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Great Swiss train trips: Schynige Platte

May 23, 2010, 1 Comment

Schynige Platte train

It’s not the highest, steepest, longest or steamiest mountain train trip in Switzerland, but the ride up to Schynige Platte is one of my favourites. And what better way to celebrate the much-belated arrival of warm spring sunshine than to go up and look down on the world. Not too surprisingly, half of Bern seemed to have the same idea (in the first three weeks of May, Bern had only 37 hours of sunshine. In total.) so the train to Interlaken was standing room only. Luckily most other people then headed off for the big name rides up to Jungfraujoch and Kleine Scheidegg. This little train – and it is a little train with wooden seats and red carriages, like something out of Toytown – is often overlooked by many visitors. Their loss

The line opened in 1893, using a rack railway to chug up the height difference of 1420 metres with a maximum gradient of 25%. At first, it’s all dense green forests and grass still-flat from the neverending snow last winter. Then you curl round to get a view of blue Lake Thun, while craggy peaks emerge from behind the trees. Far beneath you is the flat expanse that is Interlaken, probably the best view you’ll ever get of an otherwise unattractive town.

But the money shot comes about two-thirds of the way up. You emerge from a short stone tunnel to a panorama of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains, all glistening in the sun. Today there was an audible wow from everyone in the carriage, followed by the clicking of countless cameras. That view still impresses me every time, even when, like today, a stubborn cloud insisted on sitting exactly in the wrong place, ruining an otherwise picture-perfect view. Just as well I’ve many other pictures of that same shot.

Swiss mountain trains are surprisingly uncomfortable. It must be a rule that says the higher you go, the harder the seats, the smaller the legroom; it’s like being on Easyjet, only with windows that open. This trip is no exception, though the views compensate for the numb bums and cramped calves. But Schynige Platte isn’t just a 52-minute ride. Once you reach the terminus, at 1967m, you can admire the blue gentians and red campions in the Alpine Garden. Or if you’re out of blooming season, then climb up another 100m along the Panoramaweg for an hour of wondrous views, culminating with looking down to both Lakes Thun and Brienz far below.

My tips for this trip:

  • Make an early start, especially in high season when the clouds roll in most afternoons
  • On the way up, sit on the right facing forwards for the best views
  • Bring a picnic to enjoy at the Daube viewpoint, halfway along the Panoramaweg
  • Wear good shoes. The walk up to the Daube is steep-ish in places and quite rocky
  • Come in early (or even mid) June for the Alpine flowers at their peak
  • The line is only open from late May to mid October
  • Children travel free with an adult

Want to know more? Then ask me or look at the official website here. The forecast for tomorrow is just as good, so I’ll be off on another great Swiss train trip. Any requests?

One Comment on "Great Swiss train trips: Schynige Platte"

  1. expatraveler Monday June 21st, 2010 at 01:27 AM · Reply

    We were so greatful to have some of the most amazing friends living in the town of Interlaken. Every time we have gone hiking and driven to see these nearly exact same views you show in your photos. Once was a visit in summer and the other in early spring, simply amazing! I must add the best part about being with a local is that they give you such incredible hospitality and leave you with the most amazing memories! Watching cheese making from a tiny family cheese maker will always stay in my mind.

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