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Old 3rd May 2011, 23:12   #1
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Default A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010

Something was wrong. On Sunday, I was complaining of excessive heat - though Sat rains in South Bengaluru had made it bearable. Monday I complained of excessive rains and today as soon as I walked in I complained of excessive humidity to my wife who was giving a look of "now tell me your crib of the day". I complained and she patiently listened, as she has been doing for 15yrs now. Even during dinner, I kept on murmuring "something is wrong this May". Then came the Eurekha moment, I have spent May'09 and May'10 in Switzerland. I was enlightened. You go to Switzerland and fall in love with it instantly and no other place seem to be OK, thereafter. This summer I'm in Bangalore and there is no better way to relive the memories by sharing my experiences with my beloved forum.

The idea of a Swiss vacation actually came from nowhere. My wife had convinced me that we should visit prominent places in India (Himalayas for example) before visiting other countries. I had agreed. Then I got a chance to start and head India Ops of a Swiss start-up, with a BIG perk of visiting Switzerland every now and then. I did visit Switzerland and fell in love. Over subsequent business trips I traveled to almost every nook and corner of this wonderful place and vetoed that we all (self, wifey and two sons) would be visiting Switzerland. And I never go with a travel agent and/or conducted trip.

Taking family on a DIY trip, though I had traveled there multiple times, was still tricky. So I started the prep 5-6months ahead as I normally do for such long trips. I did come across different hurdles. First, in early Jan'10 my 85yr old grandma slipped and survived an orthopedic surgery. Secondly in Mar, my mom was advised a bypass and the date for the surgery was fixed in late May. Mom insisted that I go ahead with the travel and docs too confirmed that the surgery is not immediate. Thirdly, I had to resign for a variety of reasons, but this 3wks trip came in handy as it would have been difficult to take 3wks off. Finally, when everything was all set, the ash-cloud broke-out throwing off all my preparations of 6 months. But we started, as air-traffic resumed 4days before our scheduled departure.

With such a big introduction, its time to start the actual experience. Few decisions had to be made:
1. Rental caar or Train: This was simple. Train - for their unmatched connectivity. Childrens under 16travel free with the Swiss pass, so its lot economical compared to renting a car.
2. Hotel or appt: This was even simpler. Appt - because we were four and had to take 2 double rooms. More importantly we can cook and that saves a hell a lot of money.
3. Should we stay in two different places or camp in one place: A bit tricky. If you stay in two places, the amount of time spent in train journey reduces. But you'd loose a day in shifting and getting adjusted to the new place. So, we decided to stick to Central Switzerland.
4. Where to get an appt - City (Bern or Luzern) or in villages around city. We chose Spiez a small village by the lake, 30min by train from both Bern and Interlaken.

My wife focused on things that were to be carried (remember we were cooking) and I focused on plans for each day. And we were all set and fastened our seat belts.

Spiez is a quiet village on Lake Thun and its between Bern and Interlaken.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez2.jpg

The 10th century Castle stands out wherever you are in Spiez. This view is from the railway station (Bahnhof, as they call it).
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez1.jpg

The cloudy sky even in early May, the greenery, the mountains all around, the lake and chimes from the bells attached to small recreational boats makes Spiez very serene. Actually a couple of days we didn't go anywhere.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez2a.jpg

More boats
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez2b.jpg

They have a restaurant on the pool side. Only Margharita pizzas for pure veggies like me.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez2c.jpg

.... and you can sit there in perfect peace for an entire day.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez2d.jpg

The castle, as seen from the gate
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez2e.jpg

With that intro to Spiez, let me show our holiday apartment. We stayed in the ground (had one double bed room and a child room with bunker beds) and the first floor had the kitchen and the living room.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez3.jpg

This was the view from the bed room in the ground level
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez4.jpg

... this from the balcony in the first floor
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez5.jpg

... and this from the living room, also in the first floor
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez6.jpg

There was only one problem though. The railway station (circled), though less than a km, was at a steep incline
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez7.jpg

Though there was a short-cut for pedestrians, this particular stretch was fairly steep, though you can't make out in this pic
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez8.jpg

After 10-12mins of rushing, we are finally at the Spiez station even as Interlaken-Frankfurt InterCityExpress chugs in.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tspiez9.jpg

Lot more to come. We have just left the apartment.

I have collected enough information, which should be handy for anyone attempting a DIY and I try to add such info to the travelogue, where appropriate.

Thanks,

RamP!
RamPrasad Moudgalya
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Old 4th May 2011, 00:05   #2
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Default Re: A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010

Thanks Prasad for such lovely pictures right at the beginning of the thread. I wish I could live in a serene village like this one. I almost envy you for the fact that you get to go there quite often . Looking forward to more pictures.

Cheers,
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Old 4th May 2011, 11:15   #3
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Default Re: A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010

Nice to see somebody doing DIY tour with family.
Hats off !
Can you please mention about the economical factors & other mandatory fulfillment (and experiences thereof) for the benefit of all.
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Old 4th May 2011, 11:41   #4
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Default Re: A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010

Lovely pics Ram, thanks for sharing. Why don't you upload a few more of them even though the travel was undertaken about a year ago ?
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Old 4th May 2011, 12:04   #5
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Default Re: A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010

Good one prasad14; we had a DIY vacation in Switzerland of our own in May 2010. I will try to spot us in some of your pics!
I agree it is better in an apartment; please also let us know how you went about your apartment hunting/ finalisation
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Old 4th May 2011, 12:17   #6
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Default Re: A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010

Hi Ram

Nice account of your trip though started with initial hiccups to such a lovely land gifted by Nature.

Swiss, is a typical stop over for me while on visit to the West, and every trip is a fresh exploration for me, whether you are on Frech side of Geneve or on the German side of Basel/Luzern or on the Italian side of Lugano. It is an amazing country and our own Himachal ( but for its treacherous roads and drivers) Pradesh is a close gift of nature, less commercialised.
I though a picture of the Ferry ride from Spiez to Interlaken would have added feather...

The pictures are quite good and the scenic beauty or typical picture postcards!!!

Cheers

Quote:
Originally Posted by prasad14 View Post
Something was wrong. On Sunday, I was complaining of excessive heat - though Sat rains in South Bengaluru had made it bearable. Monday I complained of excessive rains and today as soon as I walked in I complained of excessive humidity to my wife who was giving a look of "now tell me your crib of the day". I complained and she patiently listened, as she has been doing for 15yrs now. Even during dinner, I kept on murmuring "something is wrong this May". Then came the Eurekha moment, I have spent May'09 and May'10 in Switzerland. I was enlightened. You go to Switzerland and fall in love with it instantly and no other place seem to be OK, thereafter. This summer I'm in Bangalore and there is no better way to relive the memories by sharing my experiences with my beloved forum.

Last edited by bblost : 4th May 2011 at 13:02. Reason: Please don't quote a large post in full. Thanks
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Old 4th May 2011, 15:59   #7
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Default Re: A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capri1101 View Post

I though a picture of the Ferry ride from Spiez to Interlaken would have added feather...
Thanks Capri1101. The ferry ride pics would come in tonight, along with the cruise on Lake Geneva. BTW, I'd be Capri1401!.

Quote:
Originally Posted by selfdrive View Post
Good one prasad14; we had a DIY vacation in Switzerland of our own in May 2010. I will try to spot us in some of your pics!
I agree it is better in an apartment; please also let us know how you went about your apartment hunting/ finalisation
OOPS! When I put a photo with Indians in it, I'll ask a question "is that you selfdrive?". Just wondering whether we can have some other Team-BHP merchandise (T-Shirts, umbrellas, bags etc.,) to identify fellow BHPians when not in their cars. I'll put some links and other basic planning info in an another post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kannan666 View Post
Lovely pics Ram, thanks for sharing. Why don't you upload a few more of them even though the travel was undertaken about a year ago ?
Thanks Kannan. Shall do definitely. Next one planned tonight. I might need 4-5 more posts to cover all that I have.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 007 View Post
Nice to see somebody doing DIY tour with family.
Hats off !
Can you please mention about the economical factors & other mandatory fulfillment (and experiences thereof) for the benefit of all.
Thanks 007 for your kind words. I'll put this up in a separate post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by absoluteyogi View Post
Looking forward to more pictures.
Thanks AbsoluteYogi. They'd be coming in 4-5 installments over this week.


RamP!
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Old 4th May 2011, 16:16   #8
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Default Re: A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010

Lovely pictures prasad. Switzerland is the place i am in love with since the DDLJ days. Just have not got a chance yet to visit it. But it sure is a must do in my bucket list

Beautiful pictures. Keep them coming
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Old 4th May 2011, 18:30   #9
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Post Re: A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010

Nostalgic, very nostalgic..
It was ten years ago, on my first trip to the US, we had a stop over over at geneva. For some strange reason The plane wasnt given landing clearance and was circling overhead taking increasingly longer turns with every pass. And thankfully the skies were clear and the plane flew reasonably low and I could get fantastic views of the swiss countryside. For once i really didnt want to go to the US, just wanted to be put there.
Eventually the plane did land at geneva and we spent some good time there- but all in the airport.. I promised my wife that someday we will be back here. Ten years on- the dream still is fresh and the promise still unfulfilled. More sad, as I lived and worked in the UK for a considerable period and yet while all the indians i knew took that mandatory summer piligrimage to the fabled lands of swiss, i had could only curse myself and my circumstances for not being there..
This travelogue, hopefully is going to get my back on the path.. I owe this to myself and to my lovely wife who has never complained about the promise which was never fulfilled...
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Old 4th May 2011, 19:34   #10
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Default Re: A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010

Nice pictures.
Made me nostalgic of my trip to Interlaken
We traveled in the train from Interlaken to Frankfurt amazing ride in those fast trains.
Waiting for more pictures.
Thanks for sharing
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Old 4th May 2011, 23:54   #11
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Default Re: A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010

Very nice pictures and log. Looking forward to more!
Swiss is on my list of places I wish to see in the next few years to come. Time to save up and plan a trip to Europe I guess
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Old 4th May 2011, 23:59   #12
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Default A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010 (Part 2 - Lakes)

Part 2: Lake Geneva and Lake Thun
-----------------------------------

Many many thanks for the kind and encouraging words. Amazing how a travelogue can invoke different memories to different people. Wish a trip soon to everyone that has been thinking about Switzerland.

I'll give some approximate cost for budgeting:

Air tickets: Rs.35-40K per person.
Visa: About 6K per person
Apartment: From about 80CHF onwards (OMG! 1CHF is now about Rs.51.75, it used to be about Rs.42, last year). The cost of the apartment depends on a variety of factors:
- Season and location (Jun - Aug is peak season)
- Size. Kids >2yrs is treated as one head and you need to take one that has as many beds as #heads.
- Amenities. The cost also depends on amenities like internet, washing m/c etc.,
- Type - Chalet, farm, appt and location
(Use this site to search by various parameters and this one for apartments in Lake Thun region, the place where I stayed).
Note: I paid 120CHF/day for the appt. It had a double bed, 2 bunker beds for kids, fully furnished kitchen, washing m/c etc., No internet though.
Swiss Rail Pass: Swiss pass costs CHF266, 385, 465 per person, for 4,8 and 15days. More info here.
Entry Fees: Entry fees (mostly for mountain trains) would be around CHF150+ depending on #mountains you plan to visit.
Daily Expenses: We spent about CHF60-75 a day on vegetables, bread, milk and ofcourse on chocolates and ice creams. Since 4 of us went we had enough baggage allowance and managed to carry a fair amount of groceries for simple food.

You may want to budget about Rs.5-10K for warm clothes and other travel accessories. For a 2+2 family, an average meal would cost about Rs.3-4K, in Indian restaurants. Veggie pizzas cost about CHF12-20 depending on the restaurant, falafel would cost about CHF8-10. Starbucks coffee would cost about CHF6-8. There are Indian grocery shops in Zurich and Geneva and expect about 3-5x price for everything.

Trust I answered a few queries on budget and finding rental apartments.

We can now look at some pics from the cruises in Lake Geneva and Lake Thun.

Lake Geneva is one of the largest water bodies of Europe (170km+ in perimeter) and is shared b/w Switzerland and France. It has some famous cities like Laussanne (Olympic HQ), Montreux, Evian (yes, the place where you get those water bottles) and ofcourse Geneva itself.


We start for a two hour cruise from Vevey-Marche a small town on the banks of Lake Geneva. You could see Mont Blanc range of mountains in the background. The views are stunning and this is the opposite site of Geneva City.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlg1.jpg

Our cruise ship appears. BTW, rides in these boats (which some locals use for commute) is free with your Swiss Pass.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlg2.jpg

The mid portion of the boat has a restaurant type seating and has open decks on either side. As one can expect, almost all folks would be out in the open.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlg3.jpg

The Montreux town. Has charming houses, gardens and restaurants along the shore line.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlg4.jpg

The majestic Chateau de Chillon - Switzerland's most visited historic monument, stands majestically on the banks.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlg6.jpg

I'm almost hypnotized at the sight of this majestic Castle and clicked too many photos.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlg7.jpg


One more view ...
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlg8.jpg


The last town on the Swiss side - Villenevue, with Mont Blanc in the background.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlg9.jpg

We will now move to the Geneva side and you can't help but notice one of the biggest fountains at 200mtrs. Rain prevented us from going underneath the fountain.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlg10.jpg

We had a much small boat for a one hour cruise on the banks of Lake Geneva, in Geneva.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlg11.jpg

An unforgettable sight. The fountain with Geneva city in the background.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlg12.jpg


Now lets change track, and look at Lake Thun. Lake Thun and Lake Brienz are two lakes on either sides of Interlaken (Interlaken = between two lakes). The cruise on Lake Thun was a more serene trip. Though there are no snow capped mountains or the vastness of Lake Geneva, its lot greener, calmer and sparsely populated. Ofcourse all these, till you hit the touristy Interlaken.

We pose for the customary photo before the trip. Spiez Village in the background.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlt1.jpg

We used to see this ship everyday from our appt. Today we'd be boarding it.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlt2.jpg

Niesen (also called the Swiss Pyramid), the moutain that towers over Spiez remained cloudy for almost entire 2 weeks of our stay.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlt3.jpg

This pic remained my wallpaper for several months
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlt4.jpg

Fauleneese, a small village about 3kms for Spiez. There are some beautiful holiday appt here, but you need to take a bus that comes only once every hour to reach Spiez railway station and we dropped the idea. A very very serene place though.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlt5.jpg

Lake seem to be extending into infinity. One more of my favorite wallpaper.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlt6.jpg

I envy the family that stays in this house. Notice the "boat shed" underneath the house.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlt7.jpg

I envy the cows too. They get sumptuous lush green grass everyday, for life.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlt9.jpg

We now approach Interlaken. The lake becomes narrow and infact resembles a canal. Not sure whether this stretch is natural or man made.
A DIY vacation in Switzerland - May 2010-tlt10.jpg


OK, thats for today and hope you enjoyed. We have now reached Interlaken.

Coming next,
Part 3: Journey to Jungfrau.

Many thanks again for the kind words. Have a wonderful day,

Thanks,

RamP!
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