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Re: Switzerland and Venice trip report Okay so I finally found some time to write a Trip Report on our trip last summer to Switzerland and Venice. I really had no reason or patience to write it as it’s harder to write than it sounds. But after reading other Trip Reports, I realized how helpful it is to other DDF’rs so I made the time to write it.

My wife and I went on this trip and we left our daughter behind. It was almost a 2 week trip. We heard from some people that Switzerland is boring and there is nothing to do there besides staring at mountains each day. A friend of mine even suggested visiting upstate NY as he doesn’t see any difference in the beauty of the mountains. How wrong they were! We couldn’t stop marveling at Hashem’s beautiful world. It’s magnificent! (Well, the truth is that Switzerland is a little tricky, because it rains a lot there and if most days that you are there rains, you are in trouble. We B”H  had picture-perfect weathers almost every day.) We took along our Panasonic LX5 camera and all photos are from what we took, we didn’t download any pictures that we didn’t take.

Switzerland
Switzerland is absolutely a gorgeous country and very suitable for tourists. It’s an extremely relaxing place with sky-reaching mountains and breathtaking views and crystal clear air! The Swiss culture is also impressive, with everyone trusting each other. We never saw a chained bike. No need to chain it. They are confident no one will steal it.

If you understand Yiddish, you’ll understand most of the language

There are three types of mountains there.
Green mountains – grass and trees
Grey mountains – stone
White mountains – snow
Each of them has its beauty and specialty. But there is one thing that you will find by all of them - water. On every mountain if you go a little away of the trail you’ll find the water which runs continuously with nice waterfalls every so often. And on the green mountains you will see the famous Swiss cows with the big bell hanging from their neck. I’m not sure who owns and takes care of them. The air on the high mountains is so pure, that I don’t understand how people breathe city air.

Cows roaming around on the green mountains


Waterfalls flowing at sides of the mountains

Train system
The Swiss train system is fantastic and very on time. I would recommend going with the train unless you travel with children, and besides, the train is nice and clean and no matter where you travel, you have nice sceneries. Someone gave us a train card that looks like a check, we paid $350 and got 7 days to ride the train unlimited, plus when not using the free days the card is a Halbtax which gives you half price to train, bus and most attractions in Switzerland. And by having that card, we didn’t need a car, so we had no worries about parking, gas etc. Additionally, with the train you get to your destination quicker. The price however is not cheap; a local tram or bus is about $8 but it gives you prompt and comfortable service.

Thursday
We headed to JFK and took an A”A overnight flight to Zurich. We each took two luggage stuffed up till over max (of course  ;) ) with a lot of Kosher food. I’ve never flown with A”A before. I was very not impressed with the airline; they don’t even come close to Delta or United. Anyways, we arrived safely to Zurich and that was the main point

Friday
From the airport we went with a prearranged taxi to Engelberg. The way took 1.5 hours. The highways in Switzerland are very neat and nice, and all drivers strictly enforce the “left lane passing only” rule. Along the way, there were a couple of long tunnels that run under a mountain, and the views on the way were nice. The closer we got to Engelberg the nicer the mountains and the view became.

Engelberg
Engelberg is a nice town in a valley between huge mountains. It is located in central Switzerland and is about 40 minutes from Luzern. There is usually a Minyan there from after Tishe B’av for 3-4 weeks. It is cooler there than in Zurich and at night the temperature drops considerably so you need sweaters. Engelberg has a few hundred people living there year round, and I believe most of them work in shops or by the two main attractions located in their town, which are Titlis and Brunni. (see later)


Engelberg town. Right side is Titlis and left is Brunni

We booked a room via www.sunnmatt.ch. It is a complex of 4-5 apartment buildings of about 3-6 floors each. The apartments are owned by private people who rent it out while they are not there. We booked a one bedroom apartment for 80 francs a day (125 after all taxes). The room was okay, nothing fancy, but nice and big with a porch viewing the Titlis. We arrived to our apartment a few hours before Shabbos. We took along most food for Shabbos, and the rest we bought at Coop. (Switzerland has 2 supermarkets all over, one is Coop (co-up) the other is Migros. They each carry a lot of Kosher food) The shops are really nice there.


The apartment complex which we stayed in

Sunday
We decided to do the Brunni first, so we walked over. Here I have to explain; I am terrified of heights, but in order to enjoy the real magnificent views you have to go on a chairlift (Gondola). There are two kinds. 1) A small one, 4 to 6 people in each. 2) A huge school bus sized enclosed cart. I’ve never been on that before, it is very scary especially when passing a pole and the entire unit shakes... Anyways, we arrived to the Brunni and went on this scary huge cart. I couldn't really enjoy the views because my eyes were closed... The ride is about 5 minutes to the next station and from there another 10 minutes on a small open chairlift till the top. At the middle station, there is a mountain slide (Alpine Sliding) which is cheap and short but a lot of fun. To get from the second to the third station, you can hike up (it would take approximately half an hour) instead of the chairlift. When you get to the top it’s like you are in a different world; Stuuuunnning!! It’s like having all those beautiful screen savers in front of you.




Open chairlifts to the top station at Brunni


The beautiful lake on the top station of Brunni.


That’s me, relaxing a bit and taking in the magnificent view of Brunni.

There is a lot to do there; especially hiking. But after hiking for 15 minutes our feet started hurting so we went back and relaxed. Then we sat down by a Glider take-off spot. It’s very interesting to watch people flying like birds. I wished I knew how to fly it. After watching several take-offs, we went into a lake where there is a walking path in there that was pretty cool.


We met up with cows the entire time. Note the gliders overhead.

http://youtu.be/MiRZxGuPIWw
This is a clip I took of the Gliders taking off and flying around, the background noise is from bells of the cows. ("ckmk47" uploaded it for me, Thank You!)

Monday
We woke up early to go to the Titlis, which is one of the main attractions of central Switzerland, and is located in Engelberg. Before you go, you should pack in sweaters and boots or good sneakers, because up on the mountain there is snow and gets really cold. We were by the ticket center before 10:00 and already there were long lines. (It’s 80 francs per person.) Then we followed the crowd to the chairlifts. I’ve never seen something like this before, a whole maze of tracks and every few seconds another one takes off.

Titlis is more than 10 thousand feet high. It takes almost an hour to reach the top including four chairlifts (five stations). By every station there are some activities to do and you can go out at that station to enjoy them. By the second station you can take a Trottibike which is a mountain scooter with big wheels, and you can scoot down to the first station (you’d want to do that on the way back). By the center station (3’rd) there is a lake with paddle and row boats (for free, no supervision either). And by the 4’th station you can go out and walk a little. There is also a porch in the back with a breathtaking view; perfect spot to shoot some photos. The last (top) chairlift is the most interesting one, called Rotaire chairlift, and it rotates so you can stand in one place and see all sides. When you get higher up, you start seeing snow. Up there is freezing with a lot of snow on the ground.


The smaller chairlifts, from station 1 to 2 and to 3. Note Engelberg in the background


The Titlis Cart from station 3 to 4


The Titlis Rotaire Chairlift


View of Titlis. Taken from the Rotaire Chairlift.


At last, I reached the very top of Titlis!

We put on our jackets and went first to the mini Ice Museum located one flight below the chairlifts. At this station there is also a long metal bridge that shakes terribly! It’s something like a hammock which is only connected at the two sides and as you walk deeper in you feel it shaking more and more under your feet. It is terrifying! Not recommended for those with a faint heart. From this station you can also take an open Gliding Chairlift (additional charge of 12 Francs) which takes you to a snow tubing spot. The tubing area was far smaller than we expected but a lot of fun. There are multiple types of sleds and tubes that you can take, free of course. We tried out all kinds of sleds and after having a good time and tumbling over once and twice, we headed back.


See how the Titlis reaches above the clouds.


On the Trotti Bikes. Scooting down Titlis from station 2 to the bottom

Tuesday
Since it was our last full day in the area, we decided to do Pilatus. We took a train to the big Luzern train station. Our plan was to take a boat from the train station to Pilatus, but since we missed the boat we took another train instead, which was about 15 minutes. The way up we did by this very steep train, a long 20 minute slow ride. Up there was cloudy so we didn’t have such a nice view. There is a huge deck with entertainment and Restaurants/gift shops. There are also paths/tunnels inside the mountain with little windows to get a peek of the view outside the mountain. The view is amazing. Down we went with a huge bus-size cart chairlift. (very scary, because it’s a lot of people and crazy high up) By the center station there are some activities; like a huge mountain sledding area (Alpine Sliding) which was really great! It gets really curvy and steep so you’ve got to slow down a bit. We watched a boy tumble out of the track along with his seat and EMS was promptly notified to head over. We also enjoyed a cute rubber slide where you get to sit onto a tube and slide down. There was also a really impressive activity of ropes and trees where you hook your harness onto the zip line and you climb in the maze of levels. It was all really fun.


The steep train on Pilatus


Pilatus chairlift. Notice how high it is.




High up chairlift


Rescue Team ready at all times

Wednesday we went to Venice for two days and then returned to Switzerland for another week.
To be continued!

October 28, 2014, 09:05:15 PM
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Re: Switzerland and Venice trip report Here is the second and final part.
Because of the many questions we received regarding the pictures, I will repeat: we took along our Panasonic LX5 Camera and all photos featured here are from our own snapshots; nothing is downloaded from other sources.

Wednesday
We took a train to Zurich Airport and flew ZRH-VCE (Venice) round trip on Swiss Air, booked with United Points. The flight was short, about 45 minutes, with great entertainment - Mr. Bean’s videos… after every joke all passengers aboard burst out laughing... it was really funny.


View from the airplane, see the mountains blend with the clouds.

Arriving in Venice, we were immediately hit by the extreme humidity. The sun is very strong there and the air is sticky and wet. We took an Alilaguna Shuttle Boat which was nice and cheap, to San Marco – the main square in Venice. From there we had about a 5 minute walk to the Westin Europa and Regina Hotel, booked with 10k SPG points + 150 Euros. The hotel from the outside looks old and shabby, but the inside is beautiful. We got a regular room with no view, but spacious and comfortable. When we arrived, the air condition was already working in the room (in most hotels in Europe you have to put in a card in a slot in order to put on the lights or air condition. You can put in any card, not only the room card) and we were so excited to see the fridge fully stocked with neat rows of drinks and snacks, as we were so exhausted and hot from the heat outside. We didn’t think twice, and started drinking bottle after bottle. The next day we were informed that each bottle costs 10 Euros! That was real bad news as we already drank half a dozen of them. So the next day we ran from store to store with empty bottles in hand, trying to find identical bottles to replace the ones we drank.




The Westin Hotel; our room and bathroom


View from The Westin Hotel

Venice
Venice is a very interesting city and really crowded; not with residents but with Tourists, Hotels and Fashion Shops. The language (Italian) is a strange one. Masses people are on the streets, coming and going, flashing camera everywhere. There are almost no attractions there. You just roam around the streets and observe the city. There are absolutely no cars to be seen! The police, Ambulance, UPS and what not, are all boats. Instead of asphalt roads it’s either water canals or slim sidewalks (I was surprised at the lack of safety there; almost no gates by the water). In the canals there is boat traffic and lots of boat honking, all as if they were cars... Strollers have a difficult time navigating, because after every few blocks there is a little bridge made out of steps that you need to climb up and down with no alternate route.


Ambulance


Police


Gas Station


Delivery Boat (I was ready to see some boxes slip in the water…)


Typical Bridge in Venice


Gondola Boats Parking Area

Since it was getting late in the day, we began our way in search for the Chabad Shul. 45 minutes later we finally found it. After davening, we proceeded to the Restaurant Gam Gam for supper. However, they were all full so we went to a restaurant across the Shul. (I don’t remember which hechsher it has) We didn’t trust the Hechsher for meat so we ordered Italian Pasta which had a ‘eww’ taste; more spice than anything. After Davening Maariv, we went back to the hotel and warmed up some of our frozen food.

Thursday
We were told by a friend to go to Lido - an island next to Venice. We went there by the local taxi boat, ACTV. We rented a 4 wheel bike and biked around the city. Since Lido is surrounded by beaches on all sides, it isn’t the most spiritual place to go. I would rather recommend going to Murano. The only nice thing about the trip to Lido was the relaxing boat road and beautiful view of the sea.

Arriving back to San Marco, we went shopping for souvenirs. There are loads of peddlers on each corner, selling everything you can want. We had fun bargaining. (You just need to be firm and keep bargaining. These salesmen are desperate to sell their stuff and they end up giving you the price you want.) We then packed, checked out of the hotel, took a boat to the airport, and flew back to Switzerland. We arrived to Zurich at night, and stayed overnight at Holiday Inn Express near the airport.




San Marco


Standing in San Marco Square


The Water Canals


Police patrolling in San Marco

Back to Switzerland
Friday we went back to the main train station at the airport and headed to Wengen. The ride took more than 3 hours, with 4 transfers in the middle. The last train ride from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen is exceptionally scenic and gorgeous.






The beautiful scenes on the way to Wengen.

Wengen
Wengen is a very nice little town situated on a steep mountain. You can find some houses with one side underground and the other side two flights up. Cars are not allowed in the town to keep the environment clean. There is even a 2% tax on everything in the town for the clean environment. There are more hotels in Wengen than private houses as it’s basically a tourist town. (Engelberg is also a tourist town but there are a lot of people that live there all year and that makes the place cheaper). The drawback of Wengen is the entire town is made of steep roads and it’s very hard to walk (climb…). Even though we are quite young, our feet hurt all the time.


Wengen. Note the tall Palace hotel in the center


How many floors does this little house have??

We stayed in the Palace Hotel which was rented out by Tour Plus. The price was expensive and the hotel is not nice at all, (maybe a 2 star), but the food was super good! Shabbos was a hit with such delicious food and breathtaking views; it was a real Oneg Shabbos. Here is a link to Tour Plus:
http://en.tourplus.co.il/2014-e-summer-vacation-wengen


The Palace Hotel


Looks like one cloud is stuck there

Sunday
Sunday we went to First, Grindelwald, about a 45 minute train ride. There was not much to do there besides hiking, but the view from there was spectacular. Every mountain has its specialty that others don’t have. Upon asking around what this mountain offers, we were told to hike a specific route and that will lead us to a "beautiful" lake. (I want to add that almost every hike in Switzerland is marked very clearly, with signs about every mile that update you how much longer you still have to walk)


Maze of tracks








View from Grindelwald


Hiking to the lake


The path to the lake

We hiked for about an hour with high expectations. Along the way there was a dramatic cliff right off the 3 foot wide path, and shockingly no gate there. We finally arrived to... this simple lake, and besides a restroom there was absolutely nothing to do there. We headed back with much disappointment. We wanted to do the Zipline but it was too windy so it was closed. After taking the chairlift down to the middle station, we rented Trotti Scooters and went riding down the rest of the mountain. The Trotti path is very winded and steep and ends in the city. (I think the Trotters by the Titlis is more enjoyable, but by First it has a nicer view.)


Why can’t they put a gate?


The lake. Note the people on the right side


Zip Lines


Trottibike Sign

Monday
We wanted to go up the Jungfrua which is officially called "Top of Europe”. But it was rainy and foggy with only 5 meters of visibility, so we went to Bern and strolled the streets, went shopping etc. Late afternoon when we returned to Wengen, the sky cleared up, so we took the train up towards Kleine Scheidegg and went down by the Männlichen stop and hiked down. This hike was my favorite one. Really nice and relaxing and of course free :)


Hiking from Männlichen to Wengen


The signs on the way

The views on the way are unbeatable! If you’re in the area I would definitely recommend a hike down from Kleine Scheidegg or Männlichen to Wengen.


Sunset view from the Palace Hotel


Sunset on the Jungfrau Mountain


Just in case you wondered how they plow the snow on train tracks.

Tuesday
The next day was rainy again so we went to Interlaken and tried to walk from the East Station (Ost) to the West Station but we gave up in the middle and walked back to the East, and chose some souvenirs on the way. Then we picked up a brochure to see what else we can do in the area. We decided to do a little mountain called Heimwehfluh. That mountain was not a good choice as it’s meant for kids. There was a Mini Train Museum and a cute little park. The only good activity was a short mountain sled (alpine slide) to the bottom. Then we went to an indoor little park called “JungfrauPark Interlaken”. That park was definitely a good choice for a rainy or foggy day. It has indoor exhibits and a sky ride. We watched a 3D Panoramic IMAX of the Swiss Alps. It was beautiful. Then we headed back to Wengen and packed our stuff. We checked in our suitcases to the Train Station and they sent it to the airport for us. It was a great service, as it would’ve been quite impossible to hop on and off trains with all our luggage. Wednesday we took the train to Zurich and checked into our Hotel near the airport. Then we had some extra time so we went shopping in a local mall. Thursday morning we flew back to JFK with A”A.


Mini Train Museum


JungfrauPark

There are 2 major things we didn’t get to do – top of Jungfrau and Saas Fee. I guess we’ll need to return a different time.

Let me know how you would like future Trip Reports, Short and to the point? Long and detailed? A lot of photos? Videos?

Up next – our trip to AZ and the Grand Canyon. I hope to post it in a few weeks.

November 12, 2014, 07:54:50 PM
1
Re: Switzerland Master Thread
Which city do you go to?
I was in Saas Fee, Zermett, Montana, St moritz, Wengen -my favorite, Lucern, Engelberg, and more... Last summer i was in Klosters and Davos.

February 03, 2016, 10:14:26 AM
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Re: Switzerland Master Thread
Is Crans Montana as nice as Wengen?

Thanks alot for all your help BTW, much appreciated.
Honestly, not as nice. CM is more of a ski resort area where-else Wengen is an expensive breathtaking village. But you have to look on what is easier and better for you.

February 04, 2016, 01:59:47 PM
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Vacation Lover's Italian "Dolomites" Trip Report Part 1 of 2

Dissclaimer:
Non of my reports nor pictures should influence you to do this. I already found myself in hot water more than once for recommending a trip that I did and enjoyed, but the recommend did not enjoy it.  Between them are @...... who I recommended my very best  trip so far to Wengen, Switzerland. But he did not enjoy it. And @...... who I recommended Victoria hotel in Austria last year and we were even there togather at the same time. And he did not enjoy his trip. But even stranger is that @Stbaum also went to Victoria hotel and had a terrific experience. (Despite the fact that TourPlus took it over this year resulting in mainly a Mizrachi type crowd)

Planning:
Okay and now to the actual trip. For this summer (2016) I wanted to try something different but still an awesome place. One of the places that immediately seemed like a good candidate was the northern part of Italy. Either Lake Como area (boarding Switzerland) or Trentino area more in central Italy a.k.a. Dolomites. The reason I did not immediately jump in to planning a Dolomites trip was because there is very little information or TR's found on English. Most reviews and reports I read (on tripadvisor and other sources) where written in Italian. And even what I was able to read was absolutely confusing. From the area to the activities. In fact when someone asks me where I went. The geographical answer is: Alba > Canazei > Val Di Fassa > Trentino > (Dolomites) > Italy.

But meanwhile my cousin got engaged and the wedding was going to be on a Thursday night in July in Belgium. We were not going to miss this wedding and thought of combining it with a summer trip. We started planning. I immediately found availability to BRU with Delta in J for 62.5 FB. Then found availability return flight from Venice one week later on Thursday with UA in J, so we booked it with Aegean 40k. Then booked a revenue flight SN BRU - VCE for Sunday.

So now that the flights are booked is time to book hotel stays. For Belgium we booked one of my uncles' house... for Italy we booked Sunday-Wednesday in My Kosher Hotel in Canazei after hearing great feedback of the accommodation and food. Since our flight home on Thursday was 10:55 a.m. and the Kosher hotel is a 3 hour drive from VCE we booked Wednesday night Hilton hotel next to the airport. Car rental we booked from Hertz via autoeurope.com for $236 a week.

Wednesday
We flew Delta J JFK-BRU. On Delta international two cabin flights, business class is called "Delta One".

Delta One

Thursday
When we landed in BRU we immediately saw the high security. When we arrived to Antwerp, however we were surprised to see soldiers in full gear literally "all over" the Jewish neighborhood. It felt like walking in "שער שכם"


Soldiers patrolling the city.

Friday we went to the zoo... Not much to do there besides the zoo. I tried out my new 50mm f/1.8 lens.






Sunday
We flew SN BRU-VCE and landed at 3:20 p.m. We headed towards the car rentals - a 10 minute walk -  the same direction of the water boats. Got our car, a Ford focus wagon and drove up towards the mountains. As we got closer the views became nicer and nicer. But being that we were exhausted from traveling throughout the day we didn't take pictures for now. But at one point we passed a little hill and saw it was somewhat white. As we got closer we realized it was sheep roaming around.




Sheep and their shepherd

After driving for 3 hours on the most windy road in Italy, we finally arrived to the hotel.

November 30, 2016, 11:19:47 AM
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Re: Switzerland Master Thread
Hi everyone,
I've read a ton on DDF, google, trip advisor, etc...I think i read the first 20 pages on here and then skipped to page 100; now im up to 127.
I currently have reservations for Shabbos Chanukah (Dec 6-9) with my wife in Brienz in a very nice airbnb; this is around 30 min out of the jungfreu region, overlooks the mountains, and is basically on lake brienzersee.
I personally have been here (Jungfreau and Lucerne) when I was single and was just in awe of how beautiful it was, so I didn't mind going back to see it with her.
Heres my question:
Im considering changing our base because she doens't care where we go and I would love to see more of the country. Is it worth it to go to a place like Saas Fee? Crans Montana?  St Moritz? or even to move inside the Jungfeu (like laturburnen)?
I heard that St Moritz is beautiful but not the most spectacular of the alps.
When it comes to SF and CM, Im a bit concerned just about the distance from Zurich. We land on Thursday at 930am and we leave on sunday at 120pm. Im just concerned there isnt enough difference to where Im currently staying to these places to justify driving 3 hours after a long flight or early sunday morning (vs an hour or so). This is honestly probably the biggest reason why Im not going to Saas Fee; SF is a 4 hour drive, St Moritz is 3 hours, CM is 4 hours, while the jungfreu is at worst, 2 hours.
I want to have the best views, good but not great accommodations (due to budget), and something cool to do on friday (like going up the schilthorn for example).
Does anyone have personal experience they'd like to contribute? Should I consider moving my plans to a new place and just make the drive?

Thanks in advance!
the alps in the South (SM SF CM) are beautiful, but that is if you have time to get there from ZRH or land in GVA.

In your case keep in mind SF will be the furthest, SM closer but still a 3.5 hour drive with possible slippery roads. I would prefer Jungfrau as it is IMHO the nicest of them. That is if I would not care for the higher apartment prices.

Also, Lauterbrunen is at the foot of the Jungfrau, Wengen and Manlichen have far better views.

BTW CM has Minyan and Kosher food

October 21, 2018, 07:24:50 PM
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