Sunday, November 29, 2009

Monday September 14th - Zurich

It was downhill all the way to Tiengen, and I was glad to have all my gears again.

I bought two fresh pretzels at Kussaberg and ate them right away before joining the Rhein cycle path, a gently undulating off road path with Switzerland just to the right across the river.

mmm pretzel

The border was manned but no passport was required... and I carried on into Switzerland, the twelfth country my knackered old tyres had seen.

I was soon swept up onto an off road cycle path but quickly lost track of where I was - the signposting was much less informative than in Germany. Several miles later I ended up in a town I managed to identify as Wil and determined that I needed to head south. I figured I might have better luck sticking to the roads but even those were quite badly signposted and I ended up resorting to the compass.

The sky clouded over and turned black, but stopped short of actual rain.

Storm clouds over Switzerland

Roadworks at Eglisau meant a diversion, but the bicycle diversion signs appeared to direct me over the railway tracks, which also insisted that I do not cross them. Confused, I waited for another cyclist to come my way and followed the "do what that bloke does" tactic which took me straight down the road and past the works.

I was in a brand new country which used a currency of which I had none, and I also had very little food. In Eglisau I hunted down a cash machine which dispensed a single giant 100CHF note.

The road got busier and, although I was on cycle paths, it got distinctly less pleasant as I neared Zurich. At Kloten I decided to stop and catch the train into the city. A quick wifi stop told me all I needed to know - the bike would need its own ticket and must be loaded through the bike doors.

I found the station and bought tickets. There were no departure screens telling me where to go so I went under the subway to where everybody else was standing and found a huge grid telling me which platform and sector each train would arrive on. The train was very modern inside - display screens showed the projected (and actual) time of arrival at the next few stops.

There was lots to sort out when I got to Zurich, most importantly food. I sat down at a restaurant in the station and ordered Alpen Maccarone which is not breakfast cereal with pasta, but macaroni cheese cooked with small cubes of potato, accompanied by apple sauce. This was quite a revelation - although cheese and apple are widely known to be excellent companions, I'd never had nor even heard of this particular combination. It was delicious.

I headed for the travel agency and was able to book a very early (7:02) TGV + Eurostar journey home for the next morning. Not altogether unpleasantly, it turned out the cheapest Eurostar ticket the system could find was a first class- the only drawback being that I wouldn't be able to change my journey details. Being less than 24 hours in advance I felt I could just about live without that option (and could just about put up with the free drinks and lunch and comfy seat...)

The bike was easily booked onto the TGV but to do the same for Eurostar meant calling a UK (0870) number. I got dgym to call the number later on but all bike space was taken on the train that I'd already booked. I had the option of either sending it separately on a later train or bagging it up and taking it as luggage. Since I had my housse with me, I decided on the latter. And so the journey home was taken care of.

With such an early train to catch, I wanted to stay as close to the station as possible. I had ideas about staying in the City Backpacker hostel just round the corner, which I'd seen on wikitravel. I set out from the station with a map but put it away when I noticed three grubby backpackers heading in the same direction. I followed them all the way to the hostel but it turned out to be full. So I headed back to the tourist office at the station and enquired about city campsites and they directed me to one about fifteen minutes ride away.

On the way to the campsite I was given navigational help by a lovely lady who spoke very good English (as did most people in the city). She informed me that it had been a special holiday in Zurich, Knabenschiessen (Boys Shooting Day) in which traditionally boys (but now also girls) take half a day off work to practise shooting.


I got very little sleep at the campsite - church bells ringing, people talking, streetlights shining, cars passing. I planned to get up at 4am anyway so there wasn't a whole lot of point in trying. It's quite hard to pack up a tent quietly but I tried my best and left the site at 5am.

Distance: 48 miles (618 miles total) • Day 14 RouteDay 14 Photos

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