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European Diary: Part 1

U. Shridhar Rao fulfils a long cherished desire to tour Europe and takes a guided tour provided by one of the agencies in India. Here he describes his visit to Switzerland.

While at school, I never understood how the study of European history and geography was going to help us. However, slowly and steadily my studies painted vivid images that began to fascinate me. Over the years the urge to visit these places grew.

I was fascinated by the snow clad mountainous regions of Switzerland, the plains below sea level in Holland, the canal network of Venice, the historical ruins of Rome, the leaning Tower of Pisa, the serene Rhine river, the castles of Germany & England and the various crafts, industries and ports.

Land of Rising Sun
Norwegian New Year
European Diary: Part 2
European Diary: Part 3

I was also fascinated by maritime adventurers like Columbus, Vasco-Da-Gama, Marco Polo; artists and sculptors like Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and the art loving people of Florence. The aspiration to view European life at close range, remained until the urge became so strong that I was finally compelled to visit Europe. My wife and I decided on a 19-day tour of Europe.

It took us nearly a year to get our passports in hand. Finally, on 25th June 2001 we boarded the Swiss Air flight from Mumbai. A group of 50 people from other parts of India joined us at Zurich Airport. The gleaming portals of the airport and the beauty of the landscapes enthralled me. We were escorted to a modern bus that boasted a GPS screen linked to a satellite. The young Italian driver, Antonio, delightedly shouted out that Sonia Gandhi was from his country. During the tour, it was fascinating to watch Antonio follow the detailed directions indicated on the screen.

We visited Europe's largest and most powerful waterfalls on the beautiful Rhine, where the waters foamed and created mist that enveloped us. En route to Zurich, we faced an unexpected and unusual traffic jam. Despite the unaccustomed frustration of six lanes inching their way at snail's pace, not a horn blared, nor did a single vehicle attempt to change lanes. A traffic police helicopter soon arrived and cleared the traffic.


Zurich, the financial capital and the biggest city in Switzerland was picture postcard perfect. Buses, trams and trains run on electricity and all other vehicles adhere to strict emission norms. To facilitate a cleaner environment, the Govt. is considering transporting all vehicles passing through the country on electric trains.

Zurich is on the wooded slopes of a mountain range at the confluence of two rivers. The main street is lined with banks, shopping arcades and exclusive boutiques. We passed by the Swiss National Museum and St. Peter's Church with the largest clock face in Europe, and spent some time beside Lake Zurich. Hotel Terrace, in the small town of Engelburg, where we stayed, has to be reached by cable car as it is located at an altitude. When I stepped out onto the balcony, I was startled to find the stunning snow-clad mountain peaks still sunlit at 10 p.m.

We drove to Lucerne, the sixth most visited city in the world. The city is located around the lake. We saw the Lovendenkal, the Lion monument. etched on limestone on a hillside built to commemorate the bravery and loyalty of Swiss Guards. At the Bucherer showroom, one of Switzerland's well-known watch manufacturers, we bought two beautifully carved spoons as souvenirs. On our way to the scenic Lake Lucerne, we saw the famous and the oldest, covered wooden bridge of Kappelbrucke. Originally built in 1333 over the Reuss River, the bridge leads to a beautiful 17th century Jesuit Church. The cruise on the lake was enchanting.


The following morning we went to see Mt. Titlis, which at 10, 000 feet, is the highest peak in central Switzerland. From Engelburg town, three types of cable cars, including the rotating Titlis Rotair, us to the snow-clad peak of Mt. Titlis. The Ice Flyer, another chairlift, spans the glacier crevasses of Mount Titlis. We slipped and slid through the Ice Cave, a man made tunnel carved through a glacier.

The next day we were scheduled to visit Venice and I was already looking forward to the fascination of discovering other destinations, long imagined in my mind.

European Diary: Part 2    |    European Diary: Part 3

Photo Credit: U.Shridhar Rao

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