Switzerland Trip - 2001

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Brooklyn, New York

Sunday, June 3, 2001

They say arrive two hours in advance for international flights. Why? Not knowing what to expect, I still wasn't going to do it, but not cut is as close as I would for a domestic flight.

I got some more cash from the machine and walked over to the livery place. They had a car, and I rode with him to get my bags. Off we go. We chat. Along the way I talk about the weather forecast for Zurich, and how there is a 15 degree difference between accuweather.com and weather.com. And how there is a lot of rain forecast. He said rain shouldn't matter. But I wanted to bike I said. He asked if I was going to rent a bike. Yes, I said, but there is no charge. You just have to leave a deposit and something like your passport or driver's license. I said the word! I didn't have my passport! Around we go. He sped. All in all we only lost 20 minutes going back to get it. And $10 extra.

Queens, New York

We arrived at the Delta International entrance. I hadn't flown Delta in many years, and didn't know what to expect. The X-ray machine for luggage was right inside the door. After going through I saw the gate for my flight right across the aisle! To my right were the queues for people checking in, and a no wait line labeled Business Elite. I was flying business class, but Elite looked like it was for those with a lot of frequent flyer miles. I needed to change my return ticket. I had phoned in and changed the day of my return, so I could spend three holiday days. Since there was no line at the gate check in, and it was right there, I decided to check in first. Good thing I did. She said no reason to get a new paper ticket (Delta has no e-tickets to Zurich), and if I did it was another counter, and not the check in counter. I was still checking in about an hour before the flight's departure. Still earlier than I would usually do. I sit down. I notice I don't have a window seat. I had booked 11A. I had called in and found I wasn't in 11A, so I changed it to 11A. But my ticket said 10B. She gave me 10A. I sit down and read.

The flight is announced. First boarding call is for First Class and Business Elite. Was that me? Someone said it was. I get on. I find my seat. There's a travel kit on it. I check it out. Inside are eye shades and ear plugs! I had put a fair amount of effort into buying these. First they were sold out. Then on the next visit I bought a package of six pair of ear plugs. Then in another store I found eye shades, which included a pair of ear plugs. So now I had two eye shades, eight pair of ear plugs, and I'll be getting another set on my way back.

Business class is certainly luxurious. There is lots of leg room. The electrically controlled seats were adjustable in many ways. Dinner was slow. It wasn't completed until two hours after takeoff. The problem was the way it was served. It was served like in a restaurant. My gluten-free meal was poor. Initially I get a salad with iceberg lettuce and pita bread. I say it's wheat. The stewardess says it is not wheat. I insist it is. (Later when offering bread to others she called whole wheat, wheat. So she was one that considered white flour to be flour and not wheat.) I didn't eat much of the lettuce. Then they came by with a mixed salad for the others. Lots of interesting lettuces in the bowl. I had them make me one. Then the meal had very small portions. Maybe enough for a child, but not an adult. Then breakfast, served 1 1/2 hours before landing, was for me only a salad bowl. American Airlines does better than this in coach!

I didn't get much sleep; despite the seat reclining a lot. The inflatable neck pillow was not needed with this much recline. After the food and movie it was quiet and dark, with everybody trying to sleep. So the eye shades and ear plugs weren't really needed. At least not after the food service and movie were over.


Monday, June 4, 2001

We arrived early. I followed the signs to the train. I couldn't get the machines to work. I waited in line to buy a ticket. The trains are frequent, but not evenly spaced. Fortunately I only had a one-two minute wait for the next one.

In Zurich I didn't see any bikes for "rent" near track 18. [I later learn they are further out the track.] I found the tourism office. Mostly material from commercial establishments selling their services. The only things I took were a couple of free maps, a flyer on museums, a flyer for the Hotel Bristol, where I'm staying, and for Pension St. Josef, where I was considering staying when no longer on the company tab.

I walked to the Hotel Bristol. Not far at all. I check in. She says the bikes are by the Globus, which was the other location I was given. I head off in that direction. (Along the way I wander a little and buy tickets to use to take the train to work.) Getting there I find that driver's licenses are okay only for Europeans, but passports are required for non-Europeans. Back to my room I head. Around 11:30 I get the bike.

The first place I want to go is to find exactly where I will be doing testing. I know it is in, or near, the Enge train station. I head there. I bike around, but don't see any SwissRe sign. I do find the Hotel Ascot. I go in. This is the hotel that SwissRe recommends. I'm not there as it was full. They have a SwissRe flyer showing where the buildings are. They say it is on the other side of the station. They give me the flyer. I go to the other side. I'm looking for a building saying SwissRe. Then I check the address and follow the addresses. I find a door on the station itself labeled SwissRe.

Now to head off to the Mythenquai. I bike past Enge and reach the water past the map. I bike along the water heading back towards Zurich. I pass the main SwissRe buildings, but none are labeled with the name. [I later learn that one has a small sign.] I bike across the Quai Bridge and along the east side of the Limmat, looking at restaurants. Some are closed for the holiday, Whit Monday, and the others are serving sandwiches, pasta, or spaghetti. Nothing close to being gluten-free. I bike across Rath. Bridge and check out a couple of restaurants on the west side. I considered a Chinese restaurant, but the lunch package appeared to include a lot that I wouldn't be able to eat. Then I find a full service restaurant, the Zunfthaus zur Waag. I take a seat. The waitress starts to bring me bread and butter. I explain I'm wheat and dairy free. She understands. I order the pork without the sauce and with the vegetables steamed. Eventually it shows up. Small portions, with a breaded broiled tomato in the middle. She says she explained it to the cook. She removes the tomato. I move the food away from the center of the plate and eat. The place gets busy. It took me more than 20 minutes with my arms crossed before I could get a check. Not worth the CHF35, plus CHF4.20 for the tea.

I decide to stop by my room to get a hat. My bald head has had enough sun. I got the Pension St. Josef flyer and determined where they were. I biked over and made a reservation for Saturday through Monday nights. The only room without a bath was also without a sink. Oh well. Only CHF65 instead of CHF75.

I biked through the old section east of the Limmat. I found more restaurants open. This area is catering to tourists. Some looked like possible candidates, but again mostly foods with wheat. I biked to the Zurich See and biked along the east side.

People here bike everywhere. There are no signs banning bikes anywhere. People bike on the paths right along with pedestrians. No one seems to have a problem with this. In NYC some people freak out when a bike is near them.

The quai was mobbed with people. The weather was mostly sunny and with the holiday everybody was out. Lots of sailboats moored along the shore, but few were out sailing. Passing the Casino I saw half chickens as a menu option. The first tip off of this being an option. I continued until off the map and the shore side park pretty much ended.

On my way back into town I biked inland streets. I then decided to bike up the Limmat on the east side. Then getting off the map again I turned around and biked back, crossing the Limmat to the park behind the Landesmuseum. I biked around. The circus was there. At the museum there was an outdoor exhibit of selections from the book The Earth from Above. Using a helicopter and balloons a Frenchman had taken pictures from around the world. Stunning pictures. I looked at them all.

I then decided to spend more time biking around the old section east of the Limmat. I found a fast food place, the Calypso, that has chicken pieces. I bought a couple pieces without sauce, and without the ubiquitous bread. The guy wondered how I found food to eat. We chatted. I mentioned Indian food was the easiest. I asked him if there were are there. He said there were a few on Langstrausse. I decided to check them out. It was about 5:30 and I still had a few hours to return the bike.

I biked down the Langstrausse. This is a street on the other side of the train station. Lots of interesting ethnic restaurants here. Catering to locals in this residential neighborhood, not the tourists. I found a store that sold model steam engines. My boss is very much into trains. And he does periodically visit Zurich. I wondered if he knew about this shop? A fellow passed by and asked if he could help. I told him why I was interested in the shop and asked him where the Indian restaurants were. He said a ways down. After taking pictures of the shop I biked down and then back up. No Indian restaurants. I then bike down Kanonengasse. I found an expensive Indian restaurant, next to a fast food one. I stopped in the fast food one. I asked about the ingredients. Every dish, every single one, had cow's milk in them! He said there were some more down the street that were closed for the holiday. I biked down and couldn't find them. I biked around and then across the Militar Bridge. I biked around and headed to bike down the Bahnhof Strausse to return the bike. I found the Kappeler Hof and Zentral Hof, two neat interior courtyards. The Bahnhof is where the most expensive shops are. It was after 7 and I was getting tired. I returned the bike and on my way back did more investigation of the shops under the train station. I got back to my room. Supposedly there were three English TV channels, but I could only find two: CNN and the BBC. I went to bed early.

Tuesday, June 5, 2001

Next morning I awoke early. I watched TV and wrote up my Monday trip notes. I went down for breakfast. It was mostly breads and cereals. They did have hard boiled eggs and canned fruit cocktail. The glasses were four ounces. I had several glasses of orange juice and water, a bowl of fruit cocktail, and five eggs. For extra money they'd cook eggs in other ways with bacon. I passed.

Back to my room. I finished my notes. I still had time to kill. I need an N-Bahn trains schedule to find when trains to Solothurn are. I'm planning a day trip there on the next Monday.

I leave for work. I leave some extra time to pick up a Solothurn train schedule. I get one and find the bikes for loan way out by track 18. I get the train. It leaves two minutes late.

Lunch comes. My host asks what we want to do. I announce my dietary restrictions. We end up at the company cafeteria in the office he works at. Very small. The only meat that day is veal sausage. The chef checks. I can't eat it. He says he'll cook up something special for tomorrow. I eat salad and some vegetables.

Work is over for the day. I leave with enough time to walk downstairs and get the train. The platform on one side is mobbed with people. I ask a fellow which side to get to Zurich. He says this side. A train, clearly labeled as going to Zurich arrives on the other side. I run under the tracks, but just miss the train. I've already punched my ticket, good for 30 minutes, and the next train isn't for a while. I find a ticket agent. Next train is 26 minutes. I ask if the ticket is good on the tram. He says yes, take the 6 or 7. I walk across the street and a 6 shows up. It lets me off up the hill from my room.

I dump my things in my room and ask the woman at the desk where there is an Indian restaurant. She marks two on my map. One vegetarian, the other not. I head off. I pass under the train station and stop in a small bookstore to ask where I could find a Lonely Planet guidebook. When asking a patron tells us that Orell Füssli sells them. One of the clerks marks them on the map. Off I go. I try to find the vegetarian Indian restaurant, but can't. I buy the book and find the Indian restaurant with meat. I'm a little early for the buffet. It starts at 7. I take a walk on a boardwalk along the Schanzen Gragen. Back to the restaurant. I get one plate for CHF33. I pile it with meat. They use coconut milk in everything, not dairy. The restaurant, called Taste of Paradise, has a Ceylon influence. Probably the coconut is from there.

After dinner I wander around, including the old section. Back to my room. I turn on CNN. It's still early, but I'm tired. I fall asleep early.

Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Of course I awoke early. My internal clock is now more than six hours off from EST. Had the weather been decent I was planning to take a free bike to work, but it was raining. I took the tram. Better views than the train. I get to see all the benches on the Bahnhof Strausse. (They have more than 1000 benches around done by different artists.)

After work I took the tram back to the hotel. I was planning to pick up a bike, then bike around until 7 PM, when the buffet starts as the Taste of Paradise. As I was crossing the Limmat the boat that stops behind the Landesmuseum, and other places, was pulling in. The fellow I was sitting next to on the flight over had recommended this ride. I ran over. For CHF3.60 I would get a one hour trip. I hopped on. It was 6 PM. We would be leaving at 6:05. It would be just right for the buffet. We made five stops around the Zurich See. I then walked into the train terminal. I wanted to get some more Zurich maps for my colleagues back home. I found a market filling what had been a large open space. I stopped at the tourism office and besides the maps, got literature for Solothurn, Luzern, and Winterthur.

I made it to the Taste of Paradise. The buffet dishes were different. After dinner I walked along the Schanzen Graben until I reached the Zurich See. Good thing I was wearing my GoreTex jacket. We had a shower along the way. I walked along the See, and then through the old town again. Then back to the hotel.

Thursday, June 7, 2001

The weather was nice, so I decided to rent a bike to get to work. I tried to see if I could get there without using my map. But then I found a very lovely residential neighborhood and I was curious as to where I was. It turned out I was just a couple blocks from the Enge train station and I would have found it had I kept going without looking. Instead I biked around an estate before going in to work.

At work people convinced me that Winterthur was rather industrial and all it had going for it was its museums. People had been saying that Bern was a nice place to visit.

I got out from work and biked around the Enge area a little bit more. As it was approaching six, I decided I'd bike to Raja Bongo [now closed] on Kanonengasse. I had seen it before and it looked quite nice. I arrived at 5:55. He offered me a seat in the garden. He gave me a menu and said he'd be back in 10 minutes. I looked at the menu and decided I'd have a CHF9.50 soup and a CHF36.50 entreé. He returned. He asked me if he could get me something to drink. I said tap water. He said they weren't set up to serve tap water. I then said, and you'll charge me for all the beverages you have? He said with a smile, yes. Then I got up and stated that I wouldn't be eating there.

I biked up Langstrausse seeing if any restaurant interested me. None. I passed the train station. I had been thinking it made sense to not do the day trips, but to go to Solothurn, then to Bern, then to Luzern, and then back to Zurich. I picked up a schedule for Bern to Luzern. Then at the tourism office I picked up some literature on Bern. By then I had pretty much decided to do this.

I decided to bike back up to my room to change, and get my camera. At the desk I asked again about an Indian restaurant. This was a different woman then I had asked before. She said there was a vegetarian one. I pulled out my map and pointed to where the other woman marked an X, and that I knew it wasn't there. She put a mark a couple blocks away and wrote on the map the restaurant's name: Hiltl. Off I went. First I decided to bike up past the university. It was one direction that I had not biked off the map. And the map had a picture that looked like it was taken from up there. I went up and biked around. Finally I pulled out the map and asked a fellow. He looked at it and then announced that the photo was a montage. Looking at it a bit more carefully and of course it was! I replied then in that case I was biking back downhill.

I biked to where the mark was for the vegetarian Indian restaurant. None at that spot either. I biked around a bit, and now knowing the name I found it a block away. It was large and crowded. The sign said it had been around since 1898. I looked at the menu. Pasta, soy foods, and a smattering of Indian dishes. I passed. I biked around for a while and stopped at Kaufleuten. They had steak. I was envisioning a big slab of meat. I ordered the NY filet, rice, and a salad. The filet was tiny. The other food not very filling. When she asked how it was I said I couple have eaten a couple, but it was tasty. The total was CHF70.50. I paid. I only had an hour left before returning the bike. I decided I'd return it now. I did and went to my room. I decided to do the loop instead of the various day trips out of Zurich. I walked over to the Pension St. Joseph to change my room to only the last night. She couldn't change the computer, but said she'd leave a note. (I guess it didn't like changing the arrival date.) I said I'd check back tomorrow. I walked through the old town and back to the train station. I asked for the train times between Solothurn and Bern. I had to decide when to switch towns, early in the day, or late in the day. I went back to my room to plan my new itinerary. Looks like it makes sense to stay both nights in Bern, but many options exist.

Friday, June 8, 2001

It's raining. And rain is the forecast for the weekend. I won't be biking to work this day!

Since this was the last day of the project we were all taken to a nice restaurant, the Landungsstelle Seerestaurant. It is on a pier in the See across from the main SwissRe buildings. There are outside terraces, but with the rain we were inside.

We ended the day at 3 and I headed back to my room. I got my camera and visited the inside of the Landesmuseum. Then to the train station to get a booklet on Interlaken (I had added it as a stop between Bern and Luzern) and to buy my ticket for the next three days. While there I watched a beach volleyball exhibition for a while. Where the market had been the other day. Then to Pension St. Joseph to be sure my reservation was changed. Then for a walk through the old town in the rain. Then wandering around the shops under the train station. My egg farmer, a former sous chef at one of the top NYC restaurants, wanted me to bring back chocolate. I wanted to investigate my options now, while it was raining, so I could pick it up on my way home on Tuesday. I wish he had given me some guidance. I looked at dozens of different bars made by Frey. I decided I would buy many different types of the 100g size. Then more wandering and back to the room.

I started to get organized for my early morning check out. Watching CNN of course. Then time to go through the hassle of finding dinner. On my earlier walk I had discussed food with a Malaysian restaurant. They said they could cook beef and rice noodles in oil. I went in and I placed my order. She asks what I want to drink. I said water. She asks with or without gas. I say tap water. She says they don't serve tap water. I said I don't eat at places that don't serve tap water and I walked out.

It was raining hard. A big mistake not bringing waterproof shoes. I was again wearing the ones that were soaked in the afternoon. I couldn't get all my pairs wet! The fresh socks were soaked anew. I wandered. Most of the places in the old section are bars, with bar food. Mostly inexpensive, and not gluten-free. I ended up quite far down. Almost to the See. In a side alley I saw Restaurant Zum Weissen Kreuz. It had steak on the menu. The sole waitress spoke English very well. She said no problem. I'd get the largest steak, rice, and salad. I was seated next to a couple. We chatted. They wanted to know how I ended up in such an out-of-the-way place. We chatted about Solothurn. He said it was a lovely town and to be sure to visit the Arsenal. I was planning to, which was why I couldn't go there on Monday. And they said that Sunday's weather was now going to be okay. The forecast had been rain.

They left. A group of three was then seated around me. At least they didn't smoke. I get my food. Fine, but the rice was a bit salty. I ask for the check. She brings it with CHF69. It was more than I expected, but there was only a blackboard menu and I didn't really know what I'd ordered. I paid cash, no credit cards. I left. I was a few blocks away and the price just didn't seem right. I pulled out the check. It wasn't mine! I went back. Something about she told him. She writes down 45+5 and gives me 19 in change. But she couldn't give me a new check. I said I needed it for reimbursement. She says cheat. I left and walked back to the room. Pouring even harder now.

Saturday, June 9, 2001

Breakfast is scheduled to start at 6:30. I asked and was told it started a little earlier. Good. I can then make the 7:06 train. I get down when breakfast was only partially set up. But the hard boiled eggs and orange juice were there. The eggs were too hot to handle. I fumble one. The others cool a little and the fruit cocktail shows up.

I'm back in my room at 6:33. Plenty of time to brush my teeth, check out, and be on the 7:06 train, with a few minutes to spare. It was only lightly raining, so I make it to the station with my shoes still dry. Yesterday's pair, still wet, isn't getting any drier in my bag. 7:07 and the train next to us pulls out. Did I get on the wrong train? Then one three tracks over pulls out. At 7:09 he announces a list of stations including Solothurn. We pull out.

For the most part the ride is through industrial sections. There are some patches of countryside. Sitting on the right side of the train was a good choice. In the background to the right was a mountain range. To the left it is too overcast to see what is in the distance. It's raining harder now.


I arrive in Solothurn at 8:15. I decide better to not have two pair of shoes wet, so I change into my wet pair, and put my luggage into a locker. It's raining hard, but with my GoreTex jacket on I forego the umbrella. (I never did use the umbrella.)

I checked out the crooked tower. I wander around town and see the Saturday market. I stop in the tourism office and ask about the Wyss stationary store. I'm told where it is. I wander the back side of town to get to the shop. A woman is there. She remembers my brother's visit from many years ago, but she did not meet him. Only her husband did, and he passed away three years ago. She did not know whether we were related and did not know about the family homestead that her husband had shown my brother. She invited me to lunch, but I passed. I figured with my dietary restrictions it would be imposing too much. She gave me a postcard as a present. I left, got a couple blocks away, and realized I did not have her e-mail address. I went back. She had left and gone to their other shop. I went to that location. We chatted some more and exchanged e-mail addresses and web sites.

It was now almost 10. I could go visit the Arsenal. Off I went. The museum is filled with guns, swords, and some costumes. Sometimes dozens and dozens of the same thing. After a while I left and wandered some more. Pia Wyss had told me where the Asian restaurants were, so I crossed the river and wandered around. I saw a restaurant with basic foods on the menu. I walk in. No one speaks English. I then try a take out shop. He speaks a little English., but he cooks his burgers on the same grill as the buns. I next try a Chinese restaurant. I figure I can get something steamed. Alas, the only things they cook steamed is the ravioli. Next is a Thai grocer with take out and a few tables. One of the fellows speaks flawless English. They'll cook up some chicken in coconut milk with rice. I had a very nice meal for CHF18. He told me that the RBS train to Bern was nicer. I already knew it was quicker. I had just missed one. The next would be in 30 minutes. So a little more wandering. I found the clock tower. Then the stone church., where I went inside. Now time for the train. I found the track. 1:06 (or was it 2:06?) and it leaves. Inside I change to some dry socks and shoes. A very nice train ride through the countryside. Often only a single track. The rain was lessening now. I write up my day's notes, trying not to miss the scenery.


I see that when I arrive in the Bern train station that RBS has it's own tracks. Apparently it goes a different route then the national trains.

I get out of the train station and try to get oriented. It isn't easy. I find the National Hotel and check in. I still have my dry shoes on. It's only raining lightly. But for some reason when I walk I get water on the toes and the tops of my shoes. I look at other people's shoes. Their uppers are dry. Is it how I walk? Maybe faster?

I walk through a park and get to Parliament. No tours today the sign says. [I later learn they are in summer session.] I walk to the Casinoplantz, one of the places with free bikes. I see nothing. Since it's raining I decide to spend my time in the Bern Historical Museum. After that I go to the Cathedral and climb to the top. I get a view of the roof tops, but much too overcast to see any Alps in the distance. I wander some and watch the 5:00 "performance" at the clock tower. I wander some more, and when at the Loeb Department store I look for the other free bike place. I don't see it. I go over to the train station and ask at information. She points out the blue hut where they are. I get a bike and start biking around in the rain. At least my wet shoes aren't getting any wetter as I bike. I then realize I had forgotten to ask at Information where there was an Indian restaurant. So back I went. There was one, and she marked it on the map. Since it was 6:30 I decided to go then. It was a fast food place, and for CHF13 I had a modest portion of chicken curry. Very tasty. I head off biking. I get a picture of the Ogre fountain to send to a friend. This ogre eats small children and he's eating one, with others waiting their turn.

I biked the north side of town. I biked the other side of the Aare River. I watch the Swiss Inline Cup for a while. Men and women inline skating. The rain stops. I bike around again. Finally I return the bike and have another chicken curry. I've now had a Friday night dinner, and lunch and dinner on Saturday, with no digestive problems. Let's see if I can keep up the streak.

I go back to my room to plan Sunday. When deciding what to do I found I had missed the bear pits. I had passed them earlier, but not knowing I was passing I didn't look. I was passing after five, so nothing to see, even if I realized it. I also see I could have gone into another church, and missed some special detail in the cathedral. I also missed the rose garden. I biked halfway up the hill to it, but I didn't see it on the map I was using, so I didn't know to keep going. I could either split early the next day for Interlaken, or check out some viewpoints, see the bears, and then leave.

Sunday, June 10, 2001

I get up and take a shower. The shower makes the calluses from walking all day in wet socks and shoes sore. Not only are the waterproof shoes I didn't bring waterproof, they are also better walking shoes than the moccasins I did bring. But they take more luggage space.

I get to breakfast at 7:20. It is a Continental breakfast, but because I can't eat the bread she gives me three eggs, ham, and a second orange juice.

It is raining again. It looks fairly hard. The only shoes that are dry are new all leather loafers. I don't want to get them wet. I'll have to wear a wet pair again. Even if I biked to all the viewing points, there wouldn't be much to view. I decide to take the 8:26 train to Interlaken. If I'm going to walk around in the rain it might as well be a new place.

The train's first stop is Thun. I check if it makes my Lonely Planet guidebook. It is there. Says it's nice to walk around. I ask the conductor if I can get off and then back on a later train. He says yes. Okay, that is what I'll do.


I arrive in Thun. I cross the Aare twice. Most notable difference is the water is clear. In Bern it was muddy. I walk down the main street of Thun. I find a nice town square. The castle is right in town, but on a hill. I walk around on the road to get to it. While the inside doesn't open until 10, I can walk around the grounds. To get back to town there are various footpaths, and I take the covered one down. A little more walking on the main street, and then along the Aare. [The one hour I was in Thun was enough with not going into the castle. If going in, plan on a two hour stop.]

While waiting for the train, the announcement is it will be stopping in Spiez. I pull out my Lonely Planet. There is a castle there. Okay, another stop.


When I get off in Spiez it is raining fairly hard. I take a picture, though it doesn't show much. I walk down to the castle, which is by the water. I wander around inside. Like the guidebook says it has lovely Gothic doorways. I walk up to the top of the tower. Neat wooden stairs. I head back to the train station. I spent a quick hour in Spiez. I did not check out the castle grounds, go down to the water, or check out the wine museum. If it's not raining a two hour stop would make more sense.

I get on the train. I am on the south side of the car. For lake views one should be on the north. Don't get on the train in the middle of the platform. All seats on the north side will be taken.

I see on my ticket there is Brunig listed between Interlaken Ost and Luzern. let me see what the guidebook says... Not listed.

Interlaken Ost

Wanting to be sure to be on the best side of the next train I ask. The ticket agent says for the first 20 minutes to be on the right,and for the next 1:20 be on the left. I then check my bags. As Interlaken is so spread out (two train stations even!) I need a bike, raining or not. I find that the bikes are rented by the train company. CHF21 for a half day. I've been spoiled with the free bikes in Zurich and Bern.

It's now 11:30, time to seek out Spice India. This place was recommended by the restaurant in Bern. The first fellow in town that I ask tells me exactly where it is. They do put cream and butter in all their dishes, but in one it is not added until the end, and he'll have the chef leave it out.

While waiting for food I review the guidebook. I see Wilderswil is a short bus ride away. It has lots of typical Swiss chalets. Plus the start of the cog railway that goes to one of the peaks. When leaving I ask the fellow about it. He says it is easy to bike to. It's still before the mountain starts.

After lunch I bike along the Aare to the west train station. I then pass the Model Railway Exhibition. It's 12:30 and it's closed for lunch. I decide now's the time to bike to Wilderswil. I pass the funicular (a cable railway in which an ascending car counterbalances a descending car), but tell them it's too cloudy to go up. I find Wilderswil. Yes, the houses are traditional and pretty. There are bike routes posted. (Next time I visit I'll have to get a bike map first.) I follow one. It takes me through a field. I find a nature garden along a rushing stream. I find the start of the cog railway that runs up Schynige Platte. People are getting on, but they will be in the clouds and won't see much.

I bike back to Interlaken and visit the Model Railway Exhibition. I bet it's a private operation. It was just like the guidebook says. Lots of kids getting their thrills.

I left and biked through town. I found the Japanese Rock Garden. I biked some more along the Aare. I had not seen either lake, so I bike out along the Aare past the west train station. I biked and biked. After a couple miles I gave up. I was aiming for the 3:30 train. I think I was close to the end, but it was a rushed ride back.

Actually I get back with five minutes to spare. The train is pulling in. I go get on and wait there. I get on the last car that opens. Not many people on it. I put my stuff on the left and sit on the right. At Brienz more people get on, so I switch to the left. It's been the 20 minutes.

At Meiringen there is a wait. They are adding an engine. We also resume travel with the train going the other way! Now I see the new engine is a cog engine. But with the direction switch my left is now my right! And a fellow beats me to the open left seat facing forward. I switch anyway, and face backwards. I can turn to look out.

We stop in Brunig. It is the top of the pass. Then we head down. Looking the the guidebook I see Brienz gets a page. Known for its woodworking. That was the first stop out of Interlaken Ost. Had I realized I would have spent an hour there. I had the time to spare.


I arrive and find the Alpha Hotel. A relatively long walk in the rain. The top floor of the hotel is new and minimalist. It is now past six, and I find from the desk woman where the Indian restaurant is. She suggests Taste of India, and getting there by walking through the old town. I head off. One of the first things I notice is all the cars. And they are moving fast. The most cars I've seen so far in Switzerland., and it's Sunday evening!

With a little help (it wasn't marked on the map in the right spot), I find the restaurant and have a nice meal. I walk along the waterfront for a while. I read one of the boat schedules. I see I can take a three hour ride to the other end of the lake, and then a train to Zurich. Plus a taxi to get to the boat. Maybe I'll do it if it's still raining. It'll keep me inside for hours!

I also realize that there's no reason to go back to Zurich before Tuesday morning. I have plenty of time before my flight to get there. And there may even be direct trains. It would save me lugging my luggage to and from a hotel in Zurich. I had said I'd try to see a business colleague on Monday evening, but it wasn't important.

My feet are getting cold, so I wander back to my room. I arrive at 8:15. Had I stopped in Brienz for an hour, this would be an hour later. No TV in the room in these budget places (though there is one in a non-smoking lounge). Not even dark until 9:45, and no opaque curtains in this place. The place in Bern had them. [In the morning I discover that there were shutters that I could have cranked down.] I catch up with my trip notes. I then spend a useless 1 1/4 hour downstairs watching CNN. This could have been time in Brienz...

Monday, June 11, 2001

I awake and look out. It's raining steadily! I also realize I have no soap. Is there soap in the showers? I could have brought soap from my last place. They did leave a candy on my pillow. I'd trade that for soap.

I get down for breakfast before it opens at 7:00. I wait until 7:00. I eat hard boiled eggs and orange juice. It looks like the rain has stopped, but still very wet outside. I start to leave to get a bike. First, though, I stop at the front desk. Yes, some trains are no-change to the Zurich airport. And yes I can stay another night, though in a different room. She says I am supposed to get soap. I ask if there are any alternatives for bike rental. She says they have one she'll rent me for CHF5 a day, or free if I stay another day. I decide to stay. It saves me CHF27, plus this room is a little cheaper than in Zurich. She recommends a chocolate store in the train station.

At 7:30 I start out with the bike. It is raining lightly. I decide to find the recommended chocolate store now, so not to have to find it when leaving. I head to the train station. While in there it rains hard. I head out and bike through the old section. Actually I bike through it so many times I lost track. I biked along the lake to Lido and back. I went to check out the carved lion. It was mobbed with tour groups. I went to the wall. I got to the first enterable tower just as the rain really came down. I climbed the tower. Then made it to the other climbable towers. Hail was coming down when I was on the last tower. Back to the old section. I looked into the Picasso Museum, but did not pay to stay. I didn't come to Luzern for three floors of Picasso. I had lunch back at the Taste of India. The rains ends, but for good? Then a stop to see the interior of the Jesuit church, and another nearby. Being Monday I was unable to visit the Historical Museum and the Museum of Natural History. I then spend several hours at the Swiss Transport Museum. Later looking at the brochure I see I missed the exhibit on cable cars and navigation. I knew I was leaving without checking and being sure I had seen everything, but I was anxious to make my trip along the lake. (This had been recommended to me back at the hotel.) The rain really has stopped. I made it to Küssnacht, stopping at the water at Meggan and Merlischachen. Approaching Küssnacht I saw a modern town. I considered not going all the way, but there was a church. I biked to it and was rewarded with a street and a square of old houses.

I biked back to town. I learned that Küssnacht was 14 km from Luzern (about 9 miles). Back in Luzern I took the funicular up to Chateau Gutsch. Stunning views back over the town. I had held off going up there until the end of the day, with the hopes it would clear up. I took pictures that someday I'll try to stitch into a panorama. Back to the room for dry socks. I should have done this before the Transport Museum, but I wanted to be sure the rain had really stopped. A steak dinner at Churrasco, then a ride along the river past the train station as far as I could go. Past lots of boat yards and through parks. On the way back I found several cages of parrots. Then along the river in the other direction, towards Emmen. Again until i couldn't hug the river. I get back at 9:25. Only a few minutes of darkness left. A lot was accomplished.

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

My flight back wasn't until 11:45. The 9:10 direct train would get me there an hour and a half before my flight. I was finished with breakfast and ready to go at 7:15. The front desk is supposed to be open at 7:00. She shows up at 7:30. The alphorn workshop I was considering visiting was too far. She suggest a bike ride to Lake Roste. [I later learn the lake is known for its crew racing.] Sounds good. She shows it to me on her map, but it is off the maps I have. I take off. I get a little lost finding it. I bike more uphill and into a nice residential neighborhood. Asking for the lake gets me directions back to Luzern. I do find the lake and bike along the edge until I reach the ferry. Then back a little ways to the hostel, and home a different route. Total time away from the hotel is 50 minutes. A bit of a rushed trip. I pack up and head for the train station. I stopped at the chocolate store. I had CHF30.80 in cash. I decide to only buy Lindt (a better brand than Frey) and grabbed a dozen different bars. She totals it up: 28.30. I grab one more which is 2.50. Perfect. There still were a couple bars I didn't get. I skipped Whiskey and maybe another. I just now can't buy any tea or refreshments! I find the train and write these notes.

Being on the right side of the train (facing east) was the right choice, despite the sun in my eyes. I had views of the Reuss River, then views of the Zuger See. I actually got a chance to see snow covered mountains in the distance, with the see in the foreground. Then a stop in Zug. Then a river out my window. Then views of the Zurich See. Very populated on both sides of this one. I yawn. I should have saved some money for a tea.


I get to the gate 30 minutes before scheduled boarding time. Pulling out my Lonely Planet I see that Zug, where we stopped, gets listed for its medieval town. So instead of the lake trip I could have taken an earlier train and spent an hour there. Another town missed.

I'm one of the first to board. It is a slow process in Zurich. You have to answer all the usual questions again as you board. I get on and ask for a tea. She heats water and brings me a pot, a cup and saucer, and a tea bag. As it's brewing another flight attendant brings around orange juice (or champagne). I take one. I add a little OJ to the brewed tea. Why not? Some people add lemon juice and sugar. Why not OJ?


We had an uneventful flight back. No waits at JFK, I was in a taxi heading home 20 minutes after landing, and home another 40 minutes later.

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