Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day 4 - Gstaad, Switzerland

Today we decided to take it a little easy and visit a relaxed town, Gstaad. I was very excited because it seems one of my favorite hindi movies DDLJ was shot in Gstaad and it's neighboring village Saanen. So I decided to visit all the places shown in the movie.

From Interlaken it's not very close, one has to take a train to Spietz, change the train there and go to Zweisimmen and then because the direct train line from Zweisimmen to Gstaad was closed we had to take a bus to a nearby village Saanen and then a three minute train ride to Gstaad. So as you can see if took us almost 2.30 hours. An easier route is to go from Montreux but my recommendation is to skip this village completely.

So after a long journey we reached the much famous village of Gstaad. Gstaad is famous because it is one of the most expensive places in Switzerland. It's famous for it's hotels, amazing spas and scenic beauty. We reached the village around 1:15pm and walked towards the main street called the promenade. This is where all the stores are. Much to our shock everything was closed including the tourist information office. We then realized that it was lunch break and everything would open by 1:30-1:45pm. In Switzerland everyone takes a lunch break from 12-1:30pm or so :)

We laundered around the small street, carefully observing all the stores. Soon we were at the end of the street. A bit confused we thought maybe there is much more to see so we waited for the tourist office. Much to our disappointment the when the office opened the lady was not very excited to see us. She looked bored and did not give us much information. Just handed us a map of the village and recommended some restaurants and a hotel with a view.

That definitely was disappointing. Since we were starving we ate a hearty lunch at one of the finer Italian places. The food was good and the desert scrumptious. Beware, the place was exorbitantly expensive!!

After lunch we strolled on the the tiny stretch of the promenade. Tried to identify the DDLJ spots, saw one or two but I am guessing much has changed over the past decade. It definitely is a charming place with lots of greenery. Very very calm and serene. Birds chirping, streams gushing. The carved wooden stores/houses are unique and charming. There is much hype about the shopping here and how expensive everything is but coming from the U.S. shopping is a big let down unless you are looking to buy watches costing $10-15,000. I could count the number of designer stores on that promenade. They really have nothing to boast about.

Most stores have their doors closed and in order to enter all you have to do is ring the bell :) an indication that they are highly exclusive and private. Now the motto of that town is "come up and slow down" very apt because Gstaad is at a slight elevation and the place is as dead as can be. Life here is very very laid back. Perfect for retirement and all one could spot were rich old or mid-aged people.

All in all, its a super expensive place with plenty of opportunity to spend your money, not much to offer otherwise. I really don't know why it is so hyped? My advice, skip the place completely. Visit it only if you would like to experience a good spa session or if it is super close to where you are and have time to spare. There are much more charming places to see which have a lot more to offer!

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