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!
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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Many of you may have had the chance to catch our new episode of the Real Rail Adventures series. Swiss International Hubs debuted on April 1st, and is now making the rounds of local PBS stations across the country. Check your local listings and, if you don’t see it scheduled, contact your station and ask them to air the shows as soon as possible (tell them they’re available via American Public Television‘s (APT) digital service).
The show was another one for the record books as our crew bravely criss-crossed the Alps and took on challenges like shooting a canyoning trip through Grimsel Canyon outside of Interlaken and making our own salami in Bellinzona. We even made a Swiss watch at a workshop put on by Initium in Geneva, toured rooftop beehives with the owner of Honig Kuchen in Zurich, took a leisurely float on the Rhine with something called a “Wickelfisch,” and checked out the urban street art scene from the back of a graffiti-covered Bentley (really) in Basel. All while finding plenty of time to enjoy the odd Aperol spritz.
This post will likely find you and yours holed up in some kind of home, apartment, or bunker as we ride out the COVID-19 crisis. I do hope you’re all well and weathering this in the best way possible. As we wait, I’m keeping my spirits up, in part, by planning trips for the future. As a tool for escape, I find trip-planning to be very helpful. In that spirit, here is the itinerary from our late-summer 2019 shoot for Swiss International Hubs. As in past itinerary posts, I’ll give the standard warning that this itinerary is merely an aid in planning your trip. Don’t try to mimic what we insane TV-show-producing people do, as we’re cramming as much must-see-adventure as possible into every day so that we can deliver a watchable show on time and on budget. With that caveat, here’s the itinerary:
Real Rail Adventures: Swiss International Hubs Itinerary
Day 1: Leave U.S. for Hamburg, Germany
Day 2: Arrive Hamburg. Overnight in Hamburg
Day 3: Explore Hamburg. Overnight in Hamburg
Day 4: Board ICE train to Interlaken. Explore Interlaken and overnight
Day 5: Canyoning adventure in Grimsel Canyon with Outdoor Interlaken. Evening funicular to Harder Kulm for Two Lakes Platform and scenic dinner. Overnight in Interlaken
Day 6: Board ICE train to Basel. Afternoon street art tour. Relax at Sandoase Bar overlooking Three Country Corner. Overnight in Basel
Day 7: Morning tour of Basel’s Kunstmuseum. Afternoon float in the Rhine River. Evening dinner riverside. Overnight in Basel
Day 8: Board TVG train to Paris. Overnight in Paris
Day 9: Explore Paris. Overnight in Paris
Day 10: Board TVG train to Geneva. Overnight in Geneva
Day 11: Tour Red Cross Red Crescent Museum, U.N. Place des Nations, and St. Pierre Cathedral. Afternoon boat ride to Jet d’Eau waterspout. Overnight in Geneva
Day 12: Morning watch-making workshop at Initium in Geneva’s Altstadt. Make your own Swiss watch as a souvenir. Afternoon train to Zurich, passing through scenic Lavaux wine-making region. Overnight in Zurich
Day 13: Morning stand-up paddling tour of Zurich. Afternoon visit to Honig Kuchen to learn about Zurich’s rooftop bees. Tour of Climeworks carbon-capture facility in Hinwil. Overnight in Zurich
Day 14: Board train to Bellinzona, passing through the 35-mile long Gotthard Base Tunnel. Explore Bellinzona and overnight
Day 15: Tour Bellinzona’s castles and Salami-making workshop. Afternoon visit to Coldesina bottling factory. Overnight in Bellinzona
Day 16: Board train to Milan. Overnight in Milan
Day 17: Explore Milan. Overnight in Milan
Day 18: Leave Milan for U.S., arrive U.S.
Does this help? What did we leave out that you’d like to see us do in the future? As always, don’t hesitate to reach out with travel questions of all kinds. My advice is free. If you’re looking for more involved trip planning, I can put you in touch with my people “on the ground” in Switzerland who know our show itineraries well and can arrange any type of adventure you can dream up.
Dream now, travel later, and take care of yourselves. We’ll be back at it in no time.
It’s a tough time for everyone. My heart goes out to those who either have the coronavirus or who are susceptible to its worst effects, of course. We wish you well and aim to do our part to keep the illness at bay. I also want to thank those medical workers, first responders, government officials, and journalists who are all working to care for, maintain order for, strategize for, and inform all of us. Thank you from the entire human race.
Humans are resourceful and innovative. If you’ve ever doubted that, I’d suggest a read of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens. It’s a broad and deep history of homo sapiens that shows how we’ve used our abilities to communicate to overcome limitations of building trust with strangers to create ever-larger communities and societies. It’s a compelling account, presented in a storytelling style, that will possibly change your thoughts on everything from money to politics to travel to pandemics. It certainly makes a strong argument for seeing the arc of human history as an ongoing story, and that cooperation and communication, not separatism and hate, are our strongest tools.
On the other hand, if you just want to be scared out of your wits for fun, read the sci-fi novel Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. It’s a good, old fashioned pandemic horror story with philosophical undertones. It, too, has a hopeful ending, but the road to it is fraught with post-apocalyptic terror. I read it as a 15-year-old and reread it as a 40-something and got something different out of it each time. Be forewarned – it was written in 1949, so while its author may have been forward-thinking for his time, it reflects the mores of that era. Still, it’s worth a read with that caveat. And for those who have read it, I’ll just say: Rattlesnakes!
I’d also suggest keeping up with current events outside of social media and especially outside the propagandist, faux-news outlets leading you astray for the sake of controlling your vote through short, false narratives. My antidote for that is a subscription to the venerable, trusted Economist. As a progressive, I find the news spot-on and the opinions a challenge to my instinctual take on things. Not only is The Economist a great way to keep up, but it’s also a really excellent way to learn about the world, and see what’s happening in the places you might someday wish to travel. I know Rick Steves has mentioned reading it, and he is, of course, a model traveler.
Speaking of travel, if you’re looking for a way to escape, might I suggest keeping an eye out for the nationwide debut of our new episode? Real Rail Adventures: Swiss International Hubs was shot last August/September, long before the coronavirus was on our radar. It begins airing in April, so check your local PBS listings and/or https://www.aptonline.org/wheretowatch. In this all-new episode, I travel to Switzerland from Hamburg, enjoying the street art in Basel, canyoning near Interlaken, visiting the Red Cross & Red Crescent Museum and building my own Swiss watch in Geneva, and visiting rooftop honeybees and a carbon capture plant in Zurich while riding plenty of trains along the way. We also take short side trips to Milan and Paris, which should help you get a look at those places while we await the loosening of the pandemic’s grip on society.
And, as always, you can watch our other episodes as well. All three are being regularly scheduled on Create TV nationwide. Check where to tune in locally and for scheduled airings at http://www.CreateTV.com. If you can’t wait, stream two of the episodes on Amazon Prime (free for Prime members). Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Grand Tour, which includes panoramic trains, treetop adventures, biking, and St Bernard puppies (who can resist the puppies?), can be purchased on DVD or streamed here. Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Winter Magic, in which I kite ski, bobsled, paraglide, and hold baby Valais Blacknose Sheep (almost as cute as the puppies) can be purchased on DVD or streamed here. I’ll note that any of your DVD purchases (including those you might make at http://www.RealRailTV.com) help defray production costs and to make future adventures possible. Thank you.
And, if you’re dreaming about traveling to Switzerland, I might suggest La Place de la Concorde Suisse by John McPhee. It will give you an educating and entertaining look into Swiss society through the eyes of a soldier doing his compulsory military service. Believe me, it’s a fun read.
One of the best parts of travel is the dreaming and planning we do well ahead of the actual trip. This is a great time to do that. Read, search, plan, and don’t hesitate to ask me questions. I can do everything from free advice to helping you plan a custom guided or self-guided trip. And, once things get back to some semblance of normal, I’ll be leading some trips myself.
So, let’s dream. And let me know: What are your escapes while doing your humanly duty and remaining housebound? I’d like to hear about books, podcasts, movies, or anything else you’re using to keep your mind active and entertained. Keep in touch!
We’re back with another installment of the itinerary series of blog posts. This time I’ve prepared an itinerary that closely follows Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Grand Tour episode (episode number two, if you’re counting). If you haven’t seen it, check it out on Amazon Prime here.
As usual, I offer this itinerary with a caveat: Due to money and time, our production itineraries have to pack lots of stops and activities into a relatively short amount of time. I don’t recommend following our trip to the letter, but encourage you to choose the bits you like and build your own dream tour. I write more about that in the first installment here.
That said, here it is:
Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Grand Tour – Itinerary
by Jeff Wilson
Day 1: Leave U.S. for Switzerland
Day 2: Arrive Zurich. Overnight in Zurich
Day 3: Explore Zurich. Afternoon train to Schaffhausen. Explore Schaffhausen. Evening walk to sunset view at Munot Fortress. Overnight in Schaffhausen
Day 4: Explore Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall museum, then walk to Rheinfall. Take boat to climb rock in the middle of the falls. Afternoon climbing, swinging, and zip-lining at Adventure Park Rheinfall. Overnight in Schaffhausen
Day 5: Board river boat to Stein am Rhein. Pick up bike for leisurely 3-hour ride to Romanshorn with lunch on Lake Constance along the way. Drop bike in Romanshorn. Train buffs can spend an hour at the Locorama rail museum (including train driving simulator). Short train ride to St Gallen. Overnight in St Gallen
Day 6: Explore St Gallen and its Altstadt. Tour Abbey of St Gall and library. Overnight in St Gallen
Day 7: Day train trip to Appenzell. Short food tour of Appenzell. Cable car ride up to Ebenalp. Short walk to Wildkirchli caves and lunch at the popular Aescher Hostel. Overnight in St Gallen
Day 8: Train to Chur. Board Albula-Bernina line, crossing the famous Landwasser Viaduct. Disembark at Preda to hike the Railway Adventure Trail to Bergün. Re-board train at Bergün to St Moritz. Overnight in St Moritz
Day 9: Day train trip to Alp Grüm. Hike near Palü Glacier and tour hydropower plant. Lunch at Alp Grüm Restaurant (try the Capuns). Return to St Moritz for overnight
Day 10: Board Glacier Express, traveling west. Train change to Ilanz. River rafting on the Vorderrhein through the “Swiss Grand Canyon.” Re-board Glacier Express to Andermatt over the Oberalp Pass. Overnight in Andermatt (I prefer the River House boutique hotel)
Day 11: Train to Martigny. Tour Giannadda Museum and St Bernard Museum (say ‘hi’ to the puppies for me!). Overnight in Martigny
Day 12: Day train trip to Emosson Hydroelectric dam via the Emosson funicular, Emosson Panorama Railway, and mini funicular. Short hike and lunch at Emosson Dam. Return to Martigny and overnight
Day 13: Train to Trübschachen and Kambly Experience cookie tour. See Swiss Heritage Museum and Rope Trail. Train to Lucerne and overnight
Day 14: Lucerne-Engelberg Express to Engelberg. Tour Benedictine monastery and gardens. Overnight in Engelberg
Day 15: Kayak narby lake Trübsee. Ride Titlis Rotair gondola to Mt. Titlis. Tour Glacier Cave, walk the aerial suspension bridge above the glacier. Lunch and return to Engelberg for overnight
Day 16: Train to Zurich. Overnight in Zurich
Day 17: Leave Zurich to U.S., arrive U.S.
There you have it – one possible itinerary from an unlimited number of possibilities. What would you do if you had the chance to travel through Switzerland? Leave comments and suggestions below.
Want help with your itinerary? Just ask! I can also recommend a trusted travel partner in Switzerland and I offer trips, fully-customized to your tastes (and, if you like, guided by me and my wife) for up to 8 fellow travelers. Stay tuned to the blog for more Real Rail Adventures!
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!
I’m pleased to be working with Priority Health in Michigan again. We’ve had a long relationship, teaching folks about Priority Health’s Medicare Advantage plans. Heck, I’ve learned plenty over the years about the ins-and-outs of Medicare, out-of-pocket costs, and even the fabled “donut hole,” which isn’t as tasty as it sounds. My mother says she and her friends see me on TV all the time, and my sister even said she saw me on TV in a bar. If you’re in Michigan, you probably won’t be able to avoid me during the Medicare enrollment period. Sorry about that.
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