Monday, October 13, 2014

The treno tour - Part 2

Part Two: Switzerland
The Swiss leg of the trip starts in Basel. We catch the #30 free bus from the train station to the Steinenschanze Stadthotel, Steinengraben 69, 4051 Basel, Tel: +41 61 272 53 53.
We take a walk round town taking in the bookshops and stationery shops, then a tram ride. I spotted a lovely Puch roadster bicycle mit Fichtel und Sachs dreigang. There are many Sturmey Archer survivors en Suisse, which has a strong cycling culture. I read that there are 250,000 e-bikes in Switzerland. Back at the hotel it is time for happy hour, help yourself to a couple of generous glasses of wine with snacks on the house. Recommended.
We take breakfast next morning at the train station, apricot croissants, and coffee, then ride the train to Luzern, via Olten, arriving for early check-in at Waldstaetterhof Hotel, Zentralstrasse 4 6003 Luzern, Tel: +41 (0)41 227 12 71. Comfortable and conveniently close to the station.
After multiple Duralex sightings in France, I found a Bodum shop in Luzern. Bodum are celebrating 70 years and I scored a free commemorative catalogue. Roesti lunch at Restaurant Fritschi, Sternenplatz 5, Lucerne 6004, Tel: +41 41 410 16 15. Afternoon stroll uphill to the Museggmauer (old town wall) which does not seem to be on the tourist beat. Supper at Dean & David Luzern, Morgartenstrasse 4, Lucerne 6003. Close to our hotel. Yogurt afters from Migros.
Next day we catch the steamboat "Stadt Luzern" to Fluelen, a three-hour boat cruise on Lake Lucerne, lunching in the first-class cabin. We change onto the Wilhelm Tell Express Train. Winding though the Reuss Valley, climbing through the St. Gotthard range and through the Gotthard railway tunnel to Bellinzona, where we change trains for Lugano.
We check in to the Continental Parkhotel Lugano, Via Basel, 28 - CH-6900 Lugano, which is near the station. Next day we need to do some washing, so we roam around in the rain to find Lavanderia Il Girasole, via Giuseppe Bagutti 8, Tel: 076 503 79 64. I bought a bargain bin cycling jacket or gilet, reduced from 139 Sfr to 63 Sfr, in an outlet store. Avoided remaindered Lance Armstrong gear. Outlet Sport by Balmelli, Via Maderno 16, Lugano, Tel: 091 922 67 77. Lunch outdoors at the Birreria al Forte, via al Forte, where we managed to eat a whole meal without being panhandled. There is also no graffiti in this part of town, although the Italian-part of Switzerland is far from free of it. We ride the funicular which connects the town centre with the station above.
Next day we catch the big red bus from Lugano station, past Gandria and into Italy. Empty factories indicate a hurting economy. The bus is the first leg on the Bernina Express, to Tirano in Italy, where we board the train for St Moritz. Lunch in Tirano is spoiled by a grumpy waiter who objected to us trying to order coffee! The Bernina train is the highest adhesion railway (no rack and pinion) in Europe, with a maximum gradient of 7%. We see some adventurous types out on mountain bikes as we came along in the train. We arrive in St Moritz and take a taxi to Hotel Soldanella, Via Somplaz 17, CH-7500 St. Moritz. Supper at an outdoor pub, where a tuneless geezer was singing to backing tapes, improvising the words to covers, he would have been at home in Morecambe.
On our free day in St Moritz we stroll in the town, then by the lake to Bad St Moritz where I purchase a Bodum Bistro coffee mug, 4.90 Sfr reduced to 2.40 Sfr at the Co-op. Lunch back in town outdoors at Le Lapin Bleu at the Steffani Hotel, spendy but a real treat at Sfr 75 for two. We retreat under an awning as it starts to rain. Next day we board the Glacier Express to Zermatt via Chur, Andermatt and Brig. A snafu with our tickets means we leave an hour late at 09:02, after one more coffee in the station buffet at St Moritz. This is the train that derailed spectacularly a few weeks later. A stop in Chur enables us to photograph the train. Chur is allegedly home to the first cathedral north of the Alps. We follow the Rhine River into the mountains and pass by Disentis, home to religious dissenters. Thanks to Luther Protestantism took hold early in these parts.
After a huge roast lunch on the train we arrive at car-free Zermatt. We walk to Garni Sarazena Hotel, Bahnhofplatz 14, 3920 Zermatt.
Next morning a herd of goats comes down the high street, cowbells clanking, and we follow them out onto the pasture, where paragliders are landing. We then walk on to the English church, where many who perished climbing the mountains hereabouts are buried. Edward Whymper, the Englishman first to climb the Matterhorn, said:

“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are naught without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.”

After a visit to the Matterhorn Museum we take lunch outdoors in chilly weather at Walliserkanne, Bahnhofstrasse 1, 3920 Zermatt, Tel:+41 27 966 46 10. Chef's menu, 3 courses, 22 Sfr.
On departure next morning we retrace our steps to Brig, changing trains for Andermatt, then again for the steep descent to Göschenen, where we rush across the platform for the southbound train. We change at Chiasso, where our Swiss rail pass runs out.

No comments: