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My 8 day trip report on Switzerland
Rapperswil - the town of roses is a medieval old town on Lake Zurich. We found Rapperswil to be a very pretty town with quaint old-style houses, a very pretty lakeside promenade dotted with cheerful cafes and lined with trees. Ducks and swans were waddling out of the water and strutting around the garden next to the lake unperturbed by the people walking or children playing. We ambled through the sleepy streets in the car-free ÃÂ¢HautplatzÃÂ¢ (main square area) and admired the old buildings and houses.
We went to the Knies Kinderzoo the next morning. This is a small zoo where one can interact with the animals from up close as if they were household pets. The zoo is just a pleasant 10 mins walk from the Rapperswil train station along an avenue lined with nice villas with pretty gardens. Just as we spotted the entrance to the zoo, I gasped in wonder to see the tall necks of the giraffes visible from outside! At the giraffe enclosure we were delighted to see tall platforms next to the enclosure where we could climb and touch the giraffes and feed them grass. We fed grass to other animals like zebras, ponies, donkeys and goats too. There were pony rides available as well as a tram ride pulled by a horse. Our kids were ecstatic going on these rides! The zoo had huge play-areas as well ÃÂ¢ with sandpits, climbing jungle gyms, swings, magic fountains and the whole works. We were entertained by Elvis the sea lion at the sea lion-show enclosure.We saw camels, elephants and rhinos at close proximity. Soham and Srishti refused to leave the place and we had to beg them to come with us as we had a train to catch! Knies Zoo was one of the best zoos that I have visited and even adults like me were squealing with excitement at interacting with these animals.
I found Lugano to be a busy and modern city with lovely lakeside promenades lined with flowering trees and fountains at the squares. Lugano is only 40 miles from Milan. Hence, close on the heels of its more fashionable neighbour, Lugano too boasts of designer shops and famous brands. Via Nassa is one of the ÃÂ¢luxuryÃÂ¢ streets with fashionable boutiques and world famous brands like Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna and Bucherer etc and also lined with cafes, perfumeries etc. We spotted loads of modern looking hotels clambering the lakefront. There were lots of cars and quite some traffic. I was glad that we had chosen our hotel (Hotel Lago Di Lugano) in the more peaceful town of Bissone, away from the noise and the hustle and bustle of crowds.
If you wish to experience the splendour of the Lake Lugano and the mountains but avoid the crowd and the traffic, head out of the city towards Campione or Bissone and stay at a hotel there. The Hotel Lago Di Lugano at Bissone is an EXCELLENT place for families with kids with fantastic scenery and family-friendly facilities.
Next day we took a bus from Lugano Central to the fishing village of Gandria. It is the tiniest village I have ever seen and the only walking path in the village takes all of 15 minutes to traverse and runs in between tiny houses and restaurants piled next to each other and bordering the lake! The village is famous for its beautiful location next to the lake and the superb food offered by the restaurants dotting the lake. We checked out all the restaurants and chose one of them with a good lake view. We were told that one could get amazing fish delicacies at Gandria and the restaurant lived up to that reputation. I had an excellent grilled sea fish with saffron sauce and baked vegetables.
On our third day in Lugano we decided on a mega-tour and I drew up an ambitious plan to visit 3 places Ã¢ Mt San Salvatore, Swiss Miniature Park at Melide and the beautiful village of Morcote. It was a sunny day today unlike yesterday and so we got a complimentary boat ride from the hotel right up to Lugano Paradiso.From Paradiso pier we walked around 10 mins to reach the funicular stop. Mt San Salvatore is 912 m high and offers superb views of the lakes below and magnificent range of Swiss and Savoy Alps. There is a church at the top which has a terrace where one can climb up and get stunning panoramic views. We could see at least 2 other smaller lakes from the top, apart from Lake Lugano.We observed that there was a walking path that leads to Corona (Ciona) and then Morcote in 3 hrs. If the kids werenÃ¢t with us we might have perhaps ventured doing the hike. We had a quick lunch at the self-service restaurant and the kids later amused themselves at the nearby games park. Getting back to Paradiso we decided to take the train to Swiss Miniature in Melide. This is a park which has models of all monuments and landmarks of Switzerland with Swiss Alps, lakes, castles, farms, cathedrals etc. There are small trains, funiculars and toy cars whizzing automatically on the roads and tracks lay out. It is a virtual Ã¢toylandÃ¢ for children since they can see all of Switzerland in miniature form. One can see the Rotating cable car rising up to Mount Titlis in miniature form, the funicular chugging up to Jungfraujoch or the toy sailing boats on Lake Zurich. We spent a whole lot of time over here and later the children tried their hand at the various games available. As a result of all this we missed the next boat connection to Morcote and had to forego that trip. I was most disappointed as I had read so much about this charming village from the travel brochures and really wanted to see the quaint place. Anyways the children were thrilled at spending so much time at the Miniature Park, so it was well worth it.
Brienz is a small town located at one end of Lake Brienz, about 15 mins by train from the more famous and touristy town of Interlaken. We chose Brienz over Interlaken because we wanted to avoid the crowds and rather enjoy the ambience of a quiet scenic town. True to our expectations we found Brienz to be my âdream come trueâ â breathtakingly beautiful and a spectacular pastel green lake completely surrounded by snow-capped misty mountains and gushing waterfalls. The town of Brienz consists of one main street with a few shops and restaurants, boat pier on Lake Brienz and the train station. There's a station for the Brienzer Rothornbahn, a charming steam train which chugs its way upto the summit of Brienzer Rothorn and offers magnificient views across Lake Brienz and the entire Alpine region of Brienz, Meiringen and Hasliberg. All the residential houses and hotels are situated on elevations along uphill paths. There's the famous waterfall in that area called Giessbach waterfall which has a historic turn-of-the-century hotel - the Grandhotel Giessbach next to the waterfall. Another place which would appeal to kids is the Brienz Wildpark â an open park with local animals of the area. But be warned - its an uphill 20 mins walk to the wild park; so stock up on your stamina before attempting the walk! A cruise on the Lake Brienz is a lovely option for the evening. Boats leave from Brienz and take about one hour to reach Interlaken. There is a cruise boat which offers the option of a sumptuous buffet dinner. The NOT-TO-BE-MISSED attraction is ofcourse the wonderful Ballenberg open-air museum spread over sprawling acres of hilly forests and meadows showcasing century-old buildings from all over Switzerland, loads of farmyard animals and demonstrations of traditional crafts like cheese-making, baking bread, farming, needle-work, smithy, wood carving etc.
Hotel Lindenhof is the CUTEST hotel I have stayed at - situated a bit uphill and about 10 mins walk from the Brienz train station.We had taken a family apartment on two floors. The ground floor had a living room, kitchenette and bathroom. It was so creatively decorated with wooden tree-trunk benches and tables, a tree inside the room and 3 stuffed creatures perched on the tree! Upstairs there were two tastefully decorated bedrooms and the kidsâ room had bunk beds and a skylight on the ceiling.There was a small balcony from where one could get a superb view of the mountains, waterfall, a bit of the lake, a train track, the hotelâs own greenhouse and cows grazing in the distance. We took a tour of the rest of the hotel property and found well tended gardens with nicely placed deckchairs where one could get great views of the lake below and a small outdoor play-area.
There's a small indoor swimming pool with glass paneled walls, so one can get a view of the mountains and meadows while taking a dip. Suitably rejuvenated we had a superb dinner at our hotelâs restaurant. The restaurant is furnished in old-style manner with brass pots and pans decorating the walls and an ancient looking fireplace and brass stove. I chose a dish which was a medley of three kinds of fish â grilled prawns, grilled salmon and crispy fried sole in saffron sauce. It was a huge portion and utterly delectable! I kept thinking to myself, Brienz is Heaven â spectacular scenery and outstanding food!