In October 2015 I made one of the best decisions of my life. To visit Switzerland. The list of countries and cities that I’ve travelled to is slowly growing longer (yay), and of all the amazing places I’ve seen, Switzerland thus far is most definitely my favourite country. It. Is. Spectacular. So much so, that I’d attempt to tell Hubby about the amazing time I was having, only to end up crying mid-sentence because I was just so damn happy. Happy sad, as my kids would say. Suffice to say, no country had ever moved me to tears.
The thing about Switzerland is this, you can’t go wrong. Wherever you end up it’s all stunning. For those that aren’t aware, Switzerland is landlocked, and shares borders with Austria, France, Germany and Italy. The languages spoken are either English, French, German or Italian, depending on the region within Switzerland that you visit. In this instance we stayed in the countryside in an idyllic village called Ennetburgen, approximately a twenty minute drive from the picturesque town Lucerne. The location that we chose to visit has many drawcards, one in particular being Mt Pilatus. To give you some perspective (if you’re from Australia), Australia’s tallest mountain is Mount Kosciusko, and yet Mt Pilatus dwarfs Mt Kosciusko in comparison, and is considered an average size in Switzerland. But if you’re the kind of person that’s not impressed by size, there’s still something for you. The beauty and accessibility of Mt Pilatus makes it an experience for even the non-mountaineer, outdoorsy type person. So here’s what to expect.
Obviously this depends on where you’re staying, but cities and villages within Switzerland are well connected by rail. Just about anywhere is accessible by the cleanest trains imaginable, all of which run very efficiently. Word of warning, if you are 1 minute late for the train, you’ll have missed it, Swiss time is clockwork precision. I also found the transport system safe, clean and incredibly well organised. The journey too is stunning, feels like entertainment in it’s own right, with the Alps 99% of the time within sight. So, now that you’re on the train you need to disembark at Alpnach train station, which is where you catch the cog wheel train to make the ascent. There are a number of ways to reach the summit, but this is dependent on the season/weather.
Arriving at Alpnach Station, waiting to board the cog wheel train to the Summit
Even the Train Station is beautiful and pristine clean
The ascent via cog wheel is both scenic and fuels the anticipation of what lies ahead. The landscape begins to change as the altitude changes. Green meadows and grassed valleys begin to turn to powdery white snow patches, until finally all is blanketed in snow.
Upon reaching the summit you will walk a few steps, and arrive at an area with floor to ceiling viewing windows, a restaurant/café and toilets, along with a gift shop. Proceed further through the building and out the other side and you’ll find yourself at what I’d consider the flat part of the summit. Beyond that, there are several steps, which are very narrow, and incredibly slippery in parts, so wear very sturdy and solid gripping shoes.
I found no difficulty breathing at this altitude, (but I am reasonably fit). That being said, I noticed people of all ages and weights, none of whom appeared to be struggling. The air is clean, the views over the valley and towards the horizon are humbling, and the opportunity for photos is endless. We visited in October, and although snow wasn’t falling during the day, the mountain was covered from the night’s dump.
What to Bring:
Sunglasses is a must, as it’s incredibly bright, and sturdy shoes are highly recommended. Clothing wise, wearing several layers is advisable, more so than one huge think coat. You’re going to want gloves too. Surprisingly it’s warm when the sun is out, but gets cold very quickly too. Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera.
The descent can be from either side of the mountain. Gondola (depending on the time of year and season) departs from the opposite side to the cog wheel train, (the same way in which you most likely arrived).
Finally, as a mother of three, I would bring my young children here, but I would not let them out of my sight, and if climbing the stairs walking at a snail pace, wihilst never letting go of each other’s hand’s is to be encouraged. I cannot stress enough just how slippery these steps are, and how there is next to no railing. Falling off the edge could easily happen, but you have nothing to worry about if you’re sensible. This is one of those places where going for the thrill seeking Instagram shot is not worth the risk. That being said, I don’t want to have you questioning the safety, as I consider this to be a low risk activity if sticking to the path. Of the region we stayed in, this is and was definitely the highlight of our 5 days in Switzerland. Don’t miss it if you’re near Zurich or Lucerne.