travel

Switzerland 2016 – Part 3 Zermatt, Glacier Express and Munich

Day 6 to 8 – Zermatt

Finally, it was time to leave Lauterbrunnen (read about it in my previous post), and we were sorry to go. We drove to Interlaken to drop the women and kids off at the train station with the luggages, while the men returned the cars and walked (approximately 10-13 minutes) to the train station. While waiting for the party to regroup, I got the timetable from the ticketing office, confirmed that we did not need to pay or reserve any seats since we had the Swiss Travel Pass. I have to hand it to the Swiss, they sure are organised and so efficient, they have timetables all printed out for the more popular destinations, I’m guessing? We really enjoyed taking the trains.

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I also had time to grab breakfast from the large Co-op supermarket across from the train station where there were mobs of Chinese and Korean tourists. Anyway, on to Zermatt!

The train from Interlaken to Zermatt was uneventful, but at Visp we changed to the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn, which are lovely trains that give a taster of the Glacier Express and a wonderful way to get introduced to the Matterhorn.

Glacier Express Switzerland Swiss

Arriving into Zermatt, our apartment at Chalet Nepomuk had organized a taxi to bring us from the train station to the apartment. Zermatt is a car-free town, which means that is plenty of opportunity to walk because the electric taxis are just daylight robbery. It cost us CHF60 for like a 10 minute ride to our apartment, but with all our luggage it was the only way to arrive. There are also electric buses in the town, and the chalet is not far from a bus stop. Journeys on the bus are free with the Swiss Travel Pass, otherwise each trip is CHF2.50 per trip which is quite expensive too!

Chalet Nepomuk Zermatt Switzerland Swiss

Chalet Nepomuk is on the edge of Zermatt town, so it isn’t the most convenient location. But it does boast wonderful views of the whole town AND of the Matterhorn! There is also a climb up a hill to the apartments. I think it might have been something like a 15-20 degree incline, which doesn’t sound like much when you’re imagining it on a protractor, but oh boy, it was quite a workout! And on a cobbled surface. We saw some other occupants with an elderly lady who had trouble with the slope. If you are bringing seniors who are not used to walking, this is not the place for you. The apartment does have a zamboni kind of machine which can bring luggage up and down the slope and in the snow, so that does help a little. There are a variety of apartments, and we stayed in a 4 bedroom one. There is a common washing machine and dryer available.

(My photos didn’t turn out as nice so here are some lovely ones from Booking.com)

When we were there in early June it was the low season, many restaurants were still closed, and a lot of construction was going on, perhaps in time for the summer and coming winter season. There were many large trucks and other work vehicles. So sometimes the lovely view of the town and Matterhorn was marred by the constant jack hammering and piling. And even though it was June, we were either in ski jackets or in several layers.

Gornegrat Bahn Zermatt

On the day we arrived, I’d spotted the Gornergat Bahn train making its way up the mountain behind our chalet, so I went to google it, and on our first day, with some glorious weather, we decided to take the Gornergat Bahn up to Mt Gornergrat. The station is next to the main Zermatt train station, and if you go after a certain time in the afternoon, it’s half price for those with the Swiss Travel Pass.

Matterhorn Gornegrat Bahn Zermatt

Along the way on the Gonernergat Bahn, we were treated to wonderful views of Zermatt town, Matterhorn, and spotted many marmots along the way, which, before this trip I’d never even heard of a marmot in my life. Whoops.

Here on Mt Gornergrat, we were able to have clear views of Mt Matterhorn! Wow! Somebody give me a toblerone!

Matterhorn Gornegrat

But the cloud cover came in fast and furious, and in less than an hour this was all we saw:

Matterhorn Gornegrat Bahn

If there’s anything this trip taught me, it’s that sometimes you really got to seize the day and go when the weather is good because you don’t know how fast it will change.

There are many hikes around Zermatt, and I thought of taking a short hike 30 minute to the Ricola herb garden, but almost 1/3 into the trip we discovered that the route Google maps gave me had been blocked and it would take a huge detour to get there. Thanks, Google. At any rate, thankfully we didn’t go because I suspect this is all of the tiny garden.

Matterhorn Ricola

If you are taking the Glacier Mountain Paradise you can stop at Furi walk down through the “town” of Blatten. There are also a lot of hiking routes in the area, as there are all over Switzerland, so do look out for information online and brochures at information centres. We were not able to do this because – weather.

In Zermatt we also visited the Matterhorn Museum, because it was raining and we needed shelter. It is a small but interesting museum, and is worth the visit even with small kids. It shows a lot about what life was like in older years, and for adults was an amazing introduction to the allure of Matterhorn, the history of Zermatt, and mountaineering and climbing in general. And even when the 3YO needed a nap I was able to find myself a comfy place to sit and wait for the group.

Day 9 – The Glacier Express

Source

The main reason why we were in Zermatt was to take the Glacier Express. We left early one morning (on the 7:35am train). The seats are FREE with the Swiss Travel Pass although you need to pay a reservation fee of CHF33.

We prepared sandwiches the night before (or you could just buy them) and brought onboard our own orange juice, yoghurt, milk, for breakfast and brunch. You can definitely buy food onboard too, or order a meal. The instructions are for you to print out your tickets, so I had to trouble the Chalet Nepomuk people to do so, but the Glacier Express conductor said that etickets are fine too and you won’t get thrown off for not having a printed copy. Good to know!

I really enjoyed this train ride, and there were commentaries along the way which talked about everything from the history of Switzerland to its use of hydropower.

My favourite was the Senda Ruinalta gorge, which is touted as the Grand Canyon of Switzerland. The views were simply out of this world. Although the Oberlappass was scenic too, I would imagine it would have been more scenic when there is more snow. In June it just looked like icy dirty snow. We also passed by Disentis, which is famous for a Benedictine monastery and boarding school. I was tempted to leave the kids to school here.

Glacier Express Switzerland Swiss

Along the way, we travelled along the Rhine, and also passed by several hydropower generator stations. As it was approaching summer, it’s amazing how much water was being produced, and really no wonder that Switzerland are targeting to shut down their nuclear plants and move to hydropower for 90% of their energy. It was a little interesting for the kids to see.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Glacier Express, but the kids didn’t. They got quite bored, because most stops are very short, and only at Disentis were we able to get off and walk even for 10 minutes or so. I would suggest this trip if you need to get from one end of Switzerland to the other, but I wouldn’t specially recommend it just for kids unless they love train rides.

Worse still, after 6 hours on the Glacier Express, we had another 5 hour train ride to go to head to Munich (which was not my idea). I had wanted to drive which would have made the trip only 2.5 hours, and stop to see the Neuschwanstein Castle, but no. It was torture.

Day 10 – 12 Munich

After arriving into the main train station München Hauptbahnhof in the late afternoon after being (tortured) on trains from 7:35am, we were able to hop onto a tram and find our apartment at Citadines Amulfipark pretty easily. The tram stops just outside the hotel, which is very convenient because the apartments are a distance away from the main area. There isn’t very much around the Citadines at all, although the Augustine Keller beer hall is a short walk away and apparently very famous. Apparently there is also a playground on site but it was a rainy evening so we didn’t get to explore.

We had a one bedroom apartment here, and all apartments come with a sofa bed, so we were able to sleep comfortably. Except it had the worst pillows I have ever had in any hotel ever. There is a kitchenette in every room which was handy. To be honest, we’ve stayed at much nicer Citadines apartments but were hardly in the room anyway so it served its purpose.

On the first day we explored Marienplatz in the morning, got ourselves some T-mobile SIM cards which cost us Euro$4.95 EACH with free calls to each other. Then we had lunch at Hofbrauhaus. If you ask me, Hofbrauhaus has more touristy appeal than Augustine Keller, but for both the food is passable. However compared to Swiss food, at least German food is a little more tasty (or just more salty??) and has more variety. Maybe by 4 dishes. (ha!)

Since it was raining, we decided to go to the Star Wars Identities exhibition on at the Olympic stadium. I would have liked something more German, but I have to say we really enjoyed this exhibition. I might have to write a whole post just on this.

Munich BMW Welt

After Star Wars Identities, we strolled down to BMW Welt, which is a museum, car showroom, a deli and a restaurant. You can even order your BMW here and drive it home. The showroom is open until midnight, which is rare in any European city! The kids loved climbing in and out of cars and on the motorocycles.

Neuswanstein castle Munich

The following day we were back at BMW Welt to rent a X6 to take a day trip. Someone decided to first go to the Neuswanstein castle, followed by the town of Rottach-Egern. We spent far too much time driving, and it was quite a waste of a day. Rottach-Egern was a lovely town, but after so many picturesque towns in Switzerland (like Brunnen!), this one just didn’t have the same kind of oomph. I can see why so many people visit Switzerland again and again for the views of the alps because it’s definitely not for the rosti or any other food.

Rottach-Egern Munich Bavaria Germany
Rottach-Egern

Anyhow, Neuswanstein came highly recommended and it is quite breath taking. Set on a hill it really does seem so magical, it’s no wonder it’s well known to be the inspiration for Disney’s castle. I hope my little princess will remember the day we tortured ourselves to get to this castle, just to see it from afar. Yes, we didn’t go in, because we still needed to drive to Rottach-Egern and get back to Munich on time to return the car. Obviously I didn’t do this part of the trip planning.

After we returned from our long drive, we had dinner at L’osteria at the Munich train station. We were a bit apprehensive since it IS at the train station and usually food at train stations are cheap and dirty, but it turned out to be our best meal from the trip – we probably just needed some REAL food after all the Swiss and German food.

L'osteria Munich station

The rest of our Munich trip was spent at Playmobil Land, which I have blogged about previously.

Despite some hiccups along the way, it was a long and very enjoyable holiday, which I’m sure we’ll remember for a long time to come. I would love to go back to Switzerland and Munich, but I hope I won’t have to plan another epic trip like this anytime soon because I’m still feeling worn out from all that planning and travelling for a whole group 😀

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2 thoughts on “Switzerland 2016 – Part 3 Zermatt, Glacier Express and Munich

  1. We endeavoured a drive to Neuswanstein back in 2005, but our plans with thwarted by bad road conditions (in winter!). We hit a patch that sent our car ‘skating’ cuz it was covered with such thick sleet. argh.

    Back then, it was still mostly based on guide books.

    But yes, you are right, the alpine drives and all, are really stunning in winter! Gosh, why did you have to remind me!!!

    (And how on earth do you squeeze in SO MANY TRAVELS!!!!)

    Like

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