Frequently Asked Questions:
How far is it to major airports?
Where is Interlaken, or Zermatt (Matterhorn), or Lucerne in relation to Haus Montanara?
Can we rent for less than 3 days?
What about discounts for renting more than 2 weeks? Monthly?
What language is spoken locally?
What's the weather like and when is the best time of year to visit?
What if a friend wants to stay with us, do I pay extra?
How many apartments do you have for rent?
What about handicapped accessibility?
What is the preferred arrival day?
Am I safe there? What about crime?
What is the local currency?
Do you have an online availability calendar?
What is the best way to get to Greich (the village where Montanara is located)?
How do I find Haus Montanara in Greich?
How do I get the key?
What about parking if we bring our own car?
What about driving in wintertime?
When we're there:
Do you have TV/Stereo/Nintendo/Playstation?
What about WiFi internet?
What about telephone service?
Where's the nearest bar/disco/pub?
Where are the local grocery stores?
Is the tap water safe to drink?
We want to bring our own coffee for our morning boost. Do you have a coffee maker?
What if I'm lactose intolerant?
Are there restaurants you recommend?
Do you have a hairdryer in the apartment?
Do you have a crib/baby bed?
What if something goes wrong? How do I get in touch with the caretaker?
What train tickets/passes do you recommend?
Do we need advance reservations for the trains?
Can you tell me how to use the cable car?
Do they have a booklet of tickets for multiple trips for folks who stay in Greich?
Where do we purchase the tickets for the cable car?
How to I get to Bettmeralp?
Are there hikes you recommend?
We want to see a castle, what do you recommend?
Q: How far is it to major airports?
A: By train: The quickest trip by train from Zürich airport is 3 hours 26 minutes using the new Lötschberg Basis Tunnel under the alps. It's a beautiful scenic trip though! From Geneva it's about the same. Milan downtown (Centrale) is a little closer to Greich (our village) than from Zürich or Geneva, about 3 hours. It's bit longer from Milan airport, the connections are cumbersome, and we don't speak Italian, so we never land there.
It's most efficient to land in Zürich or Geneva.
By car, it takes more than 3 hours from Zürich because of the alpine passes. From Milan: about 2 hours (?). From Geneva: 2-3 hours.
Q: Where is Interlaken, or Zermatt (Matterhorn), or Lucerne in relation to Haus Montanara?
A: Ahh, the big tourist areas? Well, Riederalp/Haus Montanara is inbetween North to South. It's about 2 hours to North to Interlaken and 2 hours South to Zermatt by public transport from our house. It makes a triangle if you look on the maps on the directions page. Lucerne/Luzern is about 3 hours North by train (through Interlaken). Switzerland is small but there are lots of mountain passes. Of course, our ski area and village are smaller and less touristy so you get more of a true Swiss experience! :)
Q: Can we rent for less than 3 days?
A: There are a couple reasons why we put a 3 day minimum:
1. Unless you are travelling through the Riederalp/Upper Valais region of Switzerland anyway, it will take a bit of effort to get to our house. Not to put you off from renting in the future, but carrying your luggage up the tram and then 200 yards down a narrow mountain village road is not something you want to do every day. And it's time consuming: it takes at least 1/2 hour to get to Brig.
2. Most Swiss vacation house rentals charge separate cleaning fees, etc. We don't and we roll it into the cost of multiple days stay, since w/ a vacation rental it's a one time cost for us. But for a single night stay, our cleaning and house upkeep cost is just about as much as our asking nightly rate. If you found our house on VRBO.com and have used that before, you know that this is a personal vacation house, and every time I rent it I have to find someone to take care of it.
Q: What about discounts for renting more than 2 weeks? Monthly?
A: This is something we handle on an individual basis. One deal we worked out in the past was a discount for the 3rd and 4th weeks of a whole month's rental.
Q: What language is spoken locally?
A: A dialect of German (Swiss German) is spoken in this part of the State of Valais/Wallis. This includes the town of Brig, East up the Rhone valley, and south to Zermatt region. About 40 minutes West by train to Sion and you will be in the French portion of Switzerland, though. Many locals speak some English and you will have no trouble at all!
Q: What's the weather like and when is the best time of year to visit?
A: Just think about weather in New England. Can be cool in summer and even freezing at night. Usually in the 70's F in the summer. Thunderstorms and rain are common. Wintertime? It's a ski area. Spring and fall are unpredictable. It snowed a few inches in early June 2007, and was sunny and warm with temps in the 60's F in March 2007. Airplane flights are *much* cheaper in spring and fall, and day trips, sites, trains less crowded.
Q: What if a friend wants to stay with us, do I pay extra?
A: No problem. Unlike most accomodations in Europe you are paying for the apartment, not by the person. It is better if you tell us in advance so our caretaker can supply more bedding and towels. Keep in mind there is only room for 4 adults.
Q: How many apartments do you have for rent?
A: We have 2 vacation rental apartments, both on the top floor. The floor plans are mirror-images of each other. You can rent both if you have a larger group. Just ask for availability.
Q: What about handicapped accessibility?
A: Sorry. There is a 200 yard walk from the edge of the village and the apartment is on the top floor, reachable only by stairs.
Q: What is the preferred arrival day?
A: Saturday is when most hotels and condos changeover, which means it is very crowded on the tram, in grocery stores, in rental shops, etc. on that day. Therefore, other days are more desirable if possible.
Q: Am I safe there? What about crime?
A: Crime? There are those attack cows and one goat with a felony record. Just kidding. Everyone in the village knows each other. In fact, it's one of the neighbors who takes care of the house for us.
Q: What is the local currency?
A: The Swiss Franc, often abbreviated CHF or SFr.
The rate of exchange US Dollar to Swiss Franc is about $1 = CHF 1.05 (August 2010)
Q: Do you have an online availability calendar?
A: We used to, but since we've started renting out both apartments it got complicated. Just send me an e-mail or call to see if we have beds for your vacation!
Q: What is the best way to get to Greich (the village where Montanara is located)?
A: We highly recommend using public transportation. Take the narrow gauge train from Brig to Mörel (about 10 minutes, 2 stops) on the route toward Furka Pass/Andermatt. Then take the cable car from Mörel to the village of Greich (halfway point on the cable car). The Swiss transport system is very efficient and often faster than driving a car. Taking the train from the airport is just as fast, just as cost effective, and more scenic than driving yourself, not to mention the headache of driving and renting a car in a foreign country. Besides, the roads are narrower and everyone drives more aggressive than in the USA. I recommend getting the Swiss Pass, Swiss Card, Swiss Transfer Ticket, 1/2 Fare Card, or similar transportation pass. Do not get a Eurail Pass and do not get a pass in 1st class. (see below "Getting Around" section)
Q: How do I find Haus Montanara in Greich?
A: From the tram tower and parking lot in Greich, go Southwest to the end of the main village "street"/path. You'll see "Montanara" on the side of the house. The house has three floors. You get to your top floor apartment and the middle floor apartment from the back of the house (uphill side). Just walk around to the uphill side of the house.
Q: How do I get the key?
A: The key will be in the main mailbox of the house. The mailbox is a metal box on the wall of the house next to the door to the middle apartment. Your apartment is on the top floor. Look at the key to see which apartment (East/Ost or West) our caretaker assigned to you. Just leave the key in the mailbox after your stay.
Q: What about parking if we bring our own car?
A: You can park down in Mörel at the bottom of the tram, or in the small parking lot at the edge of our village of Greich. There is a daily parking meter though. (7 SFr/day, 35 SFr/week, 50 SFr/2 week, 70 SFr/month) We've never seen police checking, but don't take my word for it.
Q: What about driving in wintertime?
A: Even during a snowstorm the roads are plowed right away. The only difficulty you may encounter is the road from the town of Mörel in valley up to our village of Greich. It's a one lane paved road and is not highest priority on the plow routes, but even then it usually gets plowed promptly.
If you are arriving from the North, you can put your car on the train through the Lötschberg Tunnel. From the South, the same transport company can take your car on the train through the Simplon Tunnel. It's very efficient and you stay in the car during the ride. It bypasses some of the snow. See:
Another option if coming from Lucerne area/Gotthard is loading your car on the train at Realp near Andermatt and going through the Furka tunnel.
Or you can take the freeway south to Lake of Geneva area and then up the Rhone Valley (longer).
When we're there:
Q: Do you have TV/Stereo/Nintendo/Playstation?
A: Short answer: no. Hmm. Isn't vacation is supposed to get you away from all that? What about the wireless internet we offer? Well, that's a weakness of mine. I can't go anywhere without internet! We have a DSL-type internet connection and I provide wireless internet to the apartments via a standard US Netgear router. It's not 100% uptime guarantee, but it resets itself nightly and we rarely have problems. Our house is really ideal for couples on romantic getaways, energetic hiker/skier types, or those who just want to sit on the deck with a book, glancing at the spectacular view every once in a while! Families are welcome, too!
Q: What about WiFi internet?
A: It's free. The WiFi SSID is "montanara". We have a DSL-type internet connection and I provide wireless internet to the apartments via a standard US Netgear router. It's not 100% uptime guarantee, but it resets itself nightly and we rarely have problems.
Q: What about telephone service?
A: Phone is free, too. There are no long distance charges to US or central Europe. (How many hotels can offer this!?) Your telephone number here is 541-787-4262. (For techies: it is internet/VOIP based.) To use the phone just dial as if you were in the US. i.e. 1 (xxx) xxx-xxxx. To call central Europe dial 011+country code+number. i.e. Local numbers here in Greich and Riederalp would be 011 41 27 927 xxxx
Again, uptime is not 100% guaranteed, but in practice there have been few problems.
Q: Where's the nearest bar/disco/pub?
A: Bar: Bottom or top of tram, 5 min away. Disco: Honestly, I don't know. We don't drink or go to the disco. Probably up at Reideralp/Bettmeralp (top of the tram). (See answer to the prior question about our target renters.) We know some good restaurants though!
Q: Where are the local grocery stores?
A: The Co-op grocery stores are at the top and bottom of the cable car have everything you can get in the USA, just on a smaller scale!
The hours are Sunday 9am-noon and 3pm-6:15 pm;
Monday-Saturday 8am-noon / 2pm-6:15pm.
Prices are the same in Riederalp or Mörel due to anti-pricegouging-laws. :)
And remember, the local bakeries have much better bread than the grocery stores!
Q: Is the tap water safe to drink?
A: All Swiss tap water is perfectly fine to drink. Even the city water tastes great.
Q: We want to bring our own coffee for our morning boost. Do you have a coffee maker?
A: Just don't bring coffee from America. Swiss coffee is delicious. Even Swiss instant coffee is *great*. In fact we bring back coffee from Switzerland. Just get Nescafe Gold at the Coop store. A little goes a long way (i.e. tsp for 8 oz). Nescafe or Maestro Lorenzo Cappucino packets are also delicious. My wife thinks there is a French press in the apartments if you want to take the time to brew.
Q: What if I'm lactose intolerant?
A: Yikes! I find it hard to think about being allergic to Swiss cheese and yogurt! But, never fear, even in the dairy capital of the world the grocery stores have everything you can get in the USA, just on a smaller scale!
Q: Are there restaurants you recommend?
A: "Derby" in Riederalp, "Alpenblick" in Bettmeralp. Just experiment, they're all good, a little more expensive than in the USA. We're mostly vegetarian so our preferences are a little skewed and we look for restaurants that have lots of options.
Q: Do you have a hairdryer in the apartment?
A: Yes. There should be 1 hairdryer in each apartment in the mirror-cabinet in the bathroom.
Q: Do you have a crib/baby bed?
A: Yes, we can supply a crib for $10 extra for the entire stay. (Mostly because of Alice putting it together and getting it ready.)
Q: What if something goes wrong? How do I get in touch with the caretaker?
A: Alice Inderbitzen (pronounced "Ah-leece") takes care of the rental for us. She lives in the village. Her home phone is 011 41 27 927 2680, cell phone 011 41 79 761 7842, for if you have any trouble. (From phones in Switzerland, such as payphones, the above home number is 027 927 2680, i.e. leave off the 011 41 and add a 0 to the region code.)
Also, I (Marcus) can be reached by phone at 541-471-7210 (home) or 541-227-8485 (cellular) Pacific Time (9 hours behind Swiss time)
Q: What train tickets/passes do you recommend?
A: The "Swiss Pass" is the best if you want to travel a little around Switzerland during your stay. It offers free travel on most trains, yellow regional Postauto buses, boats on most lakes, and city buses/trams. It also gets you up to 50% discount on many mountain cable-cars, like Mörel-Greich-Riederalp.
If you are mainly going to stay around in our area (Riederalp), instead of travelling around, look into the "Swiss Transfer Ticket" or "Swiss Card". Both get you to your destination resort and back from the airport for a decent price. The Swiss Card adds 50% discount on the railway and bus network for the length of you stay.
The 1/2 Fare Card is also available, giving a 50% discount on most of the transportation network.
You can easily get train passes in either Zurich or Geneva airport, and major Swiss train stations. i.e. you don't have to buy them beforehand. Make sure to get the 15% discount if there are 2 or more of you travelling together! Do not get 1st class, it's not worth the price, unless you want to rub shoulders with politicians and businessmen. Stay away from the Eurailpass because it costs more and offers much less. Here's a good link for more info:
Also, use this link for timetables. It's in English and very easy to use:
Q: Do we need advance reservations for the trains?
A: No need for advance reservations on the train. (Except for Glacier Express trains.) Most trains in Switzerland you can jump right on. Buy your ticket at the station before the train gets there. You can use the ticket machine or go up to a counter where someone usually speaks English.
Q: Can you tell me how to use the cable car?
A: The cable-car is across the street from the train station in Mörel. The ticket counter is in the lobby. Buy your ticket, walk upstairs and tell the operator you want to go to Greich. The tram from Mörel-Greich-Riederalp stops approximately hourly at Greich. It runs half hourly but does not stop every time at Greich. Be sure to check the timetable. We try to keep a current timetable posted in the apartment. When riding the tram from Mörel or Riederalp to Greich, be sure to tell the tram operator that you want off at Greich. If no one tells him to stop or no one pushed the button at the base of the tower, the tram will breeze right past Greich.
When you are leaving Greich with the tram towards Mörel or Riederalp, push the button for 5-10 seconds until the "Bahn Halt" light comes on at the base of the tower, so the operator will know to pick you up. Often a local Greich resident is around to help if there is a problem.
Q: Do they have a booklet of tickets for multiple trips for folks who stay in Greich?
A: Yes, you can get a "booklet" of multiple tickets for the cable car. It's actually a card that you swipe at a turnstile. You just add money on it at the ticket counter at the base station (or at the top). Make sure you tell the ticket counter that you have a 1/2 fare card ("1/2 tax") and that you only want 1/2 section, i.e. only Morel to Greich. That way you'll only pay 1/4 of the normal fare from Mörel to Riederalp. You can use the same ticket to go up to Riederalp and back: the turnstile at the top won't recognize it so you tell the operator that you're getting off at Greich and you'll swipe it there.
If you are staying with us for an entire week, the tram company offers a deal for a 7 day unlimited ride pass between Greich and Mörel for 45 SFr (half-way) or 65 Sfr for entire length Morel-Riederalp (2008 prices).
Q: Where do we purchase the tickets for the cable car?
A: In the lobby of the tram stations in Mörel or Riederalp. You cannot buy tickets in Greich.
Q: How do I get to Bettmeralp? It looks like there is a separate cable car?...
A: Bettmeralp is accessed from Betten village cablecar, which is 1 stop further up the valley from Morel on the train. But the easiest way to get to Bettmeralp is take the cablecar up to Riederalp from Greich, and then a relatively level walk 20-30 minutes.
Q: Are there hikes you recommend?
A: What kind of hikes are you looking for? What level of difficulty?
The summer map on this website has all the hiking trails on it in red -- not in great detail, but it's a good overview.
The tourist office in Riederalp at the top of the tram will have a lot of info, and the bookstores sell detailed hiking maps.
Our neighbor in Greich in the house just below Montanara is a mountain guide. His name is Andy Schnarf and he knows the area like the back of his hand.
That said, we do have a couple favorite hikes:
#1. Greich to Ried-Morel, and walk back or take the cable car to Riederalp or Morel then to Greich.
#2. Greich to Goppisberg and on to Betten. From there you can walk back or take the cable cars as above.
#3. Riederalp to Riederfurka and Aletschwald (easiest way to get views of the Aletsch Glacier)
#4. Riederalp to Bettmeralp (almost level, about 1/2 hour)
#1. Riederalp to Riederhorn (gives great views all around)
#2. Greich to Ried-Morel, then traversing the hillside far above Brig to Massaschlucht Canyon, walking along the ancient Suonen canals
Then cross over the Stausee Gebidum Dam, and on through the dark green thick moss forest to the village of Blatten with lots of very old weather beaten houses. Then take the Postauto (bus) back to Brig and train home.
#3. Train to Fiesch, then Postauto to Ernen then Binn. Then walk in the sparsely populated but very beautiful Binntal (Binn valley).
#4. Take the Gondola up to the Bettmerhorn from Bettmeralp. Walk down the ridgeline to Moosfluh, then Hohfluh, then Riederfurka/Villa Cassel, then Riederalp.
More difficult but not extreme (please read):
#1. Take the gondola to the Bettmerhorn from Bettmeralp. You need to go up here anyway at least once during your stay!!!! Then hike along the Aletsch glacier to the Marjelensee and get up close to the glacier. Eat lunch at the Gletscherstube mountain hut (make sure it is going to be open!). Walk through the 1 mile long (!) "pedestrian" tunnel under the back side of the Eggishorn mountain to Fiescheralp, then Bettmeralp, then home. It's an "all day" hike, but spectacular and well worth it. It could be shortened by taking the cable car from Fiescheralp to Fiesch and the train back to Morel. Since you take the Bettmerhorn gondola to start, the whole hike is a gentle downhill.
Q: We want to see a castle, what do you recommend?
A: Depends on what you want to see:
For a great all-around castle, with dungeon, towers, great halls, etc. hike along the Lake of Geneva waterfront from Montreux to Chillon.
For old ruins on a hilltop with a great view and a separate castle monastery (with the world's oldest playable pipe-organ) and museum go to Sion.
Sion has a much better Altstadt (medieval town) than Montreux, a Friday farmer's market, and art museum in another castle. Montreaux/Chillon has the Lake of Geneva waterfront.
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