Switzerland (V): Transportation Hub Zurich

Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, the last stop of our Swiss travel. At the first glance, Zurich seemed less personal than Bern, yet a beautiful city nevertheless.

You can’t miss this fun, gigantic flying “Guardian Angel” at Zurich train station. It was installed in 1997 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Swiss rail system.

Busy Zurich Train Station

Crowded and busy, Zurich didn’t feel as intimate as Bern. But as soon as we left the station and went on small cobble streets, Zurich was quite attractive.

Zurich is bike friendly.

The restaurants and cafes fill the alleyways.

Our hotel was by the Limmat River, in the early morning Zurich was quite lovely before the hustle and bustle filled the scene.

We visited the Grossmunster, the big cathedral of Neo-Gothic style. Her double domes have become the symbols of Zurich.

Rathausbrucke Bridge is a favorite spot for Instagram photos 🙂

You can read about the Swiss Reformation and the key role Ulrich Zwingli played in that era, and check out the 1531 Zurich Bible there.

Another church, Fraumunster, is on the other side of Limmat River. People come to see Chagall’s (1887-1985) stained-glass windows.

One thing we noticed in Switzerland: Swiss people really LOVE their flag, not only inside the cities, but at the Alps and in the mountain towns. We fly ours on July 4th, but here it seems everyday a National Day.

Another amazing thing in Switzerland is the spring water: the water from public fountains is not only drinkable but DELICIOUS. We didn’t need to spend a CHF on water in Switzerland.

Water fountain in Gimmerwald at the Swiss alps

This water fountain in Zurich had a smaller water outlet at the right corner, for water bottle! How thoughtful!

While at Switzerland we made sure to have their delicious cheese fondue. Here is a recipe I tried after came back. It tastes pretty authentic, just like the one we had in Interlaken. Enjoy!

If you are a shopper like me, you can easily stay for hours inside the Zurich train station. Anything you can think of, want or need, you can find it in the multi-floor station.

Make sure to pick some Swiss chocolate home! Our favorite is Laderach, yummy!

Last breakfast at the hotel before heading out to the airport to fly back home.

Another tip: if you travel light like us, with just a carry-on, you really don’t need to take a taxi to the airport. It is about 10 minute train ride from Zurich downtown to the airport, for a few CHFs the train will drop you at the lower level of the airport, all you need to do is to get to the top floor to check in your flight! We were totally amazed by the efficiency of the Swiss train system! And they are always on time!!

This concludes our Switzerland trip! Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my travel blog! Stay tuned for Germany, Austria and Hungary.

Switzerland (IV): Swiss Capital Bern

It is true that people come to Switzerland for her great outdoors, to places like Lake Lucerne (Luzern) and the Berner Oberland, the beauty of Swiss Alps is out of this world! With that said, if you have extra time, Swiss cities also have a lot to offer. We visited a few cities in Switzerland, such as Luzern, Zurich and Interlaken, all of us agree that Bern is the dearest.

An hour ride from Interlaken, the train dropped us right in the old town of Bern. And the charm of the city was felt immediately the moment we stepped out of the train station.

Colorful 16th-century fountains are scattered around the city, 11 in total, prominently placed at the center of the road. They are the trademark of the city, adding vibrant colors and fun to otherwise monotone buildings.

The Parliament is a definite must visit. See the statues in the above shot: the women on the left, under 1291, stands for Freedom; the woman on the right, under 1848, represents Peace.

Both years of 1291 and 1848 are significant in the Swiss history. And city of Bern has been the Swiss capital since 1848.

The View over the Aare River from the Terraces behind the Parliament

Pass the passageway at the right of the Parliament building to the Terraces in the back, we were welcomed with great views!

The beautiful blue color of the Aare River is from the melting glacier water of the nearby mountains Eiger, Momch and Junfrau. We were told that in a clear day you could see the alps in the distance on the Terraces.

View of the Parliament Building from Kirchenfeld Bridge, across the Aare River.

We followed the Rick Steves’ travel guide “Heart of Bern Walk”. We basically stay on this long road after making a left turn across Bahnhofplatz out of train station. What confused us was the name of the road–this street changed names four times! From Spitalgasse to Marktgasse, to Kramgasse, finally to Nydegg near the Bear Park where the Walk ended.

We only turned right, toward the Aare River, off the main road three times to see the Parliament, the Cathedral and the Einstein Museum.

Bern Cathedral is a 15th century Catholic-turned-into-Protestant church, with a mighty 330-foot tower, the tallest in Switzerland.

See the Cathedral tower on the right shot.

Can you find the bear on this shot? Hint: He was trying to catch a fish 🙂

Bear is the symbol of the city. You can spot this local mascot in many places in Bern, it is even on the coat of arms of Bern.

We found a live one soundly sleeping in the wood by the Aare River in the Bear Park. He looked content and happy to me.

When you see a Casino in Bern, don’t automatically think of gambling. It is the home of Bern’s Symphony Orchestra! 🙂

The building on the right side of Kirchenfeld Bridge is Bern’s History Museum complex, which devotes an entire second floor to Albert Einstein.

One of the highlights of our visit was the History Museum, covered by the Swiss Travel Pass, on the other side of the Aare River. The museum’s second floor was all about Albert Einstein.

We spent a big part of the afternoon learning about Einstein, one of the smartest men walked on Earth. He lived in Bern from 1901 to 1909, it was his work during this period, the Relativity Theory, won him the Nobel Prize.

At the Bear Park, we hopped on the bus #12, and arrived at another museum, Paul Klee Center, 15 minutes later.

This cool wavy building complex was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. Another museum we visited by the same architect was Pompidou in Paris.

Paul Klee is a Swiss native, a world-renowned artist (1879-1940). The Center houses his artwork as well as his art collections.

To be honest, the buildings were more interesting than his art work.

If you have Swiss Travel Pass, the museum is free, otherwise 20 CHF!

Switzerland (I): Lucerne (Luzern), Lake Lucerne and Mount Rigi

I had been dreaming about visiting Swiss alps for years, finally we set foot on the Swiss soil this past month. It was even prettier than I had imagined!

Lake Lucrerne from the Rigi Kulm Summit!

Our day in Lucerne (or Luzern) was divided into three parts: the city walk, Lake Lucerne boat ride and Rigi Mountain.

Lucerne is Switzerland’s tourism capital, it is very pretty and walkable. We had covered lot of ground in the city in two hours, starting our walk from Lucerne Bahnhofplatz, the central train station.

The followings were our favorite attractions in the city:

  • Bahnhofplatz
  • Chapel Bridge
  • Jesuit Church
  • Lucerne’s Lakefront around St. Peter’s Chapel
  • Lion Monument
  • Bourbaki Panorama

The boat dock for Lake Lucerne was conveniently located by the train station. Our destination was Weggis (#3 on the map), from there we would take a cable car up Rigi mountain (#4). The boat cruised about an hour, perfect time for a lunch break.

It turned out that the cable car to Rigi summit didn’t run for the day because of scheduled maintenance.

So we hopped back to the boat to the next stop, Vitznau.

From Vitznau a cogwheel train, the oldest one in Europe (since 1870), chak chak us up to the summit, Rigi Klum.

The view of ascending was magnificent!! Make sure to sit on the left of the train for the best views!

We had a panoramic birdeye view of Lake Lucerne as shown in the beginning of this post. You had to have camera ready as it passed by very quickly.

Although Mt. Rigi was only 5900 feet in altitude, it was still covered in snow in mid-May. And the temperature dropped from comfortable 55 F to near zero. To make it worse, the Sun was gone too!!

To our surprise, there at the summit of Rigi stood a giant basalt rock labeled “Mt. Emei”, a famous mountain in Southern China. How miss leading! 🙂 As it turns out that Mt. Rigi and Mt. Emei are sister mountains. This stone was shipped from China in 2015, weights 8 tons! And a similar stone from Rigi was shipped to Mt Emei a year earlier.

To save time, we didn’t take the return cruise, instead we rode another cogwheel train down to Arth-Goldau (left of Rigi Kulm on the map), then took a regular train back to Lucerne.

Tips: All the transportation and museums mentioned above and in the future posts of this trip were covered by Swiss Travel Pass. A great deal!