Month: September 2010

Swiss Chronicles –Zermatt Matterhorn

Did you ladies have doll houses when you were young? The ones which had all the tiny rooms with miniature furnishings and people inside. My mother would set up my corner during Diwali. The dolls all decked up and arranged, all the toys- cars, train and buses around and then in the centre the little doll-house – flowers adorning its porch and strings of mini bulb-light on the outside walls.

When I entered Zermatt – I was reminded of my little doll house and that corner in my house. The mini-roads, the wooden houses not more than 3-4 storied-high, colourful flowers hanging out of each balcony,a small stream flowing in between, cycles zooming past, mini-buses, small electric cars and cabs.

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Zermatt is a car-free zone. It only has electric buses and electric cars. They look like toys! The bus can seat about 10-12 people but at one time was holding 20 odd people with 3 huge dogs. The biggest of those dogs was right near my seat and kept sniffing at my feet, turning around and then hitting my feet with his huge tail! The freaking experiences on this trip looked like they would never end.

I’m not an animal person and the mere site of that huge dog scared me so bad – that not once did I turn my head towards the huge creature! The breed was this one and trust me it looked double the size shown in the picture. I must confess though that the breeds of dogs I saw in Zermatt made me fall in love with them. They all looked so royal and magnificent.

Zermatt is a small village in the Swiss Alps and is famous for one of the highest peaks in the Alps – The Matterhorn.

Unfortunately it was raining the days we were in Zermatt and we could not get to the Klein Matterhorn. It is the highest peak in the Alps that can be reached by the cable-ways. There is no way to reach the real Matterhorn and cable ways are constructed till the smaller peak known as Klein Matterhorn.

We went mid-way to Schwarzsee Paradise and were witness to one of the most beautiful displays of nature. The snowy peaks, the clouds afloat, the green mountains, rains, bright sun and a rainbow! A rainbow that lasted 20 odd minutes! Blessed!


The family inn we lived in was at the foot of the Matterhorn. When the sun came out in the evening, we finally witnessed the woman in white:-)

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Previous posts in the series here:

  1. Zurich
  2. Rhine Falls
  3. Mt. Titlis
  4. Lucerne
  5. Mt. Pilatus
  6. European Oddities

European Oddities

Learnt to speak slowly when communicating with the local Deutsch speaking people! I’m too fast and they are too slow:-(

I’m all for conserving water but seriously no water jets in toilets? You think paper is more clean over water and that is conserving natural resource? BAH!

Why do they serve bland Indian food in our 5-star restaurants citing  that westerners can’t handle spicy food. We went to 4 Indian food joints on our trip and all served nice spicy food. It was not made specially for us – the hotel owners told us that the local people loved it that way!

The Europeans enjoy our Indian Thalis not just the butter chicken and naan!

By default the first communication happens in their mother tongue and then they switch to English seeing your blank face. (We in our country first speak English and are not even well-versed with our mother tongues. Guilty party and makes me feel ashamed!)

Beer and alcohol is had at all times of the day at all places – markets, railway stations, underground shops,everywhere! I did not see any drunk, rowdy, misbehaviour on my entire trip – why do we in India and Middle East make a big deal about alcohol!

Europe is to be seen by road or railway travel – only then can you experience the ethereal beauty of this place.

Anyone will go out of their way to guide a tourist – irrespective of the country you are in or the nationality you possess.

Saw a lot of elderly/old people on our travels – they are amazingly independent, still go on treks with their walking sticks, love to talk and have a terrific zest for life! (Why do we make a big deal about expecting our kids to be with us all the time?)

For the first time on our journey, saw beggars as those in India in Vienna.

My sis in UK often jokes that in London we are still living in the 1800s! What she says is true – the cities, the houses look as if they have been preserved for ages. That is where lies the beauty of this place I think – preserving tradition. (Don’t you get a lovely feeling when you walk along the Fort Area in Mumbai – I wish the entire city was as beautiful – there is a different charm to it.)

Breakfast is pretty lousy unless you enjoy cold cuts! Most times I struggled with bread and butter alone! But awesome breads, even better ice-cream and lovely coffees!(A European couple remarked to me that Indian breakfast was the best – swelled with pride)

Did not adapt to the famous “fondue”, simply did not – the smell prevented me from trying it:-( But again I’m not great at experimenting so don’t get biased by my opinion.

Went on an art tour in Austria! I did not know the palace only stocked art paintings. Most kids in school are petrified of Maths, for me it was drawing and art. I could never understand it – even then, even now!

I’ve a fascination for public transports so I’m now a natural fan of entire Europe. Amazing systems – trains, trams, buses. Who needs a taxi! Enjoyed the tram rides the most. (Why did they shut those down back in Mumbai:-()

Walk and cycle is the motto of every place we visited. Never realised walking could be this fun!

Every city you visit has an old town, a famous shopping street (at most times named Bahnhofstrasse), a lake or river, a boat cruise, a walking tour, baroque and gothic architecture, a fortification wall, a hill, a famous bridge and a famous church.

Realised that population is the only reason the places are clean and systematic. (Admire India even more for dealing with the unmanageable population and still surviving, I’m sure these countries would have a terrible time if they had the kind of population that we do!)

The place makes you fall in love and you keep wanting to get back. I’ll be back again – to visit the remaining famous places.

P.S: The chronicle series for the remaining places will continue! Vacation has ended so decided to put up this post first!

Swiss Chronicles : Mt. Pilatus

The way we planned our Swisstrip – it was more of a peak scaling trip for us with 4 peaks on the radar, and therefore Pilatus could not be missed.

Now what was the novelty in Mt. Pilatus when we had already visited Mt.Titlis? An alps peak again, snow probably and aerial cableway; well there was one novelty – the Cog Wheel Train ride up the mountains from  Alpanchstad to Pilatus Klum on a slope of gradient average 28%!

The little red toy train looks cute from afar – only when you sit inside do you realise you are on ride of a lifetime! As it climbs up the mountain on narrow rail track, steep valley on the side, high mountain range on the other, turning across angles, the sights below diminishing, it leaves you in awe of the people who invented and devised this little beauty.

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The train takes you right to the top. Unfortunately, no snow at the top but the view as magnificent as that from Titlis. Strong wind blowing and a hot cup of coffee atop the mountain -the perfect way to begin your day.

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On the way back we took the aerial cableways – fortunately these did not halt mid-way! We took a break at the middle-station Frakmunteg to have our early lunch. It was my no non-veg day, so I stuck to good old french fries as I watched MDH eat a scrumptious chicken dish!

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Pilatus trip was a swift one and less tiring as we reached pretty early before the crowds came along!

These 2 peaks seem popular sites for Indian tourists – caught loads of them, for a second it got me wondering if we were back in Dubai or Mumbai!

2 peaks struck off our list – 2 more higher ones remained. We were off to our next destination – the little village called Zermatt.

 P.S: See that house in the last picture – we caught a shot on our way down from the cable car – add that to my list of “must have a house like that someday”

Previous posts in the series here:

  1. Zurich
  2. Rhine Falls
  3. Mt. Titlis
  4. Lucerne 

Swiss Chronicles – Lucerne

How many places make you feel at home the moment you step into them, give you a feeling that you might belong here and embrace you with their warmth.

Lucerne is among those few places. You travel for about 45 minutes by train from Zurich to reach Lucerne. The place is beautiful – a lovely mix of tradition and modernity and just about the right size. A place where you will not feel lost. Like most Swiss places, this too is surrounded by the lake Lucerne.

The old Chapel Bridge stands across this lake as the guardian of  the city. People storm numerous Swiss restaurants along the quiet Rathausquai on the shores of the lake. Getting together with family & friends after a hard day’s work, drinking beer, eating meat,watching the kids play with the swans on the banks of the lake. As you walk along the Chapel Bridge, the sound of a violin soothes your ears and you find a few street artists display their talent.  If it weren’t for the impatient me, MDH would’ve spent the entire evening on the bridge in the middle of  the lake listening to the violin tunes. Which place in the world offers such a picturesque view of a city life.

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As you cross the bridge and head towards Bahnofstrasse you come to the view the modern side of this city. Buzzing with shops of the biggest brands, several restaurants,fast food joints, plus hotels, youngsters hurrying up along the road and people returning home from the main station. The hustle-bustle of the city is restricted to this street alone.

The next day we walked to the famous Museg Wall. This is along a residential street behind the Old Town. Lots of homes adorn this stretch. 3 towers of this wall are still open to public viewing. A clock on one of the towers has been set to chime a second before all other city clocks at every hour.

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We strolled down the hill to hit the main city road Lowenplatz and headed towards the famous Lion Monument. Mark Twain described this monument as the most sad and moving sculpture he had ever seen. He was right,the Lion sits in a sombre mood marking the sacrifice of Swiss Guards in 1792 during the French Revolution.

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We walked back and sat down in one of the city squares – viewing the people and sights all around. I don’t recollect MDH and I doing this in a long while; just sitting quietly in the midst of a city square and enjoying the buzz around us. Families came with their kids, youngsters sat down to have a quick snack, old people came down to relax. It was great to see people take time out and relax. The city offers many such spots in every nook and corner.

It had been been 4 days in Swissland and I was craving for some good old simple Indian food. Yeah call me typically Indian, hunting for Indian food in foreign land. I was a veggie that day and bread-butter is not my ideal meal! Luckily we found an Indian restaurant close to the Lion Monument and I treated myself to a nice wada-sambar while MDH feasted on spicy fish! He gets fairly irritated with me cause he believes one should taste the country specialities once we are visiting a new place! But sigh, I cannot control my food cravings and somehow figure out a way to pacify them:-)

The best part of our 2-day stay in this city was the location of our hotel and the fact that this place encourages walking. The tourist centre lady told us not to bother with any travel card and just walk along to the old town! The weather was perfect and we enjoyed our evening strolls around the city.

The buildings and the roads reminded me of Mumbai’s Babulnath, Gamdevi area. I spent my school years there and always loved the stone buildings and quiet lanes covered with trees.

Lucerne brought back some lovely memories!

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Previous posts in the series here:

  1. Zurich
  2. Rhine Falls
  3. Mt. Titlis

Swiss Chronicles – Mt. Titlis

Do you have dreams? Pleasant dreams, happy dreams, dreams that bring a smile to your face. I’m not talking about big ones – the one about the dream house by the lake or beach, or driving a Rolls Royce, or travelling in your own private jet, or hoping someday you’ll be sitting by GOD’s side discussing your favourite game!

I’m talking of the small meaningless ones, the little wishes – like wanting to hold the snow in your hands after reading C&H Books and Archie comics.

A dream that remained a dream cause you spent a quarter of your life in the humidity of Mumbai and were never able to visit the Himalayas or up north of your country. Then having shifted base to a desertland, the dream seemed further impossible, until you landed on the first of the 4 peaks you decided to visit in the Alps

A one-hour train to Engelberg from Lucerne and you were on the ride of your life to the one of the highest peaks in  the Alps that can be reached by aerial cableways. Yes, that is the sole mode of transport to this place. Cable cars or Gondolas as they are more commonly known in this part of the world.


You change 3 different type of lifts to finally reach 3238 mts above sea-level to Mt. Titlis. On the way you encounter scenic sites as below

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You get to have an Indian Buffet at their restaurant and head straight into the snow!

Yes I held snow in my hands for the first time in my life, I walked on it, I played in it and I got to throw a snowball! The feeling hasn’t sunk in and don’t think I’ll get over it anytime soon. Little dreams when they come true bring unbelievable happiness.

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I’m scared of valley ranges and MDH made me get into this one while travelling to Glacier Park from Mt. Titlis!


As if it was not enough that we paid to be taken in covered Gondolas (which by the way stopped mid-air for 10-15 mins while returning back giving me the fright of my life) – I paid 12CHF i.e. approx Rs 600 for the most terrifying 5 mins of my life! You guessed it right, I was not thinking at all. That’s me in the picture holding on to my dear life! Freaking scary it was when I sat in an open air-lift. Freezing like crazy, fog all over, only open valley below my feet! I must’ve been out of my mind to sit – but I did.

Got back safe and sound – you must’ve guessed it from the fact that I’m putting up this blog post! I’m not doing it again ever in my life – one time was good enough!

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As much as Mt. Titlis did not help me get over my fear of valleys – it did make my little dream come true and for that reason alone the place will remain special for the rest of my life!

Previous posts in the series here:

  1. Zurich
  2. Rhine Falls

Swiss Chronicles – Rhine Falls

I’m petrified of water. I find it beautiful from afar. I never learnt to swim owing to this fear. I’ve still though managed to visit sea-shores, waterfalls and even go on creek cruises. I had no idea though of MDH’s way of helping me to get over my fear was to take me on a trip to the Rhine Falls.


It was not enough to see it from afar, we took a boat ride across the Rhine river and then to the rock above. We then climbed up the steep rock and were in the middle of no-where! The water sounds hitting our ears, the moistness all over. Nature has so many wonders to offer – it never ceases to amaze us! This was only the beginning of the wonders we were to experience on our “long” trip in this magical land.

I could not help but think of our very own Bhandardara Falls in Nashik. Yeah, so maybe we don’t get to go right in the middle of the falls as we got to at the Rhine but the scenic beauty remains almost the same!

Some snaps and video of the amazing falls and the rock bang in the middle of no-where!

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Hear the water gush down the rocks as we take the boat ride towards the giant rock!

Previous posts in the series here:

  1. Zurich

Swiss Chronicles – Zurich

As the flight descended to this small town in Swiss land I could only see greenery around me – what a pleasant change from the barren Desertland that I live in.

The runaway of the small airport is surrounded by lush green fields. As the plane descended, I could see the lake, the waters running  by, the cows grazing lazily, the bicycles pacing down on the slopes, and then the plane landed on what was supposed to be an airport!

Zurich airport seems smaller than the Mumbai Domestic airport. Less plush but more clean. If the small cities in India were kept as clean we too would be calling them heaven on earth.

The landscapes are beautiful no doubt, but I don’t see much difference between these and our land. The comparison is natural – the only question that comes to mind is if only our people valued the nature we are blessed with and took care of it. That is the basic difference – people here value their land, their riches are their nature and they treasure it.

Zurich is a busy city by European standards at least – you see loads of people rushing around in trams, buses, trains etc. The main station Zurich HauptBahnhof is buzzing throughout the day.

The best part of this place was though seeing people have beer during the day – for heaven’s sake coffee and beer costs the same! I almost felt guilty sipping coffee when I could take a taste of beer and wine. What a heaven for my friends who love beer! I couldn’t help but remember V – who loves beer( as you would guess from his blog title). If I could, I’d gift him a lifetime Swiss visa!

The people are warm and friendly. Everyone can make out a confused tourist and go out of their way to help them. The SBB – the main railway operator, has its offices at all stations and the staff there help you plan your journey, explain the cheaper options and ensure you are not cheated of your money. Yes, some are confused but that is rare. People smile at you randomly, talk to you about your experience. One lady was so touched when MDH offered his seat to her that till she got down she kept showering her blessings! We would have almost got onto the wrong train without a valid ticket had a lady at the platform not gone out of her way to help us! Yes I did encounter a rude lady but then I’d give her the benefit of the doubt of having to deal with million tourists a day at the Rhine falls.

I’m a huge fan of public transport – have often confessed this on the blog. I still get a bigger kick by travelling in a public transport than driving my own car! I lived 25 years in Mumbai without ever missing owning a vehicle – I missed that in Dubai. Any place that does not have a good public transport makes you lazy. You tend to walk less, your brains work less, you lose sense of time, you lose your “me” time,you become dependent, you tend to read less and you tend to crib more!


We did not feel the need to hunt for a cab despite the luggage we carried. There is a station at every airport which connects to the main city stations. You just hop on and hop off with the day passes you buy. The platforms, trains, escalators and elevators are well built to suffice for all – people with luggage, handicapped people, children and even pets! This place does not treat animals any differently from humans. Most restaurants and hotels permit animals and separate food trays are laid out for them. No public transport restricts people from boarding their animals onto it! Talk about equality – a lesson we all must learn.

There is not much to see in Zurich – the St. Peter’s Church, the lake Zurich, Uteliberg top of Zurich, the old town and the famous Bahnofstrasse. Our hotel was about 10 minutes from the central station with a tram line 2 minutes walk away which made it easier for us to move around the city. Bahnhofstrasse is buzzing until 7.30 and then it goes all quiet! All shops and restaurants shut down at 8.00!!! We were lucky to find a McDonald’s open!


The ride along Lake Zurich was mesmerising and made me envious of all the people who have their houses along the lake. The ride lasts one hour and takes you all over the town. I’m sharing some snaps with you all.

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Look at the last picture – sigh don’t you wish someday you could live in house like that surrounded by nature!

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