I had seen Switzerland in many of our Bollywood movies and I dreamed of going there some day. I mentioned to M that I would be going to Switzerland for three days during the long weekend in June 2005. He was excited but reluctant to join me as he thought we had to apply for a special visa to visit Switzerland.
Indians holding work permit for United Kingdom that is valid for more than six months could visit Switzerland (2005) without any special permit. Switzerland wasn't a Schengen nation then(don't know if it is now...!!!), and so didn't demand the special visa (Schengen) that Indians require to enter Europe. But M wasn't convinced. I wrote to the Switzerland tourism department (firstname.lastname@example.org) and they confirmed that we didn't require any additional visa. (You can look up at http://www.swissinfo.org/eng/index.html for further information.)
He entrusted me wih the job of charting our journey in the country. He confessed that his knowledge about the country was limited and he would be glad to visit any place that I would consider worth visiting. Then began the meticulous job of finding the interesting places to visit in three days. The country looked really beautiful in the movies and I wasn't sure how many places we could visit in three days. I wanted to make most of our visit to the country.
I consulted Mark, our colleague who frequently visits Switzerland. He wrote to his friend in Geneva and suggested that I shouldn't miss the beautiful little town -- Interlaken, if I visit Switzerland. He also sent me a list of things that I could do while I was in the small town. I checked out a few sites on the internet and decided on visiting Bern, Geneva and Interlaken. I called up a fellow volunteer (back then, I used to volunteer for Friends Of Children) in India who had visited Switzerland, to find out what other places I could add to my itinerary. He suggested that I visit Jungfraujuch.
Another colleague, MK expressed his desire to join us (me and M). Now our group consisted of 4 adults (me, M, MK and his wife) and MK's two year old kid. So, I had to find a budget hostel that was also children friendly. After much searching on the net, I found a backpackers villa at Interlaken ( href="http://www.villa.ch/")that also accommodated families. The next job was to find the cheap flight to Geneva.
British Airways offered return tickets to Geneva for 87 Pounds. This wasn't a bad bargain. I went to BA office with M to book our flight tickets to Geneva. Unfortunatey neither of us had a credit card and the kind lady at the booking office suggested that we book our tickets on the internet as it would cost us less. We returned to our office in London and called MK at Leatherhead office. We requested him to use his credit card to book our flight tickets on the internet. We managed to get the return tickets for 78 Pounds each.
MK booked a dorm bed for me in the ladies' dorm and another room for M in the men's dorm at Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof. He booked a family room for himself.
We were to take the 7:30 AM BA flight from London -- Heathrow, to Geneva; take the train to Bern and visit the city the whole day. We would then take the train to Interlaken and checkin for the night. We would also go sightseeing in the night. The next day we would change trains at Grindelwald to Jungfraujuch and return to the hostel for the night and leave by train to Geneva the next morning. We would take the flight back to London the same evening.
"Perfect! I couldn't have planned any better if I were going to Switzerland for three days. You seem to have added all the nice places to your list." was what Mark said when I briefed him with my plan.
More to follow...