Launched! Check out the all-new JeffWilsonExplore.com: My outlet for info about my PBS travel shows, the all-new, all-electric, Real Road Adventures, and the classic, multiple Telly Award-winning, Real Rail Adventures. On top of that, you’ll get my musings on adventures great and small, behind-the-scenes extras, featured stories, and more. Coming soon will be a store for travel bags, gear, and food from treasured destinations (like fondue…you know you want it – now you can have it delivered straight to your home!), and trips and tours that take you to some of the fantastic destinations we’ve covered in our shows. Bookmark JeffWilsonExplore.com and check back regularly – the adventure is only just beginning!
Every once in a while you come across something so magical, so beguiling, that you feel compelled to see it first-hand. The automata of François Junod is one of those things. Junod’s work has it all – art, physiology, engineering, history, and philosophy, all rolled into objects that can only be described as magic.
It was September of 2019. We had just finished shooting Real Rail Adventures: Swiss International Hubs for public television (also on Prime Video here). After three weeks of shooting abroad, most of the crew headed home to the U.S., but my wife (and one of our talented videographers on the show), Sherri James, and I stayed on to shoot a few “extras” for a new online series we’re tentatively calling, “The Works.” The idea for the series came from my work on Handmade Music for the DIY Network some years ago. As the networks all began programming nearly 100% reality shows, they left the how-to stuff to migrate to the internet. When Handmade Music was canceled after 40+ episodes, a network executive told me that I should take it online. Well, some years, a few TV series, and a couple of kids later, we’ve finally found some time to bring a few of these to life.
The work that originally led me to Junod was his remarkable “La Fée Ondine,” an exquisite rendering of a nodding fairy with lightly beating wings reclining on an undulating lily pad. A water lily opens and closes, revealing a bejeweled butterfly flitting from its center.
I looked up Junod’s website and contacted him, fully expecting to be rebuffed by a sniffy assistant. To my surprise, Junod himself emailed back. He asked a few questions about our work but was otherwise open to a visit. The man we met was friendly and enthusiastic if a bit distracted by his many ideas and obligations. The day we arrived, he ushered us in, gave us a hasty tour of his atelier and gallery, told us some stories of how he became who he is today, and left us to shoot whatever we liked. No, really. He just turned us loose in his house of wonders. For two days.
During the tour, Sherri gamely tried to follow Junod and me around with her camera-on-a-gimbal setup. His excitement for his work and for the history of clockwork mechanics in Sainte-Croix led him to flit from object to object, winding up a music box here, a gramophone there, getting distracted for a moment, only to have another idea set us off in a new direction. I listened, scribbled notes, and cursed my lack of French. But most of all, I looked on in awe and wonder.
We travel for a lot of reasons, but one of the most important for me is to renew that sense of awe and wonder as we get older and, inevitably, more jaded. The work of François Junod (and the man himself) reminds me to rekindle my own youthful curiosity. I hope it does the same for you.
What travel experiences have moved you? And what artisans and objects should we cover in The Works? Let us know in the comments here and keep an eye out for other videos in the series.
While travel may have slowed a bit due to the pandemic, the crew here at Real Rail Adventures has been hard at work producing more exciting travel programs. A new series debuts nationwide (with all-new travels and an exciting twist in our modes of travel) in April 2022, but until then, you can catch up with us on the PBS Video App.
Whether you want to watch on your iOS or Android device or on your smart TV, the PBS App gives you access to over 4000 amazing PBS programs, including all four hour-long episodes of Real Rail Adventures. As a member in good standing at any level of your local PBS station, you can stream all of this programming for free.
Make a night of it! Whip up some fondue as an appetizer and settle in with the first episode, Real Rail Adventures: Switzerland, to get a whirlwind overview of travel by rail in Switzerland. Then, kick it up a notch with another Swiss specialty, capuns, and take the Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Grand Tour. Next, indulge in some luscious Torte di Pane while being swept away by Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Winter Magic. Finally, pour yourself a finger or two of kirsch and hop on the train to everywhere in Real Rail Adventures: Swiss International Hubs, our most award-winning episode to date.
A little tired now? That’s okay, after all of that train travel you’ll be dreaming of Switzerland.
Tell us your stories and dreams of travel by train in Switzerland and Happy Viewing!
Don’t miss the multiple Telly Award-winning Real Rail Adventures: Swiss International Hubs as it airs nationwide on Create TV on Sunday, June 27th, at 10pm ET…and make sure to follow us now on social media to get a sneak peek at our all-new travel series that will really get you amped up to travel!
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Blew through all of the latest episodes of your favorite streaming shows already? I feel you. If you’ve already streamed or watched Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Grand Tour and Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Winter Magic, checked out the clips at www.RealRailTV.com, followed us on Facebook here and here, Twitter here and here, and Instagram here and here, AND made your own fondue, here’s a tip.
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!
There’s something about Switzerland in winter time that makes it magical. Back home, we might despair at another snow storm in February, but the same storm transforms a Swiss village into a quaint snow-globe scene, and beckons us out for one more sled run.
When the Real Rail Adventures crew visited Switzerland during winter months, we found a cornucopia of frosty outdoor activities to try, of course. But we also availed ourselves of the requisite complementary fireside tipples and treats to keep our souls eternally willing to plunge back out into the storm. For what is a bobsled run without a proper fondue to follow? And how do you muster the courage to jump off a snow-clad mountain for a frigid paraglide without the promise of a bit of curried lamb and kirsch at the end?
Have you dreamed of visiting the winter wonderland of Switzerland? Dream no more . . . here is the itinerary that closely matches the one our Real Rail Adventures crew followed while shooting Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Winter Magic. Once again, I caution readers that, as a film crew, we are forced by time and budget to cram quite a bit into our schedules. Use this itinerary as a planning tool, but, as they say, don’t try this at home.
Haven’t seen the show? Stream it on Amazon Prime here. And send me your thoughts on the perfect winter pursuits in Switzerland.
Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Winter Magic – Itinerary
by Jeff Wilson
Day 1: Leave U.S. for Switzerland
Day 2: Arrive Zurich. Train to Chur. Overnight in Chur
Day 3: Explore Chur. Overnight in Chur
Day 4: Leave Chur aboard the Albula-Bernina line. Arrive in St Moritz. Explore St Moritz and overnight (highly recommend the Waldhaus Sils hotel, in nearby Sils)
Day 5: Bobsledding on Olympia Bob Run morning. Snow-kiting lesson on Lake Silvaplana afternoon. Pre-dinner horse-drawn sleigh ride. Overnight in St Moritz
Day 6: Morning horseback tour with Stella Costa farm. Daytrip on Bernina Express over snowy Lago Bianco pass. Return to St Moritz for overnight
Day 7: Morning “Yoga on Snow” lesson and skiing, St Moritz. Afternoon trip up Muottas Moragl. Lunch at Hotel Romantik at top, then sledge-ride to bottom. Return to St Moritz for overnight
Day 8: Board Glacier Express. Side trip to Goms region. Arrive Reckingen. Explore Reckingen and overnight (Hotel Joopi, preferred)
Day 9: Day trip to Oberwald. Morning skate-skiing lesson. Afternoon tour ski-museum and Roggenbröt baking. Return to Reckingen for “Cholera Pie” dinner. Overnight in Reckingen
Day 10: Re-board Glacier Express. Arrive Zermatt. Explore Zermatt and Matterhorn Museum. Overnight in Zermatt
Day 11: Ski-day in Zermatt. Lunch on mountain. Après-ski at Cervo. Overnight in Zermatt
Day 12: Morning helicopter tour with Air Zermatt. Afternoon tour of Julen farm to meet their Valais Blacknose Sheep and lambs. Dinner at Schäferstube, a Julen restaurant. Overnight in Zermatt
Day 13: Leave Zermatt via train to Gstaad via the GoldenPass line. Tour Gstaad and overnight
Day 14: Morning fat-tire snow-biking tour. Afternoon day-trip to Glacier 3000 on cable car. Select winter activities, including suspension bridge peak walk. Lunch at mountain retreat, Refuge L’espace. Return to Gstaad for overnight
Day 15: Board train to Lucerne. Boat to Vitznau and cogwheel to Rigi Kaltbad Hotel. Spa experience at Rigi Kaltbad Hotel and overnight
Day 16: Morning snowshoe tour. Fondue lunch at Restaurant BärgGnuss. Afternoon paragliding tour from Rigi Kulm to Arth Goldau. Train to Zurich. Late afternoon walk and dinner at “Top of Zurich.” Overnight in Zurich
Day 17: Morning walking tour of Zurich and Aldstadt. Coffee at Café Voltaire. Afternoon walking tour of trendy West “Züri” and dinner. Overnight in Zurich
Day 18: Leave Zurich to U.S., arrive U.S.
Sound like a plan? Let me know your thoughts below. And don’t hesitate to ask for advice . . . that’s completely free. If you’re interested in custom itineraries and trip bookings through my on-the-ground partners, or trips to Switzerland led by me, that’s available, too.
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
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!
Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Winter Magic is one of my favorite projects to date. The third hour-long travel documentary in the series, we traverse a stunning Swiss landscape of snowy peaks and quaint towns in search of adventure, culture, and unique experiences. My days are packed with bobsledding, kite-skiing, parasailing, horseback riding, snowshoeing, ski-yoga, skate-skiing, and mountain sledding, while evenings find me dining on warm fondue, local lamb, and “Cholera” pie. The efficient Swiss trains and travel system link my experiences and take me to Zurich, Chur, St Moritz, and Zermatt. All three Real Rail Adventures episodes are now playing nationwide – check your local PBS listings and Create Network for air times and don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your questions on travel in Switzerland. Watch the trailer HERE