Travel: The magical mountains of Switzerland
BEING on top of a mountain in Switzerland is to know you are really alive.
The pure air alone is enough to make you want to stretch out your arms and try a yodel, but the scenery overpowers you with its grandeur, all those snow-covered summits and mighty chasms and rocky crevices.
Mt Pilatus is just one of Switzerland's colossal mountains. In Lucerne in central Switzerland, its silent and watchful presence over the vibrant city is very reassuring.
Getting to Lucerne is easy with Rail Europe's high speed trains racing you through lush countryside in great comfort from all of Europe's main cities.
Our visit in early spring meant it was still cold, but the bus near our hotel runs every 10 minutes and took us quickly just a few stops to the Valley Station where the glass-covered gondolas glide gracefully up Mt Pilatus all year round.
Up we soared, floating lightly over verdant fields with chocolate-box farm houses and undulating green landscapes, higher and higher, until we came to a forest of snow-capped fir trees.
Well, it was like being on the cover of a Christmas card. Fairy tales could not come any more magical than this as the gondola hovered smoothly through the avenue of snowy fir trees. The higher we got, the heavier their branches became with snow.
Whatever waited for us at the top of the mountain surely couldn't beat this enchanted storybook ride through a Christmas scene.
To get to the peak of the mountain we hopped off the gondola and climbed into the new aerial cableway, the large-windowed Dragon Ride, which glides up the very face of the mountain top.
It was misty on this day and we couldn't get the full impact of the dramatic views we knew were hiding behind the clouds, but the snow and the cold and magic of being 2128 metres high on top of a majestic Swiss mountain was more than enough thrill.
A slippery walk along the Dragon Path, a tunnel cut into the cliff face with large peep-holes along the way to take in the views, set us up for the comforting warmth of coffee and cake inside the panoramic restaurant.
Two hotels on top of the mountain, the Hotel Bellevue and the historic Hotel Pilatus-Kulm, would make the mountain experience even more magical if you had time to stay overnight. Imagine waking up on top of a Swiss mountain.
There is plenty to do up the mountain for the active traveller, from a zoom down Switzerland's longest toboggan ride to spine-tingling rope walks, or for the more genteel among us, flower trail walks, and for the kid in all of us, a snowball fight.
The writer travelled courtesy of Switzerland Tourism and Rail Europe.
Operating from May through October, the world's steepest cogwheel railway at 4618 metres long with a 48% gradient is a thrilling way to ascend Mt Pilatus. With a Golden Round Trip ticket you can enjoy a half or whole day excursion involving a boat trip, the cogwheel railway, the aerial cableway and panorama gondolas.
The most economical and efficient way to travel in Switzerland is by train with a Swiss Travel Pass.