GUEST ARTICLE: For music lovers, Montreux is famous for it’s chilled beats during the annual Jazz Festival. For the rest of us, the enduring beauty of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman in French) is what provides this small Swiss Riviera resort town with it’s enduring magnetism.
The approach from the Swiss-Italian border on the high-speed Cisalpino train (Swiss Federal Railways and Trenitalia now jointly operate the route) from Milano Centrale, Italy to Montreux, Switzerland offers passengers a spectacular slice of Swiss alpine lake scenery and an insight into the Italian and Swiss psyche.
The Trenitalia crew and stations epitomise the essence of Italy – colourful, carefree and a little rough around the edges. The man who pulls the food cart rings a bike bell and announces with gusto – “acqua, panini, bibite” (water, sandwiches, drinks). The remote Trenitalia stations often have a rustic charm about them. Weeds poke out of the tracks and the signs and platforms look a little grungy.
As the Cisalpino pulls into Switzerland and the SBB crew come aboard, the service has a more precise and efficient feel about it. Swiss stations are spotless and gleem with modernity. It’s amazing how a few kilometres either side of a border can make such a difference.
About 20 minutes walk from Montreux railway station is the Montreux-Territet YHA, located on the foot of Lake Geneva. The walk to the youth hostel is punctuated by a seemingly endless expanse of lakefront views and flashy sports cars.
Starting at about 30 Swiss Francs (CHF) per night for a shared dormitory, the Montreux-Territet YHA provides a tasty, hearty Swiss style breakfast including a variety of local cheeses and breads and close proximity to all sights. But, who needs a wealth of attractions when you’re right on the shores of Lake Geneva overlooking the Swiss Alps?
Chateau de Chillon (12 CHF per adult), wedged between the shores of Lake Geneva and the Alps is understandably Switzerland’s most popular historic monument. Visitors will come to appreciate how the Castle’s rocky island location offers more than just brilliant views over the Swiss Riviera.
For many years the castle served a strategic purpose, controlling the passage between northern and southern Europe. Despite being centuries old, the castle remains in exquisite shape, featuring well preserved and easily navigable spaces including a dungeon, dining room, crypt, watch towers and works of art supported with information panels.
The Territet – Glion funicular (incline cable railway), forms part of the Swiss Goldenpass and is the oldest funicular in Switzerland. Riding the funicular is a fantastic way to catch high-level sweeping views over Lake Geneva without expending an ounce of energy and will only set you back a few Swiss Francs.
The funicular mountain railway station is located just outside the Montreux town centre and is easily accessible on foot. If you want to burn off some calories after taking in the view, trek down the hillside passing through the old town on the way back to Montreux.
If you’re an Olympic history buff, consider taking a short train ride along the scenic shores of Lake Geneva to nearby Lausanne, home to the international Olympic movement. For those interested in visiting the home of Nestle milk chocolate, consider visiting Vevey, also just a short train ride away.
If you’ve got time to explore Switzerland, consider paying a little more for a Goldenpass Panoramic Line rail ticket rather than buying a regular Swiss Federal Railways ticket. Goldenpass operates on a limited network that links the most scenic parts of Switzerland together. If you have a valid Eurail pass, you only have to pay a nominal seat reservation fee to use the Goldenpass service.
Goldenpass trains are unique because you can actually wind down your window and witness the Swiss panorama unfold before you, whilst also taking photographs without having to worry about your head or arms being lopped off by a power pole.
Goldenpass provides a Montreux to Lucerne service that’s well worth checking out.
This article has been written by Pranav Bhatt. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Economics and Business at Sydney University. He has an interest in world travel, cricket, politics, technology and the media.
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