Some dreams only remain dreams. Some are achieved but lose their meaning if achieved late. But some becomes dearer if you go on to live them in reality and at the time you wished for. My Europe trip was one such dream which happened early on in life. This travel came all of a sudden.
It surprised my parents, friends as well as me. Nothing much was planned till I really took off on Swiss Airways from New Delhi. So it was crashing through, planning, budgeting all on board. Switzerland has its aura in the airs and you can feel it too. I could feel the picture perfectness much before landing. The green carpeted countryside was alluring enough to raise all expectation levels.
The many 8 to 10 seater private jets at Geneva airport hangar spoke enough of a country that has been consistently ranked amongst the top 2 investment destinations by World Economic Forum. Felt good. Wondering…dreaming…visualizing my own private jet. OK…I was vacationing, so could afford to dream wild and take off some flights of fantasy! Switzerland felt like a dream home.
Everything was perfect and in its place. Geneva Lake is a point to see. It is well done with beautiful architectures and a gorgeous garden encircling all around. The lake also boasts of the world’s highest water fountain looming over the entire city. I visited the majestic WHO Headquarters in Geneva too and met up with a couple of officers I knew in their contrastingly casual cafeteria. On the way back, bumped into a school friend of mine at the tram station. Pleasant surprise. Small world, ain’t it! The following day, I set out early for Jungfrau – the top of Europe. I boarded an inviting double decker train that ran parallel to a huge lake.
It was a scenic trail all along the foothills of the Swiss Alps. I had to change the train at Interlaken to take one of the Alpine trains for the climb. Interlaken is a beautiful city located amidst two lakes; thus the name. Given the steep climb, this Alpine train had a third saw-toothed track in the centre. That was to create extra push for the climb. Otherwise, pretty much like our Toy Trains of Darjeeling. Journey up the Alps was amazingly fascinating. Having spent most of my life up the Himalayas, I hadn’t really expected to be awed by the mountains the way I really was. A good contrast to our gradual sloping Himalayas, are the steep imposing Alps.
Every second mountain seemed to have a steep cliff end. The journey got all the more interesting once we entered the snow zone. After a point, the snow must have been so thick on the outside that our train took to tunnels and remained cocooned in its warmth thereafter. And little did I realize that this tunnel took us all the way up and right into the glaciers.
The final station was just under a glacier. We had a couple of view points within the tunnel to give us the feel of the glacier outside. This final destination, called Jungfrau is also referred to as the top of Europe. It’s on the Aletsch Glacier at an altitude of 4,158 meters (13,642 feet). It’s the top most point of human occupancy in Europe. From the underground railway station at Jungfrau, there is a lift that takes you up on the glaciers.
There are many interesting things to see at this point. They have developed an Ice Palace: so it’s all ice, right from the corridors to all the statues, tables and everything within it. Remember the Ice Palace in Bond’s movie: “The World is not enough”. Jungfrau is also the originating point of many an Alpine trek into the glaciers. Treks are allowed only for some 6 months of the year. I also went to the top most point of an astronomical centre setup in this zero pollution region for extra territorial observations. It is really freezing there.
One can’t walk out without dark glasses. The brightness of glaciers all around is too blinding to keep eyes open. You do feel on top of the world there. If lucky you can also experience snow blizzards and shifting blocks of glaciers. Nature’s freezing polar chill is in constant tussle with the warmth of honeymoon couples. A must see for any body visiting Switzerland – couples and singles alike. Guess this was one place that did uncomfortably remind me that I had come to Switzerland alone. You do needs someone’s warmth amidst those bone biting chilly glaciers. This is a favorite amongst all tourists and guided tours.
We also have an Indian restaurant called “Bollywood” up there. On the way back, we took a different route. Switzerland has an amazing country side and a spellbinding snowy Alps. On our way down we took a stop at this village called Grindelwald. An amazing place it is. For anyone of you who ever plans a Swiss tour, try staying in one of the Swiss villages rather than any city. You see the real picture beauty of Swiss in its villages.
This place was a heaven of a sort. It had paragliding activities, over one of those many alpine cliffs. Due to the bad weather, this activity was suspended for the very day that. So I went on a trek stretching through some villages and up the mountains. One truly enjoys the Alps when one feels and breathes the open alpine airs. So that trek was real memorable. Ah…yes. I no more felt that I was travelling alone. There was little chance of any girl keeping pace with me up the mountains anyways.
Henceforth, I didn’t miss company. But then the Swiss beauties are always there to show you the way. Back at Interlaken, I took to the river side and walked along to the next station to take my train back to Geneva. It was beautiful all along the way. The waters too were icy grey, whitish with a tinge of gray. Perhaps I should have taken some sort of transportation. On my way back to Geneva, I stopped by Berne, The Swiss capital town. Though it was a brief stay, the stop was worth it. It was good to be finally back home in Geneva to the welcoming warmth of my bhabhi’s aloo parathas. Another thing that an Indian would be taken by surprise is the broad day light even at 10 during the evenings. Even in June dawn breaks at 0630 or 7 in morning.
One small unexpected problem in Swiss is the language barrier. A major chunk of the Swiss speaks French and not English. And then there is this French pride of proudly saying ” I don’t know English”. The French really had to bite their nails given the world take over by Brits. And they don’t seem to have come to terms to that yet. However, the language won’t really be a hindrance if you follow your instincts to a good looking girl who would most willingly respond in English. And maybe walk you down too. India is an interesting topic, you see. Depends on how you leverage that!