The mesmerising land of snow and ice!
By Sudha Chandresakaran
Having left Germany behind, we hop into breathtaking Switzerland and see several cows grazing in open grasslands. Bordering Switzerland is the beautiful Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen. I love the intimate experience of the awesome Rheinfall, the largest waterfall in Europe. Within the sight of the falls, we are inevitably brought down to earth by hordes of tourists crowding both banks in search of the angle for their cameras. There is a boat that takes us to this rock in the middle of the falls. Power of continuous gushing flow of water with roaring sound is amazing, but the sight is scary too!
We proceed towards Lucerne, a beautiful scenic town in Switzerland and check into the Art Nouveau Hotel Terrence. Set in a majestic mountain landscape it is a landmark in Engel berg, a lovely traditional Suisse village. The new free tunnel-lift system in the hotel runs from the village up to the Hotel Terrace in just three minutes. The hotel has a very innovative way of reaching the reception area by crossing two tunnels and lifts. Fresh mountain air, wonderful uninterrupted views of the Frozen Mount Titlis surrounded by light clouds and Engel berg town at the foot of the mountain in the evening is something which cannot be described in words.
The next day dawns and off we are to Mt. Titlis for a ride on Ice-Flyer. But alas, it was not to be! Owing to inclement weather conditions, ride to Mt. Titlis is cancelled. Soon our tour manager manages to raise our spirits and we decide on going to Mt. Pilatus. The summit of Mt. Pilatus can be reached from Lucerne by a gondola lift and an aerial cable car. From Kriens, a suburb of Lucerne, four-seat ‘panoramic gondolas’ take us to Fräkmüntegg through the treetops of Krien, where we are transferred to a large cable car that whisks us to the summit station. It takes around five minutes from Fräkmüntegg to the top of Pilatus, which is at an altitude of 2132 metres. As the gondola progresses upwards steadily, dense pine forests scents the air and in the distance, rocky mountain tops taper into sharp, craggy summits, while nearby, it is all lawn-smooth grassy knolls. We enjoy the view through aerial panorama gondolas and cableways and are totally blown away by the spectacular view of the snow- clad mountainous regions of Switzerland.
The most breathtaking moment is the one when you look around after climbing the topmost tip of Mt. Pilatus. Wow, what an exalted feeling! It was once in a lifetime experience, snow and rugged peaks everywhere and all excited we hold on to each other and climb the steps to the top. The chilly wind lashes us and we hold on tightly to our caps and with our sun glasses on, we see the bright sunshine there which pierces our eyes! We could hardly stand there for two minutes and hurriedly took a few shots in the playground of Europe, the enchanting Swiss! Nevertheless it is an unforgettable experience. There is, of course, much to do at Mount Pilatus, beyond the obvious posing for beautiful pictures with great snow capped mountains in the background. At the summit, the heritage- protected hotel Pilatus-Kulm with a large sun deck having bright –red deck-chairs and a stylish ambience awaits us. We have a magnificent look over the Swiss Alps while having a cup of hot chocolate inside the café, while some prefer to have ice cream in that atmosphere.
The gondola ride down the mountain is another highlight of this wonderful experience. We glide down gently over the top of fields of wild flowers, rolling green hills and dramatic mountain ledges with a gorgeous view of the town and an almost bewitching Lake Lucerne. As you think things could not get better, you will hear the jingle of cowbells deep down in the pasture below. We see the gorgeous cattle busily shaking their heads, their jaws clamping on the fresh and luscious pastures, making me dream of the mouth-watering smooth Toblerone chocolates!
It is time to visit ‘Lowendenkmal’, the Lion monument, ‘the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world known as the ‘Dying Lion of Lucerne’ which is hewn from a limestone cliff. We visit the world- renowned Bucherer showroom which leads the Swiss watch and jewellery retail sector and do window shopping! The items sold in Switzerland are often cheaper than they initially seem, because it is possible to reclaim the tax levied on them.
Lucerne, the gateway to Central Switzerland, embodies the storybook image of a Swiss town. The city abounds in fountains, covered bridges, beautiful and narrow cobblestone streets, frescoed houses, slender spires and turrets. The mesmerizing snow-capped Alps loom in the distance and mountains Pilatus and Rigi cover the southern gate to the city. It takes some time to soak in reality beyond the pretty picture and once you do, it is difficult to break free of its magic. Look past the silk-smooth chocolate, cuckoo clocks and yodelling (Alpine music) – contemporary Switzerland is a collage of sublime experiences.