SWITZERLAND TRIP - SCHENGEN VISA:
We applied for the Schengen visa which allows one to enter one of the Schengen countries (Switzerland) and thereby visit all the 22 odd countries as stated in the Schengen agreement. http://search.yahoo.comwww.immihelp.com/visas/schengenvisa/
We opted to fly to Switzerland by Qatar Airways as it was affordable as well as quite convenient for us. Our trip had a short stopover at Qatar Airport after which we flew directly to Zurich, Switzerland. We were greeted at Zurich by my brother-in-law who could directly walk up to the door of the aircraft's walking aisle. We really felt like VIPs at this totally new European country. The famous Zurich airport; over 50 years old, handling more than 70,000 passengers per day, and having different levels for various flights to different countries and the underground trains that take passengers to various terminals were all quite new to us.
Switzerland was truly a wonderful country, full of greenery, pine trees, hills & mountains, cattle with pleasantly chiming bells tied to their necks, awesome lakes and to top it all the snowcapped mountains that occupied the skylines all around Switzerland. It's a land of charming people, the famous Swiss chocolates, and the land with the best and most convenient modes of transportation; busses, trams, boats, trains and of course cable cars. It also has plenty of fresh fruits & flowers, dry fruits and green vegetables.
At Bern â€“ Switzerland
The balcony of my sister's house overlooked the famous Alps Mountains. While sipping hot coffee in the cold and foggy mornings, I enjoyed the skyline and the striking view at the crack of the morning, and the welcoming bright sunlight. During our short stay at Bern in Switzerland, we could not take our eyes off the amazing view of the blue lakes and skies, the farms and houses with sloping tiled roofing that we could see almost everywhere around when we stayed in Bern â€“Switzerland, as well as all around in Switzerland.
My nephew had done all the planning and charted out our daily visit & tour plans well in advance. He even bought the 'TaggesKarte's' (tickets that allows one to travel anywhere within Switzerland, by bus, tram, boat and train from morning till midnight for a day), these tickets if bought in advance are said to be much cheaper to that when compared to the rates if one has to buy the tickets on the same day of travel. He even had our Hotel bookings done at Italy â€“ Venice, and at France. My sister also had arranged with their family friend and Embassy colleague in Germany for us to stay with them for a night.
One of the breath taking experiences that we had witnessed during our Swiss trip was the trip to Mount Titlis, which has 360 degrees of snow. We took a train from Bern to Engelberg at the foothills of the Mount Titlis. We then walked up to the station where the 'TitlisRotair' (Cable cars) the world's first revolving cable car, took us to the top of the mountain (3020m/9900feet). It was a 40 minutes cruise where we could experience the actual feel of snow and ice. From the restaurant where we had our burgers and hot coffee, we saw one special 'Cut out' of the Bollywood stars â€“ Shahrukh Khan &Kajol from the film 'Dilwaladhulhaniya le jayenge'. We were actually stunned to see all the different nationalities posing along with the Bollywood couple and taking pictures as souvenir and keepsakes. It was here that the movie was shot and the producer of the movie was given the Swiss citizenship and then the Swiss Government agreed to place a metallic cut out of the stars from the movie.
On top of the 'Mount Titlis' â€“ on the Alps Mountains
From there we then went towards the 'Ice Flyer' ride to the highest peak on Mount Titlis. The ride on the open 'Ice Flyer Chairlift' hanging on high tension cables took us through the Alps Mountains that were totally in a different world, calm, still and serene snowcapped mountains with zero noise and no winds but totally in a 'stand still' sort of experience. One really has to experience it to get to know about it, as it is difficult to explain the real feel !! We were highly excited about the Ice Flyer trip: The open chaired cable cars took us to another landing on the Mountain where they took photos and made a 'Snowman' along with some other Japanese tourists. We sang loudly on our way back to the place where we boarded open chairs for the Ice Flyer trip.
From there we then went towards the 'Ice Flyer' ride to the highest peak on Mount Titlis. The ride on the open 'Ice Flyer Chairlift' hanging on high tension cables took us through the Alps mountains that were totally in a different world, calm, still and serene snowcapped mountains with zero noise and no winds but totally in a 'stand still' sort of experience. One really has to experience it to get to know about it, as it is difficult to explain the real feel !! We were highly excited about the Ice Flyer trip: The open chaired cable cars took us to another landing on the Mountain where they took photos and made a 'Snowman' along with some other Japanese tourists. We sang loudly on our way back to the place where we boarded open chairs for the Ice Flyer trip.
Gliding over the Alps Mountain on the Ice Flyer ride
The other incident that I still remember was the large sized bright black coloured Mynahs on top of Mount Titlis. They were quite happily eating the leftovers of the burgers and sausages from the restaurant tables. They often were seen poking their beaks into the snow and rubbing their beaks briskly in the snow (as if they were cleaning their beaks). We were really happy to spend some of our most splendid time on top of the Mount Titlis as the sun was shining with its full strength to keep us warm in spite of the Ice and Snow all around us. We then very hesitantly decided to leave Mount Titlis and started our return journey down hill back to Engelberg and then to Bern.
The other mesmerizing trip that we had was on the 'Glacier Express'. The train starts from the foothills of the snowcapped mountains through the small towns and hills to the heights of the mountains with ice and snow all around the train. This journey made me quite romantic and I would like to advise young couples to go and experience this wonderful trip by train to make their 'Honeymoon' even sweeter.
Inside the 'Glacier Express' Train - Switzerland
The next day we went to Interlaken and from there to Lauterbrunnen where the famous 'Trummelbachfalle' (falls) is located. We left this awesome place to Bern. From there we took another train to Lauterbrunnen which was quite fast and convenient. From Lauterbrunnen we took a bus to the foothills of one of the highest mountains that had the most adventurous Trummelbachfalle. The hundreds of steps from the foothills took us to the top via winding and narrow caves at times and had landings at different levels where we could see the breathtaking (in every sense of it!) water falls. The more higher we climbed the chill inside the caves and the misty spray from the waterfalls was taking our breath awayâ€¦. It was quite tiresome and time consuming too.
At the 'Trummelbachfalle' (water falls)- Switzerland
While giving lessons to students on the Gondolas (the water taxis) in Venice, little did I knew that I would get a chance to visit Venice and also be on the world famous Gondola in Italy!! I always used to think â€“ 'When will God permit me to travel in a Gondola?
On the Gondola ride
We reached Venice, via Lugano. Till then I was unaware that I will be travelling on the Gondola, I thanked Almighty for this golden opportunity. We stayed at Belvedere â€“ Bed & Breakfast a fresh and elegant Hotel managed by young smart and beautiful Sara, the owner's daughter. The rooms were quite new and with the latest interiors and excellent toilets. The Hotel was situated about 30 kilometers away from Venice and so it was abundant with pure and fresh air. The green meadows there were filled with maize crops. We reached the hotel at night at about half past seven, had a nice shower in hot water and was ready for dinner. We had to drive to the city close by to buy our dinner. While in Italy â€“ the' land of Pasta & Spaghetti and cottage cheese, we ordered for the famous Pasta with white sauce. We hit the bed and in no time were in deep slumber after the 600 odd kilometers drive.
The next day after a not so good breakfast from the hotel, we bid goodbye to Sara and her beautiful property the Belvedere â€“ Bed & Breakfast. We then drove for about 30 kilometers and reached the seashore of Venice. We had to park our Nineseater Mercedez van at the public paid parking. This had over 10 levels and could easily accommodate more than 750 vehicles at a time. The short walk to the boat jetty was a way of stretching out our limbs. The boat took us to the other side of the shore where the world famous City of Venice with all the pomp and glory of limitless numbers of Black Gondolas donned the blue waters of Venice. I was quite happy as this city was named Veni's (Venice) and was my dream city as well. We walked alongside the seashore that had different stalls & shops selling Venician curios and gifts such as replicas of miniature gondolas, the famous masquerades (masks) of different sizes and gorgeous faces and masks. All the curios and gifts & T shirts were quite expensive and we had to think not twice but thrice before buying anything. We then moved towards the St Marco's Square where the City center was located. The square was famous for the beautiful architecture and paintings and also with hundreds of pigeons that reminded us of Trafalgar Square. We were eagerly awaiting the 'Gondola ride'. We had to bargain with a few of the Gondoliers (boat) drivers and finally settled to pay 90 euros for a 40 minute ride. The cost of a new Gondola is said to be 20,000 euros.
So finally my long awaited ride on the Gondola was turning to a reality. The Gondola took us through the old city of Venice. The winding blue water ways was surrounded by houses on both the sides. The houses were centuries old (700 to 800 years), with a special type of architecture and various types of arches and windows and these two and three storied houses were literally standing in blue water and standing high against the blue skies. Our Gondola was moving through the Grand Canal, like a snake. These houses had window sills decked with beautifully flowering plants that added to the already awe inspiring and colorful surroundings. There were houses, as well as restaurants from where we heard the clinkering sound of forks and knives and plates as well and the whiff of freshly cooked food escaping through the open windows and reaching our nostrils. That reminded us that it's time for lunch. The Gondolier spoke impeccable English. He was narrating the history of Venice and the details of the houses around us. He also did not forget to mention that he learnt English from his ex-girlfriend. He was quite handsome too!!
Another point that I would like to stress is that young couples should save money and wisely spend it to visit countries that are quite different from theirs. Through these trips one gets to see places, meet new people, and experiences their lifestyle, their food habits and diversified culture. I consider a trip like this is worth than a million dollar. It's really a 'learning process', knowing people, observing culture, beauty; history et al. God has created this world in such a way that the artist in you can enjoy every moment of it. When you're are lucky enough to get a chance â€¦why not use it and enjoy it with your our own eyes wide open!!