• International Travel

    Vacation in Heidelberg, Germany (Part 2 of 2)

    View of Heidelberg and Old Bridge from Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Last week I wrote Part 1 of our Heidelberg trip. It included information on our day in Frankfurt, where we stayed in Heidelberg, and restaurants we visited. This post is all about the sightseeing we did while in Heidelberg. We stayed a week in Heidelberg, and had plenty to do and see while we were there. Since we were traveling with a toddler, we didn’t want to cram our schedules with lots of activities. So, we took our time sightseeing, but we did see everything we wanted to see.

    We stayed on Hauptstrasse, the main pedestrian street in the heart of Old Town. With that great location, we were able to walk everywhere we went. We didn’t want to worry with renting a car, so we had planned on relying on public transportation. We did take a bus when we first arrived in Heidelberg, and we took a cab on our last day, but otherwise we walked. The sights we wanted to see were all located in or near the Old Town (Altstadt) area.

    Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberg)

    The castle ruins are probably the most popular sightseeing thing to do in Heidelberg… and they are definitely worth visiting! We spent one day visiting the castle. We walked up to the castle so we could see more of the area surrounding it. Turns out, it’s a pretty good hike, so we got a workout that day. They do offer a train that goes to the castle, so I recommend taking it to avoid the hike. However, if you’re up for a workout and the weather’s clear, the walk up to the castle was nice… and not at all crowded.

    Construction of the castle began before the 1300s. The part of the castle that remains today was finished before the 1650s. Unfortunately, lightning strikes and wars destroyed portions of the castle, leaving the ruins that remain today. I think they offer guided tours that allow visitors into part of the interior of the castle, but the only interior areas we saw were the wine barrel building, museum, and gift shop. The grounds of the castle are beautiful, so take time to walk around and see more than just the castle.

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    The Rainers at Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Michael and Gavin at Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Darinda and Gavin at Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Michael and Gavin at Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Great Terrace at Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle grounds | rainerlife.com

    Bust of Johann Wolfgang Goethe on grounds of Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle grounds | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle grounds | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Tun

    The Heidelberg Tun, or the World’s Largest Wine Barrel, was built in 1751 by Prince Elector Karl Theodor. It stands 23-feet tall and is 28-feet wide. The barrel holds 58,124 gallons of wine! The barrel was used to hold wine paid as taxes by the local wine growers. It no longer holds wine. The room where the barrel is housed has a staircase that you can climb and walk over the barrel. On top of the barrel is a dance floor.

    Darinda and Gavin at the Heidelberg Tun | rainerlife.com

    Michael at the Heidelberg Tun | rainerlife.com

    Apothecary Museum (Deutsches Apotheken Museum)

    Located in the Heidelberg Castle. This apothecary museum was very interesting! The museum has different rooms that display the history of pharmacy, including a pharmacist’s office, a laboratory, numerous pieces of equipment, plus over 1,000 raw drugs that were used in the 17th-19th centuries.

    Apothecary Museum at Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Apothecary Museum at Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Apothecary Museum at Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Castle Illumination and Fireworks

    The town of Heidelberg hosts the Castle Illumination and Fireworks three times a year – June, July, and September. The illumination of the castle symbolizes when the troops of Sun King Louis XIV torched the castle in 1689 and 1693, leaving the ruins that remain today. After the castle illumination, fireworks are shot from the Old Bridge. This tradition is based on when the Elector Friedrich V arranged a fireworks display in 1613 to welcome his bride, Elizabeth Stuart, to Heidelberg.

    Fireworks over Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle Illumination | rainerlife.com

    Old Town (Altstadt)

    The Old Town of Heidelberg includes Hauptstrasse, the University area, and the Old Bridge. This is the oldest part of the city, and has a wonderful mixture of historic sights, with the modern convenience of shopping and restaurants.

    Heidelberg, Germany | rainerlife.com

    Old Town Heidelberg, Germany | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg, Germany | rainerlife.com

    Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Festival near the Old University {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Hauptstrasse

    The main street through the Old Town. Hauptstrasse is a mile-long pedestrian zone. We stayed on this street, and most of the shops and restaurants we visited were on this street.

    Hauptstrasse in Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Hauptstrasse in Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Bookshop on Hauptstrasse {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg at night | rainerlife.com

    Karl Theodor Old Bridge (Alte Brucke)

    The current Old Bridge was built in 1786. This is not the original bridge built here, but it is the first bridge of stone. The other eight bridges that once stood here were all built of wood and destroyed by floods or war. The bridge crosses the Neckar River and connects the Old Town to the Neuenheim district of the city.

    The Old Bridge (Alte Brücke) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    The bridge has two sculptures on it, Prince Elector Karl Theodor and Roman goddess Minerva. Karl Theodor had the bridge built, so a monument stands in his honor. The other sculpture was dedicated to Minerva, goddess of wisdom, because Theodor was a supporter of the arts and sciences.

    Karl Theodor Sculpture on Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Minerva Sculpture on Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    The medieval bridge gate on the Old Town side of the bridge was once part of the city wall. The two towers were once used as a guardhouse and jail.

    Bridge Gate on the Old Bridge in Heidelberg | rainerlife.com

    On the Neuenheim district side of the Old Bridge is a Love Stone (Heidelberger Liebesstein) with Love Locks attached to it. Apparently, people sometimes attach locks to the Old Bridge, and the city was afraid of potential damage the locks could cause. For a compromise, the city had this monument put up, and people can attach locks to it. A love poem is engraved into the stone, plus the center of the monument has a hole for photo opportunities.

    Love Locks near the Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Love locks at end of Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Bridge Monkey (Brückenaffe)

    The history of a Heidelberg bridge monkey dates back to the 15th century. The current sculpture was built by Gernot Rumpf and installed in 1979. The bronze monkey is holding a mirror, and is supposed to symbolize that the city people are no better than those outside the city, and they should look over their shoulder when leaving the city to remember that. It’s a popular tourist attraction, and has a couple of superstitions associated with it. Supposedly, if you touch the monkey’s fingers you will return to Heidelberg one day, if you touch the mirror you will receive wealth, and if you touch the mice located next to the monkey you will have lots of children.

    Bridge Monkey at Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Bronze Badge next to Bridge Monkey on Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Market Square (Marktplatz)

    This busy square is located between the Church of the Holy Spirit and the Town Hall. This square has a interesting history because of the many public proceedings that were held here. Some of the things done in this square included burning witches at the stake and putting petty criminals in cages to be tormented by the locals. In addition, it was the market square, where fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats, and crafts were sold. Markets still take place a couple of times a week. During the warm weather months, like when we were visiting, the square is full of tables and chairs set our by the nearby restaurants. In the center of the square is a fountain of Hercules.

    Market Square (Marktplatz) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Market Square {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Market Square {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Market Square and Church of the Holy Spirit {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggeistkirche)

    The Church of the Holy Spirit is located next to Market Square. The foundations of the current Gothic church were laid in 1398. Over the years, the church has been used by Catholics and Protestants. It is currently used by Protestants.

    Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggiestkirche) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggiestkirche) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Corn Market (Kornmarkt)

    This once served as a market square and is still used today. One day we were there, the square was full of people selling crafts. In the center of this square is a Madonna statue. The statue was placed here in 1718 by the Jesuits.

    Kornmarkt {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Kornmarkt {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Karlstor

    This arch was built built 1775-1781 to honor Elector Karl Theodor.

    Karlstor {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Jesuit Church (Jesuitenkirche)

    The Jesuit Church was built between 1712-1759, with the bell tower added in 1872. We could see this church from our apartment… it was at the end of the road directly across from the apartment we rented. This church is still used by Catholics.

    Jesuit Church {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Jesuit Church {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Marstall

    This building was constructed during the early 16th century and is one of the oldest buildings in Heidelberg. It was originally built as an arsenal, but has had various other uses over the years, including use as stables, military barracks, and a hospital. The interior has been redesigned over the years, depending on the purpose of the building. It is currently part of the university and houses dining halls.

    Heidelberg, Germany | rainerlife.com

    Old University (Alte Universitat)

    Heidelberg University was founded in 1386. The Old University building houses the university museum and the Great Hall. The building was constructed between 1712 and 1728. The university museum displays cover the university’s history from it’s founding up until the end of the 20th century. The Great Hall was beautiful to see. This auditorium was redesigned in in 1886, in honor of the university’s 500th anniversary. The auditorium is currently used for ceremonies and special events.

    Old University {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Old University (Alte Universitat) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Student Prison (Studentenkarzer)

    The student prison is located behind the Old University. The prison was established in 1778 and was used until 1914. Though it was an official jail, it was less formal than most jails. For instance, the students were allowed to attend classes, as long as they returned to jail after class. The walls of the prison are covered in writings and artwork (i.e., graffiti) done by the student prisoners.

    Student Jail (Studentenkarzer) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Student Jail (Studentenkarzer) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Student Jail (Studentenkarzer) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Student Jail (Studentenkarzer) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    University Library (Universitatsbibliothek)

    The university library’s history dates back to the 1380s, when the university started to acquire book collections. The current library was built in 1905 using the Renaissance style of the castle as influence. This library contains more than 3 million books and is one of the most used libraries in Germany.

    University Library {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche)

    The oldest church in Heidelberg. No documentation states exactly when the church was constructed, but is was sometime during the 12th century. This church is near the University Library and it serves as the university church. Protestant services are currently held here.

    St. Peter's Church {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Königstuhl Funicular (Bergbahn)

    A train that goes up to Königstuhl. The train leaves Kornmarkt, and has three stops: Heidelberg Castle, Molkenkur, and Königstuhl. Molkenkur is a transfer station, so you have to get off the train from Kornmarkt and walk over to another train to take you up to Königstuhl. We didn’t explore this area, so I’m not sure what all they have to offer here.

    Königstuhl Funicular (Bergbahn) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    King’s Throne (Königstuhl)

    Part of the Odenwald Mountains that offers great views of Heidelberg. While we were riding the train, we saw a few people paragliding from the top of the mountain. Once we reached the top, one person was preparing to paraglide, so we stopped to watch the action. There are several hiking trails here. We walked on one trail for a little while to see some of the area.

    View of Heidelberg from The Königstuhl | rainerlife.com

    Trails at Königstuhl | rainerlife.com

    Trails at Königstuhl | rainerlife.com

    Trails at Königstuhl | rainerlife.com

    Trails at Königstuhl | rainerlife.com

    River Cruise on Neckar River

    This was our only excursion from Heidelberg. We took the three-hour river cruise that went to Neckarsteinach and back to Heidelberg. We sat on the sun deck and enjoyed a beautiful day of sightseeing… while giving our feet a rest! The cruise we were on offered food and drinks for sale, so we had a late lunch aboard the ship. The ship boarded at Heidelberg and had stops in Neckargemünd and Neckarsteinach. Neckargemünd is a small town that has the charm of a 17th century village. Neckarsteinach is best known for having four castles, all of which are visible from the river. The castles were built between the 1100s and 1335. The castles are Vorderburg, the Mittelburg, the Hinterburg, and the Schadeck. The Vorderburg is the oldest of the castles, it is privately owned and not open to the public. The Mittelburg was built around 1200, and is also privately owned and not open to the public. The Hinterburg was built around 1220, and has fallen to ruins over the years, but it is open to the public. The Schadeck was the last castle built, and is also in ruins and open to the public.

    Dam on Neckar River | rainerlife.com

    View from Neckar River Cruise | rainerlife.com

    Campers along Neckar River | rainerlife.com

    Neckargemünd on Neckar River | rainerlife.com

    Neckargemünd on Neckar River | rainerlife.com

    Neckarsteinach on the Neckar River | rainerlife.com

    Schadeck Castle in Neckarsteinach | rainerlife.com

    Hinterburg Castle in Neckarsteinach | rainerlife.com

    Mittelburg Castle in Neckarsteinach | rainerlife.com

    Vorderburg Castle in Neckarsteinach | rainerlife.com

    View from Neckar River Cruise | rainerlife.com

    Neckar River | rainerlife.com

  • International Travel

    Vacation in Heidelberg, Germany (Part 1 of 2)

    To start our vacation, we flew into Frankfurt, Germany, on a Wednesday. We took a train from the airport to the city center and walked around for awhile, had lunch, and walked to the main train station. We didn’t spend very much time in Frankfurt, but we did walk around enough to see the Zeil (pedestrian street known for its shopping), the Main River, and Altstadt (Old Town), including the Römer. Gavin was in his stroller, and slept through most of our walking because he didn’t get much sleep on the long flight.

    Frankfurt, Germany | rainerlife.com

    The Römer {Frankfurt, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Main River {Frankfurt, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Frankfurt Main Train Station | rainerlife.com

    We took a train to Heidelberg, which took a little less than an hour. It wasn’t very crowded, though there were several stops between Frankfurt and Heidelberg that picked up more passengers. Once at the Heidelberg train station, we went in search of the tourist information office to get a map of the city. The tourist information office was located just outside the train station. We purchased a map (€1.50) and got directions to our accommodations. We took a bus from the train station to the stop nearest the apartment where we stayed. Bus tickets could be purchased at the information center or on the bus.

    Heidelberg Train Station | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Train Station | rainerlife.com

    Accommodations – Airbnb

    We stayed the week at an apartment booked on Airbnb. It was a two bedroom, one bath apartment. We didn’t use the second bedroom since Gavin is too young to stay in his own room in an unfamiliar place. Posted check in time was after 4:00 pm and check out was 11:00 am. Our Airbnb host had said the apartment would be ready after 2:00 pm, so we arrived a little earlier than originally planned. The apartment was located on Hauptstrasse, and we couldn’t have had a better location! We were right in the center of Old Town and within walking distance of everything we wanted to see. Hauptstrasse is a main pedestrian road, and is full of restaurants and shops. The apartment building had an entrance off Hauptstrasse, and our place was on the second floor. Steps, no elevator. Not a problem for us, but something others may want to ask about when booking an apartment. The hall downstairs had enough room we could leave Gavin’s stroller, so we didn’t have to carry it upstairs.

    Hauptstrasse - view from our apartment windows (Heidelberg, Germany) | rainerlife.com

    View from our apartment windows {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Hauptstrasse - view from our apartment windows (Heidelberg, Germany) | rainerlife.com

    The apartment was furnished with the usual items found in a German apartment. The master bedroom had a king bed and the second bedroom had a twin bed. The master bedroom had a large armoire and two nightstand to keep our items. There was no air conditioner, but there were two fans we could move around that provided enough air for us. We also kept the large windows open when we were there. The nice sized living room had a sofa and two chairs, coffee table, television, and a desk. The kitchen was well-equipped with a stove top, oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, dishes, pots and pans, and utensils. The washing machine was located in the kitchen. It was a small washer, that unfortunately wasn’t working while we were there. We had to hand wash everything during our stay, but it was only a week, so not too big of a deal. The dining area had a table with six chairs and a highchair in the corner. A family-friendly apartment. The apartment had wifi… I think most places provide wifi now, but it’s a good idea to make sure before booking. We had packed adapters, but we packed the wrong ones. Fortunately, there was one plug in the bedroom we could use, so we took turns charging our phones. Our phones were the only thing we had that needing charging, so it was fine for us. The bathroom had a tub/shower combo. They provided three towels for our use during the stay. We had brought all our own toiletry items, but they did have small bottles of shampoo and small soaps for us to use. Our host spoke English, so communication was not a problem. We were very happy with the apartment!

    Living area at Heidelberg Airbnb | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Airbnb | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Airbnb | rainerlife.com

    Bedroom at Heidelberg Airbnb | rainerlife.com

    Bedroom at Heidelberg Airbnb | rainerlife.com

    Food & Drink

    Palmbräu Gasse – We had dinner here on our first day and a late dinner on Saturday night. The restaurant wasn’t too busy the first time we visited, but it was more packed on Saturday. On Saturday, we ate late because we ate after the fireworks, and most restaurants in this area were packed. We sat inside both times. This restaurant offered their own beers including a hefeweizen, dunkelweizen, helles, and schwarzbier. Our waitress spoke English, and an English menu was available. We had typical German food and beer with both our meals. The food and service were both good.

    Palmbräu Gasse {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    The Dubliners – An Irish pub located on Hauptstrasse. We stopped here a few times during our stay in Heidelberg. Once just for drinks, once for lunch, and once for a late dinner. We first spotted this place when we were walking around and sightseeing. It was hot while we were in town, so stopping for a cold drink and sitting awhile seemed like a good idea. We went back a day or so later because we had noticed the menu looked like it would be a good lunch spot. We ended up here one more time when looking for a place to grab a late dinner, this was one of the few places that had their kitchen open late. It’s a pub, so they had a good selection of drinks, but they had a good selection of food too. They offered Irish food, German food, burgers, and pizzas.

    Vetter’s – We had lunch here and tasted their beers. They brew the Vetter 33, a doppelbock – highest alcohol by original gravity (OG 33, ABV 11.5%). The Vetter 33 was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1994. They offer three year-round beers and occasional seasonals. We tasted the three main brews (the doppelbock, a Helles, and a dunkelweizen), no seasonal beers were available.

    Löwenbräu – Located on Hauptstrasse, it was a short walk from our apartment. They offered typical German foods and Löwenbräu beers. Our waiter spoke English, and they offered an English menu. The food and service were both good.

    Snitzelbank – This was the most authentic German restaurant we ate in. We had lunch there, and the food and service were both very good. This place is located just off Hauptstrasse, and is very small. Fortunately, we arrived at a good time, so a table was available. They don’t have much seating, so it’s good to go at a less busy time.

    Goldener Hecht – An Austrian-style restaurant located near the Old Bridge. This was the only restaurant we ate at during our time in Germany that we had poor service. The food was good, but I wouldn’t recommend the place to anyone. What’s funny is that this place had better reviews than most places we ate at.

    Everywhere we ate gave large portions of food. I don’t think I finished a meal at any of the restaurants, and a couple of times the waitress even asked if the food was okay since I hadn’t eat the whole meal. We ate very well while in Germany. The food was good, and we definitely didn’t leave any restaurant hungry.

    Michael enjoying a beer in Germany | rainerlife.com

    While in Heidelberg, be sure to get a gelato. There are several gelato places along Hauptstrasse. A small gelato is about €1, so you can’t beat the price. They offer lots of different flavors, so be sure to try a variety. We stopped a couple of different times for gelato, and it was always good.

    Gavin eating gelato {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Next week I will post Part 2. That post will include the activities and sightseeing we did while in Heidelberg. Lots of pictures to post in that one!

    Signing off with a photo of the little man proudly displaying his first stamp in his passport!

  • International Travel

    A Day in St. Moritz, Switzerland

    We arrived in St. Moritz on the Glacier Express about 5:00 pm on a Monday. We had arranged to have the hotel pick us up at the railway station. The rail station had a tourist information office, and we used it to pick up a map of the town and also call the hotel since they weren’t there to pick us up at 5:00 pm. The lady in the tourist office was very helpful with information on local sights and restaurants, plus she called the hotel for us. Since it was evening when we arrived in town, and the off-season, not much was going on and many places were closed.

    Hotel

    Hauser Hotel
    This hotel was rated as ★★★. We stayed one night. We booked a comfort double room for one night with breakfast included for 249 CHF. Posted check in time was 4:00 pm and check out was 12:00 pm. We arrived after 5:00 pm by hotel transport from the rail station. At check in, I was asked to fill in a form with my information (contact info and passport number). This hotel had an unusual key system. They had a board of keys hanging nearby the front desk to use for exchanging the room key for the main front door key when leaving the hotel, then exchange back to the room key once back in the hotel. The hotel had a small elevator/lift.

    Location: Via Traunter Plazzas 7, 7500 St. Moritz, Switzerland.
    Good. We used the hotel transport to get from the rail station to the hotel, though it could be walked. It would have been an uphill walk. Near tourist attractions, restaurants, and shopping.

    Our Room: We stayed in room 308. Our room had two large windows and a view. It was a big, clean room. This was the largest room we had during our trip to Switzerland. The room had two twin beds made separately and pushed together. The beds and pillows were comfortable. The room included a desk with chair, an extra chair, sitting area (bench seat and coffee table), two nesting tables attached to the wardrobe, wardrobe had shelves and hangers, an extra pillow, safe, phone, tv with remote (didn’t use), two drinking glasses, and complimentary cookies and water. There were several plugs in the room. Our room had a private bathroom with a tub/shower, sink, toilet, hair dryer, 2 body towels, 2 hand towels, 2 washcloths, 2 drinking glasses, and toiletries (soap, shampoo, lotion, 2 shower caps, sewing kit, shoe polish sponge, vanity set – cotton tips and cotton pads).

    Hauser Hotel, St. Moritz, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hauser Hotel, St. Moritz, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hauser Hotel, St. Moritz, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hauser Hotel, St. Moritz, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    View from our room at Hauser Hotel, St. Moritz, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Amenities: Free wi-fi throughout the hotel. Breakfast was included with the room, and was served in the hotel’s restaurant. The breakfast was good and had a nice variety.

    Service/Staff: Friendly staff that spoke English well.

    Restaurant

    Lapin Bleu – This restaurant was recommended to us, and it was great. The restaurant is located in the Hotel Steffani. Michael had beef fondue and I had pork sausage with rosti and Coupe Denmark for dessert. They were not busy when we arrived, but it picked up as it got later. The service was friendly and our waiter spoke English.

    Sightseeing

    We arrived on a Monday after most everything was closed, plus it was the off-season. We were tired after our long train ride, but we walked around town a bit to see what, if anything, was open and take a few pictures of the area.

    St. Moritz, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    St. Moritz, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Transportation to Zurich

    We traveled by train from St. Moritz to Zurich on a Tuesday. We transferred trains in Chur (see Google map below for route). The train rides from St. Moritz to Chur and Chur to Zurich were not very crowded, and our total travel time took about 3.5 hours. We spent our last night in Zurich and flew back to the US on a Wednesday morning.

  • International Travel

    Glacier Express (Zermatt to St. Moritz)

    We rode the Glacier Express on a Monday in April of 2014, after staying one night in Zermatt. We took the train from Zermatt to St. Moritz (see Google map below for route). Reserved seats are required for the Glacier Express. I reserved our seats online before we left for Switzerland. We had the Swiss Saver Pass, so seat reservations cost 13.00 CHF each for the winter rate.

    The train ride took about eight hours – it left Zermatt at 8:52 am and arrived in St. Moritz at 4:58 pm. We arrived at the Zermatt train station early and boarded the train at 8:20 am.

    Glacier Express, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    We were in panorama wagon 25, seats 21 and 22 (2nd class). Our seats were across the table from each other and next to the window. The train was not very crowded – at least our wagon wasn’t. Initially, we had some people in the seats next to us, but since there were lots of empty seats, they moved so they could also sit next to a window. Most of the people that were in our wagon got off the train in Chur, so the rest of the ride was just us and one other couple in the wagon.

    Seats on Glacier Express, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    View from Glacier Express, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    View from Glacier Express, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    View from Glacier Express, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    View from Glacier Express, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Lunch was served on the train. When I reserved our seats online, I also pre-ordered the three-course lunch for both of us (43.00 CHF each). The day we traveled, lunch was:
    1) Brig potato soup
    2) Pork steak with pepper cream sauce, vegetable spatzli pasta, and glazed carrot sticks
    3) Apple tart

    A variety of drinks were available as a separate purchase. The lunch was very good, and healthy portions were offered – they even came around offering seconds of the main course.

    Lunch aboard the Glacier Express, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    After lunch, the Glacier Express train stopped in Disentis to change engines. It’s a brief stop (30 minutes), but we were able to get off the train and walk around for a little while. The train stops to change engines because it is operated by two railways – Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (western half of the trip) and Rhätische Bahn (eastern half of the trip).

    Disentis, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    The Glacier Express is one of the most popular scenic trains in Switzerland. It has been dubbed the slowest express train in the world. The Glacier Express goes over 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels. The train goes across the Oberalp Pass, the highest point being 6,670 ft. Popular sights include the Landwasser Viaduct and the spiral tunnels between Preda and Bergün. Headphones are available on the train to listen to recorded commentary about the passing sights. The recorded commentary is available in multiple languages, including English. It was a very enjoyable train ride, and we got to see lots of beautiful scenery.

    View from Glacier Express, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    View from Glacier Express, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    View of Landwasser Viaduct from the Glacier Express, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    View of Landwasser Viaduct from the Glacier Express, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

                

  • International Travel

    A Day in Zermatt, Switzerland

    We arrived in Zermatt on a Sunday, after staying two nights in Geneva. We took a train from Geneva to Zermatt (see Google map below for route). The train ride took about four hours, had one transfer – at Visp, and was not crowded. Once at the Zermatt rail station, we went in the tourist information office to get a map of the city.

    Hotel

    Hotel Helvetia
    This hotel was rated as ★★. We stayed one night. We booked a standard double room for one night with breakfast included for 140 CHF. Posted check in time was 1:00 pm and check out was 11:00 am. We arrived at 2:00 pm, but since it was a Sunday afternoon, the hotel reception desk was closed. A note was posted to the door with my name and our assigned room. A board of keys was hanging nearby, so we simply took the key with our room number on it and headed up to the room. The hotel did not have an elevator/lift.

    Location: Bahnhofstrasse 72, 3920 Zermatt, Switzerland.
    Very Good! Within walking distance of the rail station, and on the main street. Near tourist attractions, restaurants, and shopping.

    Our Room: We stayed in room 3 on the first floor. Our room had a view of the main street and we had a balcony. The balcony was a shared balcony for the three rooms on the first floor and front of the building. We had a room on the end. It was a small, clean room. The room had two twin beds made separately and pushed together. The bed and pillows were comfortable. The room included two chairs, small wardrobe with hangers, tv with remote (didn’t use), two bedside tables with lamps, and an electric tea kettle with two cups. No phone in the room. There were several plugs in the room. Our room had a small, private bathroom with a shower, sink, toilet, hair dryer, 2 body towels, 2 hand towels, 2 washcloths, 2 drinking cups, a stool, and toiletries (soap and shampoo).

    Hotel Helvetia, Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hotel Helvetia, Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hotel Helvetia, Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hotel Helvetia, Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Amenities: Free wi-fi throughout the hotel. Breakfast was included with the room, and was served in the hotel’s restaurant. The breakfast was good and had a nice variety.

    Service/Staff: Friendly staff that spoke English well. We only saw staff at breakfast and check out.

    View from our hotel balcony - Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    View from our hotel balcony - Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Food & Drink

    Brown Cow Pub – We had a late lunch here. The restaurant wasn’t too busy, and we found seating inside near a window. Our waitress spoke English well and an English menu was available. We had burgers. The food, service, and atmosphere were good.

    Grampi’s – We had dinner here. We went in a couple of other restaurants first, but they did not have any available tables, so we ended up here. This restaurant was also very busy, but we were able to get a table. The waitstaff spoke English and an English menu was available. I had pizza and Michael had risotto. The food and service were very good.

    Hexenbar – We stopped by here after walking around town in the afternoon. It’s a small pub with a nice atmosphere. It wasn’t too busy – about half of the pub was full.

    Sightseeing

    While in Zermatt, we walked everywhere we went. Zermatt if a car-free town, so it’s very pedestrian friendly. Transportation in town is by electric vehicles. This is about the only town that we did any shopping – we bought a couple of t-shirts for Michael. Since the weather was warmer than we had packed for, he wanted some short-sleeve shirts to wear the last couple of days.

    Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Sightseeing

    Matterhorn – An awe-inspiring sight. The Matterhorn, with it’s distinctive shape, is 14,685 feet. To view the Matterhorn, walk toward the end of Bahnhofstrasse, past where the buildings block the view.

    Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    St. Mauritius Church – The original church was constructed around 1587, but was demolished in 1913 and the current church was built.

    St. Mauritius Church, Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    St. Mauritius Church, Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Matterhorn Museum – An underground museum, aka Zermatlantis, that contains a reconstructed village of Zermatt and objects from the first ascent. We used our Swiss Pass here, so entry was free.

    Matterhorn Museum, Zermatt, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

  • International Travel

    Boat Tour on Lake Geneva (Geneva, Switzerland)

    While we were in Geneva, we took a boat tour on Lake Geneva. Located in Switzerland and France, Lake Geneva is one of the largest lakes in Europe. We took the Swissboat’s Cruise of the Mermaid. The tour lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, and cost 16 CHF each. A brochure in multiple languages, including English, was given with the ticket purchase. We purchased tickets at the Swissboat office on the right bank. The Star of Geneva boarded on the right bank first, then picked up more passengers on the left bank. The recorded audio commentary was also in multiple languages, including English, though it was a bit hard to hear over the boat’s motor.

    Star of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    Sights on the Boat Tour

    Left Bank

    Cathedrale St-Pierre (St. Peter’s Cathedral) – This cathedral was first constructed in the 12th-century, and has undergone many changes over the years. The Neoclassical facade was constructed in 1750. John Calvin preached at this cathedral from 1536 to 1564.

    La Neptune – A boat built in 1904 for the transport of goods. It is located near the Niton Rocks.

    Lake Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Pierres du Niton (Niton Rocks) – Two unusual rocks located in Lake Geneva. They were once a sacred place for the worship of Neptune. The larger rock is 373.6 m above sea level and is used in Swiss maps as the basis for altitude measurements.

    Jet d’Eau (Water Jet) – Located where Lake Geneva empties into the Rhône River is one of Europe’s tallest fountains – water shoots 459-feet into the air.

    Jet d'Eau (Water Jet), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    Parc La Grange – The largest park in Geneva, which is home to Geneva’s largest rose garden.

    Eaux-Vives Park – Located next to Parc La Grange, this park contains an 18th-century castle that currently serves as a restaurant.

    Port-Noir Monument – This monument was erected in 1864 to commemorate the landing site of the Swiss when Geneva joined the Swiss Confederation.

    Yacht Club – Founded in 1872, this yacht club hosted the America’s Cup from 2003-2010.

    Genève Plage – A lakeside resort that opened in the 1930s.

    Villa Diodati – This manor, located in Cologny, was built in 1710. It has become popular due to having such renowned visitors as Lord Byron and Mary Shelley. It was at Villa Diodati that Shelley wrote Frankenstein.

    Château de Bellerive – Built in the 17th century by the Duke of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel II, as a warehouse, though it looked more like a fortress.

    Chateau de Bellerive, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    Mont Blanc – The highest mountain in the French Alps at 15,767 feet. On a clear day, this mountain can be seen from Geneva.

    Little Mermaid of Lake Geneva – A bronze statue of a mermaid. The statue was sculpted by Natacha de Senger and placed on its rock in 1966.

    Little Mermaid of Lake Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    Right Bank

    Maison de Saussure – Built in 1723. In 1765, it became the residence of Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, a famous scientist. This mansion has had such famous visitors as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

    Maison de Saussure, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Creux-de-Genthod – Now the location of a yacht club, but was once a dockyard for steamships in 1836-1855.

    Lake Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Manoir Colgate – A mansion built in 1890 for Colgate, the toothpaste manufacturer.

    Manoir Colgate, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Château Rothschild – Built in 1858 for Baron Carl de Rothschild. The property remains in the Rothschild family.

    Embassade de Chine (Chinese Embassy) – A modern grey building near the lake.

    Villa Josephine – Given to Joséphine de Beauharnais by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1811.

    Villa Josephine, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    United Nations Organisation (UNO) – The United Nations headquarters.

    Jardin Botanique (Botanical Garden) – Sixty-nine acres of greenspace with plants, flowers, trees, paths, streams, greenhouses, an aviary, and a zoo.

    World Trade Organisation (WTO) – Now the building for the World Trade Organisation, it once housed the International Labour Office, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the library of the Institut Universitaire de Hautes Études Internationales, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

    Henry Dunant Institute – A training and research center for the International Red Cross, for which Henry Dunant was the founder.

    Villa Bartholoni – Built in 1828, it now houses the History of Science Museum.

    Villa Bartholoni, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    Palais Wilson – Named after Woodrow Wilson, this building is currently the headquarters of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This building was originally a luxury hotel, Hotel National, built in 1872. From 1919 to 1946, it was the headquarters for the League of Nations.

    Palais Wilson, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    Pâquis Lighthouse – Originally built in 1860, though it was rebuilt in 1896. It is still an active lighthouse.

    The Paquis Lighthouse, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    Monument Brunswick – The mausoleum of Charles d’Este-Guelph, Duke of Brunswick. He died in 1873 and left his fortune to the city on the condition his mausoleum, based on the Scaliger Tombs in Verona, Italy, be given a place of prominence.

  • International Travel

    Two Days in Geneva, Switzerland

    We arrived in Geneva on a Friday, after staying one night in Lausanne. We took a train from Lausanne to Geneva (see Google map below for route). The train ride took less than an hour and was fairly crowded. Once at the Geneva rail station, we went in search of the tourist information office to get a map of the city. The tourist information office was in a temporary building in front of the post office.

    >
    Hotel

    Hôtel Astoria
    This hotel was rated as ★★★. We stayed two nights. We booked a double room for two nights with breakfast included for 303.20 CHF. Posted check in time was 2:00 pm and check out was 12:00 pm. We arrived early (12:15 pm) and our room was ready. At check in, I was asked to fill in a form with my information (contact info and passport number). During check in, we were given two free transportation passes for use on the days we were in town. We didn’t use the passes, but it’s probably a good bonus for some people. The hotel had one elevator/lift. The keycard for the room also controlled the room’s lights.

    Location: Place Cornavin 6, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland.
    Very Good! Within walking distance of the rail station – about 2 minutes walk. Near many tourist attractions (Old Town and Lake Geneva), restaurants, and shopping.

    Our Room: We stayed in room 411. Our room had no view – the construction area behind the hotel. It was a very small, clean room. Our room was really hot, so getting a comfortable night’s sleep was hard. The room had one queen bed with two pillows. The bed and pillows were comfortable. The room included a desk with lamp and chair, an extra chair, closet with hangers and safe, luggage rack, tv with remote and keyboard (didn’t use), phone, one bedside table, two lamps above the bed, extra pillow and blanket, and minibar. There were very few plugs in the room. The room had a door to adjoin the neighboring room. Our room had a private bathroom with a shower/tub combo, sink, toilet, hair dryer, 2 body towels, 2 hand towels, 2 washcloths, 2 plastic cups, and toiletries (soap, shampoo, and shower cap).

    Hôtel Astoria, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    Hôtel Astoria, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hôtel Astoria, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hôtel Astoria, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hôtel Astoria, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Amenities: Free wi-fi throughout the hotel. Breakfast was included with the room, and was served in the hotel’s pub. The breakfast was good and offered more foods than some of the other hotel breakfasts we had.

    Service/Staff: Pleasant staff that spoke English well.

    Food & Drink

    Lord Nelson Pub – We had a late lunch here on our first day in Geneva. The restaurant wasn’t too busy, and we found seating outside. This is a restaurant and brew pub that offers three of their own beers. Their beers include an amber ale, a blonde ale, and a witbier. Our waitress spoke some English, and an English menu was available. We had sandwiches. The food was okay and service was good.

    Au Petit Chalet – We had dinner here on our first night in Geneva. We were a little earlier than most of the dinner crowd, so the restaurant wasn’t very busy. We sat outside. The waitstaff spoke some English, and an English menu was available. We both ordered fondue. The food and service were very good.

    Starbucks – We wanted to take a boat tour of the lake on Saturday, but had wait until later in the morning than we had originally planned. While we were waiting, we stopped at a Starbucks near the hotel, got some coffee, and found a seat on a bench outside to people watch for a while.

    Grand Duke Pub – We had lunch here on our second day in Geneva. The pub was not very busy on a Saturday afternoon. It was a typical English pub. The barstaff spoke English well and had an English menu available. Typical pub fare available. The food was okay, and the service was very good.

    Restaurant La Matze – We had dinner here on our second night in Geneva. It’s an Italian restaurant located near the railway station. We ate later than usual, and the restaurant was very busy when we got there. Though it was busy, a table was available inside. The waitstaff did not speak English, but an English menu was available. I had risotto and Michael had steak. The food was very good, and the service was fair.

    Britannia Pub – The English pub located in the Hôtel Astoria. The hotel’s breakfast is served in this pub. We also went in one day for drinks. It looks like a typical English pub, and had a decent variety of beer on the menu. The bartender did not speak any English.

    Sightseeing

    While in Geneva, we walked everywhere we went. That said, some of the places we walked were further than we realized, but it was a pedestrian friendly city.

    Left Bank – Old Town

    Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) – A 15th-century building that has seen some major political events. The first Geneva Convention was signed here in the Alabama Room on August 22, 1864. Also, the League of Nations had their first assembly here in 1920.

    Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Cathedrale St-Pierre (St. Peter’s Cathedral) – This cathedral was first constructed in the 12th-century, and has undergone many changes over the years. The Neoclassical facade was constructed in 1750. John Calvin preached at this cathedral from 1536 to 1564.

    Cathedrale St-Pierre (St. Peter's Cathedral), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Cathedrale St-Pierre (St. Peter's Cathedral), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Monument de la Réformation (Reformation Wall) – This granite wall is located in the Parc de Bastions and measures 325-foot by 30-foot. Construction of the wall was in 1909-1917. The central figures are Theodore Beza, John Calvin, William Farel, and John Knox. The smaller figures are William the Silent, Gaspard de Coligny, Frederick William of Brandenburg, Roger Williams, Oliver Cromwell, and Stephen Bocskay.

    Monument de la Réformation (Reformation Wall), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    Parc de Bastions – A park in the city center that has a botanical garden, playground, giant chess sets, Reformation Wall, and the University of Geneva.

    Parc de Bastions, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Parc de Bastions, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Parc de Bastions, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Parc de Bastions, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

     Left Bank – City Center near Lake and River

    Horloge Fleurie (Flower Clock) – A giant floral timepiece created in 1955 that is located in the English Garden. The clock flowers are changed out seasonally.

    Horloge Fleurie (Flower Clock), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    Jardin Anglais (English Garden) – A garden located on the left bank of Lake Geneva. Popular features of the park include the Clock Flower, the National Monument, and Fountain of the Four Seasons.

    National Monument, English Garden, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Fountain of the Four Seasons, English Garden, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

              
    Jet d’Eau (Water Jet) – One of Europe’s tallest fountains, which is located where Lake Geneva empties into the Rhône River. Water shoots 459-feet into the air.

    Jet d'Eau (Water Jet), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Lake Geneva – Located in Switzerland and France, and is one of the largest lakes in Europe. We took a boat tour of the lake with Swissboat. Tickets for the Cruise of the Mermaid were 16 CHF each. The boat tour lasted an hour and 15 minutes. A brochure in multiple languages, including English, was given with the ticket purchase. The recorded audio commentary was in multiple languages, including English, though it was a bit hard to hear over the boat’s motor. We enjoyed the tour, and it was fun to see the sights from the water.

    Lake Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Right Bank – Les Pâquis

    Monument Brunswick – The mausoleum of Charles d’Este-Guelph, Duke of Brunswick. He died in 1873 and left his fortune to the city on the condition his mausoleum, based on the Scaliger Tombs in Verona, Italy, be given a place of prominence.

    Monument Brunswick, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Monument Brunswick, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

              
    Mont Blanc – The highest mountain in the French Alps at 15,767 feet. On a clear day, this mountain can be seen from Geneva.

    Right Bank – International Area

    Jardin Botanique (Botanical Garden) – Sixty-nine acres of greenspace with plants, flowers, trees, paths, streams, greenhouses, an aviary, and a zoo.

    Jardin Botanique (Botanical Garden), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Jardin Botanique (Botanical Garden), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Musée International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge (International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum) – A museum in the hillside below the world headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The museum is divided into three areas: Defending Human Dignity, Restoring Family Links, and Reducing Natural Risks. Audio sets for the museum are available in English. We used our Swiss Pass here, so entry was free.

    Musée International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge (International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    Palais des Nations (Palace of Nations) – The headquarters of the League of Nations, built between 1929 and 1936. We were here on a Saturday after visiting hours, so we were unable to go inside, but it open to the public. Across the street is the Broken Chair, a 39-foot high chair that represents opposition to landmines.

    Palais des Nations (Palace of Nations), Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Broken Chair, Geneva, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
              

  • International Travel

    A Day in Lausanne, Switzerland

    We arrived in Lausanne on a Thursday, after staying one night in Bern. We took a train from Bern to Lausanne (see Google map below for route). The train ride took about an hour and was not crowded. Once at the Lausanne rail station, we went in the tourist information office to get a map of the city and directions to our hotel. Our hotel was within walking distance of the rail station, though it was an uphill walk.

    Hotel

    Hôtel de la Paix
    This hotel was rated as ★★★★. We stayed one night. We booked a standard double room with lake view for one night without breakfast for 186.20 CHF. Posted check in time was 3:00 pm and check out was 11:00 am. We arrived early (12:45 pm) and our room was ready. At check in, I was asked to fill in a form with my information (contact info and passport number). During check in, we were given two free transportation passes for use on the days we were in town. We didn’t use the passes, but it’s probably a good bonus for some people. The hotel had two elevators/lifts. The keycard for the room also controlled the room’s lights.

    Hôtel de la Paix, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Location: Avenue Benjamin-Constant 5, Lausanne Centre, 1003 Lausanne, Switzerland.
    Good! Within walking distance of the rail station – it’s an uphill walk, so if carrying much luggage, probably best to take public transportation. Near many tourist attractions, restaurants, and shopping.

    Our Room: We stayed in room 409. Our room had a view of Lake Geneva. It was a spacious, clean room. The room had two twin beds made separately and pushed together. The twin beds stayed pushed together well. The beds and pillows were comfortable. The room included a desk with lamp and chair, small table with two chairs, bench, wardrobe with hangers and shelves, tv with remote (didn’t use), phone, bedside tables with lamps, floor lamp, minibar, iron and ironing board, two extra pillows, electric tea kettle with two mugs, two drinking glasses, two wine glasses, and two complimentary bottles of water. There were several plugs located around the room. The room had a private bathroom with a shower, sink, toilet, hair dryer, 2 body towels, 2 hand towels, 2 washcloths, 2 drink glasses, and packaged toiletries (soap, shower gel, and shampoo).

    Hôtel de la Paix, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hôtel de la Paix, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hôtel de la Paix, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hôtel de la Paix, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hôtel de la Paix, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hôtel de la Paix, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Amenities: Free wi-fi throughout the hotel. Breakfast is not included with the room, but can be added for an extra fee. Breakfast is served in the hotel’s restaurant.

    Service/Staff: Friendly staff that spoke English well.

    Food & Drink

    Restaurant les Brasseurs – We had a late lunch here. The restaurant wasn’t too busy, and there was plenty of seating inside. This is a restaurant and brew pub that offers four of their own beers. Their beers include an amber ale, a blonde ale, a witbier, and a special brew – it was a stout while we were there. Our waiter spoke English, and an English menu was available. I had a hamburger and Michael had meatballs. The food and service were good.

    Cafe Romand – We stopped by here after walking around all afternoon. The restaurant wasn’t busy. The waitstaff didn’t speak much English. We only ordered drinks and dessert. The food was okay, but the service was poor.

    Captain Cook Pub – We saw this place on our walk back to the hotel and decided to stop and see what they had. Although it was an English pub with English signage everywhere, the bartenders did not speak English. It was a typical pub and had a decent beer selection.

    Bleu Lézard – We had dinner here. The restaurant was very busy on Thursday night. It was a lively atmosphere with a younger crowd. Our waiter spoke English and they had an English menu available. I had spaghetti and Michael had macaroni. The food and service were very good.

    Sightseeing

    While in Lausanne, we walked everywhere we went. It was a pedestrian friendly town, with some areas pedestrian only.

    Sights

    Rue de Bourg – An up-scale shopping street in Lausanne.

    Place St-François (St. Francis Square) – This square is bustling with activity – a church (Church of St. Francis), post office, restaurants, and shops.

    Church

    Cathedral of Notre-Dame – Construction on the cathedral was started in the 12th-century and completed in 1275. Though this cathedral is quite a walk uphill, it is worth visiting. Fun fact: Lausanne still has a town crier, and he uses the cathedral tower to cry out between the hours of 10:00 pm – 2:00 am.

    Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Museum

    Palais de Rumine – This building was completed in 1904 and houses several museums – Musée Cantonal d’Archéologie et d’Histoire (Museum of Archaeology and History), Musée Cantonal de Géologie (Museum of Geology), Musée Cantonal de Zoologie (Museum of Zoology), Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts), and Musée Monétaire Cantonal (Museum of Currency). We did not visit the inside of the building – it was near closing time when we made our way to this area. In front of the building is a large plaza (Place de la Riponne) that was full of people and serves as an open-air market.

    Palais de Rumine, Lausanne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Musée Historique de Lausanne (Lausanne History Museum) – This museum is housed in the former bishop’s residence and has displays about the history of Lausanne and the surrounding areas. Signage in the museum is in French. We used our Swiss Pass here, so entry was free.

  • International Travel

    A Day in Bern (Berne), Switzerland

    We arrived in Bern (Berne) on a Wednesday, after staying two nights in Lucerne. We took a train from Lucerne to Bern (see Google map below for route). The train ride took about an hour and was not crowded. Once at the Bern rail station, we went in the tourist information office to get a map of the city and directions to our hotel. Our hotel was in the Old City and was within walking distance of the rail station.

    Hotel

    Goldener Schlüssel
    This hotel was rated as ★★★. We stayed one night. We booked a standard double room for one night with breakfast included for 213.00 CHF. Posted check in time was 2:00 pm and check out was 11:00 am. We arrived early (12:30 pm) and our room was ready. At check in, I was asked to fill in a form with my information (contact info and passport number). The hotel had one elevator. The keycard for the room also controlled the elevator, hotel’s front door, and the room’s lights. The hotel building is very old (over 500 years); however, the rooms were remodeled and decorated very modern.

    Location: Rathausgasse 72, 3011 Bern, Switzerland.
    Very good! Within walking distance of the rail station – about a 10 minute walk. Near many tourist attractions, restaurants, and shopping.

    Our Room: We stayed in room 114. Our room had no view – an alley. It was a nice sized, clean room. The room had two twin beds made separately and pushed together, and another twin bed. The twin beds stayed pushed together well. The beds were hard and pillows were soft, so it was not a good night’s sleep for us. This hotel room was also warmer than we like, but that seemed to be the trend during our trip. The room included a desk with chair, two additional chairs, wardrobe with hangers and safe, luggage rack, tv with remote (didn’t use), phone, bedside shelves with lamps, floor lamp, and bottled water with two glasses. There were several plugs located around the room. The room had a private bathroom that was enclosed in yellow glass. It was a small bathroom with a shower, sink, toilet, hair dryer, 3 body towels, 3 hand towels, 3 washcloths, 2 drink glasses, and liquid soap and shampoo.

    Goldener Schlüssel, Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Goldener Schlüssel, Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Goldener Schlüssel, Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Amenities: Free wi-fi throughout the hotel. A continental breakfast was included with the room and was served in the hotel’s restaurant.

    Service/Staff: Polite staff that spoke English well.

    Food & Drink

    Restaurant and Cafe Rathaus – We had a late lunch here. The restaurant wasn’t too busy, and we were able to find a seat outside. The food and service were good. Our waitress did not speak English, but an English menu was available. We both ordered flatbreads that were kind of like pizzas.

    Restaurant Goldener Schlüssel – We were tired after walking around town all afternoon and decided to have dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. The restaurant wasn’t very busy on a Wednesday night. We ordered an appetizer of cheese and meats, both had the sausage with risotto entrée, and dessert – Coupe Denmark (hot fudge sundae) and Iced Coffee Brazil (coffee and ice cream). The food and service were good. Some of the waitstaff spoke English, and an English menu was available.

    Sightseeing

    While in Bern, we walked everywhere we went. It was a pedestrian friendly town.

    Sights

    BärenPark (Bear Park) – The bear is an important symbol in Bern. Live bears have been kept in Bern since 1513. The current bear pit is the fourth bear pit for the city and was opened in 1857. In 2009, the Bear Park was built and joins the bear pit – the bears can go through tunnels between the pit and the park. We visited the Bear Park on a Thursday morning and the bears were in the pit while workers were cleaning the park area.

    BärenPark (Bear Park), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    BärenPark (Bear Park), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Zytglogge (Clock Tower) – The astronomical clock on the tower was built in 1530, and still keeps time. The tower itself dates back to the 13th-century and is remnants of the city’s first wall. Guided tours of the Clock Tower are available, though we didn’t take one of the tours.

    Zähringerbrunnen (Zähringen Fountain) & Zytglogge (Clock Tower), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Zytglogge (Clock Tower), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Bundeshaus (House of Parliament) – The Parliament Building was built between 1852-1902. The open square in front of the building has 26 water jets that attract visitors when the weather is warm.

    Bundeshaus (House of Parliament), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Plaza with 26 Water Jets, Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Bundeshaus (House of Parliament), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Bundeshaus (House of Parliament), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Fountains of Bern – Over 100 fountains remain in the Old City of Bern, with eleven fountains having the original statues. The eleven historic 16th-century fountains include: Anna Seiler Brunnen (Anna Seiler Fountain), Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Justice Fountain), Kindlifresserbrunnen (Child Eater Fountain or Ogre Fountain), Läuferbrunnen (Runner Fountain), Mosesbrunnen (Moses Fountain), Pfeiferbrunnen (Bagpiper Fountain), Ryfflibrunnen (Crossbowman Fountain), Schützenbrunnen (Marksman Fountain), Simsonbrunnen (Samson Fountain), Vennerbrunnen (Banner Carrier Fountain), and Zähringerbrunnen (Bear Fountain).

    Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Justice Fountain), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Simsonbrunnen (Samson Fountain), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Vennerbrunnen (Banner Carrier Fountain), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Zähringerbrunnen (Bear Fountain), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Churches

    Münster (The Cathedral of Bern) – This is the largest church in Switzerland. Construction on the cathedral was started in 1421 and took hundreds of years to complete. The church steeple was added in 1893. The church tower is open to visitors, though it was closed due to construction while we were there.

    Münster (The Cathedral of Bern), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Münster (The Cathedral of Bern), Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Church of St. Peter and Paul – Construction for this neo-Gothic church was in 1858-64.

    Church of St. Peter and Paul, Bern, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Museum

    Einsteinhaus (Einstein’s House) – Albert Einstein’s home in 1905 when he published his Special Theory of Relativity. The apartment on the second floor is decorated in the style of the time to depict Einstein’s home with his wife and son. The third floor has a timeline of Einstein’s life. Signage in the museum is in English. The Swiss Pass was not valid here, and the entry fee was 6 CHF each.

  • International Travel

    Two Days in Lucerne (Luzern), Switzerland

    We really enjoyed Lucerne (Luzern), and it was one of our favorite cities while visiting Switzerland. We arrived in Lucerne on a Monday, after staying one night in Zurich. We took a train from Zurich to Lucerne (see Google map below for route). The train ride took less than an hour and was fairly crowded. Once at the Lucerne rail station, we went in the tourist information office to get a map of the city and directions to our hotel. Our hotel was on the right bank of the Reuss River and was within walking distance of the rail station.

    Hotel

    Hotel Pickwick
    This hotel was not given a star rating. We stayed two nights, and really enjoyed the Pickwick. We booked a double room with a view for two nights for 320.00 CHF. Check in for the hotel was at the pub. Posted check in time was 2:00 pm and check out was 11:00 am. We arrived early (1:20 pm) and our room was ready. At check in, I was asked to fill in a form with my information (contact info and passport number). The hotel had one tiny elevator that we only used when carrying our luggage to and from the room. The hotel has a separate entrance at the rear of the building that hotel guests can use instead of having to walk through the pub. This hotel had a different type of locking/unlocking system for the rooms, and provided a funny looking magnet key to use on the doors.

    Hotel Pickwick, Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hotel Pickwick, Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Location: Rathausquai 6, 6004 Lucerne, Switzerland.
    Very good! Within walking distance of the rail station and on the river. Near many tourist attractions, restaurants, pubs, and shopping.

    View from our room in Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com
    View from our room at the Hotel Pickwick.

    Our Room: We stayed in room 304. Our room had a great view of the Reuss River and Chapel Bridge. The room had a tiny balcony – enough room for one person to stand on it. It was a nice sized, clean room. The room had two twin beds made separately and pushed together. The beds and pillows were comfortable, though snuggling is hard in separate beds that want to roll apart. Our room had windows that opened wide and a portable fan that we used at night. The room included a desk with three chairs, an extra chair, closet with hangers and safe, tv with remote (didn’t use), bedside tables with lamps, electric tea pot, four mugs, bottle opener, and a floor lamp. The room had no phone. There were several plugs located conveniently around the room. The room had a private bathroom with a shower, sink, toilet, hair dryer, 2 body towels, 2 hand towels, 4 hard plastic drink glasses, and liquid soap and shampoo.

    Hotel Pickwick, Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hotel Pickwick, Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hotel Pickwick, Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hotel Pickwick, Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Amenities: Free wi-fi throughout the hotel. An English pub was located downstairs. No breakfast was offered at this hotel, but there were places nearby to purchase breakfast.

    Service/Staff: Friendly staff that spoke English well.

    Food & Drink

    Da Ernesto – We had a late lunch here on our first day in town. The restaurant was fairly busy – all seating outside was taken, so we sat inside. The food and service was good and our waitress spoke English. We both ordered pizza. FYI: restaurants in Switzerland don’t slice pizza.

    Hotel Zum Rebstock – We stopped at this place after walking around town all afternoon. We wanted something to drink and a snack before walking around some more. We both ordered a salad, which was okay but too soggy. The service was good and our waiter spoke some English. We went at an off-time of day, so we were the only patrons inside, though a couple of tables outside were occupied.

    Stadtkeller – We had dinner here and it was very entertaining. This restaurant offers a dinner show of traditional Swiss folklore. The place was about half-full and it was all tourists. It was a fun evening of fairly cheesy entertainment, but we had a blast. The food was good and had generous portions. The service was friendly and our waitress spoke English. We both ordered multi-course meals. My meal was Swiss cheese fondue, salad, wienerschnitzel with rosti and string beans, and meringue with applesauce and strawberry ice cream. Michael had salad, fondue bourguignonne (beef) with French fried potatoes, and meringue with applesauce and strawberry ice cream.

    Stadtkeller Restaurant, Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Pickwick Pub – After walking around town following our trip to Mt. Rigi, we went back to the hotel to have a break and plan the rest of our day. Instead of staying in the room, we went downstairs to the pub for drinks and a snack while we discussed what else we wanted to see. The service in the pub was good, and they spoke English.

    Rathaus Brauerei – We had dinner here. The restaurant is located on the river, but we ate inside. An English menu was available, and most of the staff spoke English. The food was decent and service was fair. The restaurant was fairly busy and had a casual atmosphere with a mix of locals and tourists. This place makes their own beer – an amber and a pilsner. For our meals, I had veal sausages with pretzel and sweet mustard sauce, and Michael had Alplenmagronen (mac & cheese with potatoes), applesauce, and Nuremberg sausages with sauerkraut.

    Starbucks – On our last morning in Lucerne we went to the Starbucks by the hotel for coffee and pastries. It was not busy on a Wednesday morning. We sat at an outside table and watched the ducks and swans on the river.

    Sightseeing

    While in Lucerne, we walked everywhere we went. It was a pedestrian friendly town, with some areas being pedestrian only.

    Sights

    Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) – Touted as the oldest wooden bridge in Europe. It was constructed in 1333 to help protect the town in case of attacks from the lake. Along the inside of the bridge, numerous 17th-century paintings decorate the gables. Much of the bridge burned in 1993, but after renovation, the bridge opened back up in 1994.

    Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument) – A sandstone carving of a dying lion. Berthel Thorvaldsen designed the lion monument and Lucas Ahorn carved it in 1820-21. The monument measures 6 m x 10 m.

    Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument), Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Musegg Wall – Rampart walls built in 1386. Most of the wall is still standing. Some of the watchtowers are open to the public, though they were closed while we were there and some towers were under construction. The Zytturm (Time Tower) houses the oldest clock in Lucerne. The clock was built by Hans Luter in 1535 and still keeps time. Each hour, this clock has the privilege of chiming one minute earlier than all the other clocks in town.

    Musegg Wall, Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Musegg Wall, Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Spreuerbrücke (Chaff Bridge) – A wooden covered bridge built in 1408. The inside of the bridge has 17th-century paintings on the gables painted by Kaspar Meglinger that depict the plague and are known as the Danse Macabre (Dance of Death).

    Spreuerbrücke (Chaff Bridge), Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Weinmarkt (Wine Market) – A square that contains a Gothic fountain of St. Mauritius and surrounded by buildings with 16th-century frescos. This square is where Passion Plays were once held.

    Wochenmarkt (Weekly Market) – On both sides of the Reuss River, a farmer’s market is held every Tuesday and Saturday morning. We were there on a Tuesday morning, and though I didn’t purchase anything, the vendor booths looked enticing.

    Churches

    Hofkirsche (Church of St. Leodegar) – This site was originally a monastery in the 8th-century. The current German Renaissance church was built in 1633 to replace the Gothic church that was destroyed by fire. The church is surrounded by a cemetery. Worth walking around the exterior and interior of this church.

    Hofkirsche (Church of St. Leodegar), Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Hofkirsche (Church of St. Leodegar), Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church) – Construction of this Gothic church was between 1270-1280. The church has undergone various renovation projects over the years, including the addition of the ornate wooden pulpit and choir stalls during the 17th century. A beautiful church.

    Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church), Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church), Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit Church) – Construction for this Baroque church was in 1666, with the two dome towers added in 1893. This church is absolutely spectacular.

    Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit Church), Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit Church), Lucerne, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Museums

    Bourbaki Panorama – A circular painting depicting the French Army retreating into Switzerland during the Franco-Prussian War. Edouard Castres and his team of artists painted this panorama in 1881. The painting is 10 meters in height with a circumference of 112 meters. It’s a very unique work, and not many 19th-century panoramic paintings are still in existence. We used our Swiss Pass, so entry was free. The recorded commentary was in English.

    Sammlung Rosengart (Rosengart Collection) – A collection of artwork acquired by a father-daughter team, Siegfried and Angela Rosengart, of 19th- and 20th-century artists. The collection boasts many pieces by Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee, plus works by Paul Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Georges Seurat. We used our Swiss Pass, so entry was free.

    Excursion

    Mt. Rigi – We spent half a day going to see Mt. Rigi. We rode a boat from Lucerne to Vitznau and took the Rigi Railways train from Vitznau up to the top of the mountain. This train route was Europe’s first cog railway and was built in 1871. We only spent an hour on Mt. Rigi, but were able to get a great view of the surrounding areas. There was a place to grab a quick bite to eat before heading back, and then we took the train and boat back to Lucerne. The boat and train fares were covered with our Swiss Pass, so we didn’t have to pay extra for this excursion. It was a great way to see some of the area. There are also cable cars available to take up to Mt. Rigi, though they were closed while we were there.

    Boat from Lucerne to Vitznau, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    View from Rigi Railways, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    View from Mt. Rigi, Switzerland | rainerlife.com

    Mt. Rigi, Switzerland | rainerlife.com