The Sunshine

It was a cold Monday in the beginning of autumn when the temperatures suddenly dropped, when I found myself at the lake. I had been walking for a long time and was tired. So it was quite nice to find a place sit in the sun watching the swans and ducks. The sun rays dancing on the water made everything look so much more beautiful than if it was cloudy. It was a lovely day..

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You can check other shining entries here.

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Titlis

In continuation from the previous post – Basel.

So after spending the night in Basel peacefully, we woke up early morning and got ready in time to get ourselves some breakfast which was quite elaborate. Then after settling the bill, we moved towards our next destination, only to realize that we hadn’t checked the tram connections the previous evening. So we missed the train the we originally planned to board. Fortunately, I had looked up on the internet, long before our journey, about other connections and noted them down (one of those times when you are thankful for smartphones!). So after some running around in circles, we managed to get the next train to Lucerne. Now the route was really not as great as shown in the Bollywood movies (which are probably the main reason why Switzerland sees so many tourists from India). So my travel companion R was getting a little bit disillusioned. Also, the weather did kind of look depressing, which added to our disappointment.
And then there were some problems on the tracks which delayed the train. With all these omens, I was not hoping for a lot. Then we reached Lucerne. The connecting train to Engelberg, was in about half an hour. So we just looked out of the station where some fair was set up. Didn’t find anything interesting so we moved back inside the station. Now I had been wanting to get inside the Swiss supermarket Coop (read Co-op as in short form of Co-operative). There was one store at the station so we went in. I found that they had a good collection of salads which you could mix and match and pay by weight. So I filled up a box for myself as I was beginning to feel a bit hungry.
Then we rushed out in order not to miss the next train (good thing at the supermarket was the presence of self- check-out counters which made things faster once you understand the mechanism).
Now we got to the second leg of our journey and suddenly like magic, the landscape changed and we started to see the beautiful hillsides which have fueled the fantasies of so many Bollywood lovers. It was absolutely fantastic and several cameras started clicking, a normal action, considering that train had a lot of tourists from Asia :). Yours truly, of course, was one of those clicking away.

Scenery on the way

Scenery on the way

It was like a desperate attempt to capture the flying moments (alright, the passing scenery)!
Then after about an hour of going through the scenic route, we reached Engelberg.
We got down and saw the beckoning mountains. We had to exchange our Sbb ticket with the pass for the cable cars at the station.

Beckoning Mountains

Beckoning Mountains

Then we boarded the bus standing outside which took us to the base of the mountain called the Trubsee. And then the vista before us was just breathtaking and I understood in an instant why it has been so popular with Indian filmmakers…you see Bollywood essentially produces three kinds of movies – realistic movies, art movies and then the whole over the top romantic movies with rich people who don’t have to worry about rising prices, paying rents and bills and other things that occupy the waking hours of middle class people. Now except for the art movies (I personally don’t understand them), all movies have music and dance sequences in them. If it’s a realistic one then foreign locales are part of a dream sequence and if it’s the other kind I explained, then foreign locale is part of the story line – not of a dream.

If you wish to, then you can look at one of the songs from an iconic movie (third variety) from the 90’s which was shot in probably Jungfrau/Bern. But there is another scene in that movie, which I read was shot at The Little White Chapel somewhere around Titlis!

Now when I had told my mom about the trip two days back, she was quite happy that I was going there. Why? Because she and my dad were on a Europe trip with their friends two years back and the trip included Jungfrau and Titlis. So it was a place about which she could tell me from her visit. You see the trip was organized by a tour company and therefore, the tour covered all the popular places. I guess she never really understood why in my so many trips to Europe did I not go the places which the majority of people in India know of. My preferences usually have been to go to some picturesque small village here or some historical city there, instead of places which are flooded with tourists from all around the world. No, it’s not that I dislike those places – they have lovely sights, that’s why they are so famous. It’s just a bit overwhelming for me to to run from one attraction to another in such places without really enjoying anything in the limited time that I get to travel.

Anyway, back to my story.So we started from the base in a cable car which we shared with another couple. We got talking and I asked where had they come from to visit. And to my surprise, they told me that they lived there in a house where the cable car had the first stopover! So the cable car was their regular mode of transport and not a touristy thing. That must be cool – isn’t it!

View from the cable car

View from the cable car

So we also got down at the first stopover to look around and found that there were hiking trails from there. We saw many people equipped with the hiking gear ready to explore the mountains. We didn’t have the time or the luxury of doing that. So after capturing a few pictures, we went to the top using the next cable car called the Titlis Rotair – which was a cable car with a rotating platform, to give the visitors a 360 degree panoramic view of the valley and the snow covered peaks.

And now a vista of snow at the Glacier Park welcomed us. It had rained earlier but when we reached, it was all sunny and beautiful. We thanked the heavens for that as we were dreading the whole time that it would rain and we won’t be able to see anything.

Snow at Glacier Park

Snow at Glacier Park

We went towards the ski lifts (this place is a popular skiing place in winters) and they had big chair lifts which are called Ice-Flyers. 5 people could sit in one chair. Our company was made annoying/funny (however you want to take it) by one couple where the husband was hen-pecked by his wife. You know the kind – “yes dear, no dear”, while the wife is shouting away “you idiot, you don’t understand anything”. So you are moving in the air looking at the panorama and a bit scared too as the chair is a chair with nothing on the sides, and you jammed by the handle in the front. And the whole time listening to the jibber-jabber of that wife. The experience seemed to get over as soon as it started. There were long queues for that else we might have taken another go at it. Then we saw some people also sliding down the slopes in sleighs. Didn’t feel warmed up to the idea (literally and figuratively). Also saw a suspension bridge called the cliff walk. But now I don’t remember why we didn’t go there – may be just worried about the time!

So we went to the ice-cave which had beautiful ice-sculptures in it. The floor was quite slippery though, and suddenly as in an animation film, there R was – splayed flat on her back! The scene was quite funny and I would have clicked a pic if I wasn’t worried that she might have hurt her back badly. But the layers of clothes that she had (for getting cozy in the cold) protected her back! The cave had a blue glow which,  I read later, was the effect of refraction.

At the ice cave

At the ice cave

After coming out from there, on my behest, we went to get ourselves some ice-cream at the Move n Pick counter. The server was a charmer – he greeted us with a “Namaste” and some other Indian greeting. In so many years of seeing Indian tourists, he must have picked up some words! After taking some more pics around there, we then decided to get down for we were also afraid of missing the train back from there. In retrospect, we needn’t have worried but then it’s like a “better safe than sorry” situation when you are in a foreign place with not a lot of money with you!

After coming down, we had time to look at the souvenir shops, walk back to the train station (bus wasn’t needed), sit at the benches outside and have some thing to eat and yes, buy some chocolates – albeit at a supermarket, and then getting lost on our way back from the supermarket to the train station (I have that tendency to get lost – you would know by now if you’ve been reading my previous posts) and then making a run for the train!

We went back the same scenic route, and even saw a para-glider this time on the way!

Gliding away

Gliding away

Reached Lucerne, had some time to kill before the next train so went out to grab some coffee – a Starbucks was visible close by. Then took the train back to Basel, where we had some time to again stroll the streets of the city – this time with some rain to accompany us. Took in in the last sights and sounds of the beautiful city.

Last view of the city

Last sights of Basel

Back at the station, we got a bit confused about the train but finally managed to get into the right one, slept intermittently on the way back. Reached our hotel in the wee hours of the morning, tried to catch a wink and before we knew, it was time to get up and get ready for office!

And now all this feels like I was telling you about a dream – isn’t it?

P.S. I must tell you this – I drafted this post and then somehow auto-save didn’t work and I lost all the work when I accidentally closed the browser. You can imagine the frustration. I hope I did justice to the post even though I had to rewrite a lot of it…

Basel

In the summer of 2014, a colleague who was visiting Germany at the same time as me, persuaded me to go on a trip to Mt. Titlis – the Indian impression of Switzerland formed by the Bollywood movies! I wasn’t so keen for that but wanted to travel somewhere nonetheless, so I asked if she was willing to go via Basel. She agreed and that’s when we started building of our wonderful journey which combined culture with nature.

Now no matter how many times I have used the awesome (read pocket friendly) service of the long distance bus services (fern bus) which have opened up in Germany, I can’t stop feeling that I haven’t yet utilized them as much as they have to offer. That is in addition to the old and reliable Deutche Bahn. So we looked at all the options and found that the best way was to go with the bus and return with the train.

We started on the bus early morning from Heidelberg to reach a bordering city to Basel – it’s called Lorrach and is on the German side. The bus dropped us close to the train station from where we purchased our ticket to Basel. We missed the first train which arrived while we were struggling with the ticket machine. But the frequency of trains was good and we got the next one in half an hour. This train brought us to a station in Basel called “Bad Bf.”. We disembarked there and with the help of the navigator app, walked towards the hotel which we had already booked online. It was close to “Messeplatz”. As we were early, the room was not yet ready. We decided to leave the bags at the reception and go to the city. But by the time we freshened and my fellow traveler R was finished with a quick breakfast of sandwiches that she had, the receptionist told us that the room was ready. So we went to the room, relaxed a bit, had a coffee and then started for the tour. Once again, the receptionist came to our help and gave us the city pass which we could use on all public transport.

So armed with our Free pass we went in a tram and went towards the main train station to find the Tourist Information center. Just outside the station, I saw a “Heisse Maroni” stand – that’s a cart selling roasted chestnuts. Since R had never tasted it before, I bought some and both of us enjoyed cracking the shells and eating the kernels.
Then we went inside and received some maps and information from the tourist information center.
The things didn’t look too far from there so we decided to start on foot.
Reached the church of St. Elizabeth and went inside, crossed the theater and then watched the mechanical figurines in action at the Tinguely Fountain.

St. Elisabeth Church

St. Elisabeth Church

Stained Glass Window Inside St. Elisabeth Church

Stained Glass Window Inside St. Elisabeth Church

Tinguely Fountain

Tinguely Fountain

We wondered what to see next. Analyzed the exhibitions running at an art museum but that didn’t appeal to us.

A sculpture at the art museum

A sculpture at the art museum

So finally we decided to get inside the Museum of Antiquities which was having one exhibition on the use of flora in the Egyptian society and another one about the Romans. We spent almost two hours there. By that time, we’d started to feel quite hungry.
So we went back towards the Messeplatz (that’s where our hotel was), as we had seen several restaurants there in the morning. But probably our timing wasn’t right because nothing seemed to be open!
Found an Indian grocery shop called Manik Singh. He also sold some mini meals and I got some kadhi-rice from there in a box which I ate on a bench at a tram stop! R had something from another place later as she wasn’t too hungry then.
Then we went back towards the city center and got down in front of Rathaus / city hall. That was a beautiful red colored building and there was also a market (could be the weekly farmer’s market). Oh one important thing to tell you before I forget – in Basel, it is possible to drink water from any of the public fountains! It is water coming from the mountains.

Cheese being sold in the marktplatz

Cheese being sold in the marktplatz

Rathaus

Rathaus

We walked on from there and reached the Basel Muenster (Cathedral) after some searching around.
It was huge like all the cathedrals, but one part of it was different – there were lots of engraved stones on some walls. It gave me the impression of being a museum of gravestones.

Basel Muenster

Basel Muenster

Now at the back of the cathedral was a beautiful view point called the Pfalz which overlooks the river Rhine and the city. We took some nice pictures there.

View from the Pfalz

View from the Pfalz

And then to my pleasant surprise, we saw that going down the stairs from there, you could take the boat to the other side which is moving simply by the current of the river with a rope tied to a cable stretched between the two banks of the river. I think they charge around 2 Euros. There are four such places from where you can take these ferries. Later I got to know that these ferries even have names – “Wilde Maa”, “Leu”, “Vogel Gryff” and “Ueli”! I don’t know which one was ours.
On the other side was a place to sit and put down the feet in water. We were exhausted so we sat down soaking our feet in the water and taking in the scenery. Occasionally we would see people floating by – at Basel, people are allowed to swim in the river as the current though strong, is lesser so than at other places. So people put their stuff in a waterproof bag, tie it on themselves and then just go into the river. There are chains at different points along the bank holding which the people can come out when they want.

People chatting while swimming in the Rhine

People chatting while swimming in the Rhine

After getting refreshed, we got up to walk along the Rhine and saw an open air photography exhibition. Pictures from all around the world were put there. It was beautiful.

Then we had a brainwave and went to the main station to get schedule for next day’s connections. It was a good move because there we could also get the tickets for the cable car to go up on Mount Titlis. The combination of the train ticket to Engelberg and the ticket for the cable car from there, was slightly cheaper than if we would have taken the tickets individually.

After having arranged the tickets, we felt a bit relaxed and decided to explore a little more of the city. But it was getting dark and we were looking for some attractions that we had seen on the map but not finding them on the land. Found the Basel Papiermuehle (paper mill) just by chance. Also found a building with a really long wall – no idea what it was.

Building with a really long wall

Building with a really long wall


But ultimately we again reached the banks of the river and being dead tired, decided to call it a day. Took the tram back towards the hotel, had some falafels for dinner (had to use some broken German to explain what I wanted) and then were soon fast asleep in our comfortable beds to rejuvenate ourselves for the journey next day. I hope to visit Basel once again – even if the only thing I do is to sit beside the Rhine. Let’s see when that wish comes true!