My father is anything but adventurous and his idea of sightseeing in a foreign land is to take one of those guided tours that leaves from the hotel and brings you right back. He also likes to have a lazy breakfast at the hotel and maybe take a post breakfast nap when he is not traveling on work. So, by the time he is ready to explore the place, the hotel's travel desk assumes the enquiry is for the next day.
Last October, my father had a business trip in Zurich and I decided to accompany him. He decided to take two days off from work so that we could explore a bit of the place together. We shortlisted Mt. Titlis for the day after we arrived since it came highly recommended. Post a scrumptious breakfast buffet at the hotel, we checked at the hotel's travel desk only to be told that the bus had already left but that we could book it for the following day.
I was so disappointed that I started sulking when a friend of mine living in Zurich called to check on us. He suggested we take the train and go on our own as it was fairly a simple trip from Zurich. He did explain the route which I had barely heard of because I didn't think my father would agree on finding our way up a mountain on our own.
I am somewhat brave and adventurous but convincing my overly cautious father to be the same in an unknown country is a huge challenge.. I had only two days in Zurich so I was quite adamant to make the most of it. After a bit of arguing and putting on some artificial confidence, I did manage to convince him. He did give that forewarning that if we were to be lost or in a mess I would not get away scot free.
The Zurich Main Station or the Haupt Bahn Hoff as it is called was just across the street from our hotel. I took charge and walked towards the ticket counter and asked the lady there how to get to Mt. Titlis. She explained that I would need to take a train to Lucerne, from there another train to a town called Engelberg, then the cable cars which included something called a Rotair to the peak. These interconnections did make the trip sound a little complicated but the good part was you could buy entire return trip's tickets including the cable car and Rotair from this counter. Guess that took care of the ticketing part and I had to just focus on finding our way to the top of this 10,000 feet high glacier mountain. Not to forget, the highest in central Switzerland covered in snow all year round.
Our train was in half an hour’s time so we ran towards the designated platform. Everything in Switzerland is like clockwork the train started left on time and we were on our way to Lucerne, our first stop. It was a scenic ride through the mountains and the countryside. We saw people playing golf, fathers fishing with their sons in the numerous lakes and streams we passed, gorgeous meadows, hills, and so much more that words can barely describe. The 55 minute ride just whizzed by and we were at Lucerne.
We got off the train and had forty five minutes in hand before the next train. We stepped out of the station to find a large lake in front of us. The lake was so calm and scenic and engulfed by the majestic Alps. We walked around taking photographs and sipping takeaway cappuccinos. It was a town where we could have easily spent a couple of hours with quite a bit to see including a Picasso art museum. We had to leave that for another time because we had to complete our entire trip and be back in Zurich for a dinner invitation. Also, as it gets late, the number of trains returning to Lucerne from Engelberg becomes fewer.
We got on to our next train to Engelberg, a quaint town with an area of only about 75 square kilometers and a population of about 3700 people. The Lucerne -Engelberg train goes up a narrow gauge rack railway with a track gauge of only one meter. The train climbing up through the mountains was an experience by itself which we would not have had in one of those guided bus tours. In less than an hour, we reached Engelberg - a small and practically empty station.
We found our way to the cable car station which was just five minutes away and got in to a cable car. Looking down from our cable cars we could see the large valleys with numerous brown Swiss cows grazing away. The ringing of their bells was one of the most beautiful sounds we had ever heard. The scenery changed as we approached the high alpine glacier mountains.
After two different cable cars we boarded the famous Rotair cable car to complete the last leg of the journey to Mt. Titlis. This is a five minute ride up and the car rotates once around its own axis giving a panoramic view of the gorgeous Swiss Alps. At that altitude you can view the Black Forests in Germany but we missed that because we didn’t know about this until later. The Rotair accommodates up to ten persons unlike the regular cable cars which fit in a maximum of 4 persons.
From the Rotair station we had to take an elevator up, then a few flight of stairs and finally enter through a door to find ourselves on a terrace covered with snow. This terrace was actually the top of Mt. Titlis. It felt as though we had entered a magical snow land quite expecting a snow queen whizzing by in her carriage. I was so excited to see all that snow that I had to dig my hands in to play with it. I tried to make snowballs making my hands practically numb with the cold.
A little later, we went back inside the building from where we first entered. The building which also was the Rotair stations had quite a few cafés, gift shops, rest rooms and a lovely photo studio where you could have your picture taken in traditional Swiss costumes. I did get one of myself as a Swiss maiden to remind me of this lovely trip. I was amused to find huge posters of our very own Priyanka Chopra and Lisa Ray on one of the staircase landings. We found our Bollywood stars were quite popular in this part of town with loads of pictures around the place. Instructions and directions were also available in Hindi along with several other languages.
After some hot Swiss chocolate and some sandwiches, we made our way back to Zurich. We were quite tired but had that happy feeling from experiencing such beauty. We managed a short snooze in the train back refreshing us for the dinner invitation we still had to go for. Oh yes, I made sure I gloated to my father about how 'smart and efficient' I was and not to mention without my very existence he would have never seen what he saw today.
But, really the fact that we tried this trip on our own and succeeded without a hitch made Mt. Titlis even more wonderful. There is a separate joy in traveling and discovering a city on your own. It not only gives you the freedom of time but also allows you to savor the local settings, sights, and sounds. A guided trip does have its merits and conveniences in certain but in most parts of Europe, it’s great to discover things on your own using its amazing transportation infrastructure.
Chillibreeze's disclaimer: This is a contributed article and was published on Chillibreeze in April, 2010. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of Chillibreeze as a company. Chillibreeze has a strict anti-plagiarism policy. Please contact us to report any copyright issues related to this article. The relevance of the facts and figures cited (if any) could change after a period of time.
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—About our writer:
Shalini Ray has over 7 years of experience in the corporate world and has handled channel and sales teams. She has also worked on project, proposal and report writing during the time. She loves to travel and loves writing her experiences on places and events. She loves to explore the internet for knowledge and would love to write on various topics like hotel reviews, travel, books etc.
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