Journey to Luzern!
Less than 48 hours after getting home from Cuba, we are RE-packed, LESS than ready, and excited about our 16 day split between Switzerland and Iceland! The one day we were home so happened to be the 4th of July. We were excited to celebrate it in our new downtown Condo on Lake Eola.
After some fireworks and much needed laundry, the adventure begins with three flights: Orlando to NYC, NYC to Reykjavik, Reykjavik to Zurich. We flew Icelandair for our journey because they offer a ‘free’ stopover. This means, if you fly with them to another desitnation, you can stopover in Iceland for up to 7 nights! Of course we took FULL advantage of this.
Our first mission in Zurich is to purchase a Swiss train pass. Although a little pricey, it has been well worth it. Well, let’s start by noting, everything is a little pricey in Switzerland, EVERYTHING! The good news about the train pass is it is basically good for almost all modes of transportation: boats, buses, trains, museums, and we are sure plenty more. Everything except… taxis, which go along with the expensive theme! So, we put the train pass to good use, and jumped on the first train out of Zurich to Luzern (about an hour ride).
After a brief stop to check into our hotel, we quickly walked into the city center and marveled at the city of Luzern. A short stroll led us through unique streets to Lake Luzern, ready to jump on a boat to Mt. Rigi. We were almost talked out of jumping on the boat to check out Mt. Rigi because upon our late arrival, we wouldn’t have much time to experience the cog train and mountain. However, since we were limited on time in Luzern, we decided to go anyway.
THANK goodness we didn’t listen to the lady who advised us not to go. Even on a short amount of time, we had a memorable journey to Mt. Rigi, and up the cog train to the top. The boat ride there was filled with spectacular views of villages along Lake Luzern. As we drifted away from the city center, we passed several picturesque villages sitting at the feet of ginormous mountains (especially large to us who live in Florida, which is an awesome place to live, but unbelievably flat!).
Our hour long ride dropped us at the bottom of Mt. Rigi, where we would board the cog train to the top. Remember we said the Swiss pass covered everything, well this included the boat ride and the ride up the cog train to the top of the mountain! As we walked up, we asked the conductor a couple of questions about timing, and if we would have a chance based on what time it was to explore around at the top. He gave us a couple of tips, then invited us to sit up in the conductor’s cab for the journey to the top of Mt. Rigi. JACKPOT! Tip: If you ever find yourself in Luzern, go to Mt. Rigi and ask to sit in the front car with the conductor!
This interesting and exciting ride took a turn for an epic, lasting experience. Throughout our ride we learned about the cog train, and how it was built back in 1871 by a man who after visiting Mt. Washington in the U.S., decided this was a perfect fit for this mountain. This two-year project is a way of life for the locals on the mountain, another experience we relished as we approached the top. Mt. Rigi is a throwback, where cars are non-existent, with a couple of special government exemptions.
Two elderly farmers stopped the cog, hitched up their fresh milk, and sent it on its way to the top of the mountain for other locals to turn into cheese. The conductor said we were lucky to witness this.
Using the advice of our conductor, we hopped off for a stroll. His plan was to loop around the top and scoop us up on the way down, perfect for us to hike around, snap some pictures of the amazing scenario this incredible mountain provides, and get back in time to jump on the last cog of the night.
Cog down, boat ride back to Luzern, and a perfect night for dinner on the water. Perfect first evening!
We wake to the groggy feeling of 8 days on a boat, 1 day at home, 3 legs of a flight, and a train ride to our current location. So what do good travelers due, suck it up, and find the most amazing destination you can find (well, it wasn’t due to luck, it was because of Katie’s sleuth skills we found this gem)!
A ‘million’ dollar cab ride takes us to priceless views at Hotel Villa Honegg… as amazing as the pictures are, the views in person were even more breathtaking! We knew we had one afternoon to relax before a 4-hour evening train ride to Gstaad, so we made the most of it. Enjoy one of the best views the world has to offer, and we will let the pictures do the talking! This hotel is a MUST if you are ever in the area.
All aboard to Gstaad!
Since we aren’t in too much of a hurry heading into the evening, we decided to spend the extra time on the train to Gstaad, taking the Golden Pass route. About an hour longer route, however the scenic ride is highly recommended. Passing through lakes formed from glacier water, towns cut from postcards, and mountains that keep everyone, locals and tourists, focused on the scenery during this journey. As we arrived in Saanen at 9:30 pm, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing…..less than 36 hours after arriving in Zurich, we have arrived in our next resting spot, Saanen. Because of the millionaire prices, we stayed in the town one train stop past Gstaad, Saanen, a small ski town. We arrive in daylight at 9:30 pm, and experience the most surreal walk to our hotel, through a quiet, immaculate town that is so incredibly nice, it looks fake. We felt as if we were walking through a movie set, and we were the only ones in the movie! This peaceful town is asleep well before our arrival. Both towns were so expensive we ended up staying in a newer hostel. We had two roommates who were biking Switzerland. But sleeping with the windows and and the view..didn’t feel like a hosel at all!!
So, we must backtrack a little and explain part of why we are in Switzerland. A good friend, Phil Dalhausser, of ours has been playing on the professional beach volleyball tour, the FIVB, for over 10 years. We used him playing in Gstaad as a reason to spend over a week exploring Switzerland.
Before we head over and watch Phil play some matches, we decide to head out to do some hiking in the foothills of the Swiss Alps. Not just any ordinary hike, a fondue hike in Fondueland! The pictures will do most of the talking, but here are the quick logistics: head to a store in town, pick up your premade rucksack, enjoy a hike with amazing views, and stumble upon an oversized wooden fondue pot set up for a fondue picnic. This country is seeming more make-believe everyday!
After gorging our way through large amounts of cheese, we hike back to town and take the train back toward Gstaad. Off the train to wander through the streets of yet another picture perfect town. This journey leads us to the courts where you will find the 32 best beach volleyball teams in the world! The FIVB tour brings out some incredible competition, and with the Olympics only a few weeks away, it was an impressive tournament for these teams before they head to Rio to compete for gold.
So many people know it is common for athletes to take ice baths to help their muscles recover, well Gstaad offered a new twist, a running stream filled with glacier water flowing off the mountain. This gem of a stream, runs just behind a few trees next to the volleyball courts. Phil had to sit in the river for five minutes! We could barley keep our feet in for 30 seconds! Brrrrrr!
Another memorable day in ‘Pleasantville’ ends relaxing on the cobblestone main street of Gstaad, enjoying dinner with Phil. Great to spend some time with him before he hopefully takes home his second Olympic Gold medal in Rio!
Crazy considering how much we have done, but it’s only day four and it is time to move on to our next destination. I guess the only down side to taking the train in this part of Switzerland is the amount of times you have to transfer to reach your final destination…yes, Katie is sleeping in between transfers.
We took advantage of this inconvenience for our next adventure. Our mission to reach Murren, involved a pit stop in Kandersteg, known for its scenic views of the Alps, and THE Alpine Coaster. And of course, some more hiking and selfies with cows along the way!
Check out the Alpine Coaster on the GoPro! Kandersteg-Alpine Coaster Video
Next up, the beautiful town of Murren!!!