This past week I’ve been in Switzerland on a skiing holiday and have not rented a car. The entire journey (after flying into Geneva) has been via trains, busses, and trams. And even a cog railway as well! As an American living in an overly driving centric city (Los Angeles) this is night and day in comparison. On all of my other European trips I’ve used flying and rental cars to get around, with perhaps a local train or transit solution. But this time is different with the 3 hr train rides from Geneva to Zermatt and then to Zurich. On top of the 8 hour train ride I’m on right now to Amsterdam.
The journey after Geneva started out with SBB rail through some wonderful mountainous scenery and infalliably punctual trains. Smooth ride, easy to use stations, easy to follow instructions, and no problems with the language barrier were features of this trip. The Alps were spectacular from the valley and only increased in magnitude as we increased in altitude.
While staying in the village of Täsch, I took sbb daily up to Zermatt where I then boarded the cog railway up to Gornergrat to start each ski day. My ski pass included unlimited use of every train, tram, gondola, and lift between the two international destinations of Zermatt (CH) and Cervina (IT). The Gornergrat Bahn was an excellent way to get up the mountain, with expansive views and also punctual, efficient service. Cog railways are always neat and having it free included on my Ikon pass was a nice treat considering that thing has already well paid for itself at this point. I suppose the gondolas, trams, and lifts are more public transit on this trip too and even those were glamorous and we’ll organized compared to US ski resorts. There were just so many options to get everywhere on the mountain and it really was as much of a treat to look out at the view and ride the lifts as it was to actually ski.
The rest of the journey featured more SBB journeys starting with the train from Täsch to Zurich with a connection in Visp and then more of these trains between our hotel near the airport and the city center. Just a quick day in Zurich to eat chocolate and take in the scenery before the long but easy train ride back to Amsterdam where I fly home to the US from later this weekend. This last train is a Deutsch Bahn Inter City Express with a 4 hour ride from Zurich to Frankfurt, 90 minutes to grab some lunch and walk around a bit, and then a final 4 hour ride to Amsterdam Centraal. Avoiding the lengthy travels to/from noncentral airports, dealing with airport security, waking up early for obscure timed flights, and just not being on a plane are all major advantages. We even managed to book first class on both legs of this train trip for a measley 10 Franks up charge. Lovely way to travel I’d say!
Overall this is much less stressful than flying, especially not having to get anywhere early. Showing up for the train ten minutes early and feeling like I’m wayyyy ahead of schedule is nice. Rather than even when I’m 2 hours before departure on a flight I’m worried about the security line and traffic and parking and baggage check in windows and blah blah blah. So I’ll definitely do this again!
Now as far as costs go, this doesn’t really save much money but at least it was not expensive for the added convenience and limited to no downsides of traveling this way. Sure in the US not using a car would generally be severely limiting but here it really wouldn’t have helped one bit. Especially considering no cars were allowed into Zurich anyways! The SBB rail was $45 Geneva to Täsch, $17 round trip daily to Zermatt (3 days), and $65 Täsch to Zurich. Geneva transit I think it was about $10 total (plus a free ride from the airport to the city) and Zurich transit was $15 for unlimited 24 hours. Then the Zurich to Amsterdam train was $90. So all in transportation here in Switzerland cost about $280 per person for a week. We definitely could have flown back to Amsterdam in technically less time and rented a car for the duration for less money. But this way was just more of an adventure and far more relaxing.
Anyways time to get back to enjoying my train ride looking out the window to the German countryside. Here’s some photos from Switzerland!