Guten Morgen! It has been almost a year, and I have been SUPER slow in updating our travel logs for our Epic European Trip. I wrote a brief summary before, and also shared about Playmobil Park in Munich. We did SO MUCH on this trip, and that involved much discussion, planning and actual travelling for a group of 9 people. Everyone really enjoyed the holiday except some of the weather and I didn’t quite enjoy the parts that wasn’t planned by me, HA :D! When we came back I just needed a break and let’s not even mention going through the photos!! I wrote bits and bobs over the months but never really got around to putting the posts together. So here goes.
Day 1 – Zurich
We arrived in Zurich early on a sunny morning after a red eye flight, and took the airport train to our apartments Inside Five Zurich. The apartments are clean but small, some beds are simply IKEA sofa beds, which wasn’t the best but we stayed only 1 night and it served its purpose. It is a short tram ride away from the main Zurich HBF train station. It was a little bit of a feat for us 6 adults and 4 kids and almost 8-10 pieces of luggage on the tram, but we managed it!!
That day we took the tram around the city, visited Banhofstrasse, and had an early dinner at Zeughauskeller which was decent although not particularly exciting. The beer was better than the food. We visited in summer, and I liked the long days.
Day 2 – Zug, Brunnen, Emmentaler, Bern
The next morning bright and early we collected our rental car from Europcar, not far from the apartments. After checking out, we headed to our next stop, Brunnen, where we wanted to visit the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Museum.
Along the way we stopped at a tiny village called Zug, which was a nice break from the ride and also very scenic. We just found a random car park next to the lake and discovered an interesting aviary and gorgeous views.
Moving on to Brunnen, the roads and views were beautiful, but nothing prepared us for the stunning views in Brunnen next to the lake.
The Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Museum itself is not worth the drive, as it is only a small place, so I think if you don’t manage to get a reservation to make your own personalized knife, you could probably give this place a miss.
Despite the lacklustre museum, the town is extremely scenic, and we spent the rest of the time at a nice large playground by the lake. We had lunch at the small cafe next to the playground but later bought some pizza and kebabs take away to eat by the lake which was better than the cafe food.
After Brunnen we headed to Emmentaler, via Lucerne. We thought of getting off at Lucerne to visit the famous bridge, but forgot it was a Saturday afternoon, and from the car could see the bridge was completely packed. We had trouble figuring out where to park, so we gave up on that and just saw their famous bridge from a fleeting distance. Oh well, on to some cheese please.
Emmentaler is where they have been making Emmental cheese (duh) since the 1700s. Emmental is the iconic Swiss cheese, and we all love cheese, so we definitely had to visit right?
I was a little confused by the information on the Cheese Experience tour online, so here is what they shared with me when I emailed them:
The “cheese experience” offer includes the following activities:
- Audioguide tour. Possible anytime within our opening hours. Duration: 40 minutes
- Cheese meal of your choice in our restaurant 11:30 to 18:30. The drinks and dessert must be paid extra.
- Making of cream cheese from 14:00 to 15:00
- Cheese tasting from 15:15 to 15:45
- The highlight of the Emmentaler production at 16:00
The price is CHF 49.00 for adults and CHF 28.00 for children from 6 to 16 years.
For example, you may start with the lunch from about 11:30 to 13:00. After the lunch, you can make the audioguide tour for 40 minutes. After this you can participate at the cheese production and cheese tasting etc. Or you start with the audioguide tour and have lunch afterwards. We would like to inform you that the cream cheese production and cheese tasting are only in German. We can give you some information sheets in English for the cream cheese production and that there are no discounts with the Swiss Travel Pass.
There is a nice cafe and lovely playground (including a mouse wheel that the kids loved playing in). We didn’t go for any of the tours (most of it is in German anyway!) because I wanted the trip to be really free and easy. We were able to see some of their process from the viewing windows. We also got to try freshly made cheese which has a taste and texture that reminds me of the inside of taukwa, a soybean product. It’s only after aging that the cheese gets its more characteristic flavours.
From Emmentaler we headed to Bern where we were to stay in Hotel Novotel Bern Expo for the night. The Novotel Bern Expo is a good hotel with everything you would expect from an established hotel chain. They have rooms with sofa beds so that was able to fit our family of 5 nicely.
From the highway it was an easy drive to the hotel, and all visitors to the city get free Bern transport cards, so for dinner we took a tram and walked through the old town and then a bus to Altes Tramdepot, a beer garden kind of place which was only ok. The food was meh, and I probably have some photos of the food but I can’t be bothered to go find them. By this point at DAY TWO, I was already beginning to suspect that Swiss food (all of maybe 4 dish varieties) just wasn’t my thing. I would later reconfirm my suspicions. Probably on DAY THREE. More interestingly though, Altes Tramdepot is right next to the Bern Bear Pit, where they have three real bears because Bern city’s mascot is bears.
Sidenote: a close friend who has now been living in Switzerland for almost a year, says that now that he knows where the good places to eat are, the food is not so bad. Otherwise, I would be under the impression that the only things the Swiss can do well are cheese and chocolates.
Day 2 – Bern, Grueyere, Broc, Jura, Interlaken/Lauterbrunnen
Gosh that does seem like too much for a day, doesn’t it?
The next morning, despite some heavy drizzle, we checked out and headed to the Paul Klee Zentrum as I had read about the free children’s crevice, and I had the impression that it would be like a play area. It was disappointing. They were having an exhibit called “Chinese Whispers” in the main building so the children’s area was centered around Chinese culture, and it was still engaging for the kids although it is a much smaller area than I had envisioned. There are also paid workshops but it was for later in the afternoon and for making a Chinese looking dragon.
I didn’t come to Switzerland to learn more about Chinese culture so we obviously skipped that! No one wanted to pay to see the Paul Klee exhibits and my husband wouldn’t let me go myself because he thought we wouldn’t be staying long, but in the end we stayed there for over an hour and I could have gone. I will probably hold him accountable for it for life :D. I’m guessing the crevice changes the activities periodically, but unless you’re going to see the Paul Klee exhibits I think it might not be worth coming out of your way to go there. The museum is interesting architecturally, and is just off the highway, but to get to it is a bit of a roundabout way from the highway.
From the Paul Klee Zentrum we headed towards Gruyere, where they make surprise surprise, Gruyere cheese. We love cheese! The weather was wonderful at this point and the kids loved the little playground there. We had lunch but they took very very long to serve us. Service here was very very slow, and we had to make requests on an average of 3 times for each item, and we spent so much time here we didn’t have much time to do any of their tours, and it also didn’t leave us any time to do the chocolate tour at Nestle’s Maison Cailler in Broc, our next stop. Maybe we should have brought our own picnic, since it was wonderful weather and there is a table just next to the playground, would have been fun as well as taken up less time by 4 times, but oh well we thought it would be fun to do a Gruyere cheese fondue here. You’ve been warned.
Going to these places on a Saturday probably wasn’t a good idea either, and Maison Cailler in the town of Broc, was particularly busy. They gave us a tour time for an hour later to start in the late afternoon which we had to give it up as we were due in Lauterbrunnen by 630pm. I know, we were really trying to pack too much into one day, but we had limited time and already cut out a lot from the itinerary!
As an alternative to driving, you can take the Chocolate Train from Lausanne which stops first in Gruyere, gives you time to walk the Gruyere castle, and then organises a bus to Maison Callier after which you can head back to Gruyere and back to Lausanne. It is no extra cost if you have the Swiss Travel Pass. We did not do this as we had rented a car and were visiting these spots along our journey.
However, all was not lost because the drive from Broc to Interlaken, cutting through the small mountain roads of the town of Jura, were absolutely spectacular. ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR. Switzerland is by far the most scenic country I have ever been to. Not counting the Maldives, which of course is very different. I highly recommend this route if you are planing a trip. We reached heights of around 1400m above sea level and even saw some small patches of ice (from snow) along the roads. Did I mention this was in June?? We drove through small settlements, cow patches, and other rural scenes. The view of the mountains and valley were simply amazing. And the drivers enjoyed driving along these roads as well. In the valleys we drove along many streams, mostly from water coming from the melting snow capped mountains. Certainly not a sight you see every day!
Once we reached Interlaken we sought out the nearest supermarket to stock up on groceries for the next few days, and finally we were at our beautiful chalet for the next 3 nights.
Check back for other parts of this amazing journey!