic schedules and just enjoy being with oneself.