BERNESE OBERLAND, Switzerland, Aug. 22, 2015 — If the Swiss Travel System is the best transportation network in the world, then going to the Schilthorn may just be the best day trip you can do with a Swiss Travel Pass. The outing to the Schilthorn highlights the versatility of the Swiss Travel System by incorporating several means of transportation. Best of all, except for one short segment, a Swiss Travel Pass is accepted along the entire route.
Begin in Interlaken by taking the Bernese Oberland Bahn (BOB) to the village of Lauterbrunnen, about 25 minutes down the line. Go early, especially during high season, because the BOB is also the connecting train for the rail excursion to the Jungfrau. Also, an early start promises more sightseeing time during the journey.
Lauterbrunnen is the gateway to a valley of the same name. The narrow, hanging canyon is one of the deepest in the Alps, forming stunning perpendicular outcroppings of rock that create seemingly endless waterfalls.
Depart the train at Lauterbrunnen Station for a short walk to a cable car across the street. James Bond fans may recognize the area from the movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Bond went to the next level of the journey by horse-drawn sled, but a funicular was the usual mode of transportation at the time. Today the aerial tramway has replaced the funicular, which scales a vertical forested wall to arrive at a narrow-gauge railway.
Skimming along the mountain ledge toward Murren, the miniature train eases past a curtain of tree-lined inclines on one side and open expanses of verdant plateau on the other. It’s not uncommon to slow or stop along the way for a stray cow or sheep to make its way across the tracks.
At an altitude of nearly 5,500 feet, Murren is not accessible to the public by road. Casually stroll through town to reach the next portion of the adventure. The walk is relatively level, and there are plenty of places en route to rest and have something to eat or drink.
Along the way, witness fabulous views of the Jungfrau, the Monch and the Eiger, plus the majestic, precipitous geography of Murren with breathtaking alpine scenery of its own.
At the opposite end of the village the elevation to the Schilthorn and the Piz Gloria increases to nearly 10,000 feet. Swiss Travel Pass holders receive a 50 percent discount for the 30-minute cable car ride to the top, and this is the only part of the journey that requires an additional fee.
Piz Gloria, the panoramic, 360-degree revolving restaurant at the crest of the Schilthorn, was used as a set in the 1969 James Bond adventure. When weather conditions are good, there is no better top-of-the-world sensation than the span of mountaintops that chisel the sky around the Schilthorn. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict the weather based upon conditions below in either Murren or Interlaken.
The snail-paced rotation of the restaurant can be disconcerting at first, but when outside elements are less than ideal, it’s a great refuge to savor a bite to eat or a warm drink. The number “007” on the windows pays tribute to the British secret agent.
To enjoy the Schilthorn trip to the fullest, take a different route for the return. Descend to Murren, where another cable car floats gracefully over a dramatic cliff to the village of Stechelberg. When scattered, low hanging clouds hover through the Lauterbrunnen Valley, the sensation is like riding down from heaven.
Shortly after passing over the edge of the plateau, Staubbach Falls, the highest waterfall in Switzerland, unveils itself in all its cascading beauty. For the next 1,000 feet, the descent follows torrents of water and spray down the mountainside before they disappear into a rushing stream below.
At Stechelberg more than 70 waterfalls await your viewing pleasure. It’s a bold new dimension in aquatic art, which is especially breathtaking if you are fortunate enough to ride through the valley following a heavy rain.
From Stechelberg, postal bus service, also included in the rail pass, takes you back to Lauterbrunnen. Just follow the rainbows.
The BOB train awaits in Lauterbrunnen for the return trip to Interlaken. As the afternoon yields to a glowing sun caressing the mountaintops, travelers staying in Interlaken, or someplace nearby, may choose to complete the adventure with a cruise around the Lake of Brienz.
Visitors from Bern can opt for a different boat along the Lake of Thun from the village of Spiez. Go to the rear of the ship and watch the sun set over the now distant mountains you traversed just a short time earlier.
Get off the boat at Thun for a short train ride back to Bern and the junket is complete. It’s a traveler’s dream. Trains, cable cars, buses and boats all combined with breathtaking panoramas that have been conveniently packaged into a single, pocket-sized rail pass.
Swiss Travel Pass holders also receive free admission to more than 400 museums throughout Switzerland.
Regardless of your level of travel, novice or veteran, the Swiss Travel System is truly a “moving” experience.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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