Zürich to Buchs

When I first started planning this trip, I was pretty sure that I would not spend the whole of it in Switzerland. It would be very easy to spend 10 or more days in the country and see plenty, but since I was in the area of lots of countries I had not visited, I figured I would jump at the chance to see some of them.

The Principality of Liechtenstein has been a place I have always been interested in. In the pre-internet days, it was a very hard place to get any info about. Your best sources would be almanacs and books about stamps. The information age has not ruined the attraction for me; it just confirmed that there was much to see there.

I did a bit of research and found the hotels in Liechtenstein to be a bit pricey for my tastes, and when I found on that would work for me in Werdenburg, just across the border in Switzerland, I figured I’d take the bus and save about 50 Swiss francs a night. You could even walk there (well, YOU could, I’d only walk as far as Buchs to catch the bus over).

I took two trains from Zürich to arrive at Buchs and the ride was short but very scenic. It went along the shore of Lake Zürich and then along Lake Walensee with mountains all around it. Postcard quality scenery! As we were approaching Buchs, I spied a castle up on a mountain that looked very familiar. It was Vaduz Castle the home of Prince Hans-Adam II.

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I arrived in Buchs around noon and found a bus that would take me the short distance to where I was staying. The room was ready early so I dropped my stuff off and decided to head over to Liechtenstein to pick up a museum/bus pass I found out about online. Well, that’s a half-truth. I sent them an email requesting info and figured they would reply via email. Instead, they mailed me a lovely info packet that gave me all the details!

One of the best deals they have is for 25 CHF (CHF is code for Swiss francs) you can get a Liechtenstein Museum Pass the pass also doubles as a bus pass. With a return trip to Buchs being 7 CHF and entrance to the national museum 10 CHF you only have to find 8 more CHF in discounts to make it pay and that is pretty easy to do. They can be purchased at the tourist info office in the center of town. After getting mine and buying some postcards and souvenirs, I took the bus back to Buchs and plotted my full day in Vaduz.

Zürich Day Zwei

After my marathon sleep from the night before, I was ready to get an early start and see some of Zürich. My hotel was a short walk from a S-Bahn train station that would take to to the main train station in Zürich in about 15 mins. I can’t say enough good things about the Swiss trains and transport in general. It can be a bit pricey, like almost everything else in Switzerland, but if you get a Zürich Card transit is included.

Maybe it’s because I’ve only been in the big cities in Switzerland so far, but things seem to be VERY expensive. Here’s a good example: a baguette that cost 1 euro in Paris last month, 0.50 euro in Barcelona this month, was priced at 5 Swiss francs or about 4.20 euro here in Zürich. How is a man supposed live the lifestyle that he is accustomed to in Europe at such prices? I won’t complain too much since I really like it here. I got a great deal on the flight and hotels, but Barcelona gave me more bang for my buck.

The Zürich Hauptbahnhof has a tourist info office and was across from the Swiss National Museum, which was my main goal for the day. Anxious to make up for yesterday I got there very early. So early that nothing was open yet. It is a neat, old station.

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I did not see a clock that was not working.

 

I figured that heading down to the lake for some early morning photos would be cool. I grabbed a tram and rode down to the lake.

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I’ve never seen swans fly. It seems odd to me for some reason.

After taking in the sights, I took the tram back to the train station and dropped by the tourist office. I grabbed a few souvenirs and found out that most museums would be closed tomorrow not because it was New Year’s Day but because it was Monday. D’oh! If I had done some advance planning I’d have known this. Well, that was tomorrow, today the Swiss National Museum was open.

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I know almost nothing of Swiss history, so anything I picked up here would be appreciated. Trying to cover thousands of years of  the history of a place is not easy.  After a few hours there, I came away with the idea that Switzerland is a lot like Canada. Canada kind of exists because a group of people are united in not wanting to be American. Switzerland is a lot like that in that they are more united by what they do not want to be than what they are. They have three national languages after all. (I don’t speak one of them. Sigh.) I need to get a good book on Swiss history and see if I can figure it out better.

I made reservations for lunch to have some Swiss food and it did not disappoint. I had a plate of cured meats and fondue. I’m not sure why I’m having chest pains today. It was a place called Swiss Chuchi and it was small, but packed. It had a line out the door when I left.

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I wandered around the old part of town for a while with no real plan. I saw a cool sundial on the side of a building. I’ve never seen one on the side of a building like this.

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I’m sure it would still work if they hadn’t built that building across the street that was throwing shade on it. How would they have known way back in the 18th Century?

My next plan was to visit the Pavillon Le Corbusier which is a museum to some of  Le Corbusier’s works. The building was actually designed by him. It was not meant to be. It is being renovated. This info was news to me. None of the websites that I looked at mentioned that. Lucky for me, it is in a park on the lake so I got to see some fantastic views.

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It was getting late in the afternoon, and despite the excessive amount of sleep i was starting to feel very tired. I decided to skip the fireworks by the lake at midnight and head back to the hotel. I grabbed some small bottles of Swiss wine at a shop along the way and celebrated early by watching Warner Bros. cartoons on German TV. It was a good night.

 

Zürich Day Ein

Does anyone know why flights from the US to Europe all seem to be overnight flights? Is it so, or is it just the cheap ones that I fly? I arrived at about 7:15am local time after a flight of about 7 hours. My inability to sleep on planes had me a bit groggy by then. Perhaps a New Year’s resolution I should make is to learn how.

I got through customs rather quickly, picked up my bag, and hit the tourist info office just outside baggage to get my Zürich Card, and stumbled out to find my hotel’s shuttle waiting. I’m getting all aces so far! We got to the hotel by 8:00am and that’s when I started getting the crappy cards. Check in is at 2:00pm, I know this, but you never know. About half the time I get into my room early. This time was not one of those times.

I had the option to leave my bags and head to town, but I was way to tired. I was fearful I’d hop on a train, fall asleep, and wake up in Poland. I’d love to go to Poland one day, but not by accident and without my luggage. I figured, I’d just wait. The hotel even said I could help myself to breakfast. I watched the cold rain melt the last evening’s snow.

I did get my room early, but it was about 12:30. I went straight to bed and slept until 6:00am the next day. I guess I wasted a whole day I could have spent in Zürich, but sleep is important and by sleeping straight through and getting on a normal schedule, I can usually avoid any serious jet-lag. If I had done this in my 20s, there is no way I would have slept. I’m 45 on Dec. 31st, so sleep was the smart play.

New Year’s Eve in Zürich was to be spent getting my bearings, having some Swiss food for lunch, checking out the Swiss National Museum, and maybe midnight fireworks.

 

Central Europe New Year’s 2017-18

I am spending 10 days in Europe over New Year’s, I know…. I just got back from Europe, but I got a super deal and it’s over the New Year holiday, which also happens to include my birthday.

Here’s some info on this trip:

  • CHA to ATL to CLT to JFK to ZRH on Delta. Flew from home to CLT instead of driving. I’m happy with that decision even though it added a night at a hotel.
  • Books: None. I’m reading a bunch of magazines that came in the mail during my last trip.
  • Music: To The Outside of Everything-A Story of UK Post-Punk 1977-81 (Just got that one in before Xmas), Slade B-Sides, and James Brown In The Jungle Groove.
  • TV: None, I’m going to read.
  • Guide Book: Lonely Switzerland, Lonely Planet Fast Talk German, Lonely Planet Pocket Vienna.
  • My Mother’s Biggest Fear: nothing this time.
  • My Biggest Fear: That my new larger suitcase will encourage me to buy too much stuff. Excess baggage fees.
  • Plans: Zürich for a few days over New Year’s, Lichtenstein for a day and a half, Vienna, maybe a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, back to Geneva. Probably too much rail travel, but it should be very scenic.

My one day in Geneva last month got my interest up in exploring more of Switzerland. I had a flight to Zürich booked in July and decided to use that to see a little of Central Europe by rail. I’m looking forward to eating Swiss food, sampling wines from the Prince of Lichtenstein’s vineyards, seeing Vienna, adding to my Euro coin collection, and just doing my usual nerdy museum visits. I found out they have an Esperanto museum in Vienna. I wish I spoke Esperanto, but that’s probably just me hoping it would be a cure for my lack of a second language. I do speak English, and that is probably as close to a world language as we have right now. I really lucked into being born in the time and place that I was.

Barcelona and Back

I had a harrowing cab ride through rush hour traffic to arrive at Barcelona El Prat Airport. People drive like they are insane and I almost had a front row seat for a motorcyclist becoming an organ donor. It was totally his fault and I would have testified to it under oath.

I arrived at the airport, found the mailbox to drop my postcards in and made it through security with no issues. When it was time to board the plane, the gate agent scanned my boarding pass and told me I needed to get int another line for additional screening. I’m not complaining about the extra screening, there were many who had to do it, but they could have done it before we got to the gate.

They were swiping for explosives, and guessing by when and where they were checking, explosives we must have picked up between security and the gate. They had to swipe every pocket of my backpack and my backpack has a lot of pockets. That’s its whole purpose. We all checked out OK and boarded last for the nonstop flight to JFK.

After JFK it was on to Charlotte and I got a first class upgrade as part of my recently obtained status. After a night in Charlotte it was back to the airport and home to plan my next trip to Europe which was in two weeks, with Xmas in the middle. I really should have planned that better.