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  • Report from Europe –SWITZERLAND


    Part 3 and the last country of our European Adventure…Switzerland! It was such an action-packed week that I am going to have to split this article into 2 sections. We travelled on our Swiss Rail Pass for the next week. We were very fortunate to have first class tickets, so we had access to lots of transport options, museums and events.

    Our river cruise arrived in Basel around 9:00am. We walked up the street to the city bus stop (with our luggage) and rode to the main train station. Our hotel was only a 10-minute walk from the station, but we decided rather than haul our luggage around, to jump on a bus for a quick ride that dropped us off 2 minutes from our hotel. By 1:00pm we were back aboard a bus that brought us for a boat ride on Lake Lucerne, the first part of the trip to our ultimate destination, Mount Rigi.

    The Rigi is a mountain massif of the Alps, located in Central Switzerland. The whole massif is almost entirely surrounded by the water of three different bodies of water: Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug and Lake Lauerz. The range is in the Schwyzer Alps and is split between the cantons of Schwyz and Lucerne, although the main summit, named Rigi Kulm, at 1,798 meters above sea level, lies within the canton of Schwyz.

    After about a 30-minute boat ride, we rode a gondola up the first part of the mountain, and then jumped on an old cogwheel train to the top. Breathtaking views! And cows with real cowbells!  On the boat ride back we were entertained by some Swiss gentlemen playing Alphorns. Very interesting sounds! We stopped at a chocolate store for an afternoon snack, and our day was complete!

    There is a SBB (Swiss Transit) info office on the top floor of the Lucerne train station, and at most of the rural stations as well. They were so helpful with our itinerary when we weren’t sure exactly what the best options were. Understanding the panoramic trains (some with extra cost) or just doing the route on a regular train is complicated at first. We were told the Gotthard Panoramic is about 13cf extra and the difference is that there are panoramic windows, commentary as you travel, and the journey is twice as long (4.5 hrs vs 2.25). We opted for the regular train as first class cars are very nice and comfy, have big windows and the times worked better for us. At Arth Goldau station we changed trains to a double decker and took the more direct route, taking 1 hour off our journey.

    We went through the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest in the world at 50km long, with the train travelling at 200km/hr. Our ears popped several times during the 15-minute section.

    We arrived in Lugano in about 1.25 hrs. We are in the mountains here at the very southern end of Switzerland, very close to the Italian border. People here speak Italian as their first language, and the cuisine is definitely Italian. It’s like we are in a different country!

    Lugano is a very nice town, quite hilly. It reminds me of the Cinq Terre towns with lots of designer shops, fresh fruit and vegetable vendors, and artists. We visited the main church and saw one of the most beautiful round stain glass windows I have ever seen. But it is still Switzerland so we shouldn’t be surprised that the lunch special, risotto, was 28cf or about $40 Canadian.

    We took a funicular back to the train station, then headed north, about 15 minutes, to Bellinzona where we made a quick stop and visited 2 of the 3 castles. They are still very intact. The Montebello Bellinzola is the best example of a defendable fortress with its drawbridges and tower wall walkways still standing. It was an overcast day, with a sprinkle of rain every now and then, about 17 degrees.

    From Bellinzola we took the old route back to Lucerne, with several windy tracks very high in the mountains. This ride is 2 hours 45 minutes. We reached an altitude of 2502 m before heading back down into Lucerne. It’s sunny and warmer in Lucerne this afternoon so we’ll be able to enjoy appetizers and strawberry wine on our porch!

    The next part of the journey takes us to Montreux where many famous musicians have recorded and written huge hits. Watch for the details next time! If you’d like to follow us, you can see our adventures on Facebook. Click here to see our travel log. If you have any questions for us, please email us at pdumouchel@tpi.ca or you can read about the rest of Week 3 in the Chestermere Anchor next time.