How to train in Switzerland: Zurich to Wengen

Zurich Airport is a paragon of efficiency; what else can you expect from the Swiss. While suitcases revolve on the carousel, a monitor above updates train schedules for trains departing from the airport. I purchased Swiss Transfer Cards, most economical for our purpose, online through Swiss Travel System. The transfer card allows two transfers by rail between any Swiss airport or border town and any single destination in Switzerland. Each transfer must be completed in one day and most within one month.

I paid and received an online voucher that had to be presented to the Airport Information Service Centre, Parkhaus 2 on the 1st Floor. To find the service desk after collecting luggage in the arrival hall, walk toward the Airport Railway Station and follow the signs to the shopping mall. Take the first pair of escalators up to the next level and the Service Centre desk is on your right. Hand in voucher, personnel will hand over tickets which must be filled in with name, country, passport number and first day of travel and you are set to go

 

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United Airlines 777-200 Business Class, Chicago-Frankfurt

The best laid plans… We were scheduled to fly United Airlines Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) to Washington Dulles (IAD) and then on to Zurich (ZRH) in Economy Class and then train to Wengen. (United doesn’t operate a non-stop from Chicago to Zurich.) Standing in the Group 1 line at O’Hare waiting to board the Washington, Dulles flight, dire words were heard over the p.a., “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a small mechanical problem but it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to resolve. We appreciate your patience.”

Soothsayer Sheila turned to Marine Steve and said, “It would be just too ironic if they can’t fix it, take the plane back to the hangar and we miss our connection.”

More announcements as time ticked away until the final, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are taking the aircraft back to the hangar and will try to get substitute equipment.” (Perhaps I should reinvent myself and tell fortunes?)

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Planning a Trip to Jungfrau Region, Switzerland

Air and Transportation? Geneva and Zurich are the relatively closest airports to the Jungfrau area; we chose Zurich and since we stick to United Airlines like glue for 1K perks, I purchased Economy round trip tickets from Chicago-Washington, DC-Zurich. Many airlines fly to Geneva and Zurich and fares change daily! Try Priceline.comFind Discounted Airline Flights at CheapOair, and you’d be surprised what winter fares can materialize.

Transportation? Train is the easiest way of getting to Wengen, but complicated with at least three or four connections. Visit the Swiss Rail website to see fares, passes and other options. Fortunately, trains usually connect on adjacent platforms unlike the old days when we ran up and over stairs between platforms, many times with only four minutes to connect. This three hour train journey would begin at Zurich Flughafen, change trains in Bern, change trains in Interlaken Ost, change trains in Lauterbrunnen, and finally arrive in Wengen. Individual fares in each direction were most cost-efficient than purchasing a rail pass. Visit both Swiss Rail and Rail Europe to see different options. (Rail Europe: Specials & Promotions)

 

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The Breathtaking Jungfrau Region of Switzerland

It’s winter time in Chicago and unlike Sun Birds who fly away someplace sunny and warm until Spring, Marine (husband Steve) and I routinely look for a ski area in Europe to go snowshoeing. Not as easy task (no, you don’t have to play the world’s smallest violin). After all, we’ve snowshoed the main ski circuses in Austria, France, Switzerland Italy as well as hiked those areas in the summer. Hmmm.

How about the Jungfrau region in Switzerland? As a matter of fact, Switzerland is where it all began when Marine and I first experimented with hiking on the unbelievably well-marked trails. If you have a hankering to hike in Europe, Switzerland is the ultimate starting point. Little yellow markers stand at every trail intersection and not only point the way but also indicate walking time. We did hike in the Jungfrau area on two separate occasions with stays in Wengen and Grindelwald which has over 500 kilometers/310 miles of marked walking, hiking and mountain paths.

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Premium Green Lounge at Delhi Airport, India

Another exciting tour in India may have ended at the Udaipur Airport but we were not done yet. Ahead was Flight #1 on Jet Airlines from Udaipur to Delhi International Airport, Flight #2 on Air China from Delhi to Beijing, and Flight #3 from Beijing to Harbin, China to see the yearly, world famous Ice Festival (already posted). I have lately been subscribing to the theory, “More is more.” After all, we were flying through Beijing so why not add on the Ice Festival? My thoughts exactly…

Jet Airways left late. We didn’t care since the flight from Delhi to Beijing wouldn’t leave until 3:15a leaving nine hours in between flights. Not fun because security in the Delhi Airport does not let connecting passengers into the International area until 10:00p and check-in doesn’t begin until 11:00p. There we sat, and sat, and sat while Marine Steve occasionally badgered personnel to let us in.

 

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The Blue City of Bundi: Exquisite Paintings in Badal Mahal and Chitrasala

The Bundi school of painting lasted from the 17th-19th century and is also referred to as Rajasthani painting. Very popular in royal courts, the paintings are always done in profile and depict themes about daily life, gods and goddesses, landscapes and, naturally, the royal family. The Bada Mahal built by Rao (Maharaja) Rata Bhotti in 1607 was first. This Maharaja ruled Bundi from 1585-1607.

It was not easy to edit over 1-1/2 hours of video taken in the Bundi Palace into two short videos that are probably not of mass interest. But the palace was filled with room after room of colorful paintings covering walls and ceilings that were just so exquisite, I had to include them. Skim through to enjoy at least a few minutes of these masterpieces that are over 200 years old!

 

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The Blue City of Bundi in Rajasthan, India

It is approximately a four-hour drive from Pushkar to the Blue City of Bundi (pop: 100,000). Why is Bundi blue? How many “answers” or theories would you like to read? One is: Because they worship Krishna in Bundi. Or: Because Krishna killed a five headed snake and took in all the poison so his skin turned blue. Or: Krishna, is described as “nilotpala-dala,” meaning that it is like that of a lotus flower with petals tinted blue and white. Or: the color of Krishna’s body is compared to that of a bluish cloud. Or: he is not really blue but black.

These are all wonderful explanations for why Bundi is blue but the real reason, just like other blue cities in hot climates is because: mosquitos are not attracted to the color blue. Ergo, houses are painted blue to act as a mosquito repellent. The color blue is noticed as soon as your feet, or vehicle enters Bundi. Light blue, and dark blue houses are evident up and down little lanes and street. I had never heard of Bundi before planning this latest trip to India and now would consider staying for one or two nights. If it was good enough for Rudyard Kipling and Bollywood filmmakers, it is certainly good enough for me.

 

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The Ancient Mahanal Shiva Temple – Menal, India

Driver Vinod insisted we stop at Menal-Mahanal Shiva Temple from the Eleventh Century on the way to Bijaipur. Since it was right next to the highway, we entered into this ancient complex that was very Angkor-watty looking; not necessarily the architecture but the carvings, and colors of stone.

Dedicated to Shiva, the main temple of Mahanal with its grand sikhara (spire) was built in the Eleventh Century when this temple complex became thriving center of Shivaism. The actual beginnings of the temple site dates from the Sixth Century when twin small shrines dedicated to Ganesh and Gauri were built.

 

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Inside Chittorgarh Fort: Stories of Victory and Immolation

Vijaya Stambha, or Victory tower, was built to commemorate the victory of Sultan of Malwa in 1448. Dedicated to Vishnu, it has nine levels with openings and balconies on each floor reached by two, narrow and slippery interior staircases. Slabs on top contain the genealogy of Chittaur rulers and portraits of the architect and his three sons are carved on the fifth level. The video below is very l-o-n-g and I wouldn’t blame you for not sticking it out but there is a lot to see.

The entire outside is covered with architectural ornaments, images of gods and goddesses, weapons, seasons, and musical instruments. Entrance to the Victory Tower is through one of two monumental doors that led to where the Rajputs were cremated.

 

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Chittorgarh is The Biggest Fort in India

Chittorgarh is in South Rajasthan on the Berach River, and famous for its massive fortress, claimed to be the largest in India. The city was called Chittaur and was capital of Mewar under the Rajputs from the Seventh to Sixteenth Centuries. Chittorgarh Fort is usually included in all tours of Rajasthan so do not expect to be alone there…

The road up to Chittorgarh Fort leads through seven huge gates (called “pols”) to the main gate, Ram Pol (meaning Gate of Ram). Each gate has a different design, size and names beginning with number one is: Padan Pol, Bhairon Pol, Hanuman Pol, Jorla Pol, Ganesh Pol, Laxman Pol Ram Pol. Once at the top, visitors pay admission, camera fees and guides then drive their clients to the most important sights, usually beginning with Khumba Palace.

 

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