Sunday, May 04, 2008

Swiss Sojourn

I have just returned to Munich from 5 nights in Switzerland.
On Monday, German rail efficiency let me down and the train was running 12 minutes late so I missed my 9 minute connection at Ulm. However there was another train in 50 minutes, unlike Australia where it might be 1 day (or as in Queensland last year, 2 trains per week). I was advised to visit the cathedral in Ulm which has the highest steeple in the world but as I had my bag. I was content to look at this steeple from the station. I went onto Friedrickshafen on the shores of lake Constance or as the Germans call it Bodensee. I did make use of the lockers there and wandered around the town. Across the sea, the Swiss Alps could be seen but it was a very hazy day, in fact quite hot and an icecream was enjoyed. Having retrieved my bag, I crossed the Lake by ferry into Switzerland and caught another train to the city of St Gallen arriving as it began to rain
I stayed there two nights and used the full day to travel by train to the Rhine Falls. Fortunately the overnight rain cleared and the sun began to appear as I arrived at the Falls.These falls are not large by American standards at only 23 metres high but they do carry 600cu metres per sec and so are quite impressive to an Australian. I travelled in a small boat out to the rock you can see in the centre where they let you off to climb some stairs to the tops with water rushing past on all sides. Unfortunately a group of school children were on my boat so we were forced to wait on the ladder for room at the top. However it was an exciting experience. I walked down river before catching the train onto Schaffhausen and then onto Stein Am Rhein, a town with beautiful medieval housesI also went through the Benedictine Abbey of St George, founded in the 11th century but completely rebuilt in the 15th. The sun was now completely out and there was a good view of the Rhine from the windows.
I was offered a pensioner price here, the advantage of grey hair.
Wednesday morning I spent in St Gallen, paying my respects to both the Evangelische Kirche (which seemed to mention Zwingli a lot, a person I do not remember favourably from my Reformation history studies) and the Catholic Cathedral with beautiful ornate ceilings.
Then to the highlight of St Gallen the Abbey library. This library is the oldest library in Switzerland, and it is one of the earliest and most important monastic libraries in the world. Its collection of books shows the development of European culture and documents the cultural achievments of the Abbey of St. Gallen from the eighth century to the dissolution of the monastery in 1805. You wear felt slippers over your shoes to protect the floor and some of the oldest books are on display. Unfortunately photos are not allowed.

Leaving St Gallen, I travelled by the narrow gauge Appenzeller railway into the alpine valleys of Appenzell where I stayed at a hotel in a place called Wasserauen (867 metres). This was a real find, a beautiful room, comparatively cheap and as I stayed 3 nights I was given an Appenzeller card which allowed unlimited rides on the trains and buses and most importantly a free ride up and down on each of the area's cable cars. The hotel where I stayed is in the centre of the photo, the railway hotel on the left.
I travelled up each of the cars, the first on Thursday the Ebenalp (1640 metres) was right nearby but the weather was a bit cloudy and my plans to walk around at the top were thwarted by snow, there was sago snow falling while I was there. I did obtain some views when the clouds lifted temporarily. As the weather was changeable I decided to travel by a number of trains, one a rack railway, and buses to the country of Liechtenstein where I stayed all of 30 minutes. There is not much to see there and being May day the post office was closed so could not buy any of the stamps for which it is famous but another country I can claim to have visited.
Friday had much better weather and I went up the Kronberg (1663 metres) and Hoher Kasten(1795 metres) cable cars.(I am fairly sure that Liechtenstein is in the centre of this photo)
I also found time that day to hike up 300 metres to a lake called Seealpsee and then on Saturday half way up the steep hillside near the hotel to an alpine meadow on the way to the Ebenalp, probably another 300 metres so hopefully I am keeping fit.
Saturday afternoon I returned to Munich. The train passes through Austria for about 10 minutes. I travelled the same route in 1974 and there were border guards and the train doors were locked while passing through Austria. Now the police came through as we entered Austria and the European Union but did no more than look at the cover of my passport.


Doorman-Priest said...

If I was Swiss, I would never leave the country. Where do they go for their holidays?

Brian R said...

Yes but cost of living is expensive. Had a funny experience while sitting on St Gallen station waiting for train to Munich. Man sat down, said he had just come from Italy and did not like living in Switzerland. (I think he might have been an Italo-Swiss) Asked if I had used public bathrooms, said they were always spotless in Switzerland. He asked wistfully if living in Australia was cheap. I said yes comparatively. Of course you do not have that advantage in UK.

susan s. said...

Lovely pictures and such an adventurous journey. I look forward to the next installment.
I was once in Switzerland...Altdorf...supposed home of William Tell.

Davis said...

Thanks for letting us come along for the ride!

June Butler said...

Brian, you're killing me! I want to be there. What gorgeous pictures! I love the photo through the arch.

I remember when we crossed from France to Switzerland. Everything was spotless in an instant. You surely knew you were in another country. I've been to Lausanne and environs. Thanks for the travelogue.

Brian R said...

I am sure your company would improve the experience Grandmere. Yes it is strange how things change at borders.
Thankfully there are no longer many controls and the Euro has made things easier. I use to wonder how trains which were always running late in Italy were on time in Switzerland and Germany but found not always the case in Germany