Monday, March 16, 2009

Adventures in Switzerland.

Currently in Zurich.
R is here for first time, so wanted to do a little wandering around.

Had very vaguely hatched a plan to visit Pilatus, a mountain not too far from Zurich. The plan was to catch a train to Luzern, bus to the cable station, and then cable car up Pilastus.

The morning started off to plan: We managed to leave the hotel vaguely sort of on time, made our way to Zurich HB (Central train station), and found food at McDonalds. (hungry people do desperate things).

The first sign of trouble was attempting to buy a ticket to Luzern. This involved much fighting with the ticket machine. Firstly it didn't like anything. This was solved by actually pressing 'OK' on the screen before attempting to hand over money. Then it refused my visa card many times (in various orientations), then it wanted a pin (which I don't have), then rejected my EFTPOS card as unsupported (the pin for which I did know), R's visa card (it wanted a pin which he didn't know), and various other random pieces of plastic we attempted to feed it. Finally R found some cash and fed it that, which is liked, ate, and dispended tickets. Yay! For a train that was due to leave in 60 seconds. On a platform far, far away.

Sprinting for the platform had us there just in time to see it leaving in the distance. A 30 minute wait...

The trip to Luzern was very pleasant. The trains are very quiet and nice, and the scenery is picturesque. Did a few sudoku puzzles which R had infected me with, and we arrived in Luzern in short order.

Wandering around looking for things bearing the name 'Pilatus' had us finding the S31 bus which ran to Pilatusmarkt. Very promising. So we walked to the 6 blocks to Pilatusplatz, found a bus stop (yay), found the S31 stopped there (yay) and it was due to arrive in 6 mins (yay).

15 mins later, it was pretty clear that the S31 wasn't. The timetable insisted that all was well, but no bus. So we decide to take the S20, change to the S21 and we'd be fine. S20 was good. Actually did arrive, did travel in the right direction. Alas, we fell to talking and missed the stop. So getting off at the next stop decide to 'just walk back. Not far really'. About 15 mins of walking led us back to the stop for the S21. Which was due to arrive in a little over an hour. argh! Ok. Another change of plan. Now we'd take the S16 which looked like it also went to Pilatusmarkt and that one was only 6 mins away.

Bus arrive. We get on bus. Bus travels about 300meters to Pilatusmarkt. We get off. Find we are at deserted shopping center. Close for the sunday. Named 'Pilatus Market'. Doh! Turns that that many random things around Luzern are named after the mountain.

Now very lost, with the next bus not due to 60 mins, we decide to walk back to where we caught the S16. The horrendously unreliable map (scale optional) claimed a nearby train station.

20 mins of walking, we are at train station. We had originally intended to catch the train back toward Luzern, but there timetable had various stations marked with a cable car symbol. How exciting! Which led to R get excited about visiting Engelberg, and maybe wandering up Titlis, a 3000m high mountain.

More tickets, more fighting with ticket machine, eventually discovered that it enjoyed amex cards. Wait for train. Train takes us along a very pretty route. Alongside a lake, wending through valleys. And then turned into a cog-train for a while! Seriously steep assent led us into some stunning scenery (sorry, no photos yet) .

Engelberg was less interesting, but they really did have a cablecar up the mountain (actually, many many cable cars up many slopes). We caught one to Gerschnialp, about 1260m above sea level. Normal hairy cable car ride put us in some fairly serious snow. With us wearing jeans and tennis shoes...

We had a really good time. Walked along a snow trail for about 20 mins a small restaurant in the middle of no-where , had a fairly ordinary lunch (which cummulated with them refusing to accept anything except Amex, where the amex could only be used for bills over 50CHF [ours was 33CHF], and we had no cash left...) we then set off to walk down the mountain.

This was hugely enjoyable. A snow trail wandered down the mountain through forests et al. Most of it was fairly well packed snow so it wasn't that bad to walk on. Most of the other people we saw were wearing snowshoes, but they clearly envied our minimalist approach to snow hiking.

About 1/2 we down, we found a ski-jump! A truly terrifying affair. Seeing them on television can't convey just how insane they are. Standing at (well, near) the lip of the jump, you can't actually see any of the slope below, just the flat field far below. Actually: far, far, far below. I was having trouble with the heights just standing near the edge of the jump. I can't imagine just how certifiable you'd have to be to actually go down it on skis. Simply amazing.

It took a bit over an hour to walk down the mountain. Followed by a sprint to catch the train back to Luzern (more stunning scenery), and then the train back to Zurich, and then another train back to Stadelhofen.

Hugely enjoyable day; Now very, very tired. Goodnight.

PS: No, never did find out what happened to the S31 bus.

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