I recommend the services of Magic Switzerland (400 E 43 St #2, Kansas City MO 64110, phone800-337-9477 or 816-753-5573;,

My wife, Gloria, and I booked an excellent AMA (an ITN advertiser) river cruise from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, The Netherlands from October 14, 2012 to October 25, 2012 including two nights in Zurich and two nights in Lucerne.

I did, however, want to see Switzerland and ride the spectacular Glacier Express and the even more spectacular Bernina Express. So I searched the internet for a Swiss travel consultant and found Magic Switzerland among others. Pepe Strub, the owner, was quick to respond and being in Kansas City was easy to contact by phone. He gave me references including Switzerland Tourism , the official tourism office of Switzerland.

The costs for me and my wife for five days and four nights was US$1782.00. Included in the cost were two first class four day Swiss flex rail passes, prepaid hotel vouchers in three star family run hotels in Zematt, St Moritz, and Lugano, Magic Switzerland also provided a very detailed itinerary and maps along with information about Swiss geography, people, government, food, climate, languages, etc.

Upon arrival at the Zurich airport on Oct 10th Pepe’s instructions for validating our rail passes and how to get to the Zurich main railway station (he even had the platform numbers in the instructions) made the life easy for us. After a pleasant rail trip to Zermatt, we checked into the Hotel Perren (Vispastrasse 10 Zermatt 3920; 866 539 8430) for our two night stay We spent the rest of the afternoon walking in the car free city. The first night we enjoyed classic Swiss cheese fondue made with Kirsch ( total cost with salad was CHF62.00 (Swiss Francs, approximately $68.00) for both of us. The dinner was fabulous. Fondue is what put the apples in Heidi’s cheeks.

The next day we took Pepe’s recommendations and rode the Gornergrat cog railway up to Gornergrat ( which has a hotel, hiking trails, and skiing in season) to view the Matterhorn and approximately twenty-nine snow and ice capped mountains. Cost was CHF72.00 for 2 travelers (approximately $40 per person based on a 50% discount with our Swiis rail passes. The Gornergrat railway functions as a ski transport during the skiing season. The views of the Matterhorn are magnificent ! After an invigorating hike part way down to Zermatt we explored the city and visited the Matterhorn Museum. The museum will give one a sense of life in this high-altitude region. Personal accounts of mountain guides and the tragedies of the first to climb the Matterhorn are chronicled. There is a farmer’s cottage, hotel, and church interior, plus stuffed and mounted animals, including the famous black and white sheep. Be sure to rent an audio headset to enhance the experience. A movie takes you up to the top of the Matterhorn for an actual rescue of three women climbers. A museum not to be missed. Admission was CHF10.00 or $11.00 per person.

On October 12th we walked the short five minute walk to the train station for the Glacier Express. We had seat assignments provided by Magic Switzerland. We brought a “picnic” lunch , per Pepe’s recommendation; cheese, sandwiches, wine and of course wonderful pastries for the eight hour ride from Zermatt to St Moritz. The Glacier Express lives up to its reputation as a world class train excursion and fortunately it is not an Express. There are two 360 degree tunnels among the features of the journey. The scenery is grand. We were picked up at the St Moritz station by the Hotel Hauser (Via Trauter Plazzas 7 St Moritz; +41 (0) 81 837 5050) van. We had delicious dinner in the hotel restaurant which was packed with locals. I had venison while Gloria had a spinach gnocchi dish. Both dishes were excellent. Cost for the two of us was CHF50.50 ($55.00). The hotel has a renowned pastry shop in which we purchased “snacks” for the next day.

Early on October 13th we boarded the Bernina Express to the Italian city of Tirano. The Bernina Express may be more spectacular than the Glacier express. You will have to take both trains and decide for yourself ! Among the features of this journey were tunnels, the famous Brusio circular viaduct, deep valleys, and fall colors. The Bernina express will take you up to 6830 feet at an incline sometimes as steep as 7% without the use of cog wheels. After 2 ½ hours enjoying the city of Tirano and enjoying Italian pastries we boarded the Bernina Express bus to Lugano. We walked approximately 5 minutes from the Lugano train station to the Hotel Continental Park Via Basilea 28 CH 6900; +41 (0) 91 966 1112). All of our hotels were close to the train stations. A real plus. Our corner room on the top floor provided great views of old town well below the hotel and Lake Lugano. Another great dinner was had at the hotel restaurant. Gloria had the special. A four course dinner that featured a perfectly cooked pork chop. I had a pasta carbonara. Best I have ever had. Total cost was CHF63.80 $70.00)

The next day, October 14th, we walked the old city for a few hours. The town was empty as it was Sunday morning. We then boarded the train to Zurich. As you might expect, we enjoyed great scenery on the way. That evening we joined the AMA tour.

Thanks to Magic Switzerland, our five days of independent travel in Switzerland went seamless and recommend their services to all ITN subscribers.