We had a really smashing time in Wengen and we remember it till this day. Just the thought of all that crisp air makes me smile. But something else makes me smile too. In a different way.
From Zurich, we checked out of the Alexander Guesthouse and pulled our luggages to Zurich Hauptbahnhof. We were there for the 10am train from Zurich to Wengen. The funniest incident (funny now that we think about it, truly-frightening-and-I-nearly-peed-in-my-pants scary back then) happened and I must share this with you or I am not doing this incident justice.
If you are eating right now, please stop.
My sister had been having the worst diarrhoea of her life since we flew from Singapore to Munich a few days ago. What was amazing to me was that she never said much about it till we reached Zurich (that was 4 days into our holiday already!) and she had to go to the toilet for her diarrhoea 4 times in half an hour. I didn’t think this was NORMAL and she asked me to follow her to the bathroom. I happily went along and she showed me what came out of her other end and into the toilet bowl – it was just nasty greenish fluid mixed with bits and pieces of white stuff floating around. I peered very close to the toilet bowl and really looked at the white and green stuff.
My jaw dropped open and I looked at her and asked – “are you still alive? how come you can still walk and shop at H&M just now? This is not good.” I am no medical expert but when green things come out of your butt and you cannot stop it, I don’t think this is NORMAL. She was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing and that scares me. I have always been more of a worrier than she is but this is really strange.
We discussed our options over coffee after that and we decided that she should probably go see the doctor before we get onto the train to Wengen. From what I have read about Wengen, it is high up in the mountains and possibly not the best place to hunt for a doctor then. We went to the Zurich Hauptbahnhof after lunch and found that there is a private medical store that opens at 7am the next day for walk in patients. We had a plan..
It was to be the 1st one to hit the medical store at 7am the next day. In reality, we reached at 830am. And we thought oh, plenty of time to see the doctor and buy our breakfasts and stroll to the platform to catch the 10am train to Wengen. Being the control freak that I am, I assigned the breakfast buying to my mum and my husband and I accompanied my sister to the doctor.
Once in the clinic, I was astounded by the sheer number of patients and we patiently waited. Initially.
When it reached 9am, all the tiny alarm bells suddenly went off in my mind and I went to the counter to beg them to let us go first as we had a train to catch at 10am. I think we scared them with our desperation. The nurses spoke to each other in German and let us through to the next doctor. She was really professional and examined my sister very thoroughly. She then wanted her to go for a blood test.
Our eyes nearly popped out as it was just diarrhoea and we had a train to catch! We tried to reason with her but with her mild mannerisms and strict tone, my sister had no choice but to go ahead. I told her once more we had a train to catch. She assured us that we will be on time. The blood test was immediate. She wanted to find out if it was something she contracted on the plane. It turned out to be a virus and she gave us prescription for the medicine. All in all, we took 45 minutes with her and her team. They were all super efficient and very kind to us.
In Singapore, let me share with you, the doctors barely take a second glance at you and you are lucky if you spend more than 3 minutes with any general practitioner at the clinic. If you have diarrhoea in Singapore, all they give are charcoal pills. Or they refer you to a specialist. And you collect your medicine right at the clinic itself when you pay at the cashier. The doctor checks the medication and you pay for both the consultation and the medicine together when you leave.
So imagine our shock when we have to go next door to the pharmacy to get the medicine! Culture shock! We ran to the counter and told them we have 10 minutes before our train leaves. At this point, my mum rushed in to hurry us and I seriously wanted to have a nervous breakdown there! I told her to go to the train first with the luggages and we will meet them on the train. I am seriously freaking out as I silently counted down the seconds.
We managed to get to the front of the line as everyone in front realised that the 2 singaporean females were speaking in hurried tones and something must be wrong. They kindly let us get our medicine first and I paid without getting my change.
After that, we ran out of the clinic to the platform. And man, I have never ran that FAST before!!!
My sister ran way faster than me and stood at the train door to scream at me while I sprinted and carried my legs that felt like lead. We jumped onto the train and I screamed – where are the luggages??!! I turned around and my mum and husband were there with luggages, sandwiches and coffee.
OH MY GOD, what a rush.
Thinking about it now makes me laugh but seriously at that point in time, we really counted down the minutes and I tried not to think about peeing.
We took the 10am train from the station and it was one of the best 4 hours of my life. To know we ‘caught’ the virus in my sister, caught the train and was on our way to beautiful Wengen was a relief.
I was pretty confused when I was planning my trip from Zurich to Wengen. I was trying to book the Goldenpass Panoramic train and finally figured out that Zurich is not on the Golden Pass route. The Golden Pass route runs from Luzern to Montreux via Interlaken Ost and Zweisimmen. So you take any train to get from Zurich to Luzern then you change there and hop onto the Goldenpass Panoramic train. The attraction with these trains is that the GP has large, panorama-sized windows.
For us to reach Wengen from Zurich, we took the train from Zurich to Luzern to Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, and there you change again for Wengen.
From our experience, the connections are timed to be entirely workable and you simply come off a train and head for the platform/track number from which the next train leaves. The agent in Zürich wrote those numbers down for us and we quickly learnt to look them up on the board that you soon will be familiar with. The Swiss trains are so incredibly organized and, on the whole, punctual to the minute, you will be amazed. We don’t have trains in Singapore so we are incredibly impressed by how well run the whole train system is in Switzerland. Seat reservations are not required and usually not necessary. Before our trip, I have asked about this and found that reservations are really not a must.
If you have second class tickets and the posters and announcements say that second class will be in sectors C and D – look above you on the platform and you will see big letter signs. Stand near the C and D signs and when the train comes to a halt, the second-class carriages will be in front of you. Pick one that looks less crowded, but get on quick – trains do not stop for long.
There is no neat queue or line forming, people crowd around the door, let those leaving get off and just go with the flow. It feels perfectly peaceful. There are even others who helped the elderly or mothers get on with their luggages or prams.
Then you walk along the insides and look for vacant seats. Then you relax, breathe and take out your sandwiches. And breathe again.
This is what we saw along the way, on the trains:
This was the train we took from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen.
First opened in 1893 the Wengernalpbahn is a cog wheel railway, in green and yellow colors. The rail service from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen railway station runs daily from early in the morning until very late at night and is the most intensively operated section of the Wengernalpbahn. There are approximately 40 services between Lauterbrunnen to Wengen every day (www.wikipedia.com).The hotel that we were staying in, Alpenrose Hotel, sent this little electric van with the porter to meet us at the station.
When we saw this tiny blue van, we were so amused. The porter was incredibly polite and helpful and we loaded our luggage and off we went, down the road and onwards to the hotel! When it went down a steep slope, we all held our breath. It was fun!
As the van turned a corner, this was what we saw.
It was as beautiful as the pictures on the website showed and we were excited to touch down, after 4 hours of various train rides. After a smooth check-in, we went to our rooms.
As much as we were a little tired from all the train-changing, we did not want to waste any time and we went out to explore. We took the electric van to the ‘city centre’ and strolled around.
We really did not have much planned for that day as we wanted to just explore. We saw this cable car station and decided to take it up. It goes to the top of Mannlichen.
When we saw this restaurant I suddenly remembered that we have not had lunch. My sister and husband went around exploring while I went straight to Berghaus Mannlichen.
The 2 of them saw this helicopter and charged forward to snap pictures.
After that we played in the snow. Or rather what remains of the snow.
We had a great time just walking around enjoying the view.
On our way back to the cable car for our descend, my husband and I had the wild idea of walking down instead of taking the cable car. If you notice, he was wearing slippers and I was wearing sandals. We asked around and this lady shook her head violently and said that we are crazy to venture down that way. She said we are not properly attired and the weather could change at any second. She commented to her mother (who was 99 by the way!) and she turned around to look at us. After that we felt really dumb to even suggest that. How ignorant of us. And how clueless we were of the dangers of harsh weather.
We went back to the hotel for dinner. The hotel had a half-board system where we could couple dinner with our stay there at a cheaper rate. We realised that almost all of the hotel guests took this option and we tried it too. It was a 4 course meal and there was a buffet spread as well.
Most of the hotel guests go hiking bright and early in the morning and they come back at about mid afternoon for a nap and later dinner at 6pm. What a life! No wonder people here live to 99 peacefully and beautifully…
It was already 8pm when we finished our meal and we ventured out to the gardens of the hotel.
The service at this hotel was exceptional -warm, very friendly and knowledgeable. It is a family-run business and the father is the chef! It is one of the best hotels that we have been to. I guess having views like this is half the battle won.
We had a superb time in Wengen and we will definitely make it back here one day.
Without diarrhoea, I hope.