These Malaysians went to the 'Top Of The World' before the pandemic hit

The beautiful view that the writer enjoyed, en route to Grindelwald. — Photos: S.L. Lim

I looked out of the coach window in anticipation as the captain drove across the border from Milan, Italy into Switzerland.

Here I was at last, in the country which I had long wanted to visit, the land of Heidi. This was in April 2019, before the pandemic brought travel to a grinding halt.

The scenery along the way to Grindelwald was all that I had imagined – emerald green lakes dotted with cottages along the banks with the Swiss Bernese Alps on the horizon. The captain stopped at Interlaken for a mandatory 30-minute break and our group of 16 made a beeline for the Coop store. To use the washroom, we had to pay €1 for a token but were pleasantly surprised to get to choose either an apple or an orange when we returned the token.

As we journeyed on, the spectacular landscape that flashed past kept us glued to the window. It was love at first sight when Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof Grindelwald came into view. The picture-perfect surrounds and tasteful interior décor gave it an atmosphere different from hotels I had stayed in.

We were loathed to leave the next morning but Jungfraujoch beckoned. We boarded the cogwheel train at Grindelwald Grund Station and its ascent to Jungfraujoch Station treated us to beautiful alpine scenery right to the top. Then we were, at the “Top Of The World”, Europe’s highest railway station at an elevation of 3,571m.

After disembarking, we walked to the main building and rode the elevator to the Sphinx Observatory. The vantage terrace offers a breathtaking view of wispy clouds floating above majestic peaks and valleys, as well as the Aletsch Glacier – the longest in Europe. We then visited the Alpine Sensation which comprises halls depicting the story of the Jungfrau railway and development of tourism in the Alps.

Also in the vicinity was the Ice Palace, where sculptures ranging from igloos and penguins to Charlie Chaplin line the corridors of ice. What I enjoyed most, however, was stepping out onto Jungfrau Plateau, walking on the snow and queuing up to take photos with the Swiss flag.

The writer (far right) with her friends on the Jungfrau Plateau. — Photos: S.L. LimThe writer (far right) with her friends on the Jungfrau Plateau. — Photos: S.L. Lim

Lunch at the crowded restaurant provided us with the experience of trying cheese fondue, Switzerland’s national dish.

The scenery during the descent to Lauterbrunnen was equally awe-inspiring – green meadows and Swiss cottages nestled against mountain slopes, interspersed among the snow-covered landscape. We then proceeded to Lucerne but it was already evening when we arrived so we did not have time to explore the city. However, we did get to cross Kapellbrucke or Chapel Bridge, Europe’s oldest wooden covered bridge and the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge.

The next morning’s itinerary was a guided tour of Bern, the capital city. Among the stops was Barengraben or Bear Pit. Even as we looked at the family of bears named Finn, Bjork and Ursina ambling in the pit, they would sometimes pause and stare right back at us.

Rosengarten was our next stop but alas, we were two months too early to see roses. Daffodils and pansies made up for our disappointment as did an unexpected bonus – a lady practising her alphorn! She was taken aback to see the whole lot of us descending on her but she sportingly obliged our request for photos.

The tour over, we travelled to Broc for a visit to Maison Cailler Chocolaterie. We had been advised to leave some space in our stomach for the chocolates we would sample. Was it sound advice? Well, I don’t have a sweet tooth but I had never eaten so many chocolates in my life!

The Lakeside Promenade in Montreux.The Lakeside Promenade in Montreux.

Our happy mood was augmented by our next destination, Gruyeres. The cobbled street in this very picturesque village leads to the 13th-century Chateau de Gruyeres on the hilltop, and the view from there is not to be missed. Walking on the ramparts of the medieval village is also an experience to remember.

Vevey and Montreux brought smiles to the flower lovers among us. The spring blooms along the Lakeside Promenade fringing Lake Geneva in both towns made walking there a real pleasure. In Vevey, the 8m-tall fork standing on its prongs in the lake is a photo-worthy attraction.

A 25-minute ride to Montreux got us up close to Chateau de Chillon, touted as the prettiest Swiss castle. After a tour of the town, we were back at the Promenade. The statue of Freddie Mercury on the promenade prompted me to watch Bohemian Rhapsody on the flight home.

Our last port of call was Geneva for two hours of sightseeing, before we had to bid farewell to Switzerland at the Geneva International Airport.

The trip was a truly enjoyable Swiss experience, though I do regret not staying longer in Grindelwald and Gruyeres.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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