“Seen one, seen them all,” a friend pooh-poohed just when I was about to regale him about my Swiss town adventure—the one where we armed ourselves with the Swiss railway pass. So, was he correct in his assumption? That it's tough to tell Swiss towns apart? That they are all about cheese and chocolates? Why don't I share the same story with you and leave you to decide.
It all began with the train journey to this astonishingly tiny and astoundingly beautiful town. As our train, The Golden Panorama, zipped through the emerald green meadows, I felt the nomenclature was way off mark... for just the ‘golden' bit; the ‘panorama' part took our breath away. As the hubby pointed out, my nose was stuck to the big glass window all through the journey. The rambling meadows, the rolling hills, the well-fed cows with jangling cow bells around their necks, the little houses that looked as if they had materialised out of fairy tales, and, then, the lakes. Oh, the lakes—the shimmering blue so rich, so inviting. I was almost sorry when we reached Interlaken.
The picturesque town blew me away. We spent the afternoon strolling along the street, marvelling at the tiny watch boutiques displaying the biggest luxury brands—Rolex, Omega, Raymond Weil, Longines, IWC—an endless list, whew. And this time around, it was the hubby who had his nose pressed to the glass windows.
After a scrumptious lunch of lasagna and pasta, liberally sprinkled with, what else, cheese, we headed back to our hotel. The reception desk had a small bowl of chocolates. And even though the hubby had declared that he was stuffed to the gills, he plundered the bowl.
We spent the next day at Mount Titlis. “A Yash Chopra staple,” I exclaimed happily. From Engelberg, a cable car deposited us on the mountain. The majestic peak took our breath away. I could really imagine the place in December, covered in snow, happy tourists pelting each other with snowballs, actresses prancing around in their sheer chiffons.
On the last day of our stay, we decided to do something ‘different'. So we took a ferry to Brienz.
A town smaller than Interlaken. Nestled around the eponymous lake, it just had a small departmental store and not much else! The town looked practically deserted. The houses were made of wood, and most had boats. As we ambled along the road, we couldn't help but sigh wistfully. Oh, to live in such tranquil environs.
Our next stop was Lucerne—not to be confused with Lausanne. Spread across Reuss river, it's the town of bridges. Every few yards that we walked, we came upon a bridge. The most famous one being, the Chapel Bridge. A short stroll on this wooden bridge helped us discover several medieval paintings and brought us to the landmark of Lucerne—the Water Tower.
We loitered around the city, aimlessly at first and then purposefully to reach the Lion Monument. The carving of a dying lion by a famous Swiss sculptor. We went round and round the same place, stopped locals for directions, but gave up in the end.
We'd seen all of Lucerne and were wondering what to do the next day. Our Swiss railway pass allowed us one more day of travel. So even though we hadn't planned to go there, we found ourselves in Geneva.
And I'm so glad we did. And not just because it is another Bollywood staple or home to Red Cross, World Health Organisation, or Palais des Nations. Geneva is a charming mix of old and new, countryside and city, modernity and tradition.
Like most Swiss towns, it is best discovered on foot. Though we were surprised to find a lot of tourists favouring the bicylcle! The Cathedral of St Pierre stunned us with its beauty, taking us back into time. Since we were hard-pressed for time, we consoled ourselves with a stroll around the lake. The sight of its fountain, shooting a jet high up, cheered us up considerably. We lunched at a quaint bistro—generously buttered garlic bread, tangy penne, and creamy chocolate cake. Then it was back to the train.
With that, we come to the end of the Swiss town adventure. I'm sure you'll agree to disagree with my friend—for each Swiss experience is as novel as refreshing.