Tracey's Mega Educational Trip

Staff member: Tracey // Trip date: Dec 2010

Mega Educational Trip October 2010

Switzerland/Austria

I was on one of five groups departing Australia/NZ to attend the 2010 Mega Famil. We all met in Zurich on 01 October, then split off in our groups and travelled different itineraries, then met up again in the afternoon of 05 October in Lucerne for a short workshop and a celebratory dinner. The famil included a wide variety of tours and excursions, as well as 4 star accommodation and all meals.
While in Switzerland we travelled on a Swiss Rail Pass, which entitled us to unlimited travel on trains, buses and boats, which was fantastic as each day we traveled on some of each.

Zurich

We arrived into Zurich Airport early in the morning and took the train to Zurich HB. This was so easy to do, the station at the airport was well signed and very easy to find. Electronic boards clearly told us which platform our train was leaving from. The train was comfortable and had plenty of room, and there were large luggage racks at the front and end of each carriage. We arrived into Zurich HB in about 12 minutes. Zurich HB is quite a large and busy station, there was a ticket office, kiosks to retrieve tickets and plenty of shops, cafes and eateries.

We jumped on tram number 3, which stopped right outside the station, and this took us to our accommodation. We checked into Hotel Crowne Plaza, and then met in the foyer later that morning to meet one of the other groups that had flown in from Melbourne, and our guide for the day, Anna Maria. We transferred by tram to the cruise station Burkliplatz, where we did a lunch cruise on Lake Zurich. We had a lovely lunch and the scenery was beautiful as we cruised around the lake.
Our guide Anna Maria then took us on a walking tour of the Old Town. This was a great way to see the city, we walked down cobblestoned streets and were told some really great stories about the town and its buildings. We then had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves so enjoyed some retail therapy in the main shopping district!

Later that evening a bus transferred us to restaurant Gnusserei. This was located in the trendy Zurich West Quarter, and was such a cool spot! The restaurant was inside a massive 100 year old shaft furnace, and we had a really great dinner.

Grindelwald

We departed by train to Grindelwald, travelling first class. From Zurich, we stopped at Bern and then changed trains. This first train was comfortable and spacious with plenty of luggage racks. There was a dining car on board and announcements were made about where we were going and each stop. Trolley service came around offering drinks, baguettes and croissants at an additional cost. The next train from Bern to Grindelwald was a regional train, seats were comfortable and there was a luggage carriage whereby the whole carriage was free of seats so was suitable for wheelchairs, or if you had extra large bags you could sit on the floor.

We checked into Hotel Kreuz and Post, which was a lovely old traditional hotel. Later that morning we took a cable car up to First Mountain. Once at the top we had the option to do the First Flyer, which is a flying fox off a section of the mountain. Usually a coward when it comes to stuff like this, I surprised myself by doing it - and it was amazing! It was an 800 metre glide down the cable, which can go up to speeds of 84km/h. We had lunch at the top of the mountain and then took Trottibikes (scooters) down to the base of the mountain. This was such a good experience and I would highly recommend doing this, the views were unbelievable.

The rest of the afternoon was at leisure and later that night we had a lovely dinner at a resort that was in the hills of the mountain.

Interlaken
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We checked out of our hotel and caught a train to Interlaken. The train station in Grindelwald was right in the centre of the town, so it was only a few minute's walk from our hotel. This regional train was comfortable and had plenty of leg room and luggage space.

Once we arrived into Interlaken Ost we walked to Harder Kulm station and took a Funicular up the mountain. We had a lovely Sunday breakfast at Harder Kulm, which has a viewing platform and a restaurant, and had amazing views of the Bernese Oberland and the Jungfrau region.

We then walked to the boat station at Interlaken Ost and went on a lunch cruise. It took us to Brienz where we were then transferred to the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum, where we saw reproductions of traditional Swiss farmhouses and historic structures. A bus took us back to Brienz, and we then caught a train from Brienz back to Interlaken. Although we didn't have any bags with us, again there were plenty of luggage racks above seats and at the end of each carriage.
We stayed at the Hotel Metropol, which was great, and right in the heart of Interlaken. Our guide Daniella took us out for dinner that night to Restaurant Laterne, where we had a traditional Swiss dinner. Lots of fondue - delicious!

The next morning we did our trip up the Jungfrau, the site of the highest train station in Europe and an absolute must see. The train departed Interlaken Ost to Jungfraujoch and took about 2 hours 20 minutes. We had to change twice, at Lauterbrunnen and at Klein Scheidegg. The first two trains were the same, basic, plenty of room, and great views. The last train, Klein Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch took us into the mountain, so we were in darkness most of the trip. This train had electronic screens showing mini movies on the history of Junfraujoch, stations stops and how fast the train was travelling, which was interesting. We arrived at the top, walked through the ice caves and were taken to a VIP ice bar! After enjoying champagne and nibbles we were taken up to the viewing platform - and walked out into a blizzard. Freezing cold, with snow and wind blustering around us - absolutely amazing. I can see why they call it the Top of Europe! We stayed for a lunch in the restaurant and then departed Jungfraujoch back to Interlaken.

jungfrauch jpg

After arriving into Interlaken we were taken on a trolley around the town for a short city tour. This was called the family train and was a great way to see the town. As a surprise before dinner, Daniela our guide had organized for us to go to a chocolate demonstration. Jean Pierre the chocolatier showed us everything there was to know, and gave us an endless supply of chocolate tastings. Later that evening we did a short workshop with Remo from Interlaken Tourism at the hotel, where he spoke to us about all the great things that Interlaken has to offer. After this, he joined us for dinner at Jungfrau Brasserie at the hotel.

Lucerne

We departed Interlaken Ost to Lucerne on the Golden Pass. This was a great train, first class was comfortable and spacious. A gentleman came around with a trolley offering tea, coffee, water and some snacks. The train was double decker, with luggage racks on both levels. There was also lounge seating in each of the first class carriages, which was great as it was very social and you could stretch out. There was a dining car and bar service on board, serving food and drinks that could be purchased at an additional cost.

jungfrauchscenery jpg
Lucerne station was quite a large station and right in the centre of town. There were several information booths and plenty of shops, kiosks and cafes. We transferred to our hotel which was the Hotel Wilden Mann. This was a great hotel, very ornate and romantic, and it was centrally located. After having a lovely lunch at a local eatery we met our guide for the day, Doris. She took us on a walking tour of the city and we got to stroll through the Old Town , and see the amazing sights such as the Chapel Bridge and Water Tower.

Later that evening our group walked to Hotel Cascada for a workshop.

Vienna

Early morning start - we headed to Lucerne station for our train back to Zurich. Another comfortable train, much like the others. Same amenities, dining car, lots of luggage space, etc.
From Zurich we then caught Railjet to Vienna. This train was great, and the service was excellent. We travelled in first class, which consisted of reclining leather seats, plenty of legroom, footrests and also power sockets at all seats. There were 80 screens throughout the train that displayed the journey, station stops, and also how fast the train was going. A cart came around and we were offered a complimentary fruit juice and a packet of chocolate wafers which were delicious! There was also a lounge carriage that had just half the amount of seats and was suitable for wheelchairs. I would highly recommend this train, it was comfortable, smooth and fast, and the scenery travelling through the Swiss Alps was so picturesque.
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We arrived into Vienna and were transferred to the first hotel we were staying at in Vienna, Mercure Wien City. We had the rest of the evening to ourselves so walked across the river and into town and enjoyed a quiet dinner. The following morning we did a hotel inspection and then met our guide Alexa who would be with us for the next few days. We did a bus tour of Vienna around the ring boulevard and saw all of the great sights such as the Imperial Palace, the State Opera House and City Hall.
After our bus tour we stopped for lunch at Restaurant Residenz in Schonbrunn - and had a Weiner schnitzel that was bigger than the plate it came out on. We then did a tour of Schonbrunn Palace which was really interesting, and took a walk around the gardens.

Dinner that night was at Restaurant Griechenbeisl , one of Vienna's oldest inns and famous for the autographs on the wall by famous people such as Beethoven, Mozart, Mark Twain and many other artists, scholars and politicians who would congregate there to eat and drink. It was here that I had the best goulash ever - so good!
The next morning we transferred to our second hotel in Vienna, Hotel Mercure Wien Zentrum. This was a brand new hotel and in such a good location, right in the centre of town in an area called the Bermuda Triangle - cobblestone streets filled with bars, pubs and cafes - I highly recommend going to The Schnapps Bar!

Our guide Alexa took us on a walking tour of Vienna and showed us why Vienna is the music capital of the world. We then had a lovely lunch at coffeehouse Greinsteidl, and after lunch we visited The Museums Quartier (MQ), where we saw the Leopold Museum and the Modern Art Museum. This was a really interesting area of Vienna, there was lots of street art and street sculptures displayed throughout the grounds. We had the rest of the afternoon free so hit the shops again!
Dinner that night was at uber trendy restaurant Motto am Fluss, which lies right on the Danube Canal. This was such a cool place to eat and to have a few (too many) wines, and the dinner was amazing.
The next day was a free day to ourselves, so a group of us decided to do a day trip to Bratislava. We had planned to get the train there, and had pre-purchased tickets to get the ferry back, however due to unforeseen circumstances in the morning (late night/sleeping in) we missed our train, and ended up getting driven there by a taxi! The trip was only 40 minutes away by car, so not far at all, and actually quite a nice drive. Bratislava was great, we took a trolley around the town, strolled through the markets and had a lovely lunch. The ferry back was also great, we traveled along the Danube Canal and this took about 1 hour and 30 minutes and cost about AUD25.00.

That night we were transferred by bus to the wine area Heiligenstadt with our guide Elke, and had dinner at wine tavern Heuriger Welser. We had a buffet dinner and were serenaded with traditional folk music as we ate.

Our last day was spent at the Museum of Fine arts. Every Sunday between 11am and 3pm they hold the Art Brunch inside the Museum. We had the most amazing buffet - one of the food highlights of the trip! - in between courses we had the opportunity to walk through the museum and see the world famous gallery. This was a really nice and relaxing way to spend our last day, and I would highly recommend coming to this museum on a Sunday to do the Art Brunch, the food and the atmosphere were just amazing.

This was such a fun and interesting famil, the things we got to experience were just fantastic. Switzerland was the highlight, and travelling around on the Swiss Pass was so easy. With unlimited travel on trains, busses and boats and up to 50% discounts on most mountain top excursions, this pass is such good value for money and I would highly recommend anyone travelling to Switzerland to purchase one of these, you can save so much money! The group I travelled with was also fantastic, everyone got along so well and it was great to enjoy the experience together.

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