From the top of the world

Maike Cenci in Switzerland

I recently took part in a Study Tour of Switzerland, in the heart of Central Europe, to check out not only some parts of the country I had not been to, but to also experience the Swiss travel network.  Our first stop was Basel on the French/German Border. The first train ride was in order after arriving at the Zurich Airport (which has a train station with rail service connecting to different parts of the country).

Basel is a very charming town. Most people do not stick around when they arrive here from any European river cruise traveling up and down the Rhine River. Our accommodations, Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois, is one of the oldest city hotels in Europe, with lavish interiors and exquisite wining and dining. The Brasserie Les Trois Rois offers Swiss and French specialties for tourists and locals alike to enjoy. Also, the location in the center of the old town, overlooking the Rhine is very unique.

During our City Tour we learned more about the history, culture and economy that influenced the beginning of this city. We took a little boat trip along the Rhine River and, my favorite part, went to a chocolate workshop to learn more about the chocolate making process and make our own Swiss chocolate to take home with us! By traveling to different parts of the city, we got comfortable using the public transportation system without getting lost.

After Basel we headed towards Interlaken by rail, which took about two hours. Beautiful scenery, relaxing and so enjoyable. Checked into Jungfrau-Victoria Grand Hotel and Spa and again, the views from that location were just breathtaking. We were treated to a 3 hour guided e-bike tour which included a Swiss Picnic and the nicest spots around Interlaken.

Next stop: Jungfraujoch—The Top of Europe!

We made our way to the Interlaken Ost Train Station for a ride on the Jungfrau Railways - approx. 2 ½ hours each way. We enjoyed lunch and great views from the highest train station in Europe - snow and ice were 100% guaranteed. The Ice Palace was impressive and we slid more than walked on the hiking plateau. The attractions are year round on the Jungfraujoch. With the sun glistening on the snow and over the mountain tops---what an experience.

Back in Interlaken, we took a funicular up to a local mountain - Harder Kulm. From there you have the best view of Interlaken as well as the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau - on a clear day of course.

Our last stop was to be Geneva. Again, we went to the train station and traveled on the Golden Pass Train from Interlaken to Montreux via Zweisimmen. You are served a simple lunch (cold meat plate and cheese) while you gaze at the most spectacular views. In Montreux we changed trains and continued our journey to Geneva.

Our accommodations in Geneva were at the Mandarin Oriental, which is in a peaceful city-center location with beautiful rooms, acclaimed restaurants and excellent service. A boat cruise on Lake Leman showed us the beauty of Geneva’s shores. Geneva is a shopper’s paradise, especially for watches, clocks, jewelry and luxury goods but also has a vast range of fashionable boutiques (and chocolate shops). The shopping paradise is all within a compact area, meaning you can get more shopping done in an hour walking around Geneva than you would in a day anywhere else.

We took a trip out into the countryside for a wine tasting experience at the Chateau de Bois, which has been in the same family for generations, and according to the owner, “will stay that way for years to come.” To journey through five centuries of watch making we visited the Patek Philippe Museum. It is amazing. The most prestigious creations of the brand’s master watchmakers is showcased, plus visitors can admire the extraordinary collection of watches, musical automata and enamel miniatures from the 16th to the 19th century. One hour was just not long enough here.

The weather was absolutely perfect during this journey which made the experience that much more memorable. This was a great trip. Switzerland has so much to offer and there is something new to see every time you come around a corner - by train of course.

Maike Cenci