I’m gonna be writing about offbeat places in Switzerland which may not be ‘offbeat’ but are not commonly visited by Indians!
Interlaken, Jungfrau, mt. Titlis, Lucerne, Zurich are commonly visited by Indian tourists. Indians who have grown up watching Bollywood movies, visit Switzerland with lot of expectations. But go back with the feeling that Switzerland is overrated. Not that these touristy places are not beautiful, but the essence of Switzerland lies in its untouched countryside. It is so picturesque that even pictures and videos cannot do justice. You have to experience it….. Lush green meadows, sound of cowbells, sound of a distant church bell, cows n goats grazing in the medows, snowcapped mountains, cute l’il swiss chalets decorated with flowers….. This is real Switzerland!!!
We drove around eastern and central Switzerland in June for 10 days and these are few of my favourite places…..
1. Farm stay in Gais: Gais is a picturesque small village near Appenzel. This village recieved the Wakker Prize for the development and preservation of its architectural heritage. All you can see is mountains, green medows and cute wooden swiss chalets….. straight out of Yash Chopra movies!!! I think every Indian will be able to relate to this after seeing pictures. We stayed in this village overnight at Vogelnest. It an old wagon in the middle of the medows in a farm. It was compact with a bed, dining area and a toilet. There was sitting area outside too. There’s a small grocery store owned by the host selling organic products. For dinner we bought some stuff from the store. Barbecue facility is also available. Best thing was waking up in the morning to the amazing view of green medows n cows grazing. Breakfast is given in picnic basket. We had our breakfast outdoor with this amazing view. It was like a dream!
2. Restaurant on a cliff, Berghaus Ascher: Berghaus Ascher is a cliff which is 170 years old. Initially it was a hut housing framers, goats & cows then converted into a restaurant. It’s open from May to November. For reaching this restaurant, you have to take a cable car from Wasserauen to Alpstein & then 2km hike downhill across Wildkirchli caves. It was a good 45min hike. So good hiking shoes are recommended. During the cable car ride you get beautiful views of Appenzel hill landscape, Sankt Gallen, Thurgau & lake Constance. View from the restaurant is great. They do not reserve tables. So make sure you go early. During lunchtime, it gets very crowded. They serve yummist Rosti (traditional swiss hash browns). It was the best rosti I have ever tried. It’s actually a side dish. You can have it with meat, eggs or salads. For going back again you have to climb uphill to the cable car station.
3. Appenzel town: Appenzel is a small town in north-eastern Switzerland at the foot of Alpstein known for rural customs, traditions such as ceremonial descent of cattle in autumn and cultural events. this car-free town with pretty lanes with boutiques, small stores and buildings decorated with frescoes. There’s nothing much to do in the town but a stroll through the pretty lanes is worth. It’s a base for visiting nearby places. But we chose to stay at Gais village nearby and visited this pretty village after Berghause Aescher. 2-3 hours are enough to explore the beautiful lanes.
4. Highest Jacuzzi in Europe, Diavolezza: Ah…. This was the best part of the trip. Diavolezza is near st. Moritz. It was on my bucket list. There’s a jacuzzi on the sunterrace of Diavolezza restaurant at 3000m above sea level with unrestricted views of Bernina massiff and piz Palau. Temperature of the water is 40degreeC and the temperature outside was 4degreeC. They provide bathrobes, towels, slippers, fruits and water. There’s a cablecar to reach Diavolezza. It was a perfect touch of adventure to bathing experience!!! After this amazing experience we had a cheese fondue at Diavolezza restaurant admiring the beauty of snowcapped mountains. Make sure you go there when the weather is good coz the Jacuzzi is of metal and its not safe when there’s lightening. We were lucky that weather improved when we reached there.
5. Piz Gloria, Schilthorn: This is a summit in Europe, in the Burnese Alps of Switzerland overlooking the valley of Lauterbrunnen, above the village of Murren. The summit has a panoramic view of Titlis, Jungfrau, Monch, Eiger, Vosges mountains and black forest. To reach Schilthorn, you can take the cable car (Stechelberg-Gimmelwald-Murren-Brig-Schilthorn) or you can walk. Hiking paths from Gimmelwald takes about 5 hours. We went up by cable car & while climbing down we skipped the cable car from Murren to Gimmelwald and came down walking. The route through these villages was very picturesque. Piz Gloria : The panoramic revolving restaurant at the summit was featured in 1969 James Bond movie- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. A black ski run featured in the film starts at the summit to Brig. The ‘thrill walk’ at Brig is a must do…..It was fun!
6. Murren & Gimmelwald: Murren & Gimmelwald are the small car-free villages at the foot of Schilthorn peak. Both the villages are picturesque with swiss chalets decorated with colourful flowers, fountains, greenery and unobstructed views of mountains Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau……Straight out of a story book. We had coffee and icecream at this beautiful restaurant Alpein with lovely view at Murren. At Gimmelwald, we came across this shop called ‘honesty shop’. Its Europe’s first village store which depends entirely on trust and honesty. There are no shop assistants, cameras or supervisers. Just pick what you want, put correct money in the envelope and drop it in the honesty box. How cool is that!!! Walking through these villages was an amazing experience.
7. Camping at Lake Brienz: Blue green lakes of Switzerland look surreal. I have always wanted to stay near a lake and I came across this camping site on the shores of lake Brienz. There are colourful small wooden houses with 2 beds. As it was camping, washrooms were outside but were clean. The whole camping area was well maintained and beautiful. Camping by this turquoise blue-green lake surrounded by Alps was truly memorable! (except for the bed bugs….)