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Monday, September 9, 2013

A Swiss Reverie

Who does not like to visit a happy place with loved ones to have a time of their life! I read about the ’Creating Happy Traveler’ contest just as I was about to hit the bed after a long day in the office. I asked my wife where she would like to go, given an opportunity.

‘Switzerland’ she replied without batting an eyelid!

‘Absolutely’ I quickly added, ‘who would not like to travel to the land of pristine Alps, the crystal clear lakes, green meadows, milk and chocolate and punctual Swiss watches, I mumbled as I fell asleep, soon engulfed in the world of dreams!

My fantasy began to unfold with the screeching of the tyres of the aircraft on the tarmac of Zurich airport! It was a pleasant experience to go through the airport express metro from the aerobridge and hear the recorded welcome sound of cows in the metro ride lasting a minute.

My itinerary for the dream vacation started crystallizing:

      Zurich- Lucerne- Interlaken-Berne- Geneva- St Gallen-Zurich (Route in Red on the map)




After clearing the immigration,I endorsed my ‘Swiss Pass” at the rail terminal located within the airport. The Swiss Transport System is as efficient as their legendary watches!! The train left Zurich HB terminal at the precise time and zipped through the darkness to arrive at the Lucerne station in an hour. We hired a taxi to reach the hotel and checked in as a crowd of boisterous youngsters reveled in the foyer at the late night hour. A safe place indeed!

Day 2
We planned to visit Mt Pilatus and were confused from the maze of options available to travel, by rail, boat or bus. A rotund girl at the booking office of SBB helped in making the decision. …  A boat ride (90 min) to Alpnachstad, then a ride up the Mt Pilatus by a cogwheel railway right to the peak Pilatus Klum. On return it would be a gondola ride till Frakmuntegg via Krienseregg. Yet another gondola trip till Kriens and then return to Lucerne by a bus. We were spoilt for choices!

Station at Mt Pilatus
Clocks displaying time atop Mt Pilatus


The city of Lucerne resembled a story book setting of fairy tales with beautiful church spires, castles, and green meadows as far as the eyes could see. There is a local legend that hundreds of years ago, anyone who dared to climb Pilatus would never return alive as the ghost of Pontius Pilate that lay buried in the lake would surface and devour the individual. Much later, some optimistic men threw boulders in the lake to kill the ghost and ever since, ‘brave people’ like me venture to the peak!!

The ride by the steepest cogwheel rail from Aplanchstad till Pilatus through a 60 degree incline and a maze of tunnels till the snow clad peaks is unforgettable.
The Lion Monument-Lucerne
The ride down the hill by the gondolas followed. At the exit gate of the Mt Pilatus are a chain of clocks  displaying the time in five continents. One only wishes that time stands still when visiting such a lovely place.

On reaching Lucerne we visited Museum of Art and were immersed in appreciating the paintings. Next we visited the Lion Monument a little distance away.
Day2
 Eager to conquer Mt Titlis we boarded the train to Engelberg from where the ascent to peak would begin. The train ride along the Swiss country side was very refreshing as we kept going past picturesque locales.
In an hour the train reached Engelberg, after climbing up a steep gradient on the last leg. It was amusing to see a tea stall selling exclusively Indian snacks, Idlis, Samosas, and Vada Pav here, an indication of the rising number of Indian visitors. The ride up the mountain peak is broken into several gondola rides, one from Engelberg to Trubsee and then to Stand. From Stand to Engelberg, the ride is in Rotair (a 360 degree Rota table) gondola to the peak of Mt Titlis at a height of 3020m/9900 ft. The temperature was -2 degrees Celsius and it was freezing cold. It was a visual treat to see the grandeur of the snow clad peaks, glaciers and crevices.
Mt Titlis

Next we went to experience the ‘Ice Flyer’ which is a breath taking trip over the glaciers and the deep valleys straight out of a James Bond movie. We returned to Lucerne  to visit the beautiful Charles Bridge, just across the station. This bridge is very old and made out of wood with beautiful paintings inside.
Having collected our luggage we boarded a train to Interlaken which was our next halt. The glass windows provide an unhindered view of the most scenic route for the next two hours. We reached Interlaken where we were to stay for next two day. Ursula the owner of the hotel offered us ‘Lemon tea’ on arrival. In a few minutes we settled in a nice wooden room overlooking the Mt Jungfrau at a distance.
Day3
I had fallen with love with the lovely city of ‘Interlaken’. The city has a slim waist of land between two voluptuous lakes, Thun and Brienze and majestically rising Jungfrau peak. As I rubbed my eyes and looked out of the window, I stood mesmerized by the stunning view of majestic peak of Jungfrau, shimmering as the day was breaking. The chirping of birds in the garden and the whiff of alpine air were so refreshing that I could live here forever, if I had a choice.

Route to the summit of Jungfraujoch
A breakfast of cereals, jams, cheese and fresh baked bread followed. Ursula had carefully compiled list of tips to go to Jungfrau, including the route to follow.
Jungfrau- Highest peak in Europe
The Swiss Railways had carved into the steep inclines of the Alps in 1912(a century ago!) to create the route to access the highest mountain peak in Europe. We boarded the train to Grindelwald as this is the best route to enjoy sunrise. After reaching there we changed a train to Kliene Scheidegg, a small village atop the mountain, known for adventure sports like rock climbing and rappelling. There was one more change of train that goes through a maze of tunnels, while the passengers can watch a film on construction of the Jungfrau railway.It stops briefly en route to view the enchanting scenery of Mount Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Finally it arrived at Jungfrau which is at a height of 11333 ft.It had started to snow. There was a skiing mishap, when I flew in air as the sledge, that I rode hit a steep mound of fresh snow.A hilarious episode to remember!
The return journey from Jungfrau was through Wengen and Lauterbrunnen  route as the sunset in the west. On reaching Interlaken we took a ‘post bus’ to drive alongside the Thun Lake to enjoy the reflections of thousands of lights. 

Day 4

A day to fulfill the cherished desire to visit Cheese and Chocolate factory at La Gruyere and at Broc two small towns in close proximity!
We took a train to Bern that passed through the sleepy towns of Speinz and Thun. Here we changed train to Fribourg, a place famous for immense quality of milk production and the Cartier watch production facility.
The Cheese Factory at La Gruyere
The Nestle Chocolate factory at Broc

A short busride to Bulle where, we boarded a small two bogie train to Gruyere. The cheese production facility and restaurant are just across the station. A cow called’ Cherry’ does the narration of the story through dictaphone, giving an insight of how the cheese is produced. The visit would have been incomplete without tasting ‘fondue’.
Next, halt was Broc-the home of Nestle/ Callier, world leaders in chocolate making. A guided tour takes one through the audio visual show and story of cocoa, the bean; it’s sourcing to modern day process in the manufacture of chocolates. One can see the fresh chocolates popping out of the machine. Finally, it is is a surprise treat of many different varieties of chocolate to eat to heart content.

Day 5
The day was devoted to sightseeing the capital city, Bern, the birth place of Albert Einstein. His house is also a major tourist attraction. The city also has the longest covered shopping promenade in Europe, almost 6 km long.
We headed to the Bear pit, a natural habitat created for the bears in the midst of the city, along river Aare. We were lucky to sight of a huge mother bear suckling her two baby cubs. 
Next stop was the Parliament building at Bundes  Platz an imposing building with 24 fountains in vicinity throwing jets of water in unison giving an appearance of a ballet performance. There are nice restaurants where people dine in open air.Across the other side of the street is Theater Platz, known for performing arts. Zytclogge is one of the oldest traditional clocks where one can see the working of a mechanical clock built 500 years ago, that is still operational. Along the street are a number of fountains with interesting stories of small children being taken away by giants (Ochre fountain).
We visited the Rose Garden which is perched atop the hill .It provides a spectacular view of the city.
The Zytclogge in Bern
A view of the  city-Bern

Our final destination in Bern was the Paul Klee centre whose imposing structure is very impressive.
We took a train to Geneva from the Bern railway station. The train arrived at Geneva and within a few minutes of alighting I realized that my mobile phone was missing! After a frantic search and inquiries, I headed to Geneva airport, where the train had terminated. My joy knew no bounds, and a sense of great relief having found it! The honesty of Swiss left me completely in awe!
Day 6
I stepped out in the balcony of the hotel located in the midst of the Old City to admire the distant Alps with snow clad peaks. The morning rush hour had begun as we waited for a tram to take us to Saleve. Mont Saleve is a tourist attraction in French territory from where one can have a panoramic view of France/ Switzerland and the return trip is about 70 km.
Jet de Au-Geneva
On return from an interesting trip from Saleve we took a tram for the Nations station (short for United Nations). A 20 minute ride brought us to the imposing building of the UN and adjoining International Red Cross. We went around and saw the photo graphic exhibits and marveled at the beautifully maintained buildings of the two great international institutions. We then returned to the city to see the Jet de Au (the fountain in Lake Geneva) which sends a stream of water jet 140 feet in air. 
The adjoining park has a beautiful, Flower clock where the background changes with season.  There are a lot of historical sites worth a visit in old town in a radius of 2 km like Monument Burnswick, Statue of Gen Dufour, Le Corbusier, cathedral St Pierre and the old and majestic Hotel de Ville.
Since we had to reach Zurich by the evening, we checked out of the hotel and took a train. We arrived at Zurich Airport station and headed for the hotel.
Day 7

We decided to go to St Gallen , a very small city where no vehicles are allowed in the old city. It is a sleepy, poetic town. Within 2-3 hours one can walk around the small streets of the old town which has beautiful architecture. The majestic cathedral built in 1767 in the Lake Constance area is a UNESCO heritage site. 
The lovely city of St Gallen
The Flower Clock in Zurich

There are many other attractions like, Vadian memorial built in the memory of the great reformer, museums and a huge Hotel Einstein within the old city. We fed the pigeons at the market square where we sat down to get a breather. The pigeons apparently liked the spicy Indian snack! After spending about three hours, we took a train back to Zurich. We headed to the Bahnhoff Street, and indulged in window shopping. An excursion on Zurich Lake followed lasting about 90 minutes giving a glimpse of this big city. On return from the boat cruise we saw the ‘Flower Clock’. The rest of the evening was spent in strolling at nearby Paradeplatz, the vibrant town area, Framunster, where once noble women lived, St Peter’s church and a walk to Limmat River. We finally rounded the day with a lovely pizza at a local pizzeria!
Day 8
How the time flies! It was the day when we had to bid adieu to lovely Switzerland. We went to see the Botanical Gardens which is about 20 minute drive from the city centre. Switzerland has so much natural beauty that one never tires out and looks forward to seeing more and more of it.

All good things come to an end and so did this dream trip as I woke up from the slumber and opened eyes to see my wife holding a cup of steaming hot tea for me!

PS : 1.Post submitted for ’Creating Happy Traveler’ contest (http://www.yatra.com)
        2. Swiss maps- Kind courtesy Google


74 comments:

  1. The Switzerland trip has been put up perfectly and I bet it is the place which has all the power to cast a magical charm of happiness...
    The memories of my trip came flashing back.. :)

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    1. Lucky you...I am saving pennies for Europe trip, God knows when will it happen.

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    2. Thanks Manjulika and Saru!Switzerland is one destination one can never have enough of ! Saru, your kitty must be already flowing with prizes so now you just have to find the time:)

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    3. Not flowing but yes, I will wear my latest win - Nike shoes to Switzerland. :)

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    4. Wishing you many more wins and also happy trekking in Switzerland, Saru, whenever you plan:)

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  2. Seriously they play recorded cow sounds? Sounds a bit funny. And I would love to believe the story of Mt Pilatus, what fun and adventure and spooky too. Out of all the destinations you have mentioned, my pick would be Bern for obvious reason. One thing I would miss is Cheese factory, I can't stand the smell of some variants.

    A beautiful journey of one of the most beautiful places in the world and a bollywood favorite. :P

    Good luck, Sir. :)

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    1. Thanks Saru, and sure you can give a miss to the Cheese factory and make up by visiting Chocolate factory:)Actually in Switzerland you can land at any place with eyes closed and be surprised when you open your eyes to see the beauty around you:)

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    2. That is true about Switzerland. And Sir I don't like chocolates either...I will spend some time with the grazing cows.

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    3. What a surprise to see someone so sweet yet has no liking for chocolates!However, a piece of dark chocolate if taken daily especially by ladies does wonders:)Cows and meadows will never disappoint you, Saru:)

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    4. Many congratulations on the win, Sir. :)

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  3. Wow! beautiful trip to one of the most sought after destination.
    How I wish I could settle there permanently away from all the dirt and noise filled world we are living in. Best of luck!

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    1. I feel much he same way as you Rama! Thanks a lot!

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  4. Great trip...

    beautiful photos...

    thanks rahulji...

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  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Francesca for the best wishes!Happy you liked the post:)

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  6. You are an ideal hubby fulfilling your wife's desires and taking her to her dream destination ! Good Luck for the contest.

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    1. Ha Ha Rama, Thanks a lot! Sometimes your wish list just coincides with that of your better half, so what more could one ask for!

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  7. A fabulous trip to the most beautiful destination. Seeing the cheese and chocolate manufacturing must be an amazing experience.
    Good luck for the contest, Mr Bhatia :)

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    1. A big thanks Shilpa for your best wishes! Chocolate and cheese making are something that should not be missed:)

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  8. Sounds like a wonderful place to visit dear Rahul, lovely photos.
    Good luck with the competition!
    xoxoxo ♡

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    1. Indeed a lovely destination Dianne! Thanks for your best wishes!

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  9. When i began reading your post i thought the visit will be in dream--but it turned out to be dreamy.It indeed seems to be a superb destination.

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    1. Thank you Indu! Sometimes the reality becomes dreamy and this sure was one such time and yes Switzerland is definitely well worth a visit!

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  10. Thats a lovely trip you had! Good luck Bhatia Ji :)

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    1. Thank you, Kusum that you liked the post and for your kind wishes:)

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  11. Well nice to actually visit to some of these places. I have been to some of these places you have mentioned and it brought me memories.
    www.thoughtsofpaps.com

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    1. I am sure you could have related to the beauty having been there Asamptha:)Thanks a lot!

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  12. Replies
    1. Thanks Agnes! I feel much the same way when I read and see pics of your travel in Europe and S America:)

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  13. Rahul, you dreamed up such a fabulous itinerary! May it turn to reality :D. So how did you get the photos? :D

    All the best for the contest!

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    1. Thanks a lot Vidya for that adorable comment:) Sometimes reality could be a dream like and Photo shop is savior on other occasions:)

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  14. It must have been an experience of life.
    On my first visit to Geneva...I was amused seeing nothing but Banks,Chocolates,Watches and Cheese.
    Just in case you missed it..Swiss Dont have a police force....they don't one

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    1. Indeed an experience of life Mr Chowla:)Yes Cheese, chocolates,watches and banks are in abundance and almost zero crime hence a police force having just a token presence:)

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  15. I felt like watching a Bollywood movie :-) Amazing! seen and read lot about Switzerlands scenic beauty. Your post added more wish to my to-do list

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    1. Nice to see you back Bindu!Please do make a sojourn to this great destination when you get an opportunity:)

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  16. Of course. Switzerland is the most famous holiday destination. I'm going to save this blogpost, hoping it would be useful in future :-)

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    1. I am honored that you found this post fit to bookmark, Ashwini:)BTW most places in Switzerland can be randomly chosen and would turn out to be an experience of lifetime!

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  17. What struck me most about Switzerland besides the lush greens, crystal lakes and the Majestic Alps was the complete absence of people. I saw more tourists than Swiss in Switzerland!

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    1. How could there be a disagreement with a widely traveled lady like Purba:)Bang on! observation and most people speak an alien language like German, Italian, French etc based on the proximity of the neighboring country even when you run into the few local populace:)

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  18. Exactly! who wouldn't want to go the land of perfect landscapes. Can't wait to see that part of the world.

    All the best for the contest. :)

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    1. Thanks Divya for taking time off to read my posts! I am sure you would be thrilled to see the country and I look forward to see your post and pictures of the trip:)

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  19. Ah, Switzerland! It is a dream destination for me too.

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    1. Even I do not mind revisit to the lovely place, Rachna:)

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  20. After reading this post all I have to do is book tickets and just fly, no further research is required so much in detail you have written this post. Loved it :D sure shot winner at the contest :D
    OH BTW :D u actually have created 2 happy travelers ;)
    you know who they both are :D ...
    Awesome post all the best.

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    1. Sure book your tickets and plan a holiday soon, Ramya!Can provide more information when you need so that the travel can be a really happy one for 2 more(?) travelers:)A big thanks for your best wishes!

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  21. It is great reading about you enjoying in the Alps, Rahul ji. Someday, I too will start saving for some trip like this or the one to Sri Lanka you wrote about.

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    1. Thanks KK! You will enjoy Alps whenever you go, that is assured:)

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  22. Visits to the Chocolate and Cheese factory, I am seriously jealous. I do plan to visit Switzerland hopefully in the future.

    Apologies for the late comment on your previous post. Health issues kept me away from blogging.

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    1. Rachna do visit the country and you will feel elated with what you come across! I hope you are fully well now and there is no need to apologize.On the contrary I should be inquiring about your welfare:)

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  23. Hi Rahul, this exciting Swiss itinerary is truly wonderful, you have brought the place to life by your exceptional writing. The cheese and chocolate factory visits sound like the greatest delight! A deserved win, I wish you the best!

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    1. Thanks a lot Sam for that nice comment and best wishes! Switzerland is truly an amazing destination with delights every where:)

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  24. Looks like a long journey..let me comeback and read one day at a time :)

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    1. Ha Ha Latha! Thanks for your patience and I too will wait till next week when you have read the post one day at a time:)

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  25. I enjoyed reading this post. Really! :)
    Excellent description.

    All the best for the contest.

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  26. Wow, what the remarkable tour narrated beautifully with wonderful photographs..specially i like the photo of "Flower Clock"...
    thanks for sharing your experience..and sir, my new post has been updated, I hope you will give few rich seconds at my blog
    http://travelagent-india.blogspot.in/

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  27. Thanks a lot for your kind comment! I have visited your site and it has a lot of tourist information which is an asset indeed!

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  28. Hope you have a wonderfully relaxing weekend!

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  29. I'll save it for the time when I'll visit Switzerland :)
    and I wish that you keep visiting such awesome places both in dreams as well as in reality.

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    1. Jyoti, I sincerely wish you see these places too ! Thanks indeed for that very nice comment:)

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  30. you made me relive those monments...I have just come back after a trip of more than a month. Living in Zurich is like living in dreams..and you have written all the details so well, I nevr seem to rememeber everything ..now a days there is an Indian restaurant everywhere..mount titlis, rhine falls joungfrau, and all the cities.be it interlaken or Lucerne or Zurich...

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    1. Oh! how nice, Renu that you visited these lovely places recently and enjoyed the spectacular beauty of Switzerland!Thanks a lot for your comment and am happy I could recreate some moments of your trip:)

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  31. Land of the pristine Alps, the crystal clear lakes, green meadows, milk and chocolate and punctual Swiss watches indeed! Loved the post Rahul sir and now dreaming about Switzerland.
    Deep sigh. :)

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    1. A lovely place indeed Ragini! Thanks a lot for reading;)

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  32. Wow, its so nice. I hope my dream wish comes true soon visiting such a lovely place. I really liked your post. I am sure you and your wife must have a wonderful trip.
    best regards

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    1. Thanks a lot Kiran for liking the post! Wish your dream gets fulfilled soon:)

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  33. Rahulji, Even I wish to visit Switzerland some day :)
    Congrats for winning. Now enjoy your Goa trip as Happy Travellers :)

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    1. Thanks a lot Anita for your kind wishes ! Hope your dream of travel to Switzerland is fulfilled soon:)

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