Day 2. Agenda? Titlis Gray Line Tours. Zurich – Kriens – Engelberg – Lucerne – Zurich. Three second google search of those places were lure to what’s simply put as eye-enchanting. For 156 francs per human (halfprice for halflings aged 6-16), the bus picked us up at the hotel, stopping over at Zurich Hauptbahnhof to pickup the rest of us sleep deprived swashbucklers. Seeing as we were early, newly dubbed adventurer of a sister, Zoie, and I decide to take a quick walk towards the unknown.
10 AM at Mattensteg, 20 degrees, fluffy cumulus high in the sky brings the happy photographer in me knowing that nature’s finally given her blessing in form of beautiful natural light. From the Bus drop-off we walk through a nearby bridge, cutting through the Limmat River of Switzerland.
The river cuts through the centre of Zurich, and provides a peaceful complement to the abundant greenery to the park provides. On the other hand, a fountain stands adjacent to the park entrance, abstract, strange, and often the meeting place of the swiss youth in the area.
Clock ticks 11′, and we figured we’d make a decent first impression with the other tourists by being early back. We weren’t. On the other hand our the enthusiastic tour guide in red hops in, Raymond, great guy, and briefs us through the journey. A couple ‘look lefts’ and ‘look rights’ and we catch ourselves saying goodbye to the familiar world of Zurich.
Gray Line or ‘Best of Switzerland’ Tours? According to the hotel both provided equally great packages, however familiar facesmentioned Gray Line was the way to go for the energetic and overly nice tour guide. Raymond was enthusiastic, very accomodating, and knowledgeable of every fun fact known to man. Counts in spanish, tours in english, converses in german, and able to communicate slight arabic, this polyglotic human being made Gray Line an unregrettable choice. Half on hour out, and we’re at Kierns.
The west suburb of Lucerne, the municipality of Kriens rests upon the foot of Mount Pilatus, named after the condemnor of Christ himself, Pontius Pilate. Legend has it his body sunk in a lake in Oberalp on the mountain, and the ghost, supposedly banished in 1585, still appears in the middle of this lake, handsome gray hair, clad with the purple regalia of a judge. Now a cable car runs through the city taking tourists up there how pleasant.
Having dropped off the Pilatus tourists and the much needed 5-minute ‘bathroom break’ I utilised to take photos, I suck it up with my bladder and carry on with the journey to Engelberg, A2 highway through the Kirchenwaldtunnel as we pass through Kriens’ centre overlooking Pilatus.
Exiting the Kirchenwaldtunnel, the beauty of Lucerne exhibits itself through delightful driveways and handsome highways, spectacular sights of the mountain ranges all around, and the stunning sight of Lake Lucerne. An assortment of woahs and wows in seven different languages was heard along the coach.
Raymond, noticing my nearly obsessive habits of standing in odd positions to take photos, offers to take me to the front seat for the ever-so-strategic viewpoint. Crossing through the canton of Nidwalden along the Kantonsstrasse, I was struck in awe, jaw-dropped, drool on the side, the works of a dumbfounded simpleton having hit a view worth more than gold.
With a population of approximately 2000, Dallenwil is 16 square kilometres of sheer grandeur. More than 50% of the area’s used for agricultural purposes, herds of cattle surrounding the green fields, trees of green and yes, red roses too. On the other hand, a couple churches stand along several points of this town, St. Laurentius’ being often visited. Squeezed between Obendorf and Wolfenschiessen, it took another 20 minutes heading up Engelberg
The weather turning rather gray as a cold front decides to take over Obwalden, Raymond decides to hasten the pace of the group as to catch decent visibility heading up the xpress. I take last in line to take a couple shots of this resort town’s alpine atmosphere.
Raymond handles the Cable Car ticketing and in less than 5 minutes, we were issued the appropriate paperwork and begin the 3000 metre panoramic climb above sea level!
The first quarter of the climb overlooked the municipality of Engelberg. Hitting the first 1000 metres to Gerschnialp and the peaks of the Uri Alps asserted its dominance 360 degrees around. According to Titlis Xpress, the Earth’s four seasons can be experienced from the ground up. You be the judge over this majestic view.
At 2000, the Trubsee mountain lake by the East distinctively identifies itself with its aquamarine-turqoise shades along the Wolfenschiessen greenery, the alpine mountain lodge adjacent to it, the panorama of the Jochpass sneaking in right up top.
A thousand more metres up from the Rotair, and we dock up the peak in a fullfledged interior mall catering to those hungry for food, swiss souvenirs, and warmth, the – 8 degree whether directly accessible at the 5th.
Mount Titlis, separating the cantons of Obwalden and Berne, the highest summit north of the Susten Pass. Clad in four layers, gloves, polarised sunglasses and a hungry GoPro, here’s 3000 metres above sea level.
With the brewing upset weather and the coldfront showing no intention of leaving, the CAVOK (aviation term for Ceiling and Visibiltiy OK) alerts were nowhere to be found. Despite all that, the company, the prevailing winds, 12-inch deep powdery-snow (which I’ve never experienced before), and less-than-friendly snowball fights were an absolute joy.
Walking on ahead is the world famous Titlis-Ice Flyer. As aforementioned, the lack of visibility is unsettling, blocking the panorama that was supposedly unfolding. Nontheless, the uncertainty was as a definite thrill, and was easily compensated with candid shots and a grilled cheese.
The glacier park being closed for upset weather conditions, got us proceeding to the Titlis Cliff Walk. Elevation? 3020 metres. Drop? 500 metres. This suspension bridge holds Europe’s record for highest hanging bridge, requiring “nerves as strong as the steel cables that support it.” Needless to say but being literally immersed in Cloud-9 may actually have helped.
Mother nature was relentless, and the dare to head out in such upset weather may have been a result of reckless abandon for sure, but for the spirit of adventure and a bunch of ‘suck it up princess’s got us exposed to the alps on its period. Would I do it again? Absolutely. A couple more toes lost to frostbite, snowballs to the face, and we finally decide it was time to head back to modern civilisation. The Rotair, being the world’s first rotating cable car was our refuge from the hypothermic temperatures.
Add another trasport interchange and we found ourselves on the Titlis Xpress back down, visibility sightly agreeing with us more at this point.
The Uri Alps, more visibile at this point decide it was time to grant more camera fodder, and by the time we were at 1200 metres above sea level, Gerschnalp, the spectacular scenery was ever more vibrant. Cattle grazing, Fürenalp in the distance boasting, one’s gotta thank the Big Man upstairs for a view so unreal.
The sight of Engelberg, reassuring as it was, was a bittersweet sight, a subtle reminder that the exuberant beer-and-skittles of a cable car ride was coming to an end, grey cumulonimbus in the distance in pathetic fallacy of the entire occurence. It was remarkable, completely out of this world. The weather may not have been the most agreeable, but I grant Titlis Xpress a solid 10/10 for such a stunner.
We rendezvous by the lot, hop on the bus, and head back to Lucerne to pickup the Pilatus tourists, very much satisfied and content of the high-altitude adventure that had passed.
“Seems like the guys from Pilatus are gonna be late, you have a free hour in Lucerne!”, exclaims Raymond. A city-excursion outside the given tour package, is it Christmas? A central city in Switzerland, Lucerne is the very nexus of economics, transportation, culture, and media in the confederacy, not to mention the legendary sunsets over the lake.
The Chapel Bridge, forever inculcated as one of the icons of Lucerne, presented a sensational scene over the Reuss, tourists flocking as much as the swans that call the river their habitat.
The most populated city in central switzerland, what a sight it must be for the everyday people to be surrounded by the magnificence of Mount Pilatus, the splendour of the Swiss Alps, and the grandeur picturesque view of Lake Lucerne right by its shore.
Hundreds of kilometres across cantons and municipalities, a thousand phenomenal prospects, and an infinite number of reasons to do it all over. What better way to end a trip than with swiss ice cream along the Reuss.
and ofcourse for your viewing pleasure, a montage of the entire Voyage:
- the Big Man upstairs for such a breathtaking place!
- Mum for being the most persevering, loving mother to walk the Earth
- Dad for the support, and the rest of the family
- Cathay Pacific, for the flights and accomodations
- Raymond, Grey Line tours, and Swissotel Zurich
- Zoie, my sister, for being a blast of an adventure buddy
- ISM Ching Gabriel, and Captain Rohan Waite, for lending a massive hand in the flight back
- All shots were taken by a Canon EOS 750D, and a GoPro Hero 4, and are property of VoyagerZulu.com