by


Bill & Melanie Kasischke

(Music control)

Flights: Kuwait-Frankfurt-Zürich-Munich-London-Frankfurt-Dubai-Kuwait- (Lufthansa)

Day 1 – Frankfurt-Zürich-Zermatt

Our 1:50 am flight from Kuwait to Frankfurt arrived early, so we had plenty of time for our favorite German meal (bratwurst, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut – yep, for breakfast!) before our flight to Zürich.

Upon arrival in Zürich we validated our
Swiss Rail Pass, changed money (no commission on traveler’s checks at the airport) and sent our luggage unaccompanied via train to Zermatt. Luggage transfer is CHF 10 per bag for 30 hour service and 15 CHF for 10 hour service. We had packed everything we’d need for an overnight stay, so we removed our winter coats, hats and gloves from the suitcases and went for the cheaper service, knowing full well we’d most likely get our bags earlier than promised (we did).

We caught the 11:40 am train to Brig, via Bern, Spiez and Thun. We changed trains in Brig where we caught the last leg of the
Glacier Express Train to Zermatt. It took five hours to reach the snow-covered village of Zermatt from Zürich.

We had reserved a room at the Hotel Biner (***), which is located five minutes by foot from the Zermatt train station. The hotel is situated near the river, a mere 10-15 minute walk from the center of the village. The hotel will provide pick-up and drop-off at the train station if you call once you’re there, but we opted to walk.

Hotel Biner
Tel - +41-(0)27/966/5666
Fax - +41-(0)27/966/5667
Email -
info@hotel-biner-zermatt.ch
CH-3920
Zermatt
- open year round -

The Hotel Biner is quiet and comfortable. The multi-lingual staff is friendly, helpful and patient with its non-German, Italian or French speaking guests (i.e. us). The hotel is nicely equipped with an in-house restaurant and bar, indoor and outdoor lounge, sauna, steam room, swimming pool and hot tub. As repeat customers, we were given a free welcome drink coupon upon our arrival.

We had requested room #404 again, an A+ category room with balcony facing the Matterhorn.

Our room had a bathtub, shower and two sinks in the good-sized bathroom, a TV with seven English channels (!), and an in-room safe. Breakfast was included in the nightly rate and consisted of meat, cheese, cereal, bread, jam, fruit, hot beverages, juice, and our personal favorite; warm chocolate filled mini croissants (yummy!).

We paid 100 CHF per person (A+ category room) in the early ski/pre-holiday season. At the time of our visit one Swiss franc = .69 US, so it came to $69.00 per person, per night. The hotel was offering a set menu dinner for an additional 41 CHF per person, per day, but we chose to eat elsewhere.

After getting situated in our hotel, we had dinner at the Walliserkanne Restaurant and walked around the village looking at the Christmas lights before succumbing to fatigue and jet lag.

Day 2 - Zermatt

We woke to a beautiful, clear day. We went to the train station to see if our luggage had arrived from Zurich early (it had). We decided to take advantage of the perfect weather and go to the Klein Matterhorn, which has the
highest cable station in Europe (3,820 meters) and the highest skiing on the European continent. It’s possible to ski from the top of the Klein Matterhorn into Cervina, Italy.

For non-skiers the Klein Matterhorn offers an incredible panoramic view. It also offers an entirely different view of the Matterhorn than from the village or the Gornergrat.

To reach the Klein Matterhorn, we took the gondola to Furi, a cable car to Trocknersteg and then another cable car to the top. The length of the trip depends upon how many skiers are trying to reach the top along with you. Mountain Railways Zermatt



The cost of the journey is 58.50 CHF per person, return (after 25% Swiss Rail Pass discount - about $40). This also covers entry into the
glacier grotto at the top, which is nothing to get excited about.

Because the Klein Matterhorn is the jumping off point for skiing into Zermatt and Italy, there’s not much at the top in the way of services. There’s a tiny snack bar and a small restaurant that was closed the day we were there.

Small world that this is, we met a guy from Texas (Steve) in the glacier grotto. While having a drink with him in the snack bar, we met a couple from North Carolina. The guy had lived in Saudi Arabia (as had we) and had attended boarding school in Switzerland.

On the way back down to Zermatt, we stopped at the Trocknersteg station to watch the skiers and imbibe in alfresco beverages.

After returning to Zermatt, Steve took us to his favorite watering hole, the Hexen. We’d been to the Hexen on a previous visit and didn’t care for it, but this time we had fun. Turns out, it’s a hang-out for the locals and is quite busy with the après ski crowd. While there, small world that it is, we met a Swede (Tord) who works for Chevron/Texaco (as does Bill) and resides in Zermatt – lucky him!

Day 3 – Zermatt

We woke to another beautiful day, so we decided to try some winter hiking. We took the trail to Z’mutt which begins near the Zermatt gravel quarry, and then leads uphill to the right.

The trail was nicely groomed, and it took us one hour (all uphill) to reach the tiny village of Z’mutt. We had hoped to stop for lunch, but nothing was open. We continued on to Furi (30 minutes) where we had a drink at the Restaurant Gitz-Gadi in the Silvana Hotel, before going to the Restaurant Furri, which turned out to be very popular with the skiers and quite busy. We then walked back down to Zermatt, which took about 45 minutes and involved dodging a lot of sleds.

After using our hotel’s hot tub, sauna and steam room, we had dinner at
Spycher in the Hotel Aristella. We were told they had chocolate fondue on the menu, which I was eager to try. Unfortunately, we found the food disappointing and overpriced. The chocolate fondue was okay, but not what this chocoholic expected.

Day 4 - Zermatt

After checking our e-mail at the Postli Pub in the village (4 CHF for 15 minutes – about $2.80 – coin operated), we hiked to the
Edelweiss Pension. The pension, which is only open from July to September, sits high above Zermatt and offers beautiful views into the valley.

This is a steep, quad-busting trail in the best of conditions, but significantly more difficult in the snow. It took us an hour and 15 minutes to get to the top and 50 minutes to hike back down. We had hoped to hike past the pension, but the trail was completely blocked by snow.

After returning to Zermatt, we walked to the Klein Matterhorn cable station and took the gondola to Furi. We then walked to the Hotel Silvana where we had lunch at the Restaurant Gitz-Gadi, which had piqued our interest the day before.

Upon our return to Zermatt, we took our luggage to the train station and sent it ahead of us to Mürren, so it would be waiting for us when we arrived the following afternoon.

Dining recommendations - Zermatt

Restaurant Walliserkanne - located in the village - varied menu with Italian and Swiss specialties - excellent cheese fondue with herbs, rosti, and good apple strudel with warm vanilla sauce. Our dinner for two with drinks and shared dessert came to 62 CHF (about $43).

Broken Pizzeria – located next to the Post Hotel in the village. We suggest the four cheese pizza with garlic. Our dinner for two without drinks came to 34 CHF (about 23.50).

Dining recommendations – Furi (above Zermatt)

Restaurant Furri - good French onion soup, potent Jagertee – our lunch for two including drinks came to CHF 37 (about $25.50)

Restaurant Gitz-Gadi in the Hotel Silvana – good potato soup, good pork steak with potatoes and mixed vegetables – our lunch for two including drinks came to CHF 44 (about $30).

Day 5 – Zermatt - Mürren

After checking out of our hotel, we took the 10:10 am train to Brig, where we caught a train to Interlaken Ost via Spiez. From Interlaken we took a train to Lauterbrunnen. We put our carry-on bags into a locker at the train station in Lauterbrunnen (3 CHF for 24 hours) and went in search of some lunch. Because it was low season, most of the restaurants in Lauterbrunnen were closed, and those that were open, stopped serving lunch at 2 pm. We knew most places in Mürren would be closed as well, so we decided to have lunch at the only place we could find – the Horner Pub, which serves warm “snacks” throughout the day. I can’t recommend the food here, but it works in a pinch.

Note: The
Valley Hostel in Lauterbrunnen has a coin-operated laundry and the least expensive coin-operated Internet Station we have found in the area (5 CHF – about $3.45 for 20 minutes).

After retrieving our bags, we took the
funicular up to Grutschalp, and the train to Mürren. At the Mürren train station, we collected the luggage we had sent from Zermatt, put a 20 CHF deposit on a huge sled, and pulled our luggage to our hotel.

Hotel Alpenruh
Tel - +41(0)33/856/8800
Fax - +41(0)33/856/8888
Email -
alpenruh@schilthorn.ch
CH-3825
Mürren

Once again, we had reserved a room at the Hotel Alpenruh, which is the furthest hotel from the Mürren train station, but the closest hotel to the Schilthornbahn (cable car to the
Schilthorn). It’s also the only hotel in Mürren open year round and the only hotel open at the time of our visit.

The Alpenruh is a 10-15 minute walk from the train station and as far as we can tell, doesn’t offer any assistance with bags, so be prepared to lug your own.

Alternatively, you can arrive in Mürren by taking a bus from Lauterbrunnen to
Stechelberg, then taking the cable car up to Mürren. This route deposits you at the doorstep of the Hotel Alpenruh. NOTE: Mürren is car-free.

The Hotel Alpenruh (***) is a moderately priced hotel with nicely appointed (albeit small) rooms. All rooms have spectacular unobstructed mountain views. A buffet breakfast consisting of meat, cheese, bread, jam, cereal, juice, fruit, and hot beverages, is included in the 90 CHF per person price (about $62). Dinner is provided for an additional 30 CHF per person, per day (set menu, half board). Alternatively, you can forgo the half board and order a la carte from the menu.

The hotel employees speak German, French and English. This hotel seems to cater to Americans and Brits, and therefore, English is widely spoken.

We’ve stayed here before and we’re always given the same room (#42). Our only complaint about the hotel previously was the abundance of flies in the restaurant and breakfast room. However, this was not a problem in December!

After dinner in the Alpenruh restaurant, we took a walk through the village. It was very peaceful and nicely decorated for the holidays.

Day 6 – Mürren

After breakfast we decided to do some sledding. With sleds our hotel provided free of charge, we made six runs down the road between Mürren and
Gimmelwald (the village directly below Mürren). The road was snowpacked, void of traffic, and made for excellent sledding. We had a complete blast! Upon reaching Gimmelwald, we’d take the cable car back up to Mürren (free with Swiss Rail Pass) and do it all over again. We were able to time our decent so that we’d reach the cable car station in Gimmelwald a few minutes before the car went back up to Murren, which was running at 30 minute intervals.

After three hours of sledding, we hobbled to the Schilthorn Taverne in the Schilthorn cable station next door to our hotel. After recovering with a hot lunch, we bought one way tickets for the
Allmendhubel funicular (3.7 CHF per person after 25% Swiss Pass discount – about $2.50).

At the top of the Allmendhubel, we found more great sledding opportunities, but we’d left the sleds in Mürren. We walked back to Mürren via the Panoramaweg, which took about 45 minutes. This is normally a nice, easy trail, but it was covered in ice, so the walk back was a bit treacherous.

The Panoramaweg ends near the Mürren train station, so we took the 3:30 pm train to Grutschalp, the funicular to Lauterbrunnen and another train to Interlaken Ost. We walked around Interlaken for awhile, before returning to Mürren, where we had dinner at the Schilthorn Taverne.

Day 7 – Mürren

Sore and bruised from the previous day’s sledding adventure, we borrowed the luggage sled from our hotel and took our luggage to the train station where we checked it through to the Zurich airport. We then took the train to Wengen, hoping to take the cable car to Männlichen and then hike to Kleine Scheidegg. Unfortunately, the trail between Männlichen and Kleine Scheidegg was closed due to snow. Instead, we took a train from Wengen to Interlaken Ost, then a train to Grindelwald. In Grindelwald we bought a ticket to Kleine Scheidegg (38 CHF per person after 25% Swiss Pass discount – about $26 each).

It’s faster and more efficient to go to Kleine Scheidegg directly from Wengen, but because the trains were only running every hour, we decided to go the back way from Grindelwald.

Once in Kleine Scheidegg, we had an alfresco lunch at Rostizzeria, took a short walk, then returned to Wengen. In Wengen we stopped for drinks at the Rocks Café and used the Internet at the Information Center (1 CHF for three minutes - most expensive place we found in Switzerland) before returning to Mürren.

Dining recommendations – Mürren

Hotel Alpenruh & Schilthorn Taverne (located in the Schilthorn cable station) - both restaurants have similar menus, but the Schilthorn Taverne is slightly cheaper. Guests of the Hotel Alpenruh can charge meals to their rooms from either restaurant, both of which have good salads, soup, Swiss specialties, and excellent white gluhwein. Note: These were also the only two restaurants open in Mürren at the time of our visit. Our meals ranged from 22-40 CHF ($15-28) for the two of us (a typical meal consisted of barley soup and/or salad, beer and gluhwein).

Dining recommendations – Kleine Scheidegg

The Rostizzeria - this is one of our favorite places to eat. It offers outdoor seating with unbeatable views of the Monch and Eiger. The restaurant has an outdoor grill, where you can watch the cooks prepare bratwurst, rosti, sauerkraut and other local specialties.

Day 8 – Mürren-Zürich-Munich

We checked out of our Mürren hotel and caught the 10:30 am train to Grutschalp, the connecting funicular to Lauterbrunnen and the 11:05 am train to Interlaken Ost. In Interlaken we caught the 11:39 am train to Zürich, via Spiez, Thun and Bern. We arrived at the Zürich airport at 2:16 pm, where we hung out in the Star Alliance lounge until our 6 pm flight to Munich.

Upon our arrival at the Munich airport, we bought one way tickets to the Munich Hauptbahnhof (7.50 euros each).

We checked into the Hotel Amba, which is ideally located directly across the street from the train station. We were given room #609, which wasn’t near as big or quiet as the room we had last year (#412).

Hotel Amba
Arnulfstrasse 20
Tel - 089/545140 ~ Fax - 089/54514555
Email -
info@hotel-amba.de
80335
Munich
105 Euros for two including breakfast

Breakfast was included with the room and consisted of meat, cheese, bread, jam, cereal, juices, various warm beverages and champagne (!) We still like this hotel and wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again, but we now know to request our room of choice in advance. You just can’t beat the location if you’re traveling by train. The rooms have soundproof windows, so train noise is not a problem.

Day 9 – Munich – Prien am Chiemsee

We bought a Bayern train ticket, which is good for unlimited travel in Bavaria for up to five people on non-IC or IR trains. The Bayern ticket is 21 Euros and is good from 9 am until 3 am the following day.

We took the 10:33 am train to the harbor town of Prien (one hour from Munich) to visit the only palace of King Ludwig II (
Schloss Herrenchiemsee), that we had not yet seen.

Once at the Prien am Chiemsee train station, we followed the signs to the
Chiemsee Bahn station hoping to catch the steam train to the ferry terminal. However, the steam train wasn’t operating the day we were there, so we followed the tracks to the ferry terminal, which took about 20 minutes. We stopped for lunch at Luitpold am See (good potato soup), located right next to the ferry terminal, while we waited for the next ferry. Once on the island of Herreninsel, it’s a 20 minute walk to the König Schloss.

The cost of the ferry was 5.50 Euros each, return. Admission into the palace, including a guided tour was also 5.50 Euros each. We took the tour in German, as there are only two English tours per day (11:45 am and 2:25 pm), and we didn’t want to wait around for an hour.

After the tour, we backtracked to Prien am Chiemsee, where we caught the train back to Munich. Once in Munich, we took the S-Bahn (also covered by the Bayern ticket) to
Marienplatz, where we had dinner at the Hofbräuhaus, before exploring the Christkindlmarkt.

Day 10 – Munich-Garmisch-Partenkirchen-Mittenwald-Augsburg

We bought a “Happy Weekend” ticket for 28 Euros (good for travel within Bavaria for up to 5 adults). We took a train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen so Mel could stop at the Käthe Wohlfahrt store. After lunch at Pizzeria Da Renzo, (our favorite Garmisch establishment) we took the train to Mittenwald, where we did some shopping and watched the locals set up for the next day’s Christkindlmarkt. We spent four days in Mittenwald last Christmas and barely recognized it without two feet of snow.

We then returned to Munich, and hurriedly caught a train to Augsburg. The train was standing room only, but fortunately, it was non-stop, and it only took 40 minutes to reach Augsburg. Once there, we wandered around and found several small holiday markets, before we stumbled upon the major Christkindlmarkt at the Rathausplatz.

- - - - - - - -

We bought a few Christmas ornaments, sampled the curry wurst and gluhwein and then made our way back to the train station. Unfortunately, some German trains are not as reliable as Swiss trains. As luck would have it, several trains were running late, including the train to Munich. Replacement trains were brought in on different tracks, but these changes were announced in German, so we were a bit lost. We ended up following the crowd and eventually found our way back to Munich.

Dining recommendation - (Garmisch-Partenkirchen)

Pizzeria Da Renzo, Rathausplatz 6 - we’ve frequented this restaurant on previous visits to Garmisch and we highly recommend it. The friendly waiters speak Italian, German and English. It’s a great place. Two really big “individual” pizzas, ½ liter of beer and ¼ liter of wine came to 18.50 euros, the best buy of the trip.

Dining recommendations – Munich

The Hofbräuhaus, Am Platzl 9 - We’ve long been fans of this place. We found ourselves in the restaurant on a very busy Friday night, surrounded by locals, eating, drinking and having a good old time. We shared our table with a German couple and enjoyed a traditional hearty German meal of bratwurst, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and some wonderfully potent “clear out your sinuses” horseradish washed down with lots of good wheat beer. Dinner for two with drinks and shared dessert was 28 euros.

Day 11 - Munich - London

We checked out of our Munich hotel, took the train to the airport and caught our flight to London.

A word about Swiss Rail Passes

We usually purchase the
Swiss Saverpass, which is valid for unlimited travel on most rail, boat and postbus lines throughout Switzerland. The Saverpass is for 2-5 people traveling together and is available for 4, 8, 15, 21 or 30 days of travel. The pass entitles the purchaser to discounts (usually 25%) on lines not covered by the pass such as; the train between Wengen-Kleine Scheidegg, the cable car from Wengen–Mannlichen, the gondola from Mannlichen-Grund-Grindelwald, the cable car to the Schilthorn, the train to the Jungfrau, etc.

Railways of the Jungfrau region

The pass also covers some of the most scenic trains in Switzerland including the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express. Most scenic trains require a reservation (particularly in the high season - subject to a reservation fee) and some are subject to a supplement. For anyone planning to travel extensively in Switzerland, the Swiss Pass and Swiss Saverpass are the way to go. These passes and more are available online at:
www.railpass.com.

Prices in Switzerland – December 2002 (at the time of our visit one Swiss franc = .69 US)

Glass of local wine – 3.50 CHF – ($2.41)
Bottle of wheat beer – 7 CHF – ($4.83)
Plate of rosti with ham, cheese and egg – 18 CHF ($12.42)
Cheese fondue for one – 22 CHF – ($15.18)
Large Lindt chocolate bar at grocery store - 1.80-2.50 CHF – ($1.24-1.72)
1.5 liter of water at grocery store - .95 CHF – (.65)
Large individual pizza – 12 CHF and up – ($8.28 and up)
Half board supplement – 30-41 CHF per person, per day – ($21.00-28.00)
Big bag of gummy bears at grocery store – 2.30 CHF – ($1.58)
16 oz bottle of soda at a grocery store – 1.25 CHF – ($.86)
Internet access – 5 CHF per 15-20 minutes – ($3.45)
Ice cream dessert in restaurant – 7-10 CHF – ($4.83-$6.90)
Pork snitzel with pommes frites – 17 CHF ($11.73)
Bowl of French onion soup – 8.5 CHF ($5.85)
Jagertee – 5.50 CHF ($3.79)
Chocolate fondue for two – 18 CHF ($12.42)
Pork steak, potatoes and veggies – 22 CHF ($15.18)
Luggage transfer from any station/airport to any station/airport within the country – 10 CHF for 30 hour service, 15 CHF for 10 hour service ($6.90 - $10.35)
8 Day Swiss Saverpass - $384.00 for two – purchased outside of Switzerland

Prices in Germany – December 2002 (at the time of our visit one Euro = $1.07)

Gluhwein at Christmas market – 2 euros + 2.5 euro refundable cup deposit ($2.14 -2.67)
Curry wurst at Christmas market – 3 euros ($3.21)
Donner kabab at train station imbiss – 3 euros ($3.21)
Public toilet in Augsburg – 80 cents (.85)
Bayern train ticket (good for travel from 9 am – 3 am throughout Bavaria for up to 5 adults) – 21 euros ($22.47)
Train ticket from Munich airport to Hauptbahnhof – 7.50 euros ($8.02)
Ferry to Konig Schloss – 5.50 euros per person ($5.88)
Entrance into Konig Schloss – 5.50 euros per person ($5.88)
Traditional German dinner for two at Hofbrauhaus with drinks and shared dessert – 28 euros – ($29.96)
Christmas ornaments at Kathe Wohlfart store - 2.50 euros – 25 euros ($2.67-$26.75)
Lindt chocolate bar at Hertie’s – 1.75 euros ($1.87)

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