jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 60 [30 Mar 09] – Lucerne

Posted in Lucerne by jn82 on March 30, 2009

From Interlaken West to Lucerne this morning, we had to catch a German InterCity Express from Interlaken West to Bern, and then change to a Swiss inter-regional from Bern to Lucerne. Total travel time around two hours.

Lucerne is not a big city by European standards, with a population of around onlu 58,000, but it does have a pretty developed city centre and transportation network. Once out of the rail station, everything around seems pretty busy, but still relatively clean and safe. We took a 10 minute walk to the hostel where we left our bags in the room, and headed out to explore the city.

The most famous landmarks in the city are two wooden pedestrian bridges which span across the river Reuss, the more famous Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) and less popular Spreuerbrücke (Mill Bridge). Interestingly and amusingly enough, the original Kapellbrücke which was built in 1333 was mostly burned down in 1993, and then rebuilt thereafter. There is a water tower across Kapellbrücke which served as a fortification in the 13th century.

Kapellbrücke.

Spreuerbrücke.

They are really nothing much to look at or walk across, just two very regular bridges! They do give the city a bit of an old fashioned feel though. We walked around a bit of the old city in the morning along the old city walls, and ended up at Löwendenkmal, a statue of a lion which Mark Twain really liked. The city itself was not unlike any other European city, just that there were nice views of the mountains from the city.

Bits of the old city wall.

Across the river.

View of the city.

Löwendenkmal, The Lion of Lucerne.

After the walk, we had our first decent meal in days, where I had some pork cutlets and pasta for 18 CHF, and then took a walk to Verkehrshaus der Schweiz (Swiss transport museum) around 2km from the city centre. In the museum, we saw all sorts of scale models depicting the history of flight, road and rail transportation. It was not as interesting as I had expected, and I tuned out for a bit and did not take many pictures. I did however get to try out a F1 simulator-like setup, driving the 2002 season Ferrari powered Sauber Petronas around the Sepang circuit for a few laps.

2002 season Sauber Petronas Ferrari powered engine.

In the F1 simulator.

After the museum, we caught a 45 minute IMAX movie about the Swiss alps, which was pretty cool as there was a lot of high resolution clips of all the most famous Swiss mountains. This was good as we had not managed to see most of these places up close and personal. Finishing the movie, we headed back to the city for dinner, where I had a veal sausage and roast potatoes.

Veal sausage and roasted potatoes.

Only one short day in Lucerne, then  off to Zurich tomorrow morning.

Today’s pictures available here.

Day 59 [29 Mar 09] – Interlaken

Posted in Interlaken by jn82 on March 29, 2009

Seeing as the weather and visibility at Jungfraujoch was very poor today, I decided not to make the trip and save myself the 150+ CHF or so and the disappointment of a poor view from the top of Europe.

Before breakfast, I managed to catch the last 8 laps of the first F1 GP of the year broadcasting on tv live from Melbourne. What a day for Brawn Racing! After being at Albert Park in 2007 and 2008 catching the F1 season opener live, it was a bit disappointing to have to watch it this year on the television, but hopefully being at the 2009 and future Singapore GPs will make up for it.

Lazed around till after lunch, when I spent the afternoon at the hostel planning the destinations for the rest of the trip, and managed to get it done by around 5pm. Pretty satisfied with how the plan is looking at the moment, as I will get to see most of what I initially intended to. Extremely relaxing day (again), but this time unplanned as it was all due to the weather.

Off to Lucerne for one day tomorrow.

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Day 58 [28 Mar 09] – Interlaken

Posted in Interlaken by jn82 on March 28, 2009

I woke up this morning for a free breakfast of cornflakes, cream cheese, toast and coffee provided by the hostel. It has been sometime since a hostel we have stayed at has provided breakfast for free, which is always good. The weather conditions and visibility at Jungfraujoch (highest point in Europe) was not very good, as could be seen from the hostel’s webcam, so we decided to just walk around Interlaken today and hopefully head up to Jungfraujoch tomorrow if the weather is better. The train ride to the highest point in Europe is something I really want to do, as usually you can see into France and Germany on a clear day, but there is no point making the trip if the weather is bad because you will not be able to see anything and it is quite expensive.

We started off the day walking around the city. This is such a beautiful city as from almost every corner you can get a view of the different mountain ranges behind them. The buildings also retain an old fashioned typically Swiss architecture style, and there are no tall buildings in the city to obstruct views of the mountains.

View from the bridge near the hostel.

The only roundabout in Interlaken.

In the city.

SBB regional train pulling into Interlaken West.

After walking around the city, we embarked on a 8km clockwise walk which lasted around three houts around the Thunersee (Lake Thun), up along the Lombach and back into the city. The walk was very scenic, as most of it was along the river and we had a good view of the mountains all through out. The weather was not perfect, as it was very grey and cloudy, but at least it only drizzled very slightly at intervals.

Snow capped Swiss alps.

At the first part of the walk along Schiff-Kanal.

Crossing the Schiff-Kanal.

Along the Aare.

In the Weissenau nature reserve.

Along Lombach, what I think is a man-made stream.

Near the end, somewhere around Luziwichel.

As you can see, even under the cloudy skies, Interlaken is still so beautiful. Just imagine what everything would look like on a clear spring day with the blue skies and green grass! The walk was extremely relaxing, and we did not feel tired at all after it. For lunch, we decided to just head to the supermarket and buy the ingredients for a simple pasta dish, and head back to the hostel to cook. Funny how as the trip progresses, we are becoming more and more penny pinching and becoming like “real” backpackers.

Hope the weather at Jungfraujoch is good tomorrow!

Today’s pictures here.

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Day 57 [27 Mar 09] – Interlaken

Posted in Interlaken by jn82 on March 27, 2009

After a pretty decent day of rest, we bade farewell to Geneva. We would have liked to just laze around in the hostel at Geneva for a few more days doing zero sightseeing and watching more CSI, but that would be wasting time and the train pass. The itinerary for today was just to get on the Golden Pass Panoramic train (henceforth GPP) at 1.45pm which would bring us to Interlaken, our next stop. In order to get on the GPP, we would first have to take a train from Geneva to Montreux, a city to the east of Geneva and Lusanne and one hour by train away from Geneva. The good thing about inter-city trains in Switzerland is they do not require reservation fees for Eurail pass holders, which saved us a couple of Francs. This is probably because the train was not a high speed one, and stops at quite a few stops before finally reaching Montreux.

Exterior of a SBB inter-city first class carriage.

Interior of an older SBB inter-city first class carriage.

A bit of background on the GPP. It is just a scenic train ride which brings you from Montreux to Lucerne via Interlaken, going through the Swiss alps and passing many small villages which appear to cater to winter sports. There is a more direct train from Montreux to Lucerne I am sure, but this one shows you more scenery and thus takes a different route and is longer. We will be doing the Interlaken to Lucerne leg on Monday.

The difference between the GPP train carriage and a normal one is that it is supposedly “panoramic”. All this means in this case is that the windows are slightly larger than usual and part of the roof of the carriage has a window also. The windows on the roof were pretty useless because you will not really need to look so high up to see anything, and the reflections on the windows made it very hard to take good photographs. I would recommend the Golden Pass Classic train instead to others who are interested to take this same route as you will get to experience a olden times train carriage which looks more quaint.

At Montreux, beside the GPP carriage.

The panoramic interior of the GPP carriage.

As you can see, there was no one else in our carriage for the entire GPP train ride for the first part of the ride from Montreux to Zweissmann (Zweissmann – Interlaken was on another train)! There were only two seats which were marked as reserved which were for us. Pretty cool as this meant we had the entire carriage to ourselves and could jump around from window to window for the best view and photographic opportunity. There were three other GPP carriages in the front (we had the last carriage), which had old people in them, so we were pretty lucky to have this one all to ourselves.

The next few shots are just some examples of the view on this train ride. It was really something different as the train climbs quite high above sea level and you get a very good view of towns below and beside you, as well as the large lakes and snow capped mountain ranges. What a scenic ride!

Three hours and one change of trains at Zweissmann later, we arrived at Interlaken West station, where we would have a very short walk to the hostel which would be our base for the next three nights. Interlaken is best known for its winter and extreme sports, things I am not particularly interested in. Instead, we will probably just focus on walking around this small city and soaking in as much of the scenery as we can. This is an amazingly scenic city, as the next picture will show you.

View from the train station. This has to be the scenic train station we have been at so far!

Today’s pictures here.

Day 56 [26 Mar 09] – Geneva

Posted in Geneva by jn82 on March 26, 2009

I initially only intended to spend two nights in Geneva, but upon reaching the hostel on the first day and seeing what a nice place it was to relax, we decided to extend our stay in geneva by a night, and spend the third day (today) doing nothing at all in the room.

The summary of my day is instant noodles for lunch and dinner and watching half a season worth of CSI Miami online. Good rest day! Off to Interlaken via the Golden Pass scenic train route tomorrow.