Switzerland 2001

From journal notes, with some later additions.

Saturday, March 3

Missed 4 p.m. Groome bus and had to wait for 5 p.m. departure. Listened to tale of overturned fire truck on I-75 southbound. It had been raining all day. Left just after 5, got to underground entrance to South terminal about 6:30. Usual line for check-in and baggage check--not bad. Bought gum. Took train to Concourse E, Gate 6. Called Mom and Dad from there. All OK. Stretched, got sip of water.

Boarded 767-300 on time. As usual, waited long time on plane, this time due to "internal pressure" problem in starting engine. Had to get "external start" from maintenance. Took off about 9:30, 90 minutes after scheduled take-off. Drinks 10:30, dinner 11:30. Slept 3-4 hours, drowsed some more. Breakfast about 4:45. Landed 5:56, 11:56 a.m. local time.

Sunday, March 4

Passport control, baggage claim, customs, money-changing ($100 cash to 153 CHF after 5 CHF commission), train tix (10.80 CHF), train, taxi to hotel (11 CHF with tip), all no problem. All ready for us at Hotel Bristol. Airport (Kloten) not as well organized as Amsterdam or Brussels, but not as large either. No problem finding anything. (Just wait til we get back to Atlanta!) The whole business of money is so much simpler now than in former years. You change a little money for incidentals, but basically don't even worry about getting the best exchange rate or commission because you're not going to change much this way. Mostly you just use the credit card, which costs you a smaller commission than you would have paid buying travelers checks, not to mention the commission to change them to local currency later.

Took nap. Went out about 5 to walk, get bearings, find dinner, telephone. Saw lots of carnavalers in bizarre costumes along füssgangerstrasse (Niederdorf) leading to Grossmünsterplatz. Slow steady drizzle, about 40 degrees. Ate 3 orders pork dumplings, one spring roll each, drinks-67.50 CHF plus 2.50 tip. 7.5% service was already included. Malaysian waitress recognized U.S. accents, asked about strength of eyeglasses. No phone on street. No luck with those in hall. Had to call from hotel room and needed help from desk clerk, even then. Then got through by doing exactly when we had been doing before, that is, using the international access number on the ATT Direct Service card-0-800-89-00-11. Big mystery. Anyway, no extra charge for calling from hotel, another big change from the good old days.

Smallish room, OK by euro standards. TV gets lots of international channels, CNN World, radio, alarm.

Monday, March 5

Slept late to catch up, also get rid of headache I woke up with at 3 a.m. Got up about 8:30, got cereal, croissants, butter, jam, coffee, at hotel breakfast (included). Heard German, U.S. English, Mexican (?) Spanish in breakfast room. Back to room to finish getting ready. Good, welcome shower!

Out at about 10:30. Sunny and clear. Light wind. Walked past train station, down part of Bahnhofstrasse, Rennweg, Fortunagasse, to Linderhofplatz, nice view of river and other side, then down to Peterskirke (saw bears in Pegasus store window-Mützli)--tower clock face largest in Europe. Must be largest in tower, as I do not believe it's as large as the clock face we saw last year in Brussels. Very plain inside, reflecting Reformation taste. Then to Fraumünster where we saw Chagall stained glass windows in east chancel. Other than that, fairly plain also. Two other side pieces by Chagall as well.

Then crossed over to Grossmünster and its twin towers, past Wasserkirche at bridge. Ate lunch at little bar--chicken curry sandwich, tomato sauce and cheese sandwich, garden salad, drinks, about 40 CHF including tip.

Then to cloister and inside of Grossmünster. No popery at all. Back across to Fraumünster to get booklets we had wanted earlier but had no change for before. Back along Niederdorf to scout menus for dinner. Bought bottle wine at deli. Leslie explored inside Co-op supermarket while I gazed at appetizing noshes next door at take-away. Back to hotel by 4:30 to rest. (Woman handed me camera along quai to take her picture. I have an honest face.)

For dinner, out to Asian place, Chop Chop on Niederdorf. Had cute scooters and little cars all painted pink to match restaurant's décor. I had Thai curry with chicken, coconut sauce. Leslie had cashew nut dish with shrimp. Both had veggies and rice with main dish and drinks. 69 CHF (plus 2 tip= 71.) Afterwards, to Co-op and got hot chips for snack.

Tuesday, March 6

Breakfast at hotel, out about 10:30. Long leisurely walk quai-side took us to Wasserkirche. Inexplicably the Helmhaus museum entrance was closed despite its posted hours. Was reloading film in Nikon when mirror locked up and failed to release. Big worry regarding the camera itself as well as photography for rest of trip. Debated what to do about it as we lost several photo ops along the rest of the picturesque walk to Kunsthaus Zürich. 20 CHF admission plus one more for checking the camera bag. Passed three pleasant hours in there looking at old masters, also moderns--Van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin, Seurat, Monet, Manet, Picasso, Miró, Magritte, Johns, Chagall, Kandinsky, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Mondrian, Moholy-Nagy, et alia. Left museum tired, hungry, and almost out of CHF, so had to find place nearby that took Visa and/or change a traveler's check. Found Restaurant Turm, which was Castillian-run. Got water, Greek salad, nachos with guacamole. 43 CHF with tip on Visa. (Read Leslie's "Tale of the Spinning Toilet Seat" -- if you dare!)

The same bunch of Castillians runs a bodega back up the hill.

Strolled back down through town, having discussed camera situation and money at lunch. Leslie found new-and-used camera store/repair shop. Lady there fixed the problem by turning shutter speed dial to B, whereupon the shutter and mirror released, then tested several times on other speeds, then charged NOTHING! Cool! Sorry I hadn't tried that myself. But I had tried several things. Still, I should have thought of trying B or M90, even distressed quai-side. Interesting used department had FE for 390 CHF, about $50 less than usual price in U.S. Leicas for 3000 CHF. Further down street changed $100 traveler's check-161 CHF after 1 franc commission at the Arab Bank of Switzerland.

Then across river to crafts store Heimatwerk. Browsed among very pricey tzchotzches. Then along homeward to Co-op Super Center. Bought wine, Lapland-made beer called Lapin Kulta (2 CHF). Chocolate priced lower than at gourmet shop or supermarkets at home. (Total at Co-op-21 CHF) Lapp beer not bad, but had cereals added. Took pix of money, having money, working camera, and good light. Day had started out gray, about same temperature and wind as yesterday. Then cleared completely up by 5 or so when we returned to hotel to rest.

That evening, out to dinner at le Dezaley Vaudois Restaurant on Romergasse near Grossmünster after walk along quai and Niederdorf. Traditional fondue for me, lamb filets for Leslie, drinks. 120 CHF including 4 tip. Prices comparable at much more modest-looking Adler Swiss Chüchi along way back.

Wednesday, March 7

Breakfast, out at usual time even after washing hair and letting drip dry. I thought room was supposed to have a dryer.

Crossed over to National Museum-10 CHF admission. No charge for locker to stow camera bag. Breezed through early stuff. Spent more time on last 300 years. Rooms made up with very heavy, dark woodwork. What was the point of building it if you couldn't see it? No electric lights yet. Mills, grindstones, wagons, and other farm machinery. Steam engines for producing electricity. Tile stoves.

Cafeteria-style fish lunch at Nordsee in train station. Then to Orell Füssli bookstore down Bahnhofstrasse, corner of Rennweg for Leslie to look for reading material in English. From there to antique toy museum, corner of Rennweg and Fortunagasse. Had to kill 10 minutes before it opened looking in window of another photo store/repair shop with used and new stuff on display. 57 exposures Agfa 100 C-41 for 4.50 CHF, not bad converted. (Co-op had Kodak Gold 200 36 exposures for about $5!)

Toy museum had VWs, buses, Steiff bears, old stereoscopic viewers, a zoetrope, trains. Free. Down same street, back across Rennweg to Pegasus to look for Mützli. He was there, but shop was closed, despite lights being on and a customer being inside! Came back up to Rennweg, went into department store. Bears galore, but all German Steiff and Sigi Kid. No Swiss bears! Huge moving set-up of stuffed animals "working" at various jobs--carpentry, cement mixing, shooing a cat away from a sausage with a broom, etc. All very busy, more excitement than decent people need.... Plenty of toy VWs in that section of store--half the price of the few that the toy museum had for sale--about $8 at department store for very good models. Didn't buy anything; still want Swiss bear! Leslie's feet given out by then so we loafed back to train station to sit and sip a drink. Couple of high school girls at next table smoking and doing some kind of calculations for economics (?) class. Nice dignified-looking place with arches, drapery, etc. 9.30 CHF.

Hit Zürich tourist office in train station, got excursions brochure and asked about lunch stop (yes) on Heidiland tour, and whether we needed to reserve (no), and when to be there. Will reserve through hotel tomorrow, pay on Visa. Back to room. Leslie really tired. At hotel, discovered there is an airport bus that circulates among the hotels. The price (28 CHF) for two persons is only slightly more than what the taxi and train tickets would cost, and much less than a taxi all the way to the airport.

After 6, to Chop Sticks Asian. Leslie had two spring rolls, 2 orders pork dumplings. I had Malay chicken curry, unfortunately on the bone. They forgot to add drinks to bill and we didn't notice until later. Never went back to straighten it up, as we weren't sure if waitresses would get in more trouble if we called attention to it. Maybe the boss never figured out who was responsible. (Later in the week we passed by on the street and one of the waitresses spotted us and smiled without chasing us down, so maybe all was well.)

Nice to know our new president had alternative career plans in case politics didn't work out! Run a cheap hotel in the red-light district of Zürich....

To Co-op after dinner for more chocolates to take home as gifts, wine, water to take on bus trip tomorrow.

Thursday, March 8

Breakfasted and booked (134 CHF) Heidiland tour on Visa at hotel. Saved some time not having to stand in line at tourist office. Got over to departure point by Sihl River behind National Museum in plenty of time. In parking lot, walked over to see a novelty--automatic self-cleaning toilets. Good city tour, most of which we had already seen, good commentary by guide. Along Bahnhofstrasse, under which most of the world's gold rests, through west side of town, financial district, churches, over to east side, up to university and Kunsthaus. Out over quai to west side again, then out along lake. Too misty, hazy to get good pix. Tried a few from moving bus anyway. Saw former Baptist seminary property in nearby suburb of Rüschlikon.

To Rapperswil, very picturesque little town on lake. Crossed peninsula and bridge to get there. Got short walking tour, then walked around taking photos around castle. Leslie found great lunch of tortellini, salad, and Mateus at La Fuente, right at foot of castle. 41 CHF plus 2 tip. One-hour stop ended as we left at 1:10.

Through another town, out into green, pastoral countryside. Over Ricker pass into Toggenberg valley. Very beautiful ride up into snow, through deep, dark woods, past military installation. Passed point of departure for post buses, higher and higher into eastern Swiss Alps, Seven Peaks of Glarus. Around and around through wooded areas and spectacular vistas until we caught sight of the Austrian Alps. We crossed the Rhine and entered Liechtenstein. Unguarded border, no customs, no separate money. Stamps. (Austrian Alps had been ahead of us, quite clear, for some time. Guide had belabored point that we needed no passport for Liechtenstein but would for Austria, and that all trains were having to stop in Buchs, Switzerland, for passport control and customs.)

Stopped in Vaduz 2:40-3:40. Leslie bought bear, napkins and bookmark, all for 47 CHF. Strolled streets of Vaduz (fahdoots), took pix of Liechtensteiner Alps which surrounded us. Castle up on hillside overlooking everything. Photo to right shows the consulate of the principality of Monaco with the castle of the Liechtenstein prince and his family in the background. From one prince to another.... And to the left, the bear formerly known as prince!

Left there, saw another castle from bus. Over into Switzerland again, into Heidiland. Saw mountains where she lived in summertime with her blind grandfather, went through Maienfeld where she went to school in winter. (Guide explained that this was quite normal for children in those days.) Photo stop at Heidi monument. Guy handed me his camera.... I have an honest face.

On way back to Zürich, saw another long, deep, narrow lake--Walensee. Nine miles long. Looked like a fjord. Bunches of waterfalls off the surrounding mountains. Glarus' Seven Peaks again, this time from the other side. Eleven tunnels on way back to Zürich to get through them. Along east side of Lake Zürich again, back into station at 5:30. Tipped driver and guide 5 francs each.

Walked straight to dinner at Adler Swiss Chüchi for raclette mit speck (me) and 12 snails and salad for Leslie. Bottle of "exotic"-smelling Swiss wine, water. Raclette was quite an experience! A little oven/grill was plugged in right there on the table. When hot, it is for melting slices of cheese (Emmenthaler) inside on a little tray, and frying the bacon and mushrooms on the top. I wouldn't have made it through the whole experience without Leslie! But it tasted great, along with the potatoes, tomatoes, pickles, cornichons, caravelles, mushrooms, pickled pear, etc., that came with it. (96.90 CHF including 4 tip)

(Fairly loud American in same part of restaurant as us. Afraid he would turn out to be like Californian on Fawlty Towers. But he was not objectionable except for loudness. He was accompanied by a Japanese man who was inaudible from our table. Asians next to us had some kind of meat they were dunking into pots of boiling oil. Found out later this is also a form of fondue.)

To Co-op. Leslie bought Ozzie wine, chips (12 CHF).

Friday, March 9

Big day today. Up at seven punctually with wake up call. Leslie had set it up through the automated phone system, free. Breakfasted at hotel and booked on Visa (220 CHF) Mt. Titlis tour. To departure point at Sihl River in plenty of time for 10:00 departure. Used (one franc) self-cleaning toilet. Floor wet from previous self-cleaning. Totally automated, no touching hardware except to open door to leave. Hand-washing mechanism didn't work, though.

Left on time, got some commentary upon leaving city. An hour and fifteen minutes to Lucerne (having passed Züg, waving in Marc Rich's direction), where some departed for a day in that town. Nice drive along Lucerne's lake approaching and leaving. Up and up through forests, nice overlooks into valleys and hillsides covered with snow and/or rock outcroppings. To Engelberg village about 12 or 12:30. Beautiful surroundings. Can't wait to get pix back. My words cannot describe and maybe the photos can't either. Got 6-person mini-gondola for first stage. Changed to larger funicular at second station. At third stop--ROTAIR, world's first ever and only one of three existing (Cape Town and Palm Springs have the others) rotating aerial cable car gondola.

Took pix all the way, especially during first stage. Very beautiful white snow with footprints and ski tracks. Tall evergreens along side, rock outcroppings. Majestic peaks and valleys in background also. At top (after nervously noting on second stage that we were the only ones on there without skis--wrong car? But OK) went immediately through Ice Grotto, about 10 minutes. Very solid ice walls and ceiling. Cold and dark.

Then upstairs to take Ice Flyer ride, but visibility wasn't good, and it was snowing, the snow on the ground was loose and difficult to walk in with our city shoes. We were getting our feet wet and still didn't have the ride in sight, so decided discretion was the better part of valor. So instead of continuing 10 minutes further to the Ice Flyer, which would have been a ski lift ride over the glacier with spectacular vistas into chasms and crevasses, we retreated toward the restaurant. Stopped before going in to take pix in front of sign on top that said Titlis--10,000 feet above sea level.

Inside to pizzeria where we shared a Napoli pizza. Very nice interior, ski lodge style. Sat by large window thru which I got several good shots as visibility cleared up and peaks, valleys appeared. Nice time sitting there with Leslie, eating, drinking, camera at hand right on table beside huge window and Alpine splendor.

Caught ROTAIR at 2 to begin 45-minute descent to bus area. Even prettier going down. Bought postcard, walked around before boarding Big Meier (the bus).

Stopped at Lucerne 3:30-4:30. Walked along promenade, across Chapel Bridge, (two guys handed me their camera...) through commercial area, tourist shop. More pictures through town. On bus, back to Zürich, not too congested heading in, but miles of one-lane traffic backed up getting out of town.

Back at departure point just after six. Went directly to Chop Chop Asian Restaurant with cute scooters and little round Fords for delivery. Had Bami Goreng noodles with chicken, very easy to eat with chopsticks (me), cashewnuts and shrimp dish (Leslie), and drinks. (71 CHF including tip) Maybe my favorite restaurant on this trip, although pizzeria had location going for it....

To Co-op for more chocolate, postcards, Ozzie rosé. Leslie got supercard discount without having supercard! I stood outside peering at Limmat River, other side, over at Hauptbahnhof, National Museum. Saw Karmann Ghia. Had only seen two old Beetles and two old buses. Numerous New Beetles, and some PT Cruisers. Minivans now popular, as well as station wagons. SUVs also, unfortunately. Noticed car staying a respectable distance behind a bicyclist. In the states, the driver would have made a big show of blowing the horn and blowing the cyclist off the road in his wake.

On way back noticed electronic phone directory in ultramodern circular phone booth at Central. Wonder if that's less vandalized than printed phone books. To room, began totalling up, writing more in book, prepacking bags for tomorrow.

Saturday, March 10

Up at seven again for breakfast in hotal. Confirmed 10:15 airport bus. Couldn't walk around outside because rain had begun to fall, although not heavily. Paid bill at hotel, somewhat lower than what we remembered rate to be, so were very happy. Added 28 CHF to total for airport bus, although desk clerk had first told us it had to be in cash. Changed his mind when Leslie told him we were out of cash. Bus a little early so made it to airport plenty early.

Stood in line for security questions and baggage check-in, where they also assigned seats, 41 D and E. Looked around for gate B36, found Brasserie for lunch. Leslie had bagel with cream cheese and lachs. I had what I thought was going to be müesli, but turned out to be that in strawberry yogurt with kiwi, citrus, and walnuts, and water. Not as bad as it sounds! Leslie reminded me that the hotel breakfast bar also featured yogurt, and that some guests were putting it on cereal. But there was no müesli at the hotel. 30.30 CHF here.

Went through X-ray, getting bagged film hand-checked. One roll was still in the camera and was X-rayed, but it was 200 speed and I think it was safe. To gate area where seats could not be changed. But Leslie reminded me that on a 767 there were only three seats in the middle section, not five as in a 747, so D and E would be center and aisle respectively. All OK.

Left about 1:45, 40 minutes after scheduled. Captain promised on-time arrival in Atlanta at 5:40 EST with a flight time of 9:59. Drink service started from front of plane at that time. Lunch soon after. Had four-cheese tortellini, which the attendant threw at me.

Movies were You Can Count on Me and Meet the Parents. Watched parts of both, but mostly tried to sleep, without much success.

Arrived sure enough on time in Atlanta. Went through airport a lot easier this time, remembering the bizarre Atlanta routine from previous trips. Got all film through security this time hand-checked.

Made Groome bus for 7 p.m. departure. Warm in Atlanta, cold in Macon when we got there about 8:30. Took caffeine pill, hopped in Colt, and made Cochran by 9:20 local time, 3:20 a.m. for us. Got stuff in from car, called parents, took shower and went to bed.