Postcard 5 – Billy no mates tour of Switzerland

Hergiswil, Interlaken Ost, Zweisimmen, Montreux and Geneva

The Interrail Planner App is on fire today. It wants to route me to Geneva through Bern and miss out all the good bits. I suppose it’s great if you live here and don’t want to go through the mountains but I do, so I have to split the journey into stages that act as a guide to the app’s intelligence. I’ve received a message from Cecilia showing her itinerary from a couple of weeks ago and whilst it’s not exactly what I want to do it acts as a template that I reverse engineer and add in stops that I had on my own list. It also acts as a pilot to guide the planning engine in the App.

Breakfast over and everything planned and the beauty of Interrail is that you can change your mind and make the necessary alterations to your ticket whilst you’re on the train (if you have a signal).

The first leg is along the lake side in the rain and there’s plenty of it. Initially, I think it might ruin the day but whilst it is a hinderance the bright spells in between make up for the fog or mist and as we ascend into the mountains and wriggle our way around the passes the periods of clarity improve revealing one astonishing view after another.

For part of the first leg a bunch of twenty or so junior school kids get on the carriage that I’m in and another group but this time of business men and women complain about the noise and move to another carriage. The kids settle in no time and then get off a couple of stations down – result – I’m in a carriage with two other people and can swap sides to my hearts content as the train meanders its way across each side of the valley.

I need to change trains at Interlaken and have the option to dash across the platforms to the connecting train or leave it an hour or so and have a look around. The weather is showery but currently clear so I take advantage of the sun and have a walk along the river. It’s still showery but well worth the break if only for the steps but it also lets me take in the tracks, rack-trains and cable cars that can be taken from here. Clearly, today is not the day but I’d certainly come back in a heartbeat, it’s the hub of lots of things and lovely.

I’m back on the train now heading to Zweisimmen and this time it’s a double decker so no prizes for guessing where I’m sitting.

I help a businesswoman who is struggling with a charging cable for her phone and the payback is priceless. She sketches out the side of the train to sit after each of the stations on this leg and I get some tremendous views and snaps – happy boy!

It’s coming down in stair-rods in Zweisimmen and there is a connection already standing at the platform opposite so I dash across and fire the app up to change the ticket. The conductor is approaching me just as I switch the new ticket on and there’s a heart stopping moment as we wait for it to generate the QR code. In fairness it’s not far off instantaneous but when you’ve got someone waving a scanner with expectations then waiting for it to happen lends itself to a little bit of acute anxiety.

It scans and she’s happy so with a cheery, “Merci” she’s off to the next carriage. Just for interest, we are in the German speaking part of the country but the “politenesses” tend to be French with a tiny smattering of English. I’ve had “Thank you’s” on numerous occasions and still have no idea how they can tell I’m English – In the South of England it’s just the same!

I’m in the ‘Golden Pass’ train with special windows that can be opened so you don’t get reflections when you’re taking photos; however, today, I only get a limited time with it open due to the showers but it doesn’t detract from what I’m seeing outside. This is proper ‘chocolate-box’ country with views straight from Heidi. I’ve mentioned the meadows earlier but these are even more beautiful. They’re stuffed with buttercups, daisies and all kinds of mountain cum meadow plants along with the the long grass. There are goats and sheep on the steeper slopes and cows towards the bottoms and all of them have a bell which tolls as they eat or chew the cud. Marvellous.

There are request stops and halts. The halts appear to be mandatory and the others are obvious but it lends itself to a ‘Cannonball Express’ analogy where Casey Jones (the Driver) always won the day. It was broadcast in the late 1950s and I’m remembering it now. He too, would stop anytime he wished whether it was for fishing from a bridge or dealing with some outlaw. We’re not fishing or killing outlaws but the concept holds 🙂

We reach the highest point and the sun is shining. The conductor and her assistant step out and quite a number of passengers join them to take photos and selfies. It’s a gorgeous shared experience but there’s a mini-stampede when one of them steps back on the train and within two or three minutes there’s a toot on the whistle and we’re off again but this time it’s largely down.

There are lakes, mountains, forests and more meadows coupled with streams, rivers, waterfalls of every height and width and us winding our way through it all. Wonderful.

As we drop down to Montreux there is a flurry of activity to capture the town and lake in their entirety from our vantage on the mountain and then we’re back into the suburbs and into the station. It’s a magical experience and I nod into a semi-snooze for the remainder of the journey to Geneva.

What a day despite the showers.

Enjoy the snaps. G x

PS. I managed to get a few of the snaps through the open window but as the weather altered the rest were taken through glass with raindrops. Please bare that in mind when assessing the quality. G x

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