6/12 Update: I found out that the Glacier Express only runs through Oct. 30, so I had to cut one day out of the Bern Oberlander stay
8/3 Update: Had to reroute my St. Moritz to Milan train
Day 39 heading out of Germany into Switzerland, I wanted to try to stop off in Liechtenstein but apparently no express trains stop there. My options:
- The closest nearby town is Buchs, Switzerland, and only one train out of Fussen gets there within a reasonable time, leaving at 5:51am and getting in at 10:59am with two transfers (Buchloe, Germany, and St Margrethen, Switzerland). Then I could take the 2:12pm direct to Zurich, arriving 3:30pm, or the 3:01pm-4:23pm (via Sargans).
- Or, I can take that same 5:51am train out of Fussen, transfer in Buchloe, and get into Zurich at 11:44am.
Frommer's suggests for a 1-week stay, I should spend 2 nights in Zurich, 2 in Lucerne, 1 in Bern, 1 in Lausanne, and 1 in Geneva. However, my trip lies east after Bern towards Venice, not west towards France, so Lausanne and Geneva are out this trip.
Day 1: Take a walking tour of the Bahnhofstrasse to Lake Zurich, where you can board a steamer for a 11⁄2-hour ride on the lake. Return to shore and visit either the Kunsthaus Museum or the Landesmuseum. In late afternoon take a walking tour of the Altstadt (Old Town), along the famous quays of Zurich and through Old Town, where you might have a raclette dinner in an old tavern. Day 2: Visit Fraumünster or Grossmünster, the two most famous churches of Zurich. Enjoy lunch in a typical Zurich cafe. In the afternoon leave Zurich for Uetliberg for a panoramic view of the Alps and the city. Have a beer and listen to the oompah band at the Bierhalle Wolf in the evening.
My train from Fussen, Germany gets into Lucerne at 12:49pm on Oct. 24th.
Suggested activities: climb the old fortifications in the Museggtürme (but they're only open until early October, not sure if I'll make it); a walking tour of the Old Town in Schwanenplatz; Sammlung Rosengart (the Rosengart Collection) and the Picasso Museum; the Verkehrshaus der Schweiz (Swiss Transport Museum) and the Longinus Planetarium; a hop-on/hop-off steamer boat going from one end of Lake Lucerne to the other; and at night, the Grand Casino.
There are a few nearby mountains, two of which require a boat ride and all of which have cablecars and cogwheel trains to get up and down: Mount Pilatus has an incredible 48-degree gradient (steepest in the world), Rigi, and Mount Titlis, a glacier with a restaurant at the snow-covered top (the summit accessible via funicular and cable cars).
I can see two days here as well, nothing too taxing (unless it's the from the thin air atop the high mountains).
I can take a direct Lucerne to Bern train leaving 8:00am and getting in 9:00am on Oct. 26th.
Bern & the Bernese Oberland
In Bern: a walking tour of the Altstadt neighborhood, including the Bärengraben (Bear Pits), Old Town, the Rosengarten (Rose Gardens), the Cathedral of St. Vincent, and the Einstein Museum. Also: the Grand Casino.
Outside of Bern, day trips could include:
- Jungfraujoch, at 3,400m (11,152 ft.), with the highest railway station in Europe and offers panoramic views over glaciers and the Alps, including the Ice Palace carved inside a glacier
- From Mürren, a cable-car ride to the Schilthorn, famous for its 360-degree view. The panorama extends from the Jura to the Black Forest, including the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. The Schilthorn is also called “Piz Gloria” after the James Bond film "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service"
- The “glacier village” of Grindelwald
I'm giving myself 1 day in Bern and 2 days to play around in the Oberland area, which includes a day off. I'd like one more day, but I have to be in Zermatt on Oct. 30 for the Glacier Express, that's the last day it runs for the season. For planning purposes, I'll leave Interlaken as my home base.
Bern to Interlaken trains run about every half hour and take almost an hour, so let's pick the 8:04am to 8:57am train on 10/27 (that's to Interlaken Ost, the one to Interlaken West is a half hour later).
Interlaken to Zermatt trains have 2 connections, in Spiez and then in Visp. A reasonable one leaves at 8:00am and gets in at 10:52am.
The Glacier Express is a long train ride through some amazing scenery in the mountains: a 7-1/2 hour railway journey across 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and across the Oberalp Pass on the highest point at 6,670 ft in altitude, going from Zermatt to St. Moritz. I'm not a skiing or hiking type and it doesn't look like there's a lot to do otherwise but it does look like a very nice place to spend the day looking at the Matterhorn.
I can either get to Zermatt in time for the 10:13am departure on Oct. 30, or I can spend the 29th in Zermatt and take the train the next morning (a day in Zermatt at the expense of one more day in the Bern Oberlander). For now, I'll go with spending the 29th in Zermatt.
The train arrives at St. Moritz at 5:42pm, and any trains/buses out of there would get me in close to midnight, so I may as well stay here for the night (or, more likely, a cheaper town a few miles away).
The nearest major city in Italy is Milan out the next morning. The RailEurope page used to show a St. Moritz to Milan 7:45am to 1:40pm, but doesn't any more. Using the German rail site DB Bahn I can do St. Moritz to Bellinzona from 7:02am to 10:20am via a local train and bus and then Bellinzona to Milan from 11:48am to 12:50pm.
- St. Moritz to Thusis via Regional Express Train 7:00-8:31am
- Thusis to Bellinzona via Bus 8:35-10:20am
- Bellinzona to Milan via Eurocity 11:25am-12:50pm
Finally, spend the rest of the day and night in Milan, then Venice the next day. Wasn't planning to see Milan, but that breaks up a longer train ride.