I had just finished my first long distance cycling trip. Solo cycling & camping from Berlin to Copenhagen, 550 kms in 17 days. 17 days in the European countryside, a dreamy solitude. I was to now spend a week with my parents in the country they really wanted to visit – Switzerland.
Having enjoyed and cherished my solo cycling travels to the maximum I really wondered how I would find a similar joy and thrill in the Swiss Mountains. I usually prefer going for offbeat more quaint and unknown type of places rather than most tourist-popular Switzerland – so I was not sure how touristy this country would be. I was already unpleasantly aware of how expensive it was – having found all accommodation already booked or 3 times more expensive than most other places in Europe.
As it happened, our trip planning played out right and the Switzerland leg of the trip was really enjoyable and unique as well. Just remember it is important to choose your trip the way it makes sense for you, as per your interests! These are some of the things that we loved there,
I criss-crossed the Swiss country couple of times in train and I suspect that the Bernese Oberland region is one of the the BEST scenic places in the country, and with low-lying & mountainous villages. Maybe the higher altitude mountain villages might be interesting places to stay as well, but for low lying areas Bernese Oberland villages takes the cake – with the quaint little villages, beautiful lakes and nearby mountains to gaze upon. So if you are planning a trip to Switz I suggest you plan your stay in this area.
Picture Source: By Marco Zanoli (sidonius 19:14, 3 May 2007 (UTC)) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Countryside Swiss Chalet
The accommodation choice makes a lot of difference for us family. As we love to relax in a wonderful place – wake up late sometimes or just take a holiday from roaming around and spend a quiet day near about.
On Lake Thun there is a town called Spiez. This is also a really good place to stay if you get good accommodations. Go for a place with a view!
We stayed in a countryside chalet in a small village 10 mins from Spiez called Aeschi. Located in the super scenic Bernese Oberland region and near the Lake Thun – fifth biggest lake in Switzerland, this was truly a world class place. From every window of the house we could see stunning landscapes. I would have expected to get such an experience in a mountain cabin devoid of any facilities but this house was completely equipped – from a full kitchen to continuous hot water to a cable TV connection. I will never forget staying in this house and strolling outside to see cows grazing in lush green, immaculately mowed lawns. Walking up to a nearby bench for the view of a perfect blue lake Thun in the distance and mountains all around me. As my dad said, “Every side you turn, the view is stunning!”
With 43 5-star reviews I was pretty sure this AirBnb experience would be good, but it was awesome! 🙂
As a family we love nature. So when I was searching things to do in Switz, walking trails made the most sense. I didn’t realize however that they are so common everywhere. As we were exploring the Aeschi village, we came across a walking sign.
Excited my parents and me followed this trail.
We came to a small animal farm with geese wandering about, a donkey tethered to a pole and sheep. A boisterous cat came by and freaked my mom out by its antics.
A little way up the trail, the scenery kept evolving, entrancing us. Behind some local houses we came by a local community event called the AlpenTheatre. A social gathering for the village folk – we tried out a local (vegetarian) delicacy called ‘Kaas Bratel’. A piece of bread topped with a lot of melted cheese. We also looked around at the many stalls selling local ware. Having explored this local gathering we continued on the trail to amazing views higher up the hill.
We had Swiss rail passes for all of us so we could choose pretty much any transport. Our first choice after seeing the vast blue lake Thun was the ferry!
Two ferries movie across the Lake Thun in clockwise and anti-clockwise direction – so both are going the opposite way around. There are quaint towns by the lakeside, so each ferry will stop at each of those towns. In total I think 8 or so stops are there. Depending on which town you wish to go you can take the ferry moving in that direction.
Lake Thun is connected to another Lake Brienz. These two lakes intersect each other – this intersection is where the popular town Interlaken is located. We have to get down from the Lake Thun ferry at Interlaken West. And then walk 5-10 min to Interlaken Ost stop for the ferry on Lake Brienz.
As Lake Thun is bigger than Lake Brienz the ferry ride on it is longer I guess about 2 hours. While the one on Brienz is about 1.5 hours. The view from both ferries as you can imagine is stunning. The quaint little villages where it stops are all very picturesque. You will get timings and other information for the ferry rides quite easily at any information kiosk in the area or many online resources too.
These ferry rides happen on other Lakes too so if you are near any other lake, do ask about the ferry. It tends to be a bit time consuming, but it is a lovely experience.
The best thing about these ferry rides – and also if you take train rides in Switzerland is to get down at completely random stations and explore random villages. This is what we did at Meiringen and it turned out to be so interesting. Even though I have read all the Sherlock Holmes stories, it didn’t strike me that this was Meiringen – Sherlock town! This is where Sherlock goes during the final battle between Moriarty, his arch enemy! It is only when I came across the Sherlock Holmes museum here and then saw all the Sherlock Holmes theme cafes that I got into the grove of the story. In fact the Reichenbach Falls where Sherlock & Moriarty fall to death is located 15 minutes from here! (Sherlock Holmes was later resurrected by the writer due to popular demand)
So that was a unique experience for us and I would totally recommend you do all such random exploring. In fact stay in such random towns, even better. Lake-side, random towns 😉
It was an enchanting experience, one that my parents and me will not forget. Switzerland is now a favourite location on our travel bucketlist but to be explored in this unique way. Live like the locals, absorb the natural beauty and walk the mountain trails!
We did go to some touristy locations like Jungfraujoch but that is a story for another time. You can plan for such places but first do the relevant research – make sure you are doing things that truly resonate with you deeply rather than just checking off places on a sightseeing list.
Oh ya, don’t go with tour groups.
That’s all for now folks!
Share with me your Switzerland thoughts.