Thanks to Yash Chopra, we can’t think of Switzerland without thinking of romance. Was this a second honeymoon for you?
With an eight-year-old daughter who likes to cling to us, it is actually difficult to think of a second honeymoon. The Switzerland idea was born in 2005: Struck by its scenic beauty during an official trip, I promised myself that I would get my family there one day.
Since my wife is a geographer, it took us less than a week to narrow down our destinations. We wanted to see a lot of snow, hence Mount Pilatus, Mount Titlis and Jungfrauhoch, Europe’s highest point, were natural choices. Interlaken was actually the travel agents’ recommendation: They told us that that was where DDLJ had been shot. So, I guess romance was there at the back of our minds.
Your first stop was Zurich, right?
Well, we flew Austrian to Vienna and then caught a SwissAir flight to Zurich. Though it is a beautiful city with stunning views of the mountains and Lake Zurich, I had done a couple of walking tours of Zurich on my earlier visit and wasn’t too keen to spend much time in the city when the whole countryside remained to be explored. We spent just a day in Zurich. As a banker, though, I did notice the UBS, Credit Suisse and other banks at regular intervals—it is an ingrained habit.
So Luzern was your introduction to the ‘real’ Switzerland?
That’s right. We spent two nights there, with the two days being dedicated to the mountains. Mt Pilatus is 7,000ft high and has the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. The train seats are designed so that they are straight only when the train is inclined at about 60°. It is a bit eerie if you look out of the window—outside, the scenery changes gradually, from the lush green meadows to the steep, rocky mountain face. This is where we first saw snow, not to mention a divine view of the Alps.
But it was Mt Titlis that blew us away. We climbed up 10,000ft in three different cable cars. The last one is the Rotair—imagine a central driver’s seat attached to the cable and a rotating disc of a floor, from where standing passengers can have a 360-degree view of the mountains. We finally reached the top, only to find it very hot—the snow all around was actually reflecting the June sun. So, now we knew how Bollywood heroines could dance in their chiffons in Switzerland. We had seen snow earlier in Manali, Yumthang et cetera, but we realized how white white could be on top of Mt Titlis.
You preferred to take the train everywhere. Any reasons for that?
Oh, it would have been such a waste to travel by air. While the Swiss co-passengers seemed to be the coolest people, the green fields, picturesque houses, lakes we saw were worth every extra minute spent on travel. Srishti almost jumped out of the train when we passed Dorfli, associated with her favourite book Heidi. We had to identify a particular cottage as Heidi’s to calm her down.
Interlaken is supposed to be quite the tourist hub. What was your experience?
Interlaken had to be our base for Jungfrauhoch. It is quite the tourist magnet, in fact, we found a large number of Indian tourists everywhere we went, and even spotted signboards in Hindi. But the biggest surprise was bumping into a friend from back home on the mountain.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the mountain experience was the ice flier ride—it is a sofa-like seat with just a slim rod to hold on to. A cable moves it horizontally from one peak to another, swaying and floating over a 11,000ft drop. Phew. Pay off came on the other side with some simple ice sports, including whizzing down a winding path in a disc.
Cruising on Lake Brienz, one of the two lakes of Interlaken, was memorable, but nowhere close to the ice flier in the thrill factor.
The Ice Cave, a series of tunnels cut into a glacier, gave us the chills though, if only because it is so cold. We went down some 1,000ft under rock and ice, into a series of tunnels where the floor, walls, ceiling, everything is made of ice. The Ice Palace is amazing too, with ice sculptures 10-12ft high.
As told to Sumana Mukherjee. Share your last holiday with us at email@example.com
There are no direct flights between New Delhi and Zurich. Current fares on Lufthansa, which takes you there with one stopover, start at Rs57,000. From Mumbai, fly SwissAir direct (round-trip fares from Rs48,000) or Emirates, BA, Austrian with one stopover (from Rs46,000).