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I haven't done a sleeper train but there are a number of mixed opinions on those in various forums (Rick Steves and others). Some people aren't comfortable with sharing a cabin sleeping with others. Others comment on noises and/or drunken people on the nights later at night, not to mention toilets getting messy.

It might matter a lot depending on the routes.

I've never been to Gimmelwald but instead used Grindelwald as a base while exploring Jungfraujoch (we lucked out with a clear day at the top and the views were amazing). I liked Bern as a base in Switzerland due to its convenience to most places and found the city more interesting than a place like Zurich.

I tend to move around often on trips to Europe usually staying 1-3 days per place. I've never done a 21 day trip and that might be too much for me.

Another place that I've found to be a good base for trips is Munich. Lots to see and easy train access to a number of places.

I can't recall when but one or two of the areas in Cinque Terre had some major flooding/mud slides last year so you might want to google that and see if things are back to normal. I know they were rushing to fix things up but sometimes being "open" and being "nice" are two different things. I believe Rick was covering that story.

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