In April, I made good a promise to tour Switzerland again. So beguiled was I by the unsurpassed beauty of the Swiss Alps when I visited the country 15 years ago that I had vowed to see more of this beautiful country. I travelled with Laura, my youngest daughter and excellent travel companion.
In Tirano, a border town in northern Italy, we boarded the striking red Bernina Express to St Moritz, a top-notch winter destination. The train ride took a little more than four hours but we enjoyed looking out the windows on the picturesque surroundings of snow-capped mountains, rushing mountain streams and clear creeks.
The train runs along the Unesco World Heritage Rhaetian Railway line in the Albula-Bernina areas.
St Moritz is upscale and a blissful place to take a stroll amid the backdrop of the alpine scenery, blooming tulips and the sound of church bells.
At our next stop of St Gallen, we visited the renowned Abbey Library. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world, containing more than 150,000 books and handwritten manuscripts, some dating from the 8th to the 15th centuries.
My favourite memories of the trip were on our bus ride to Interlaken, a city located between two alpine lakes. On the way up the mountainous area in the Jungfrau region, we were pleasantly surprised to see that it was snowing! We requested for a photo stop and our bus captain obliged.
We scrambled out of the bus to catch the falling snowflakes. Snow in April? No kidding! Looks like April is the new December! Temperatures had dropped to -2°C but we were prepared. Our photos displayed postcard scenery akin to a Christmas card picture. Laura was overjoyed at being surrounded by such ethereal natural beauty.
On the same day itself, we reached Bern, the capital of Switzerland. The shops there are simply lovely, with elaborate window displays but, alas, it was a Sunday and most of the shops were closed.
We spent the night in Zurich, the commercial hub of Switzerland. After a good rest and a hearty breakfast at a five-star hotel, we boarded the Glacier Express and travelled from Andermatt to Zermatt through delightful valleys, beautiful lakes and murmuring brooks.
The village of Zermatt is elegant and car-free, with rustic timber chalets and quaint winding alleys. Zermatt lies at the foot of the Matterhorn, the ultimate Swiss icon. We walked up to our very beautiful hotel where we spent a memorable night. Outside my hotel window was a rushing mountain stream providing a dream-like atmosphere. However I did not want to leave my room which was decorated Laura Ashley style.
The next morning, the Matterhorn Express gondola brought us to the large cableway which took us up to the Klein Matterhorn.
At the highest viewing platform, we had a panoramic view of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. The air was freezing cold.
We then visited Montreux, a town surrounded by vineyards against the breathtaking backdrop of the snow-covered Alps. The bus took us to the neighbouring town of Vevey for our Swiss Riveira cruise. We enjoyed sight-seeing on the first-class deck and the cafe offered an array of drinks and snacks to pamper the soul. Ah, life is good!
In Vevey, we snapped photos with the statue of Charlie Chaplin, the most famous inhabitant of Vevey. He spent the last 25 years of his life in Vevey. The stroll along Lake Geneva was exhilarating.
In Lausanne, we visited the Nestle Chocolate Factory – and I was in my element. I piled chocolates into my shopping basket to give to friends, family and relatives back home. Laura carried my bag of glory. The walk to the bus was an added bonus because we were surrounded by beautiful scenery at every turn.
We returned to Montreux to visit the Chateau de Chillon, one of the finest castles amid picturesque scenery.
The highlight of the trip was our visit to Geneva, the second most populous city in Switzerland. The Broken Chair, made of wood, is the symbol of the United Nations’ stand against land mines. Across the street is the United Nations headquarters where we could see the colourful flags of various nations fluttering in the spring wind; the Malaysian flag is among them. Another important landmark in Geneva is the flower clock – a clock made out of a beautiful landscape of flowers. The Jet d’Eau Fountain in Geneva also added interest to our day.
After many days of eating their local food of piccata, risotto, pizza and cheese fondue, we were very glad to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Truth be told, Laura and I were missing nasi lemak, roti canai and teh tarik already.
The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.
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