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Switzerland by Rail July/August 2002
(The text in italics is taken from the official holiday brochure. The remainder of the text is from our own journal entries)
Day 1 - Friday, July 26th
The holiday started at Waterloo where we joined the lunchtime Eurostar to Brussels. This included drinks and lunch on board. After a change of trains we journeyed to Arlon in Southern Belgium for an overnight stay.
Our latest holiday will take us to Switzerland, Austria and the Alps on a two week first class rail journey. We were booked on the 8 a.m train from Norwich to London. Anne wasn't aware of our destination until we were on our way to London. Arrived in London at around 10 a.m and then had to make our way to Waterloo. We took the Circle Line to Embankment and then decided to walk across Waterloo Bridge, which in the heat and carrying heavy bags was probably the wrong decision.
Made it to the international terminal and booked in and met our tour guide who seems to be a very jovial guy. There was a considerable wait before we could get the Eurostar to Brussels. When we did eventually get on board there was a meal and champagne. All the other people on our tour were in the same carriage but we didn't get to speak with them at this point. There was another lengthy wait at Brussels which gave us time to wander outside the station to get some fresh air.
The next train took us to Arlon in Belgium for our overnight stay. The journey was two and a half hours and we were able to speak to some of the others. Our hotel was on the outskirts of the village. It was functional and the room adequate for a one night stay. Unpacked a little and then got changed and went to the restaurant for a rather average evening meal. We had travelled approximately 500 miles during the day. Our itinerary had been: Departed Norwich 8 a.m, arrived London 10 a.m, departed Waterloo 12.27 p.m, arrived Brussels 4.10 p.m, departed Brussels 5.32 p.m, arrived Arlon 7.56 p.m.
Day 2 - Saturday, July 27th
From Arlon we took the inter-city train with a spectacular journey over the Lotscberg Pass to Brig for a three night stay at the Hotel Simplon.
Packed our bags again and carried them down to the hotel foyer. We then travelled down to the station and had enough time to pick up some sandwiches and have a general look round the town. We then had a very long train journey to Brig in Switzerland. The train left at 9.34 a.m and we arrived at 5 p.m. The train was very comfortable and we got to meet some more of the people on thr tour thanks to an old style six seater carriage.
The train reversed a number of times and went through Belgium, Luxemburg, Metz, Strasbourg, Colmar, Mulhouse, Baslel, Olten, Berne, Thun, Spiez, Kandersteg, Goppenstein and finally to Brig.
At Basle our dear tour manager told us we had 15 minutes before the train set off again, but he had been told to tell us not to get off. He had no idea just why he had this instruction. He soon found out why. He said he thought it would be okay for us to get off and stretch our legs on the platform and he went off with us.. When we got back onto the back end of the train with the intention of walking through to our carriage, we saw the front end disappearing into the distance.
WE quickly found out that it was simply transferring to another platform before continuing the journey. We had to run through passport control to get onto the right platform before it set off again. John our guide smiled: "So that's why I was told to ask you not to get off the train," he said.
At Brig our cases were taken separately by van and we were left to wander through the town to a very picturesque hotel where booking in was simple and our room was on the fifth floor. After unpacking and having a refreshing shower we sat outside with a beer and then had a walk round town which is very picturesque and pleasant. The evening meal was also tasty and we ended the day with another stroll before going to bed.
Day 3 - Sunday, July 28th
A full day excursion to the mountain resort of Zermatt - a traffic free resort beneath the majestic Matterhorn. Caught the mountain railway to Gornergrat - over 10,000 feet.
The sun was shining as we woke up and , after a continental breakfast, we walked to Brig Railway Station and got the train to the traffic free ski resort of Zermatt. The entire party decided to go up the mountain railway to Gornergrat with its views over the Matterhorn. It took about an hour to get to the top but it was well worth it as the views were stunning. There were marked paths down the mountain and so we decided to take one of these, which could have been a mistake as it was hot and tiring and probably longer than we expected. We did manage to get a drink at one of the train stations on the way down.
Zermatt seems to be a one street resort that doesn't take too long to look round. Anne got some throat tablets from a chemists as she was feeling quite rough. We were left to make our own way back to Brig which wasn't difficult as the holiday includes unlimited mileage train passes. These can also be used on lake steamers and local buses.
After getting changed enjoyed another beer in front of the hotel and then had an evening meal before another wander round the town.
Day 4 - Monday, July 29th
A free day with our Swiss Railway passes
How efficient the Swiss rail system is. We certainly found that out today in using our passes. You just get on a train (in our case first class) and then relax and enjoy the views. We looked at a number of options for the day - some involving larger distances than others. We decided to travel to Montreaux where the world famous jazz festival is held each year and the place that prompted Deep Purple to write their classic rock song Smoke on the Water.
Took the 8.20 a.m train from Brig and found Montreaux to be a delightful lakeside town with a host of restaurants and cafes lining the waterfront. We decided to get the water taxi to Vevey, a town made famous by its association with Charlie Chaplin. We took a two hour cruise round the lake which gave us plenty of time for coffee. Found a rather attractive square and cafe and Anne had traditional Swiss fondue and I had a steak sandwich. Had a general look round and then walked back to catch the direct taxi back to Montreaux. This time it took just 30 minutes.
Had a good look round the town which seems to be built on a number of levels. Then caught the train back to Brig, had the customary beer and then the evening meal. It was our last day in Brig which has turned out to be a delightful place. Despite being only a small market town we could have happily stayed another two days in its relaxed atmosphere.
Day 5 - Tuesday, July 30th
Left Brig and travelled along the Rhone Valley to Montreaux where we joined the Golden Panoramic Express over the Golden Pass and, after a change of trains, arrived at Interlaken. Then continued over the Brunig Pass to Luzern for three nights overlooking the lake at the Hotel Seeburg.
Day 6 - Wednesday
A full day excursion by train, ship and mountain railway with lunch on board a steamer. Went up the Rigi, a track and pinion railway.
Day 7 - Thursday
A free day in Luzern
Day 8 - Friday
Left for the journey to Chur in South-East Switzerland. Climbed the Gotthard Pass to Goschenen. Joined the Furka-Oberalp Mountain Railway to the resort of Andermatt. Lunch before taking the Glacier Express over the Oberalp Pass to Chur. Three nights at the Hotel Stern.
Day 9 - Saturday
Excursion to St Moritz and the Bernina Pass. Climbed the Albula and Bernina Passes to Poschiavo. Travel back on a Swiss Chalet style train.
Day 10 - Sunday
Free day went to Arosa
Day 11 - Monday
Headed eastwards into Austria over the Arlberg Pass to Jenbach for four nights at the Hotel Jenbacherhof.
Day 12 - Tuesday
Full day excursion to the Achensee Lake high in the mountains. Travelled by steam-hauled rack and pinion railway and had a cruise round the Achensee.
Day 13 - Wednesday
From Jencach went through the Ziller Valley to Mayrhofen.
Day 14 - Thursday
A free day
Day 15 - Friday
Left Jenbach and travelled by Euro-City train through the Rhine Gorge and overnight stay in Cologne at the Hotel Euro Garden.
Day 16 - Saturday
Morning departure to Brussels and then Eurostar to London with lunch on board.