After almost a year’s stopover in the US, we were at last able to return to our digital nomad adventure. Having found a good flight to Zürich, we decided to start with Switzerland, and make a circuit by train around the northern and central parts of the country.
We arrived in Zürich in the afternoon and found our arrival initially a bit confusing due to some issues getting our international SIM working. Once we got an Uber, we checked in to our hotel, which was centrally located and made the city very walkable. By this time we were pretty tired, so we only strolled a bit before dinner and then got some rest. We did, however, get to see more sights the next day, on our return from a day trip to the Rhinefalls. In the evening, Zürich proved especially beautiful.
From Zürich we hopped a train up to the Schloss am Rheinfall stop. The Rhine Falls are the largest (by volume) most powerful falls in all of Europe, and holy wow, were they stunning. From the platform you hear the roar and feel the mist wafting upon you. But even better you can take a boat out to a tiny island and climb up over the falls for a still more spectacular view. The Rhine Falls are an absolute must-see location in Switzerland, near the German border.
From Zürich we went by train through Lucerne (we didn’t have the chance to stop) and took the panoramic train onward to Interlaken. Those panoramic trains are kind of an event in-and-of themselves, and well worth it even if we didn’t have plans to stay in Interlaken. Interlaken means between two lakes, and we got to ride the train alongside one, and the next day, take the ferry along the other, so we saw the whole of both. The ferry’s entire interior was a giant restaurant with big glass windows, so you can stay warm, grab a bite to eat, and still enjoy the lake views.
Interlaken itself was a lovely city, one of the most relaxing places we’ve ever visited. We found a local Indian restaurant we liked enough to visit twice in four days. We also loved Cafe de Paris for their nice coffee, excellent desserts, and amazing service.
Grindelwald is a mountain village about a 45 minute train ride from Interlaken and was the most romantic village we’ve ever seen. We were there between the winter and summer tourist seasons, so it was relatively quiet and easier to get around, despite being the weekend. Climbing the hills to get above the main streets gave us a much better sense of the serenity of the village.
From Grindelwald we took the cable car up to the Eigergletscher railway station.
A train runs from Eigergletscher to Jungfraujoch, the famed “Top of Europe” mountain peak and observatory. The sheer scope of the mountain’s height and grandeur is almost impossible to capture in pictures. It’s one of those beautiful sights you have to witness firsthand to understand.
Unfortunately, no one told us the mountain closes at 4pm, and thus we had less time than we expected. We arrived at 3pm, stopped for a quick lunch, prepared to tour the observatory, and were told by the cafeteria staff the last train out is at 4pm and “we are leaving” with the implication a long, cold night was ahead of anyone who missed that train. We rushed to the very top (the Sphinx) for the view. Then we found the lift back down not working. Stuck up there, with a couple of other tourists, the minutes ticking by, we started to worry when we finally found an employee who told us we had to use a different lift.
From Eigergletscher there is a different train that runs to the other popular site, Lauterbrunnen, the “waterfall village,” so named for its numerous falls. We didn’t have time to see it the same day, as it was already close to sunset, so we came back the next day from Interlaken. And wow, was that worthwhile. There are numerous falls, the greatest of which is the Staubbach Falls. But the village is more than that. You can hear the sounds of running water from the stream or the falls almost everywhere. The church bells echo through the valley. And a sense of quiet peace permeates everything.
This is the place from which Tolkien drew inspiration for Rivendell, and another site not to be missed.
We also highly recommend the family cafe, Base Cafe, on the main street. Great coffee, great food, and a lovely family that runs the establishment.
From Interlaken we went by train to Bern. We had only half a day to visit the city, and our hotel was a bit outside the center, so it took a fair walk to reach it. But we managed, and view coming down from above was gorgeous and well worth the walk. Bern has a fairytale aspect itself, and feels smaller than it actually is.
Throughout Switzerland, we found the landscape consistently stunning and the people always friendly and super willing to help. People would stop to ask if we needed something if we were looking confused somewhere, and everyone we met had a smile. If you ask if they speak English, they will say, with modesty, “a little bit” and then proceed to speak with perfect fluency.