Switzerland Drive - Euro Drive Part I

Monday, December 18, 2017

Last time I was in Europe in summer I didnt rent any car. We went to Paris, Rome, Venice, Brussels in flights and trains and buses. From that time my hands was itching to hold a steering. I promised next time we would only do roadtrips. It might costs us a bit more than usual but that would be an experience we would remember for the rest of our lives.

As usual we didnt have much time. I am working from home and my wife is working from office, so we both had to manage leaves. We took a leave on friday and flew to Zurich. Our car was booked with Alamo (sibling of Enterprise rent a car). When we reached Zurich we were refused because they do not accept Diners club card. We had already paid and didnt have any other card. Then after few calls to the broker (rentalcars.com) and wasting 2 hours the booking was changed to Avis, on a much higher rate. We didnt have any other option but to go for Avis. Avis accepted Diners club and provided a new Volkswagen Golf GTI asap. The public transport in Switzerland is way too costly.

It was already 2:30pm when we started from Zurich. The first thing I noticed was Swiss people have build lot of tunnels. We crossed tunnels after tunnel. The roads were clean as we expected but not so wide as in Netherlands. Initially we didnt have any plans to stop at Luzern and to go directly to Interlaken and have lunch there, but as we have already lost most of the daylight and reaching Interlaken would take a lot of time we stopped at Luzern. And that is when it started - The Snowfall.

Luzern is a city in central Switzerland. It is on the shores of Lake Lucerne. Its a very beautiful lake and the alps can be seen from there. We didnt eat anything from the morning so the first thing we did in Luzern was find a McDonalds. The snowfall that started in Luzern followed us till Interlaken. This was the first time I was driving on a snow for so long. Initially I was loving the drive, but soon it started becoming pain. I will tell more about that later.

When we reached Interlaken it was already dark. Our hotel Indian Village was little far from town center, hence couldn't go out for dinner, instead ordered at the hotel. It was still snowing when we went to sleep.

The next day when I work up early I didnt expect to see what I saw. Entire place was covered with snow. Our car was covered with 3 inch snow, the driveway was full of snow, everything you could see was white.

We had our breakfast and started for Zermatt. The car was slipping initially on snow, and only after I switched on the traction control the car came under control. It was a 2 hours drive from Interlaken to Zermat, but it became 3 hours, because we stopped thousands of time to take photos. And due to snow all vehicles were moving slowly.

Driving on snow was not easy. Even with traction control switched on the car would skid if I drove faster. Most of the roads were cleaned by the snow removal machines, but as it was continuously snowing it was hard to keep the route clean. So it took us more time than usual and finally we reached a place called Kanderstag. And I didnt know we have get on a train, with the car.  The lady at the ticket counter couldnt make me understand that I have to get on a train with my car. That was a 15 minutes journey and most of the time it was through a tunnel.  The car jumped twice and I was afraid that I would hit the other car in front.The ticket was 29 euros on way. Switzerland is damn expensive, I tell you.

After that we could only drive till Tasch. Zermatt is a clean city hence no automobile is allowed there. So to reach Zermatt you have to take a train from Tasch. Tasch has a huge parking for the same reason. Train only takes 15 minutes to reach Zermatt.

There are many viewpoint from Zermat. Zermat is famous for Mt Matterhorn. We decided to go to Gornergrat which is 3100m in height. Theres a train that takes you there. It was damn cold in Zermatt and even colder in Gornergrat. Someone told the temperature was aorund -15. From Gornergrat we could clearly see Mt Matterhorn. This place is also popular for winter skiing. Hundreds of people would take the cable car or the train to go to the top and then skii till Zermatt.

Zermatt itself is a beautiful little town, but as we were suppose to drive back to Interlaken so we couldnt stay there for long. The return journey was on the same route, the same train. We got back to Interlaken town center around 9pm and decided to have dinner outside. We googled and found a good restaurant - OX. That day went pretty well.

The next day was return day. Our flight back to Amsterdam was at 9pm so we had to reach the airport by 7:30 max and return the car. We planned t to roam around Interlaken. But the cruise is closed in winter and so is many view points. The locals advised to go to Beatenberg to get a view of the lake from. The drive to Beatenberg was just awesome. Sharing few pics from that route.

The location was some dreamy location, everything was white. The little town looked so beautiful from top. Beatenberg was covered with snow too. The weather being cloudy and foggy we could only see a section of Interlaken from top. Everything seemed so different from what I have seen from other peoples Switzerland album.

After roaming around in that empty town we came back to Thun. We had a little shopping to do and heard that Thun had a christmas market. Christmas market was very common this time of the year.

Switzerland is expensive and so we end up buying only one large fridge magnet with 13 euros. Had MacD's burger and started for Zuirch. As the trip was coming to an end we felt we should have stayed a little longer. Two and half day for this beautiful country is simply injustice. We didnt go to popular hiltops such as Titlis (Everyone knows this place because of Shahrukh Khan). We should have stayed in Zermatt for a day. We were having such thoughts without knowing what was going to happen next.

We got a massive traffic jam due to snow. I had 2 hours in hand to visit the famous Rhine falls, but this traffic jam wasted my efforts. When we reached Rhine it was already dark. We could see the falls from distance but couldnt take any good pictures.

Around 7-7:30 we reached Zurich and returned the car. Came downstairs to the check-in area and saw something unusual. There were thousands of people standing in queue. Without knowing what exactly had happened I opened my email and got a email from Swiss Airlines -" You flight to Amsterdam has been cancelled". That was Sunday.

This was the first time in my life that my flight got cancelled and that too in Europe. Later I came to know that due to snow storm Amsterdam airport was literally closed and there were no flights coming or going there. We stood in the queue for hours to know what to do next. Apparently someone from the service desk came and asked us to get a hotel and sleep. They didnt know when the next flight to Ams would be operational. And due to large number of passengers that day they couldnt provide hotel themselves but asked us to look for ourselves. They would refund they said. Finally booked a hotel nearby, had some unauthentic thai curry and rice and left for the hotel. That night I got another email saying we were rebooked in another flight the next evening at 7pm. We got a sigh of relief and slept well that night.

We got an entire day to spend in Zurich. We got up pretty late that day. Had our free breakfast at the hotel and went to Zurich HB. A friend of mine used to stay in Zurich for long and she is the one who told me what to visit. I contacted her and she told me to go to Bahnofstrasee to do little shopping. She also asked me to visit Zurich Lake, but that day I didn want to. That was Monday, the start of a week, so deep in my mind I was thinking about office. And when my bosses came to know that I was stuck (again, apparently twice this year) they had no words. May be it is in my luck to get stuck.

Bahnofstrasee is the main shopping area in Zurich. After roaming around we found that things are little expensive and they are also available elsewhere, so there was no point wasting money. We went to Zeughauskeller which is supposedly the best Swiss restaurant in town. And it surely was. I wasnt driving anymore so a beer wouldnt harm. The house beer was one of the best I ever had (The last good beer I had was in Scotland).

It was almost time to end this trip and then it happened again-

Flight was cancelled.

Hopelessly we went to the airport again. But today there were less number of passenger. We were arranged another hotel near Zurich HB (a 4 star one) and sent back to hotel. We were also given 20 euros each for food, which we spend drinking at the the hotel bar. We were already having swiss food continuously for last 3 days, so now it was time to have something which my stomach would love - Indian dish. I found a restaurant which was 20 minutes walk. Had something called biriyani and a lamb side dish. Though my wife hated that food, I simply loved it.

On tuesday morning when we woke up it was raining. We had no interest of roaming around Zurich again but we had to checkout at the hotel. Our flight was again rescheduled to 9pm that day. So wihtout having too many options we went to Zurich Lake. Took the tram from a nearby tram station. The city Zurich itself is very beautiful town. We didnt include Zurich in our initial plan. So luckily we got 2 days to explore Zurich.

Finally when we are done with the lake we went for lunch at an Italian restaurant and the safest thing to have there was Pizza. Italian knows how to make Pizza. Their pizza is so different from ours and light to the stomach too.

We almost forgot the most important thing - Swiss chocolate. While walking back to HB station we found a Sprungli store, one of the best swiss chocolate.

And once the last item was checked out we moved towards the airport. We still had plenty of time. There is a intercity available from Zurich HB station which takes you directly to airport. After reaching airport found out that the flight was still on. We did spend the rest of the time at a lounge in airport (benefit of holding a diners club credit card).

One way car rent is possible throughout Europe. On Monday when our flight was cancelled for the second time I went to Avis to ask about the rent. The rent was 1300 Euros for a day if I pickup a car from Zurich and drop at Schiphol. Which was way out of my budget. Hence had to spend another day in Zurich. Anyways it was not that bad in Zurich and we got to check the city closely.

So this was out little story of Switzerland drive. Next week we are driving to Prague to Germany and this time no flights..

Rest of the photos are here..

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