We are finally leaving the Vaud Canton for a trip into the heart of Switzerland. It was time for the mountain part of the itinerary. Goodbye Lausanne and hello Interlaken. This journey will make full use of one of the scenic train journeys offered by Swiss Rail — the Golden Pass.
Fast Baggage Service
“How are we going to carry our luggage?”
“We’re not going directly to Interlaken right?”
“You said we have a stopover for chocolates, with our luggage?”
Those were a few of the questions being thrown at me early this morning when we woke up for our train travel to Interlaken. Yes, we’re stopping over for a short trip to visit Cailler Chocolates. And we have to contend with six huge luggages!
“Don’t worry, this is where the Swiss Rail comes in handy,” I reassured the whole family. “We are going to use the Fast Baggage service.”
Drop off BEFORE 9am; Pick up AFTER 6pm
Before you plan your journey, you need to find out which rail station offers Fast Baggage. It is usually stated on their website and it includes the opening and closing times of the Fast Baggage counter. The theory is simple, drop off your bags BEFORE 9am in the morning and collect them AFTER 6pm. So make sure you have what you need before sending your baggages off.
As of 2013, each baggage (doesn’t matter the size) costs CHF22. So try to check in the largest ones. Sometimes, you could liaise with your hotel to help you pick it up when it arrives. Our train will be arriving at Interlaken around five in the afternoon, so we have more than enough time to pick up our luggages. For those who will be arriving earlier, it’s a bit unfortunate. The luggages will only be there right on the dot after 6pm.
After we had our Fast Baggage done (at Montreux), we waited for the Golden Pass train to Interlaken. We won’t be taking it all the way, since we are heading towards Gruyéres for the chocolates. It doesn’t really matter which train you choose, as the views are all the same. Those that provide all-round windows run at specific times only, so if that’s your cup of coffee, please make sure you have the times written down.
The panoramic trains for the Golden Pass runs at certain times only but actually, the views are the same as the normal trains.
Another good thing about the Golden Pass, it is all paid for if you have the Swiss Pass. So it’s basically another hop-on hop-off train for us.
Where shall we sit? If based on the direction of the locomotive, you should sit on the RIGHT side. This will give you views of Lac Leman as you leave the Vaud Canton. Once it goes up in the hills, both sides give you great views. The one on the LEFT would most probably be nicer since you get to see the valleys.
Our first stop of the day was at Montbovon. This is where we interchange with the local line to get to Broc-Fabrique via Gruyéres.
Most people would get off at Gruyéres first but it depends on your schedule. We were on a timetable and it was a Sunday, people will be flocking to these areas as most of the town attractions are closed.
“Are you sure the chocolate factory is open?
“I’m sure, I double-checked.”
Tip: Please check the opening hours and days for the places you want to go. Most have one specific off-day.
Another thing about Switzerland is that there is one particular off-day for most of their attractions, usually it is a Sunday, sometimes on a Monday. So please please and triple please, make sure you check the opening hours for the places that you’re about to visit. I planned the Golden Pass on a Sunday, because I knew that most places would be close, so it was a better to travel on a train on Sundays.
After checking the return times for the train (also another must to make sure you don’t waste your time waiting). We set foot for Cailler Chocolate Factory, it was the only attraction in this part of the town, so just follow the crowd if you’re unsure.
Tip: Don’t be distracted by the chocolates, get your tickets first!
The first thing you’ll see when you enter Cailler is the assortment of chocolates in front of you. They come in all sorts of colours, flavours, packings, wrappings, smells and sizes. It is a battle upon all your senses if you’re not prepared. Don’t be distracted by it.
“Hey hey, all follow me. Don’t get distracted,” I commanded.
“We need to get the tickets first, shopping can wait,” I said.
The tickets are for the 20-minute interactive history of Cailler and their brand of chocolates, plus the highlight of the tour, FREE TASTING of the chocolates. On a day like today (Sunday), the queue was long. Unfortunately, the tickets are on a first-come, first-serve basis and they go by language. Each group is limited to around 20-25 people. So make sure you get the correct tickets first, before shopping. Don’t worry, after the tour, you can still come back and shop for chocolates.
The best chocolates are on the left side of the picture! You start on the right.
I would suggest that you try out the chocolates before buying. So at the end of the 20-minute tour, you will come to this (pictured above). This is the free tasting zone. Keep your stomach empty. You will start from the right side of the picture before moving towards the left. Try to keep your hands away from the chocolates on the right, probably one a piece. The best ones are on the left. Trust me!
Look at how angry the person in-charge was. I think the tip has already been spread throughout the Internet, so everyone knew and was waiting for the ones at the end. Usually the line will stop on the left as everyone topped up on the goodies.
“This was our lunch,” I told the rest of the family. So eat as much as you want! All these for just CHF10 (2013 price) per ticket. Among the chocolates that I tried:
Tip: Another way to distinguish which are the good ones, remember the shape. Those with weird shapes are usually the high quality types.
So once you have had your fill, believe me, even if you came with an empty stomach, there’s only so much chocolate you can eat at one go. I topped out after having around 30-35 pieces of these lovely buggers before I reached my limit. Time for shopping!
I wouldn’t say that Cailler is the best ever chocolate that I have tasted but comparatively, they are the smartest at arranging this factory and the chance to taste their products. I still prefer the chocolates made personally and in small batches later on when touring around Switzerland. But for gifts and such, Cailler is on top. For example, take the mountain of chocolates above. You are given an empty box in various sizes (S, M, L, XL). If you’re a smart packer, you could pack about 80 pieces of assorted chocolates into the M-sized box. Try to arrange them nicely, instead of scooping and dumping them into the box. I made sure mine was packed tightly and up till the brim!
We spent at least two hours here minimum before taking the train back to Gruyéres. Wonder why Swiss chocolates are the best in the world?
(to be continued)