A trip across the majestic Swiss mountains but with maximum flexibility and convenience -who wouldn’t love that? Thank goodness for the country’s advanced mountain cableways and trains that transport us in comfort up to the great heights and lookouts. Fresh from an unforgettable experience, Sari Widiati is thrilled to share the distinctive features of a great holiday. | Photos @Titlis Cableways, Luzern Tourism, Pilatus Bahnen, Jungfrau Railways, Schilthorn Cableways/Schilthorn Piz Gloria/Marco Zurschmiede, Zermatt Tourism, Sari Widiati.
It’s midsummer in Switzerland and I joined a “Summer Outdoor” trip held by Swiss Tourism in July, a trip that was still under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic and with various news platforms reporting a heat wave was being experienced in several countries in Europe and some other countries across the globe. But Switzerland was safe with an average temperature of 25-30 degrees Celsius. The warmth provides comfort to travel and fully reveals a crystal clear view of the landscapes. This was clearly seen when I arrived at Zurich airport and rushed to the train station to reach platform 3 to get on the train to discover the heart of Switzerland.
Sitting comfortably for about two-hours and fifteen minutes and enjoying the impressive mountain scenery all around. I was with other four Southeast Asians, who are all for the first time visiting Switzerland, and they to we so noisy, enthusiastically expressing to each other the exciting things that we saw on the train. But other passengers, elderly and professionals who were busy with their laptops, just smiled at us without any objections at all. Once, I remembered and agreed with the Turkish playwright and novelist Mehmet Murat Ildan, who said, “In a country where peace prevails in every corner, everything looks prettier, calmer, and wiser!”
Arriving at Engelberg in Central Switzerland, we were immediately greeted by Peter Niederberger, representative of Titlis Cableways. Engelberg is an unpretentious city flanked by large mountains, Titlis being the belle.
Peter took us on the Titlis Express, the cable car to reach the first post. “As the name suggests, ‘engel’ which means angel, Engelberg means City of Angels, a small town that has access to Mount Titlis which offers eternal ice on it. It doesn’t melt because of natural factors, even when it’s summer like now.” said Peter as we felt our cable car go through extreme heights.
From the first post, the journey to the top of Mount Titlis (3,020m asl) requires the Titlis Rotair, a 360 degrees revolving cable car with a maximum capacity of 6000 kilograms. During the five minutes ride, I was treated to spectacular panoramic views of rock faces, crevasses, and mountain peaks.
My feet were already on the ice and I knew the glacier excursion began. I heard people screaming with joy, they were riding the Ice Flyer, flying over the glacier. I followed them with Peter. It allowed me to look at some of the cravasses and enjoy the cool air.
Keeping my steps from slipping towards the Titlis Cliff Walk, Europe’s highest suspension bridge that stretches at an altitude of about 3000 meters above sea level. I asked myself, “Do I have nerves as strong as the steel cables from which it hangs?” I haven’t had time to think about it yet but my Malaysian friend encouraged me to go step by step for more than 100 meters. Strong winds and other visitors who also climbed it made the bridge sway. When that happened, I could only gaze at a series of beautiful mountain peaks covered in ice. Breathtaking!
Here, Peter again explained, “Many people think Titlis is just one mountain. There are actually two, the big one and the small one. For the big one it can be climbed with special abilities and skills, usually professional climbers. However, small Titlis can be reached by cable car.” We all head to Glacier Cave to enter the magical world of ice, before having lunch at the Titlis Panorama Restaurant.
Descending from Mount Titlis, our next excursion is in Trübsee, an Alpine lake lies at the foot of the Titlis above the village resort of Engelberg. I want to see the beauty of the lake from above. I took the zipline attraction which slowly followed the landscape. Clear and green. When my feet hit the ground, I continued trekking to the waterfall at the foot of Mount Titlis, before staying overnight at Alpine Lodge Trübsee which is located opposite the lake that offers evening peace.
The next day, full of energy, we headed to Luzern (Lake Lucerne Region), 47 minutes by train from Engelberg, and needed about 25 minutes by bus and short walk to reach Kriens station. Mount Pilatus (2,118 meters asl) is our next mountain journey.
Manuela Blabb from Pilatus Bahnen guided us to Fräkmüntegg, and as she said many adventures were waiting to be discovered. We took a 30-minute Pilatus Bahnen’s cable car from Kriens station via Krienseregg to Fräkmüntegg.
Fräkmüntegg on Pilatus is an ideal place for adrenaline junkies and is a home to Switzerland’s longest summer toboggan run and the Dragon Glider that we can glide 500m down through the trees. At a height of eight meters, we reach speeds of up to 12km per hour along the way. Actually, we are provided with 10 courses worth a try and all are family-friendly attractions. For that I saw so many family groups that came, especially when it was approaching the school holidays.
From here, I again tasted the ice and snow in the Swiss Alps on the next day. The Luzern-Interlaken Express took us from Luzern to Grindelwald, a village in Switzerland’s Bernese Alps that is a popular gateway for the Jungfrau region. It’s also a magnet for skiers and hikers as the place is a base for mountain-climbing ascents up the iconic north face of Eiger Mountain.
Just a short train trip from Grindelwald to Grindelwald Terminal. We met Remo Kaser from Jungfrau Railways who guided us to discover Jungfraujoch which is well-known as Top of Europe.
Remo introduced us to the new and modern Grindelwald Terminal which opened in 2019. The terminal houses a railway and two new ski lifts, all of which run like (Swiss) clockwork. What is most fun from this terminal is that it feels just like a small airport where we can shop souvenirs, branded watches, and -of course- chocolate - as the terminal has a special Lindt chocolate shop, in addition to Chinese restaurant that tempting to taste, an exclusive lounge, a supermarket, Intersport ski hire shop, and even a Covid testing centre.
From the Grindelwald terminal we rode the new Eiger Express, a tricable gondola that was inaugurated in December 2020 to the Eigergletscher station. It just takes 15 minutes to get to the Eigergletscher station. With 44 gondolas and 26 seats each, the Eiger Express breaks the world record as the heaviest tricable gondola. With the new lift project, visitors can travel by public transport much faster than before.
Like other mountains in this country, each one has a soul and its own particular story to tell. Jungfraujoch (3,454 meters asl) provided similar activities to Mount Titlis, where your feet can play with ice and snow surrounded by the spectacular views but this with helicopters circling around carrying logistics and more crowds of tourists. We also discover the Glacier Plateau Snow Fun Park and end the tour with a delicious taste of such Indian food at a Top of Europe restaurant.
From Jungfraujoch, we still have two mountain excursions. From Grindelwald we headed to Stechelberg for an hour train ride. Arriving at Lauterbrunnen train station, we met Daniela Schneider from Schilthorn Cableways as our guide, which from the station takes 20 minutes by bus to Stechelberg. Once you arrive, take a cable car in four sections via Gimmelwald, Murren, Birg, and finally to the Schilthorn as we know as the Swiss Skyline (Eiger. Mönch. Jungfrau).
I got a little thrill before arriving at the top by spending some time at the Birg station (2677 meters asl) where there’s a viewing terrace to enjoy some cold refreshments at the Bistro Birg before pumping the adrenaline for Skyline Walk, the platform that is situated over a vertical precipice, offering stunning panoramic views into the abyss and Thrill Walk, a 200-meter cliff pathway under Birg cable way station.
Daniela pointed towards a building familiar to fans of the James Bond films as she said was our main purpose for being there. The Piz Gloria which means ‘glorious peak’, a four-story building with a spacious terrace as a place for Britain’s famous secret agent James Bond jumped off a helicopter, saved the girl and fought his enemy off a bobsled on the Schilthorn peak for the movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.
We tried the good food for our lunch at the revolving restaurant which makes its full circle of 360-degree panorama in 56 minutes. You can enjoy the beautiful view from every seat. The weather was very cooperative so I got a good view of the Swiss Alps, from Bluemlisalp to the Eiger, and a vague outline of France’s famous Mont Blanc. Every day the restaurant opens which serves buffet and a.la carte menu including champagne and other beverages.
Our journey to Schilthorn ended up by us visiting Bond World 007 to catch a glimpse of the original screenplay and try out James Bond skills and other attractions such as a helicopter simulator flight in the original chassis of the decommissioned Air Glaciers Alouette III or exhilarating Bond moments beckon during a fast and furious bobsleigh ride.
And, our adventure exploring the mountains finished with a memorable trip to Zermatt. Especially if it wasn’t the Matterhorn that was our aim? Matterhorn (4,478 meter asl) is the primary must-see in Switzerland. Wherever you go around in Zermatt, the mountain is always visible.
Camilla Wellig, our guide from Zermatt Tourism, guided us on how to have fun activities at the foot of the mountain which is the Toblerone chocolate logo. Unlike Titlis and Jungfraujoch, the foot of the Matterhorn is not a complete attraction, which means we have to enjoy it with adventurous activities.
We traveled up to the Schwarzsee in the cable car and I chose short trekking while some of my friends preferred to rent a dirt scooter to race back down into the valley. Another option is that you can bring a bicycle to try out mountain biking. Camilla explained that during winter there would be a lot of skiers coming. They ski on the pistes of Zermatt all the way to Italy.
I ended my exploration of Zermatt by visiting the Matterhorn Museum which is located next to the village church, after coming down from the mountain. Under the glass dome, we can see how the people lived in Zermatt in the 19th century and shudder at the sight of the broken rope from the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. Coincidentally, right in front of the museum a group of alphorn musicians acted to entertain the tourists while enjoying the scenery of Zermatt.
Sari’s adventures continue in our next issue once she recovers from a frantic first few days of exploring!