Geneva to Lucerne or Luzern
Today’s travel were close to the most extraordinary of my life. I can’t think of any better, but I don’t have a long memory. Prior to today, the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound and return was the greatest, and our train travel from Geneva, Lausanne, to Martigny, to Visp, Spiez, Interlaken and onto to Lucerne has definitely equalled that.
Turtle trail caught the local tram from the hostel to the train station, about 600m, using the free transit cards supplied by the city to visitors. There was plenty of free WIFI around too, but very slow close to dialup speeds and would drop out halfway through updating Facebook etc., not good, but free.
Nice Train guard ensured we were at right platform and then came to tell us when our train was ready for departure. The little town we had planned to stop over for a break was not listed on the train info boards so his intervention was helpful and got us onto a train 15 minutes before our scheduled one. Yes, another was following the same route such a short time later. Soon after boarding we were at 140kmh on super smooth tracks, passing through Lausanne that was big enough to have a traffic jam at 9am and the increasingly rural towns like Montreaux. All the journey was alongside the magnificent Geneva Lake. There is a prize to who tells me how long this lake is!
For a while I was watching this strange cloud appear. It seemed to have firmer edges than a normal cloud, go down to the water and then way above all the other clouds.. As we got closer and the air cleared, this was no cloud, this was a mountain. A mountain of proportions never before seen by man – this one anyway. Along with the experience from yesterday when we emerged from the tunnel into mid air, this was another ‘ah, we are in Switzerland’ moment.
The train climbed a bit and arrived at Martigny, which I had read somewhere was a delightful village. It was a small town rather than a village, and after a wander around, the turtle train settled under a tree outside a coffee bar with only one thing on our minds, a nice warm relaxing coffee or chocolate (the complimentary hostel coffee was awful). The weather is glorious, and sunny, perhaps 23*C..
After an hour or so we headed back to the station and found a couple of Aussies from Warwick. Given we have a Warwick about two km from home some 13,000km away, we were kinda pleased they said Warwick Queensland! It sure was nice to chat in our own language for a while, and this is only day ?…. Four since we left Perth.
The mountains continued to be extraordinary, with many ams of vines growing on very steep slopes, not trellised, but each vine on one pole. Jacob reckons it would be to ensure the sun got to as much of the vine as possible. We loved training through the valley, crossing the river seeing the countryside breeze past.
At each station, it seemed like a class of local teenagers would get on or off the train. They were Cassidy’s age, 15 or so, and spoke German, not French, which is the language of the Geneva end of Switzerland. We wondered if these school kids had classes in each town!
Our plan was to catch a train from Visp to Bern, then across to Luzern, and arrive about 3pm. However our tour guide Jacob, helped us plan a much better, but one hour longer journey that took us through Interlaken where he had paraglided a few years ago. This seemed more direct, so why was it longer in time?
We had some time to kill at Visp so wandered out from the station onto the town square, where there just happened to be a Chilean band playing their music and a market in full swing. We felt a bit conspicuous waking through the crowds fully turtle backed, and a bit more vulnerable than we needed to be, so we lazed on some lawn and waited a short while for our third train of the day.
After climbing out of Visp and through a 37km long tunnel we ….
Just think about that for a while. Thirty Seven Kilometres tunnelling through the granite mountain. We were in the dark for around fifteen minutes. Yes, amazing.
This was a double decker commuters train, many of whom were not at all surprised when we popped onto the far greener other side of the mountain and views to kill for.
Here we were amongst wooden Swiss cottages, cows with bells on, grass growing as you look at it, glacial streams, and the mountains, oh the mountains!
We arrived at Spiez and changed trains again. Spiez is another lake town like Geneva, but the views just across the road from the station were something else. Green green fields, colourful flowers, little boats in a cove, blue water and set by majestic mountains.
After another change at Interlaken, we continued alongside the lake. The very best was that this train had windows that could be opened. Earlier our views and photos were marred by dusty windows, but here we could have the chill of the mountain air rushing through us, clear views, and if you got timing right between the trees, some great photos!
There was a grumpy man who came and shut our windows on us. Apparently it was polite for us to ask if we could have them open! And how did we know this? Well the conductor was a pleasant Swiss woman who’d spent 8 months on holiday living 5 kms from us at Scarborough in WA. she was happy to chat about how great our country was, and were happy to reciprocate! She commented how so many Australians come to Europe without seeing their own country first. C’mon Aussies, see Australia first!
After Interlaken, we all just gazed out the window, gazed and gazed, in awe of the vista in front of us. The train had been following the lake, but after a longish stop at Meiringan where the driver changed ends and the train went backwards, turning off at a set of points up a step climb towards Lucerne. This climb was so steep it made standing difficult, this rail network is amazing. After another tunnel we came out in the clouds to find even more rural countryside, tiny villages, green grass, cows with bells, and wooden homes and barns.
Photos from the moving train through dirty windows aren’t the best.
This was what we expected from Switzerland and it exceeded all expectation.
We arrived in Lucerne train station, and the turtle train plodded along, weary from our busy day of changing trains, wonderful views, and probably a little bit wind burnt from the open windows on the train. Our hotel is fine though internet costing fifteen francs for three hours, about $20, we’ll leave it for today and hope to find some better connection in Salzburg. We were hungry too, with only our coffee and patisserie from Martigny and an apple each from Visp being our food for the day.
I have one ANZ travel card that is a Visa debit card, preloaded with Euro I have been buying over several months, and we have a GE Money MasterCard with no ForEx fees and a good exchange rate. This has been fine for France, but here in Switzerland where they don’t use Euro, I needed to only use the MasterCard and avoid doing a cash out from this credit card to minimize fees. So off we went to forage for food, heading for a pizza place we saw on the way from the station. Sorry no MasterCard. Then a lovely little pasta place where the man spoke good English to me as soon as I said Hello. Apparently I should have said ‘allo’ to be correct German. Anyway, as nice as he was, no MasterCard. We settled on a pub meal, and enjoyed ourselves, reflecting on the wonderful day and comparing experiences.. MasterCard got gratefully accepted and is now $170 poorer. Ah well, we are on holiday in Lucerne, it’s an expensive place.