How about a “free” ride on Switzerland’s best trains? I know, I know, it’s not the same as being there, but it’s what we can manage right now. Seriously, though, these 360-degree videos will help you get a feeling for what the different trains are like. They’re a great way to pick some favorites that you’ll want to experience first hand once we’re able to travel again. And I promise, that day will come. And you’ll be ready!
Enjoy this YouTube playlist and let me know which ones are your favorites. And stay in touch – I’m here to answer your questions about travel in Switzerland any time. Cheers!
Much to the amusement of the group of strapping Australians thirty years my junior looking on, I gracefully scotch the landing at the bottom of a 50-meter rappel off the canyon wall and fall, rear-end-first, into the icy flow of an alpine stream, inducing immediate sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia of the gluteus maximus (read: brain freeze of the buttocks).
Jet lag, schmetlag. I have, at long last, found the cure.
After flying through nine time zones, shoehorned into economy and conveniently seated next to the busy loo, one would think that bedtime in that first hotel would be a welcome relief. One would be wrong. Despite a hallucination-inducing lack of sleep, one still found oneself unable to breach the Z-horizon, staring up at the bloody ceiling, weeping silently to oneself throughout the infinite night.
Shooting a television program demands strict attention to call-time, so, sleep or not, we rise promptly at dawn. Coffee? Yes, please. Even fortified by the best Swiss brew, however, still I stumble foggily about, mumbling greetings to the crew. It takes excruciating mental effort to follow the instructions of our canyoning guides. They gently point out that I’ve put the dry suit on inside-out and gamely repeat safety instructions, as though to a small child. Even hoisting my leg over the railing to hang over Grimsel canyon doesn’t awaken me.
However, rising from the accidental, bone-chilling bath I’ve taken in the milky stream, I am fully present. We begin to make our way down the canyon, leaping from boulders, plunging into deep pools, and wriggling through cracks and crags. A short zip-line section near the end makes for one of many excellent photo ops, which you can take advantage of by snapping your own action camera to the provided mount on your helmet. Egged on by the other participants, the adrenaline surges through our veins. This, my friends, is the ultimate homeopathic treatment for travel-induced insomnia.
Our trip started with a short drive out of Interlaken, arguably Switzerland’s outdoor sports capital, up to Grimsel Canyon. Our adventure lasted several hours, but both longer and shorter trips are available, depending on your taste. All gear, including dry suit, river shoes, gloves, helmet, harness, and ropes, are included in the trip price. Guides are competent and careful to ensure our safety – at no point do I feel that I’m being asked to do something truly dangerous. The water is cold, but manageably so. Previous climbing and rappelling experience aren’t necessary, and while a moderate level of fitness makes the excursion more fun, you most certainly don’t need to be a marathoner to feel comfortable. As if the canyoning part wasn’t enough fun, at the end, we’re treated to an impromptu picnic and cold beer.
Ready to take on the canyoning challenge in Interlaken? Feel free to contact me for more details about travel and adventure in Switzerland and stay tuned! More adventures to come soon.
One of the most common questions I get from viewers is: How can I take the same trip you took on your TV program? Usually, I point them to the show’s website, www.RealRailTV.com, where they can find full show descriptions and links to regions where we’ve traveled. The question comes so often, though, that I began to wonder if I was shirking my responsibility as a host and virtual “guide.” When I decided to go back and write a useful itinerary for the original episode, Real Rail Adventures: Switzerland, I was surprised by just how difficult it was to square our production schedule with a usable travel itinerary.
After careful review of the episode and my notes from the time, I’m happy to say that I’ve put together an itinerary that viewers can use to plan their own, very similar journeys. As I look back, I’m struck by just how ambitious that original trip was – we shot over 17 days, with little down time, often shooting 4-5 experiences in a day along with specific trains, interviews, and meals. Eric, our extremely talented camera operator, was rarely able to put the camera down.
So, while I’ve included this itinerary as an academic exercise, I don’t really recommend that anyone literally follow in our footsteps. My advice? Slow down, spend at least three nights in each location, and remember that Switzerland will be there next year (and the year after that, and the year after that). Travel requires time to really absorb the landscapes, culture, food, and all of the subtle feelings that come from being exposed to something new.
That said, here’s that itinerary:
Real Rail Adventures: Switzerland – Itinerary Jeff Wilson Day 1: Leave U.S. for Switzerland Day 2: Arrive Zurich. Overnight in Zurich Day 3: Explore Zurich. Afternoon train to Chur. Explore Chur. Overnight in Chur Day 4: Leave Chur aboard the Albula-Bernina line. Stop in Bergün to tour the Albula-Bernina Museum. Re-board train to St Moritz. Overnight in St Moritz. This route can also be done on the Glacier Express, without the Albula Museum stop Day 5: Day trip to Piz Corvatsch to view glacier via cable car. Return to and overnight in St Moritz Day 6: Leave St Moritz aboard Palm Express Post Bus. Arrive Lugano. Lunch and tour Lugano, train to Bellinzona. Overnight in Bellinzona Day 7: Tour Bellinzona castles. (Side trip to San Gottardo Train Club in Mendrisio if local events allow). Overnight in Bellinzona Day 8: Gotthard Panorama Express to Flüelen; boat in Flüelen to Lucerne. Lunch on board. Stop in Vitznau to take Rigi cogwheel train to Mt Rigi. Return to Vitznau and boat to Lucerne. Overnight in Lucerne (possible side trip to Lake Ritom via Ritom Funicular) Day 9: Train to Alpnachstad for cogwheel ride up to Pilatus Kulm. Explore Pilatus and return to Lucerne. Overnight in Lucerne Day 10: Train to Stans for morning Cabrio cable car to Stanserhorn. Lunch on Stanserhorn, then return to Lucerne. Explore Swiss Transportation Museum. Overnight in Lucerne Day 11: Leave Lucerne. GoldenPass Lucerne-Interlaken Express Panoramic train to Interlaken. Explore and overnight in Interlaken. Day 12: Board Lötschberg boat to Brienz. Day excursion on Brienzer Rothorn historic cogwheel steam train. Lunch at mountain cottage. Return to Interlaken by train and overnight in Interlaken Day 13: Day excursion to Jungfraujoch. Overnight in Lauterbrünnen. Day 14: Day excursion to Schilthorn via train, bus, and cable car. Tour “Bond World” and lunch in Piz Gloria Restaurant. Overnight in Lauterbrünnen Day 15: Leave Lauterbrünnen to Montreux via GoldenPass. Explore Chateau Chillon and overnight in Montreux Day 16: Day excursion to Gruyères and Broc aboard historic “Chocolate Train.” Tour Gruyères and Gruyères Cheese Experience. Fondue lunch. Train to Broc and tour Cailler Chocolate factory. Return to and overnight in Montreux Day 17: Leave Montreux. Morning excursion to Rochers-de-Naye. Lunch on Rochers-de-Naye. Train to Visp. Glacier Express Panoramic train to Zermatt. Explore and overnight in Zermatt Day 18: Day excursion on Gornergrat Railway and the Matterhorn. Overnight in Zermatt Day 19: Leave Zermatt via train to Zurich. Overnight in Zurich Day 20: Leave Zurich to U.S., arrive U.S.
Ready to plan your dream trip to Switzerland? I can help! With my years of experience traveling there, I can help you have a travel experience well beyond a pre-packaged tour. With my connections to folks “on the ground,” I can help you create a custom itinerary and ensure that your trip goes off without a hitch.
Let me know what you think and stay tuned – more itineraries and a raft of travel advice will be coming your way in the coming months!