The skies were bright and sunny as I boarded my train, the Luzern-Interlaken Express, a two hour train ride that forms part of the panoramic GoldenPass Line, running all the way to Montreux and Lake Geneva. Interlaken is wedged between the glittering lakes of Thun and Brienz, and heading east to Luzern, the train flanks the full length of Lake Brienz, just above the water’s edge in places, all the way to its eponymously named town, at the far end of the turquoise lake.
The mighty pearly whites of the Jungfrau region serrated the skyline with formidable grandeur, as we lumbered past tidy lakeside villages, like Riggenberg and Niederried. A swarm of cameras feverishly snapped away within my carriage, at Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, in fiendish pursuit of screensaver perfection.
The gently rippling water of Lake Brienz twinkled like freshly-cut diamonds in the morning sun, as rustic chalets perched on velvety green pastures fringing the shoreline competed for our attention, in this sublime visual spectacle. If you have time for a potter in town, Brienz is a charmer, brimming with 18th-century wooden houses, lush meadows and its wizardry skills with wood, as the woodcarving capital of Switzerland.
Take a wander to down insanely quaint Brunngasse to marvel at the workshops, including the violin-making school, and the trove of stout dark-wooded chalets, swathed in vines and radiant geraniums. From Brienz, we farewelled the waterside delights, sprinting through the flat and fertile Hasli valley, hemmed in by sheer-sided mountains, to reach Meiringen. The town has two notable claims to fame.
Meiringen’s nearby Reichenbach Falls was the setting for the final showdown between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty. Every May 4, Sherlock fans, in full period costume, gather at the base of the falls to mourn his “death.” The village also claims to have created one of the world’s widely beloved treats – meringues!
Culinary historians traditionally credit a chef, Gasparini, with perfecting the recipe and naming it, presumably after the town in the 17th century. After working in Meiringen, he furthered his culinary art in Paris. French royalty apparently adored the confections and the story goes that Marie Antoinette would whip some egg-whites and make her own meringues.
Next up, Brunig-Hasliberg station, which as the name suggests, included scaling the Brunig Pass in rack and pinion mode, on a cogwheel track, to tackle the profoundly steep gradients of up to 12 percent. These technical details merely reinforced my unstinting admiration for the masterly zeal of Switzerland’s railway engineers. Needless to stay, the stark altitude changes, served up ever-changing, far-reaching panoramas.
A mass of window-clonking cameras were out in force again, to capture the magic, as we clattered up and down the pass. Beyond the scenery, you might luck out and spot some wildlife alongside the tracks in the Brunig Forest, including a chance sighting of a brown beer, eagle, chamois or fox. If you don’t see the real deal, you can console yourself with the life-size wooden carvings of the wildlife, positioned alongside the track.
The foot of Brunig Pass emptied out into a sprawling green basin as we hugged the shores of Lake Lungern and the town’s neo-Gothic church crowned the sleepy village of traditional and modern homes. Further along the track, we swooned over the medieval village of Giswil, situated on the Sarner Valley floor, proceeded by the cinematic spoils of Lake Sarner and its eye-catching assortment of age-old villages, like Sarnen and Sachseln.
Historic churches with bulbous domes and prickly spires scratched the skyline. Before I knew it, we were looping around the base of Pilatus mountain, as spell-binding Luzern, sparkling with a brilliance beyond description, shuffled into full view. Searching for greener pastures, bluer lakes and whiter peaks?
The elemental natural glories of the Luzern-Interlaken Express embodies what panoramic train trips are all about. On its journey of just under two hours, the Luzern-Interlaken Express skirts five dazzling lakes and affords views of impressive waterfalls and cascading mountain streams… all against a stupendous backdrop of alpine peaks. Lap up the stunningly diverse scenery in the heart of Switzerland.
The “Liveguide” app is a trusty, illuminating companion along the way. Planning a magical trip to Switzerland? The official tourism website is a trusty one-stop-shop. www.myswitzerland.com
I zipped my way around Switzerland and Austria with a Eurail pass. It’s the comfortable, hassle-free and reliable way to get about. Sort your rail plans in advance, by booking tickets or a rail pass to suit with the experts on the tracks, Rail Europe. www.raileurope.co.nz
By Mike Yardley. ( February 8, 2018)