Last winter, Anu & I made our first ever trip to Switzerland.. We had both grown watching clips of Switzerland on Chitrahaar & Oliyum-OLiyum ¹ (remember those ancient TV programs where the Hero & Heroine rolled all over Swiss Alps?). So we broadly knew what to expect—that’s when we realised that the real Switzerland is far more beautiful than anything on the screen. We updated our mental image by making some postcards — for mailing to ‘ourselves-of-30-years-ago’. I have no time-machine, but a blog-post is a near enough substitute; forgive me as I go overboard …
Formed in the last Ice-age, this is one of Europe’s largest Waterfalls. It is less than an hour away from Zurich. A short walk from Schaffhausen station leads you to the River Rhine. Then there is a nice Boat-ride and gentle climb to the Laufen Castle from where you get panoramic view of the waterfalls.
Above: Two views from the banks of the R. Rhine; Laufen Castle is seen on the right
Above: Two views of the waterfalls from the Laufen Castle
The view from almost under the waterfalls
At Laufen Castle: I introduce Jallikattu ² to the Swiss !
Schaffhausen is a quiet township near the Rhine waterfalls. The streets retain their original character from the medieval times.
From Top: On the Rhine river bank; The Market place; Haus Zum Ritter (15th centuryhouse with Renaissance frescoes); William Tell Square
This was one of those trips where the journey was as wonderful as the destination. It was a steep climb on an old mountain train and the view from the windows was awesome.
From Top: Rigi Railway Station — well above the clouds; The train needs to climb in a near vertical position to reach the station;Tourists relaxing on the slopes; Lucerne Lake as seen from Rigi; and another view from the peak.
Canine tourists were all over Rigi :What a divine gathering of lovable dogs!
Great Railway Journeys
Rigi was not the only great Railway trip. Wherever they saw natural beauty, the Swiss quickly laid tracks. That’s practically everywhere in Switzerland! Here are some wonderful views.
The Railway stations have all the modern amenities but have retained their historic authenticity and remain as close to nature as possible..
Oerlikon Station at the heart of Zurich city
A train arriving at Engleberg Station, at the base of Mt. Titlis
Flowers greet tourists at Goldau Station on the Rigi Mountain Railway
Vitznau station has trains on one side and a boat-jetty on the other side!
Mt.Titlis is a cold, windy peak 3000 metres above Mean Sea Level. If Bollywood has made it ultra-famous, the Buddha-Bhikshus like it too! Boss, Dilwale Dulhania Le Chuke! ³
The Swiss have performed remarkable engineering feats here. They have built a wire rope bridge across 2 peaks. It took me a while to get a good photo, because icy cold winds froze my hands and the bridge was swaying all the time! The engineers who built it must have been real heroes. They also built a lovely tunnel through the Titlis Glacier and that is a ‘must-see’.
What we enjoyed most was the remarkable views from the cable cars which took us up. Here’s a sampling of views.
Lucerne is the very Italian part of Switzerland. The most enjoyable part was the cruise around the Lake.
There are some churches on the shores of the Lake Lucerne, which are architectural marvels.
Church of St.Leodegar
Sunset at the Church of Jesuits
In the middle of the lake, there is a imposing tower. A bridge decorated with flowers connects it to the shore. It is the Kapellbrucke ( Chapel Bridge). This 14th century beauty was once used as a cell to torture prisoners. Give it to the Swiss, even prisons are so aesthetically pleasing!
There are many lakeside cafes with lovely view. My sister-in-law gave us a treat in one such Italian restaurant. The next morning my sister-in-law had a surprise: someone stole the identity of her credit card and treated himself to a hefty meal with it. The card had to be blocked— we did not want to support the food program of the Italian Mafia any more!
I come from Madras, where water is a scarce resource. So when I saw drinking water fountains all over Switzerland, I went berserk. There is a subtle sense of humour in their fountains!
We were 30 years behind schedule, but we did get an opportunity to romance under the roses!
Some explanatory Notes
1. Chitrahaar & Oliyum-OLiyum were TV programs on the national TV in the 70s and 80s: they showed song-and-dance clips from Bollywood and Kollywood movies.
2. Jallikattu is a bull-taming event in the South of India.
3. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge was a popular Bollywood Hindi movie shot atop Mt.Titlis.
If you liked this piece on Switzerland, you might like to also read Zurich: Zimply Zuperb ! and Seriously, are’nt the Swiss Serious? and Sozzled in Switzerland! and Switzerland on a wheelchair . Auf Wiedersehen !