Thursday, August 27, 2009

A sojourn to 'heaven on earth'

Swiss serenity at its best!

(Brief descriptions in italics accompany many pictures in this blogpost.
Many pictures! Impossible to adequately describe places in Switzerland in words!)

Shortwave radio listening was a hobby I pursued for a long time in the 80s and early 90s. Writing to radio stations and getting verifications for reports on broadcasts was a by-product of the hobby. One of the radio stations I used to listen was Swiss Radio International from Berne. (It stopped broadcasting on Oct.24, 2004 after 70 years of service). They had me on their mailing list when I used to write. So they used to send me for a few years, their beautiful picture-calendars for the New Year (preserved even now). Those pictures spoke of the beauty and tranquility of the country.

Whenever situations like road problems, pollution, politics, taxes and such things got under my skin and knowing full well that those are unavoidable things, I used to jokingly say “I would go to Switzerland and sit under a tree.” This was because of those lovely scenic calendar-pictures that had such a great impression in the mind.

That this innocuous sounding wish would become a reality (don't miss the picture as you scroll down) so soon still baffles me! The opportunity presented itself, I must say. Because I knew months before that many had already confirmed their travel and it was not even a dream with me.

A group was to travel to ‘heaven on earth’ to be part of a grand occasion to celebrate the 100th year which was organized by WTT-Global. One of the persons who had already sent the confirmation suggested, “why not you join”? I was among the last few before the 'door was closed', just before the deadline. “Vitamin F” also arranged itself, thanks to a “kind person”. Racing against time, necessary documents were arranged in great hurry and a few paraphernalia were added to the luggage that were required to bear the anticipated cold. Soon the D-day for travel had already arrived!!

We were soon flying in the pressurized metal tube to set foot on foreign soil, first in Dubai for a change over for the next flight to Zurich. What a city they have made amidst desert! And what lavish Airport. I saw sparrows, that have become scarce in our city, in searing heat of Dubai with the mercury showing 50 degrees Celsius, chirping along with other birds in the tree branches. Survival without A/C in Dubai is nearly unthinkable. Overhead pedestrian bridges and bus shelters were also A/C.

As beautiful as one can imagine, Dubai Airport. Some of the attendants were attired in traditional Arab costume, in brilliant white!

I had chosen the window seat to take views of what came along. The winged tube cruised over endless mass of clouds that looked like a cotton bed for most part of the flight.

As it neared Europe, I assume, some lakes and a river I know not which presented some good bird's eyeview. Magnificent sights like these kept me awake all through.

Swiss alps

An even more breathtaking aerial view of the Swiss Alps and green landscapes stunned me as the plane closed in on Zurich for a touch down, which was as soft as my step!

There was a schedule for the tour already made available by our organizer who had painstakingly done all the hard ground work to make it smooth (it was). We landed in Zurich when it was getting dark. Having chased night we felt it was a very long one indeed!

We were taken from Zurich to Luzern (Spelt Luzern in German, Lucerne in English and French) in a lovely bus in which we were to move around for the next few days. The driver would welcome us and announce the distance and time taken to the destination and whenever he thought he would show a place or two on the way with announcements. So friendly! I came to know later that it was typical Swiss affection! He would also not let us handle our luggage. Instead, he loaded and unloaded most of them, each time. Since our flight reached late in the evening, we could not get to see a bit of Zurich, which another group that reached in the afternoon could.

After dinner at Hotel Kanchi, an Indian Restaurant in Luzern, we rested for the night in Hotel RotHaus. Got up to get ready for an exiting tour that began by visiting the ‘most photographed object in Switzerland’, the 14th century Wooden Chapel Bridge, which was a few minutes on foot, through lovely little lanes.

Wooden Chapel Bridge with Tower

Next on schedule was the popular “Round Trip”. First by boat to Alpnachstad on Lake Luzern, then by the famous Cog Wheel Train up to Mount Pilatus and from there to Kriens by Panorama Gondolas that gave us breathtaking views of the Alps. At Kriens, the bus with our entire luggage was waiting to take us to Interlaken. Some pictures.

Fantastic "postcard scenes" on Lake Luzern while on the boat for nearly 90 minutes!

This is the Cog Wheel Train that took us up to Mount Pilatus.

On Mount Pilatus, one part of the 'five fingered" Lake Luzern is seen.

Panorama gondolas took us down to Kriens.

Interlaken is a city built on land formed by the floods, many centuries ago, from the glacial waters of the famous trio of peaks, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Lakes Thun and Brienz flank it. Our halt for two nights in Interlaken gave a bit of time to move around the countryside in a most relaxing mood.

Our room window at Hotel Splendid (true to its name!) provided a breathtaking view of Mount Jungfrau....

....and the beautiful scene of a street below.

Hotel Splendid - The Corner Window above "T" in "Hotel" was our room. I liked that Omega Clock that I kept in the corner.... corner of this picture I took that morning!

Did plenty of ‘window shopping’ of many lovely articles including the famous Swiss watches. In the evening we had time for relaxing in the park where para gliders were landing.

I saw house sparrows here in Interlaken, happily flying about.

The entire group had dinner with the Grand Master at Hotel Oberland.

Next day, by bus we went to Grindelwald/Grund to go to “the Top of Europe”, Jungfraujoch.

Looking at snow and feeling it with hand (with woolen-gloved hand), leave alone walking on it was a first time experience for many of us. Adults showed their real nature – that of a child and played like one! Trio of peaks presented us with lovely views, esp. the Eiger from Kleine Scheidegg.

Click here for some details about Jungfrau.

Tunnel at Eismeer.

At Eismeer we peeped through the rock-hewn windows of lovely glaciers and ice and the train halts for this. The train further took us up to Jungfraujoch.

This is the lovely Mönch seen from Jungfraujoch.

Ice tunnel.

Ice sculptures.

Lunch at Jungfraujoch. In fact, Indian food was made available during our entire tour!

We visited the Ice Palace (pictures above) where beautiful sculptures are on display. Walking through narrow tunnels of very slippery ice, I remembered my schooldays where we did some skating with our school shoes! I wondered why I was not doing it here in real!

On the way back, we visited the unique Trümmelbach waterfalls.

Here is a picture of the 'Corkscrew falls'.

Melted water from the trio of peaks gushes and roars through the mountain crevices and out into a stream. A tunnel lift takes visitors into the mountains to view the magnificent sights of water. We could not go to all the ten falls as evening time was running out. So a nice video of about four minutes has been linked here - run the cursor:

Watch this video from a visitor on YouTube.

Some information on Trummelbach is here.

An adventure park was visited near Lauterbrunnen. From Mürren, just opposite, we saw paragliders jumping from high up, to the meadows and lawns below. Return to Hotel Splendid. We were to shift to the next location the next day, Engelberg. Before that, here are some unforgettable scenes from Interlaken:

Enjoying the stream view in Interlaken just minutes before we left for Engelberg.

Jungfrau is partly seen between the two mountains. This was a lovely park in which some of us spent some enjoyable moments, looking at the flowers and fountains.

Colourful alpine flora at Interlaken.

In reality!
Taken at Interlaken. Snow-capped Jungfrau seen in background, between the hills.

On the way to Engelberg, we halted by Lake Luzern for a lunch break at Weggis. Most of us sat on these lovely chairs (see picture below) and had packed lunch that fully filled the tummies!

Proceeded to Einsiedeln by bus where a beautiful Monastery (pictured above) was visited amid light drizzle.

We then proceeded to WTT-Global and met the Grand Master there in the most beautiful location in a very calm, silent and green environs. The place has a great spiritual aura around it for centuries and one can actully feel it! Before reaching Einsiedeln, we had visited the birthplace of Paracelsus at Egg.

The stone near the birthplace. Egg is a very beautifully calm village.

A journey of around 90 minutes brought us to our final place of stay, Engelberg. We were all put up in the century-old Hotel Terrace (built in 1903 and retaining its old charm), a most beautiful building on the gradient of a small hill. Like in Interlaken, here also I and my partner Mr.Babu, were lucky enough to get a room with its window giving the view of the Angel Hill and the Kloster Monastery at its base. The bell ringing from its tower reminded me of the calm days of erstwhile Mysore when our famous Clock Tower bell struck every hour and that was heard long distances. We visited the beautiful 14th century Monastery at the fag end of the stay.

Hotel Terrace

To reach the hotel, we have to go through a small tunnel where two lifts would take us up.

Lounge at Hotel Terrace.

Engelberg is a most lovely village surrounded by hills. The name comes from ‘Angel’. Click here to know the legend behind it. We were to stay here for the next five days viewing this Angel Hill with its unique peak.

Angel Hill

The touring part would end the next day with a visit to Mount Titlis by cable car. It was a ten-minute walk to the Station from the hotel through calm, neat streets and meadows. A rotating cable car, the only one of its kind, takes us up to Titlis for the second phase after we change from ordinary cable cars. Mount Titlis was another enjoyable place full if snow. Earlier, this trip was threatened by bad weather and some rain early in the morning. But luckily for us, it cleared up and we followed the weather on TV, live, during our tense wait at our hotel rooms until the organizers finally gave the green signal, much to our delight. A couple of pictures.

This is the normal car that took us up to the station where we changed into the Rotating Cable Car.

The platform inside this cable car rotates as it climbs to enable passengers to have an all round look.

Good weather and soft snow on Mount Titlis.

We had time to stroll around the streets of Engelberg, admiring the beauty and meticulous maintenance and wondering why our cities can’t emulate them! The streets, the pavements, storm water drains, dust bins, traffic, pedestrians, decoration of plants, fountains, name boards of shops…. Everything looks so admirably lovely and neat. They have a taste to present and there was not even a single thing that was ‘gaudy’! Look at a few pictures taken at Engelberg:

Artistically paved. Drain covers are also neat.

Notice the central drainage system and the drain-holes.

No traffic policemen needed! Also, people obey the signal lights, traffic signboards and line markings on the road, diligently. Indiscipline is looked at in awe and confusion!

We also saw asphalting of a road. What we do here is just add more height and bulk to the road. But there, the old asphalting was being scraped up and recycled to make a new surface. That way, the level of pavement and road are maintained WITHOUT AFFECTING the slopes so that rainwater drainage covers stay where they are! That would also reduce use of new material for asphalting! What I Pavements and roads were demarcated neatly with square stone blocks and were almost level with each other and there were proper slopes for bicycles and perambulators to move on. Work is well mechanized.

Parking areas were demarcated with white lines on pavements without creating hindrance to pedestrians.

A beautifully laid out garden. That house in the background is very old. Without damaging the foundations, they renovate with taste, to maintain that heritage look. What we do here? Anybody guess?

Look how artistically the collective dust bin is concealed!
The shoes wont get dirty at all after so much walking - there is no dirt for the soles to pick up! Such are the souls who see to it that the entire place is clean and tidy!

Switzerland is a paradise to Nature lovers. Being one, colourful alpine flowers did not escape my eye. So many different varieties, considering that the full season was more than a month away! I managed to capture images where and when I came across on my short strolls.


It was time to focus ourselves on the seminar which was the real purpose of this tour.

Click on the links below:

Here is my friend's blog about the Seminar for which we all gathered.

Here is a blog that records a video of the Swiss Cows and their lovely sounding bells. Watch it!

It is said that the Swiss people take care of the cows so well that it is the real hidden reason why the country is so well progressed and peaceful. Swiss cows grazing in an enclosed area of the meadows.

On the left is the Sporting Complex where the Seminar gathering took place. Unlike we do here with banners, loud speakers, flags and lights to show off, there was nothing - it was so beautifully calm. As many as 500 participants from different countries attended. Curling Hall in that complex was our venue. "Curling" is a sport. My friend's blog provides a link to what it is.

This is the way participants applauded during a programme. Waving hands is silent and preferred to clapping!

The beautifully candle-lit altar in front of which the Grand Master is conducting prayers with his wife. A strategically placed mirror all along the back wall added much beauty to the altar.
The Fire Ritual being conducted.

Group picture of the gathering at the end of the programme. Enthralling and enriching.
It was time to return home. The Grand Master was there to bid farewell. He had also welcomed us when the group arrived at Zurich.

A couple of links to picture albums below - run the cursor to feel the links:

Water from any stream or tap in Switzerland was potable! Glacial water - so uniquely pure!

Talk of air, it was the purest air one could breathe in such a clean, pollutionless atmosphere!

Smell of grass, sound of the bells from the necks of grazing Swiss cows, the peaceful environs, green trees (we were there in the end of May in beautiful weather), superb houses, each one unique and special, calmness, discipline and neatness everywhere, makes one to think of a re-visit.

And we were soon back to our familiar world of confusions and chaos. (You just saw some pavements up there, did not you? Hope you notice this one too!). Yet, believe me, splendid, joyous memories of the trip kept lingering in dreams for as long as 10-12 nights during sleep. Such were the moments that filled the ten days. May be some hidden force was behind me to utter many times, that innocuous sounding wishful joke that was to turn to fruition, almost all by itself, I know not! "Namaskarams to Masters."


sundar said...

Splendid Sir

I'm dumbstruck by seeing the photos and reading the entire post...

Really 'Heaven on earth' No doubt about it...

& finally you sat under a tree in cool

wonderful post......

will come back again and read it at my own pace...

thanks a lot sir

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hi Dinu, thanks to your well written article, one can actually feel everything that you went through and through your lens, we are able to see everything you saw! Wonderful to read about it and I am glad things turned out in life such that you were able to go to Switzerland and enjoy everything there.

Kumar Sharma said...

Superb Blog indeed!
What Photographs of the lovely 'Kashmir of the World'!
You have taken so much 'pains' (with pleasure) to construct this Blog.
Great - keep it up. May God Bless you to take another trip to other such places too.
I will see these again.