MONTREUX AND INTERLAKEN
Day trips are popular in Switzerland, especially in smaller cities like the lakeside resort of Montreux, the last city featured to face Lac Leman on this journey across Switzerland. If Bohemianism had Monmarte in Paris, then it had Montreux in Switzerland in the 19th century when writers, artists and musicians flocked to the town. Two centuries on and Montreux is still synonymous with music, especially jazz and rock, with the first genre seeing an international fanbase congregating along the lake’s shoreline for the annual Montreux Jazz Festival for 40 years now.
For rock, three bands made history at the town’s Casino Barrier de Montreux. A fire that broke out during a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention gig at the casino inspired Deep Purple’s hit ‘Smoke on the Water’ (the water here, of course, refers to Lac Leman), which was also recorded at the casino. But by far the biggest rock band to call Montreux home is the legendary group, Queen. Queen recorded a total of seven albums at Mountain Studios in Montreux, including final album ‘Made in Heaven’. Admission is free to Queen — The Studio Experience at the casino where Mountain Studios is located. Parts of the studio have been converted into an exhibition hall showcasing costumes, original penned lyrics and albums by Queen, while the control room remains as it had been since the last days when Queen worked here.
Beyond the music at Montreux, the town also sees an influx of visitors during the Christmas season. Montreux is believed to be the home of Santa Claus and families can visit his house and the elves’ village. Montreux also has one of the biggest Christmas Markets in Switzerland, with 160 decorated and illuminated chalets along Grand-Rue and the quays of Lac Leman.
Another day trip can be made to Interlaken, the city that straddles Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. This vacation destination, which is presided over by the might Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains, is the starting point for numerous activities, such as cross-country skiing, tobogganing, paragliding and more.
As much fun as Interlaken is, half the excitement is in the train ride from Montreux. Instead of sitting on a regular train, make the journey a memorable one with at seat on the GoldenPass, a passenger train with glass-dome coaches for uninterrupted views of the passing serene scenes of Switzerland.
Our last stop on this rail journey is Lucerne, the centrally located Swiss city sited on Lake Lucerne that is ringed by mountains. The Old Town of Lucerne is a huge shopping arcade of international brands housed in old, limestone buildings. This juxtapose of tradition and modernity is seen almost everywhere in Lucerne and has become a signature feature of the city, such as with the Chapel Bridge. It is one of Europe’s oldest wooden bridges and a landmark of Lucerne that has been faithfully restored to its original design after a serious fire. While in Lucerne, one must also visit the Lion Monument, where a giant dying lion has been carved out of a wall of sandstone rock. Designed as a memorial for the mercenary soldiers from central Switzerland who lost their lives during the French Revolution, the Lion Monument has been called “the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world” by renowned American author, Mark Twain.
Spend a night in Lucerne and be up and ready to conquer Engelberg the next morning. The alpine town is the largest winter and summer holiday destination in central Switzerland. Most visit Engelberg to get to Mt Titlis.
Hop onto the world’s first revolving cable car to the top of Mt Titlis, the region’s highest view point and only accessible glacier. At 3,041m altitude, the Titlis Cliff Walk is where the brave can venture onto Europe’s highest situated suspension bridge — there’s a selfie camera in the middle of the bridge to take proof shots of your conquest, which can be printed at the gift shop of the ski resort. Accessible from the ski resort is also the glacier cave of Mt Titlis. The frosty heart of the mountain is made of ice that was frozen long before man even discovered how to make fire. The cave’s 150 m-long walkway branches out in several directions and remains a toasty (by winter’s standards) -1.5°C throughout the year.
The rest of Mt Tiflis is open for mountains of fun too. Ski and snowboarding beginners will find the place a paradise to pickup the sport, while those more advanced can try out the cross-country ski run. Those who just love the snow can even hike along the snowshoe trails or enjoy tobogganing, otherwise, spend the afternoon sliding down gentle slopes at Trubsee Snow Park on minibobs and snowtubes.