Switzerland is one country that has been immortalised for Indians, all thanks to Bollywood. The scenic Swiss Alps and arresting landscapes have paved their way into countless Bollywood movies, and into the bucket lists of so many more Indians. While traversing through Switzerland, you realise that there’s no dearth of picturesque spots and beautiful sceneries here. If you move on from its big cities, you’ll notice that the real charm of this country lies in its small towns and villages — that is where the real beauty is.
And so, I found myself on my way to St Moritz, a luxury alpine resort town, in the Engadin region of Switzerland. It is usually at its busiest during the winter months, having hosted the Winter Olympics twice (in 1928 and 1948). Being the off-beat season of summer, I reached, only to see a quiet, sleepy town with empty roads and fewer people than in my neighbourhood, in sight. Being very used to the ¬hordes of people back home, this tranquil little town made for a refreshing change.
For the best way to relax and unwind here, head to Lake St Moritz, a stunning lake, with icy cold water, as blue as the sky above. Walk around the banks of the lake and observe people as they walk their dogs, tourists who just can’t stop clicking pictures of the stunning scenery that lies before them, ducks swimming gently in the still waters of the lake and trees full of chirping sparrows.
Originally renowned for its hot springs dating back to almost 3,500 years, St Moritz was converted into a winter tourist destination by the hotelier, Johannes Badrutt. Slowly, a cluster of elegant five-star properties sprung up along the banks of the lake, evolving this sleepy little village into the luxurious, elegant holiday destination that it is today.
The valleys of the surrounding Engadin region is a paradise for those who love hiking and adventures. For those who love sports, St Moritz offers a variety of sporting activities such as skiing, snowboarding and hiking and much more.
After spending some time at the lake, we headed to the nearby villages in the surrounding Engadin valley and Maloja region. First stop, Silvaplana. A trendy place, frequented by tourists and adventure enthusiasts alike, Silvaplana is the perfect example of nature that is unspoilt. The Silvaplana Lake offers recreational activities for all — from fishing, to windsurfing and kitesurfing in the lakes, there is something for everyone.
Sils, is another famous village in Engadin. It has served as a retreat for various artistes — from writer Nietzche to musician David Bowie, this charming village bowls over each visitor with its peaceful, idyllic vibe. When in Sils, stroll around its lanes, or go on a romantic horse-drawn carriage.
On the foothills of the majestic Mt Pilatus, lies the lakeside city of Lucerne. Close-knit and elegant, Lucerne exudes a very vintage vibe. If you disregard all the signs of 21st century modernity, it is easy to feel as if you are transported back in time —with all the medieval style buildings occupying the heart of the city making it even more evident.
The Old Town is replete with winding, cobbled alleys — lined with shops on both sides, making it easier to get lost while exploring them. When you arrive at the Lake Lucerne, you realise that the life in this city revolves around this shimmering water body, as it sits ensconced with the city surrounded on all sides. The post office, the local train and bus station, a farmer’s market and cafes are all a stone’s throw away from the lake, making it the pulsating centre of the city.
Lake Lucerne is stunning, with beautiful white swans gently gliding over its glistening waters, and brimming over with tourists at any hour of the day. We opted for a half-hour pedal boat ride on the lake, tourists that we were, and it was the most relaxing time we spent in Lucerne.
Right across the lake, is the famous Chapel Bridge (or Kapellbrucke in German), one of the main tourist attractions in Lucerne. A wooden pedestrian bridge built over water, it is one of the oldest wooden bridges in Europe. Although a huge chunk of the bridge was destroyed by a fire that broke out in 1993, it was subsequently restored within a year. What makes it unique, is the paintings that can be found in its interiors, which dates back to the 17th century.
Visiting Mt Pilatus is the next best thing to do when in Lucerne. You can take a gondola ride and a cable car to reach the mountain from Lucerne and from Alpnachstad, you could take the world’s steepest railway. A lot of round-trip tour options can be found at the nearest tourist offices in Lucerne, so you could enjoy it all at one go.
If you have time for a day trip, a visit to Engelberg, home of Mt Titlis, is a must. Barely an hour’s train ride from Lucerne, it is frequented by scores of tourists, a good majority of them being Indians. Although the cost of one ticket is quite steep, the cable car rides (including a ride on the famous Titlis Rotair) all the way to the top, with breathtaking sceneries that are visual treats for our eyes make it well worth the price.