Saturday, September 24, 2016

Switzerland Diaries - Day 2 : The DDLJ trail

My excitement level on day 2 was super high as we were going to do the much awaited Golden Pass route and relive the DDLJ days. Having grown up in India in 90s on the staple diet of Bollywood, DDLJ has always been the dessert in the menu. I have seen the movie over and over again and have probably not left any chance to throw the dialogue 'Bade bade deshon mein aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hai senorita..'. So having put on the best dress that I had carried with me, we checked out of our B&B after a small talk with the owner Veronic, and rushed towards to Montreux Les Plances station. The Golden Pass train was to leave at 944 am from Montruex and we wanted to reach in time so as to get the perfect seat. As soon as we reached the Les Plances station, the husband realised that there was no train to Montreux at that hour so we rushed back to the B&B to catch a bus but the bus had just left. By this time I was panicking so we called Veronic who assured us that if we walk down the road, we would reach the station in time. 

Now normally the husband would keep away from anything remotely connected to SRK but me being an ardent fan and also a bit annoyed at the lack of planning, he kept walking. Soon we were at the station, and we saw the Golden Pass Line train arriving at the station. 

Golden Pass Panoramic Line

Golden Pass Classic Train

The Golden Pass Line has three legs but we were planning to do Montreux to Zweisimmen today. You can take the Golden Pass Classic train that offers a retro style experience. The other option is to take the panoramic ones which havewindows right upto the top offering a full view of the amazing scenery outside. We chose the latter. Whichever one you choose, its important to check the timetable and plan the day accordingly. We had a six day pass for Switzerland, so we did not have to buy a separate ticket for this. However you can also book the seat in advance to make sure you are assured of a window seat or the seats right at the front of the train. The lady at the booking counter kindly advised us that we could save some money and yet get window seats if we arrived on time so we took the chance. 

Having gone back and forth in the coaches and swapping seats two or three times, we finally settled on a unreserved window seat. Starting with Montruex, the train climbs up the lake and slowly moves into the Alpine forests and the picturesque villages with pretty houses loaded with flowers. The whole scenery appears as if God has splashed bright vibrant colours on his canvas -  divine blue sky, fresh green landscapes, the grey mountains with snow capped peaks, wood brown houses and bright yellow, pink, purple, red flowers, it all unfolds slowly in front of your eyes transporting you to fairy tale landscapes. This really is the best of Switzerland with the mountains, the villages, the rushing waterways and then the views of the terraced vineyards with the Alps defining the horizon. An absolute treat to the eyes.

You can get down at any of the stops, go around the town and take the next train ahead. Montbovan is a very pretty town on the route. You can also make a stop in Rossinière to see the Grand Chalet with its 113 windows that look out over this beautiful region or get down at Château-d’Oex and take a hot air balloon and rise up to the sky. The names of the villages then change from French into German as we move along. 

Having got an amazing seat in the panoramic train, we decided to go all the way upto Zweisimmen, keep our luggage in the lockers and then make our way back on the DDLJ trail. Remeber to carry coins else you will not be able to use the station lockers.
When we reached Zweisimmen, we stowed away the bags in the locker and I was all ready for the photo shoot. My research on the internet told me that this is the place where Kajol aka Simran misses her train to Zurich because of SRK aka Raj delays her at the platform shop while she buys cow bell thus starting the epic road trip towards Zurich. I also tried to enact running after a train, although the train was pretty much stationery and the husband was pretty embarrassed by my behaviour. I also took a photo of the shop outside the station where Kajol goes to buy the cowbell (although I very much think that it could have been any shop in whole of Switzerland). We also went around the town which was absolutely beautiful - lush green landscapes and eye popping flowers around the wooden chalets.

Missing the train

Shop near the station where Kajol goes to buy a cow bell

Around the town

Next stop on our journey was Saanen. A significant romantic part of the movie has been shot in the the beautiful villages of Saanen & Gstaad.  The St. Mauritius Church in Saanen features in the famous scene where Rahul and Simran pray together but apparently the interior of the church was shot at the St. Grat Church church in the village of Montbovon (which we skipped).

Church at Saanen

Saanen village is also absolutely stunning, and that is evident from the station. Some quick search on internet told me that this is the platform where Raj and Simran wait to catch the next train to reach Zurich.  The place on the right hand side of the station is where Kajol sits and is busy sending post cards back home. I rested there for a while reminiscing that scene.

Then there is a airstrip almost adjacent to the railway station. This features in the “Mere Khwabon mein jo aaye” song where SRK runs behind a airplane. I have to say that the husband, who absolutely despises SRK, was anything but reluctant to re-enact the scene but after much persistence and persuasion, he agreed to pose with a airplane on the strip.

The next destination was the bridge which is also situated right next to the railway station. This is the place were the most favourite 'Palat Palat Palat' scene was shot. We took several photos on the bridge and I also requested the husband to call out 'Palat' as I walked away but I kind of turned back and looked the first time itself lest he changed his mind to stop me the third time.  This bridge also appears in 'Tujhe dekha toh ye jaana sanam' when Kajol dances in a long black dress with SRK in a black suit.

"Agar ye tujhe pyaar karti hai toh ye palat ke dekhegi"

If you love walking trails then you can also walk from Saanen to Gstaad and its a pretty walk along the river. We didnt know that at the time and we took the train instead. Gstaad is a popular ski destination but we were in Switzerland in August and the only thing on my mind that day as DDLJ. Its a small yet charming town and you can go around the town probably in an hour or so. The main promenade is a car-free one and is lined up with amazing gourmet restaurants and touristy shops, a bit overpriced as well. Husband and I were starving by now so we decided to sit down and have a lunch before I continue my mad chase around DDLJ.
Part of the song 'Zara Sa Jhoom Loon Main' was shot on this promenade where Kajol runs around a bit drunk. It also features towards the end of the song where both of them return in a horse carriage. Also on the street is the Early Beck shop where Kajol turns the shop upside down creating a havoc.

Gstaad Promenade

 Gstaad Promenade

Early Beck Shop

We went around this beautiful town soaking the Alpine beauty before we made our way back to Zweisimmen. The natural beauty along this entire route from Montruex to Zweisimmen is far beyond what words can express and if you are in Switzerland, you cannot miss this trail, if not for love of DDLJ, then atleast for the love of Switzerland.

We picked up our luggage and took the Golden Pass train along the next trail - Zweisimmen to Interlaken. Interlaken is a very popular tourist destination and the main gateway to the popular mountains of the Bernese Oberland region. Its surrounded by lakes - Lake Thun and Lake Brienz and it seemed to be a fairly big town as we walked around the main street. There are major photo opportunities with stunning Jungfrau mountain in the background. Along this road you can also spot the famous Victoria Jungfrau hotel which now even has a 'Yash Chopra' suit.

In front of this hotel is also shot the famous scene where SRK plays a prank on Kajol (after the ruk ja o dil diwane night) and sprays water on her face while giving her a rose.

View of the Junfrau mountain

This is the place where SRK plays a prank on Kajol

Victoria Junfrau Hotel

This was the end of day 2 as we were super exhausted running, jumping and going around soaking the beauty. We had a swiss speaciality for dinner called 'Rosti' and made our way to our hotel.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Switzerland Diaries - Day 1 : Montreux

As soon as the train leaves the Geneva station, the calm and tranquil blue water of the Lake Geneva peeks through the train window. The train pretty much goes on the periphery of the lake via Lausanne. Throughout the one hour odd journey time, you can see the glimpses of the fresh blue water of lake Geneva either right besides the rail tracks or sometimes far away hidden in the trees and pretty houses of the towns and villages passing by, but you hardly lose sight of the lake. This is when you start the realise the sheer magnanimity of the lake.There is no surprise that this is the largest water body in Switzerland.

We were quite settled in our seat, but the train slid into the Montreux station and we got down. Our Bed&Breakfast was further inside the town near Montreux Les Plances. Upon enquiring on how to get there we realised two things - firstly, we had to go to platform number 8 and secondly it needs to be pronounced in a more sophisticated manner, something like 'la pla' and not 'les plances' as we were calling it.. Anyways, the train was a very pretty looking train and almost had a vintage look and feel with it. On the adjacent platform was standing the panoramic view train of the Golden Pass which was even more amazing but the husband told me that I had to wait till tomorrow to board that so I made peace with our train.

The train was heading to 'Rocher-de-naye' but we just had one stop and the B&B was located in no time which is quite an amazing fact as the husband refuses to use Google maps and insists on following the paper map and the road signs. Upon reaching the main door, we were a bit confused as we couldn't find the door bell nor was there any sign of the owner. Then we realised that there was a letter left in the name of the husband detailing the code to open the door and other instructions on how to reach the owner should we need any kind of assistance. I wonder if I could ever gather so much faith that I leave my house keys on the door for a stranger and the answer was outright no, so I didn't give it any further thought.

We didn't waste time settling down mostly because we were starving. We went to train station and the same train (which had headed to Rocher-de-Naye) was now heading back to Montreux . The first thing on our agenda was to walk along the lake promenade to 'Chateau de chillon' but first we sat down at a lakeside cafe at stuffed ourselves with the only vegetarian panini available there.

The lakeside promenade is one of the most beautiful walking paths I've seen. We decided to walk all along the path, from the visitor centre to Chateau de Chillon which is about an hour walk and has wonderful photo opportunities. The combination of the very well maintained paths, very immaculate gardens, Lake Geneva with some of the Swiss Alps as a background, is very stunning.  This lovely paved walk along the banks of Lake Geneva is lined with flower beds on one side and grand old hotels and restaurants and a mall on the other. The colour combinations, as well as the combination of flowers and leaves is really well done. Any keen gardener or botanist would enjoy stopping and looking at the variety, and all others like me would just embrace the vibrant colours. The water is mesmerisingly blue. The lake is so huge that it looks like a sea, and one can see only water up till the horizon. There were some people swimming and splashing water in the lake. The flowers, the sculptures along the way, small plazas to take a little rest, coffee or ice cream carts and benches to sit down and enjoy the views, all of this helps pace your energy. The Chateau de Chillon starts popping up in the background half way in the walk but it took us about an hour to actually reach the castle.

After spending sometime at the castle, we decided to take the train back but we were not sure of the train frequency so we hit the road instead in hope of finding a bus stop to take us to the main town back. As we were on the road, we could hear the train whistle so we ran down towards the station by the stairs as fast as we could, but the train moved on. The next train was only an hour later so we climbed back up and continued our journey on the road. We then took the bus 201 which has a good frequency (every 10-15 minutes). Husband and I were a bit confused with the zones and stops due to our lack of homework & specially because the ticket machine wasn't taking credit cards or notes but only coins. Looking at our confused faces, a kind old local got up and explained us in broken english. Upon finding out that we were some coins short, he put his hands in his pockets and handed us some coins. We were overwhelmed by his kindness but obviously we could not accept this so we asked the bus driver if he had any change. He told us that easiest way was that we get down, buy the ticket from the bus stop machine which accepted cards and then take the next bus. In all this confusion, we were almost at the main town, so we just decided to walk the rest of the path. We were exhausted and dehydrated due to an early start, long walk and a very sunny day so we sat down and had a icecream before making our way back to the hotel.

If you are a Freddie Mercury fan , Montreux gives you an opportunity to visit the Queen's museum and experience how the band made its music. There is also a cruise on Lake Geneva that one can do on the lake but we decided to skip it. If you have some spare time, you can also take the cog railway up to Rocher-de-naye to get some stunning views of Lake Geneva. 

The husband was keen to try some local food. Now usually, I am pretty sceptical of such ideas because usually we end up in restaurants that only manage to serve me some soup or salad in vegetarian options. But this time husband suggested we try 'Cheese fondue' so I gladly obliged. Whether or not you are in as much love with cheese as I am, you cannot leave Switzerland without dipping into a fondue. A pot of gooey melted cheese is placed in centre over a slow burn while the diners dip in cubes of bread using a two-pronged fondue forks. Traditionally the Swiss eat it only in winter, but visitors are forgiven to eat it whenever they want.  The cheese melt could be a mix of variety of cheeses - the one we took was Gruyere and a normal cheese. The husband and I were stuffed after the fondue but who doesn't have some space for a dessert.

After thanking the restaurant owner for a wonderful dinner, we made our way back to the B&B. Tomorrow was going to be a DDLJ day, so I had to get some good sleep ...

At the lake, before starting the walk

Freddie Mercury Memorial

 Its a sunny day, jackets are off

Enjoying the view 

The castle pops in the background at a distance

Flowers along the promenade

 Figurines along the walk 

 Almost there

 Chateau de Chillon

Cheese Fondue


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