From chocolates to impressive peaks

From chocolates to impressive peaks

KT Photojournalist Neeraj Murali shares his experience of Switzerland's refreshing and untouched natural escapes

By Neeraj Murali

Published: Sun 28 Apr 2019, 9:45 AM

Last updated: Sun 28 Apr 2019, 12:34 PM

It was back in 1998 when I ate my very first Swiss chocolate, Toblerone. It was only years later that I found out that its peak is the Matterhorn mountain in Zermatt, Switzerland. Little did I know then that one day I would get a chance to relive my childhood fascination by standing barely few feet away from the real peak.
Zermatt is an ideal destination to visit during the winter and summer, with each season offering something different. Swiss Air operates direct flights from Dubai to Zurich. One of the easiest ways to reach Zermatt is to take the train from Zurich airport.
The train station is integrated within the airport. Make sure you take the Swiss Travel Pass. The pass lets you make unlimited trips by train, bus, and boat along with free admission to more than 500 museums throughout Switzerland. The train ride to Zermatt is roughly three hours with one transfer in between if travelling from Zurich.
The town of Zermatt has three main viewpoints - the Rothon, Gornergrat and Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Matterhorn is a car-free town, so one can either walk or hire battery-powered taxis. A short distance from the Zermatt station is Hotel Alex, where I checked in. Soon after, I'd left for Rothon station.
The funicular and the gondola lifts ascend 3,103 metres above sea level at Rothon. On the way to the top, you can see stunning landscapes of the Matterhorn and its surroundings.
As the sun started to set, I walked through the historical village of Hinterdorf, the oldest part of Zermatt. Barns, stables and storage areas that were built between the 15th and 19th century are still intact.
The following morning I went on an early morning walk to the top of the village to view the sunrise and took the gondolas up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
A 40-minute ride to the top at 3,883 metres above sea level, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise has the highest mountain railway station in Europe.
Make sure you get the VIP gondola lift, which has a transparent floor. After the scenic ascend to the top, I was greeted with a 360-degree view of Matterhorn and various other summits.
Dress warmly for cold weather as temperatures drop below 0 degrees Celsius. After soaking in all of the Swiss Alps, I took the gondola back to Furi station to stop by Gitz-Gädi for some lunch.
The walk to the restaurant from the station is so scenic, you will probably forget about lunch. Take that from a foodie himself!
Surrounded by massive snow-capped mountains I took the highest altitude cogwheel train to Gorenergrat. There is a space observatory at the top for space geeks. On the way back to Zermatt, I got off at Findelbach station and walked along a trail through the forest.
The next morning, I checked out of the hotel and headed to the station to ride the Glacier Express for my next destination, Lugano. Glacier Express, you see, is not your average train.
Its route is specifically designed to take passengers through the most scenic areas of Switzerland. With huge panoramic windows and fine dining, it is the best experience one can ask for.
Diving through 91 tunnels and traversing 291 bridges, some four hours on the crimson-and-white adventure train took me across the Alpine chain. Soon after, I reached Lugano. Due to its close proximity to Italy, there is a huge Italian influence.
I checked into International Au Lac Historic Lakeside Hotel. The city of Lugano is in Switzerland's Italian-speaking Ticino region by the lake. Take a walk through the city to experience Swiss-Mediterranean mix of cultures.
The next morning, I took a boat ride from Lugano-Paradiso to Capolago-Riva San Vitale and then a cogwheel train ride to Monte Generoso.
Monte Generoso railway was inaugurated in 1890, which makes it one of the first cog wheel railways built in the Swiss Alps. Monte Generoso, which means 'the mountain that is generous', is named aptly as the train ride has generous panoramic views. It does not stop there.
Once I reached the top, I visited the Fiore di Pietra, an octagonal shaped building created by the famous architect Mario Botta with amazing 360 degree views. After a quick lunch, I headed to FoxTown, an outlet mall that has 160 stores and is a good place to shop for tourists on a budget.
My trip concluded by visiting Swissminiatur. In an area of 14,000-metre square, there are over 120 replica models of the most important buildings, and landmarks of Switzerland. A 3,560-metres long model railway network with 18 different trains runs through the park.
The main impression of the trip for me was the ease of travel across Switzerland, and of course, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, which is indeed a paradise.

Quick notes
Swiss Travel Pass for 3 days:
CHF 232 (Dh834 approx.) for second class
CHF 369 (Dh1,334 approx) for first class
Glacier Express
Gornergrat cogwheel train
Monte Generoso railway
Accommodation: Hotel Alex
Food: Rothorn Ristorante Pizzeria, Restaurant Gitz-Gädi and Schäferstube 
Accommodation: International au Lac Historic Lakeside Hotel
Food: Ristorante SEVEN LUGANO
Shopping: FoxTown 

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