Switzerland: To the Alps in Wengen
Travel Date : 16 – 20 July 2013
Location: Wengen, Switzerland
Trains From Now On
“Time to wake up! Today’s THE day!” I reminded gently as all of us dragged our weary bodies from the bed in Hotel Barbara in Freiburg, Germany. We all knew this was the day we would be crossing over to Switzerland, so despite the long drive last evening, we were motivated to finish washing up and eating breakfast at double time.
After squeezing our luggage into our rental car, I drove them to Freiburg Train Station, which was just round the corner. This was the main reason we had chosen this hotel.
Fortunately, we managed to find a small vacant area along the busy main road to park our car temporarily and well, illegally. Together, we swiftly carried all our luggage onto the station platform before I left them there and got back onto the car. I had an important task to complete before we could proceed to Switzerland — returning the car to the rental company.
With the help of the built-in GPS, I soon found the place and returned the car to the staff there. Just over the past three days, we had already driven a distance of 1,527km! (From Burghausen –> Prague –> Würzburg –> Rothenburg –> Günzburg –> Freiburg) What a long road trip we did within such a short time!
Although I was confident that the car was still in the same condition as we got it three days ago, I still couldn’t help but worry a little while the staff performed a very thorough check on the interior and exterior of the vehicle. “What if he doesn’t accept the car and cause a delay to our plan?” A paranoid thought ran through my mind.
The staff spotted some scratches on the wheel and I assured him that they had existed when I first took over the car. I had confirmed that with their staff at Burghausen, even though it was not documented on the damage report. He then made a note in his report and requested me to follow him to his office.
“Oh no… Don’t tell me something’s wrong?”
At the office, together with another of his colleagues/supervisor, they started discussing among themselves in German, presumably over those undocumented scratches. Cold sweat started to trickle down my neck but I stayed calm, reiterating what I had told the staff earlier. One of the guys then picked up the phone and called the Burghausen branch to confirm my statements and fortunately, my words matched with theirs and they accepted the car with no further complications. Phew! I was relieved.
I then asked them for directions to return to the train station. Following the route, I reached a nearby tram station after a ten-minute walk. Suddenly, I realised I was all alone in a completely unfamiliar place. All along, except occasionally when in Burghausen where we had stayed for 1.5 months, my family was always with me. I wasn’t afraid, but just thinking that was how I would feel if I had been a lone traveler for this Europe trip.
Of course, I didn’t let this feeling deter me from proceeding with my ‘little adventure’ to get back to the train station. A tram soon arrived and I checked with the driver on the route and ticket purchase. Soon I was on my way, enjoying the scenery as the tram headed towards my destination.
“Daddy, an ICE train has gone off when you were away!” Dar exclaimed excitedly as he spotted me walking towards them, sharing with me about one of his favourite trains.
The next train to Basel SBB would be arriving in another 30 minutes and I headed in to the station to purchase our tickets. We didn’t want to get them earlier, in case we got delayed due to rental car issues etc.
The train soon arrived and Dar couldn’t contain his excitement, knowing he was going to make his long-awaited maiden ride on an ICE train.
On the train itself however, he suddenly became much calmer and quieter, probably enjoying the ride and satisfied that he had finally fulfilled his dream. ^^
We soon crossed the German border (Auf Wiedersehen, Germany!) and arrived at Basel SBB in Switzerland, a busy train station much alike the Munich Station in Germany. The ICE train ride only took around 50 minutes and cost around S$170 for two of us (children below 6 yrs old is free); it’s indeed a fast but expensive ride!
Basel Train Station
As we had planned, I would head to the ticket counters while they waited for me, since we had a lot of luggage and it would be inconvenient for all three of us to move around together.
We had done our research and planned to buy the Swiss Card at CHF 195 each. This card entitles us to travel for free from Basel to our destination Wengen today, and also on our last day to Zurich Airport. I also asked for a free Family Pass so that Dar would be able to travel for free with us. The staff at the counter was very patient and friendly.
I went back up the escalator to meet up with them and together, we strolled towards our platform. Conveyor belts by the stairs were life-savers as they made moving our luggage up to the platform a breeze!
Our Intercity train arrived on time and we boarded it to get to Interlaken OST.
Dar was evidently tired due to the transfers but he didn’t feel like sleeping. Instead, he wanted his white board to draw some stuff to pass away his time.
As for me, I was admiring the scenery outside the train and was in awe when we went past a huge, beautiful lake! Knowing the scenery at the Jungfrau region would likely surpass this, this gave us greater anticipation of what could await us at Wengen!
Along our journey, there were constant ticket checks by the train inspectors, unlike in Germany and Austria, where such checks were few and far in between. During the journey, we also ate some chocolate and granola bars to fill our stomach since we would not have time for lunch during all these transfers.
At Interlaken OST, we transferred train to the regional Berner Oberland Bahn, which heads to Lauterbrunnen.
From there, we made our final transfer to the Wengernalpbahn (WAB) which would bring us up to Wengen. As the time-interval for transfer is short, we had to quickly make our way across to another platform to catch the train. It was a nervous moment for us as we had to each pull and push two luggage and hand-carried our laptops, while making sure Dar was following us!
The Wengernalpbahn was unlike the other trains that we had taken, as it uses the Riggenbach System, making it a type of Cog Railway. This special system is used as the train needed to climb up steep slopes and the cogs would prevent slipping and derailment on the way up.
To The Alps!
As the train moved up higher in altitude, our excitement level also rose higher. From the moment when it left Lauterbrunnen to reveal the gorgeous waterfalls along the cliffs and to the picturesque snow-capped alps as we were nearing Wengen, everything was so beautiful that we felt like we were in a dream land. Switzerland is indeed a country of absolute beauty!
Arrived in Wengen
Soon, we could see our destination — the Wengen Station! This would be where we be staying for the next five days, 1,274 m (4,180 ft) above sea level, surrounded by the gorgeous Alps and cooling air!
As we stepped out of the train, we started feeling something amiss…
“Why is it so hot?!”
We had expected the air to be cool at such high altitude, and especially when the Alps were all around us. Looks like we were wrong?
Just next to the station is the Wengen Town, where hotels and shops lined up the streets. Hotel Edelweiss, our chosen accommodation, would be further down the street and we started making our way towards it, pulling our load of luggage under the hot sun.