Europe Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Trip Report Swiss Rail trip report und ein bisschen mehr - Pt II

Jump to last reply

Day 4 (first full day with clean clothes) – a Sunday, we started with a stroll along the lake promenade into town, and was able to catch a free concert at the outside band shell, where an amateur community band of brass horns and clarinets were performing some “oom-pah” numbers, we then walked to the train station and caught a local commuter rail to the suburb of Stansstad, where just outside this town is an unusual military museum, the “Festung (Fortress) Furringen.” This WWII era fortress, completely buried in tunnels deep within the small Burkenstock mountain, was one of a network of artillery batteries placed throughout Switzerland, created as a response to the threat of German invasion in 1940, which would have caused such an invasion to turn into an “Iwo Jima” like experience for the Germans. This type of preparation is assumed to be why the Germans elected NOT to invade, in spite of Hitler’s desire to conquer all of Europe. So the Swiss have restored this facility to look just as it did in 1942, complete with sophisticated chem. warfare operational capability, along with a nice display of other WWII era Swiss military artifacts. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of this era.

Hungry after that, we happened upon the lakeside 4 star Hotel Winkelreid, (www.winkelried.ch) in Stansstad and had a delightful lunch right on their lakeside terrace, from an extensive menu including a wonderful Swiss Roesti. We then returned to Luzern and strolled through the old town section and the old town wall. This involved a fair amount of climbing of steps, so we concluded the day by buying a picnic dinner at a local Coop and retiring early back to the hotel.

Day 5 -Engleberg and Mt Titlis - we took the “Zentralbahn” train line to the town of Engleberg and took the cable car ride up to Mt Titlis, which is the only peak greater than 10,0000 feet in this Central region. Again, the train ride affords spectacular views by itself. The cable ride up Mt Titlis comprises four cable car stages, the last one being a round cable car that actually rotates 360 degrees during the course of the ride. This is a bit of gimmickry, but the views were truly spectacular. These cable car rides involved sharing the car with lots of international visitors like ourselves, along with a smattering of die-hard skiing enthusiasts, who were taking advantage of the few trails that still had snow on them. During the first leg, we were entertained below by watching some cowherds driving a herd of cows up a path from a lower pasture to a higher pasture, creating a symphony of cowbell and mooing noises. Upon reaching the top we found that some tour organizer had arranged for this day to be a sort of “Indian Guest Day.” So we shared this mountain top with thousands of German speaking ethnic Indians, many of whom were garbed in an eclectic wardrobe of sari/down-filled ski jacket/Nike sneakers. At the top we also hiked through a man-made ice tunnel carved right in the middle of a mountaintop glacier. Coming off the mountain, at one way station we rented the infamous Trotti Bike – a sort of bicycle/scooter hybrid with oversized disc brakes in lieu of normal bike brakes. With this bike, one simply glides downhill along a pathway, which in some parts has hairpin turn switchbacks. The main challenge is in brake management – brake too softly and risk careening off a curve, too hard and the disc brakes will stop the bike on a dime with the rider flying over the handlebars. After a few near-misses we got the hang of the braking action and enjoyed this ride immensely. Halfway down the path, we realized this same bike path was the path used by the cows we saw at the beginning of the ride, complete with a copious amount of cowpies along the path to add to the Trotti bike’s navigational challenges. How ironic that in a country where dog droppings have 10 seconds of life expectancy before being bagged and canned, cow droppings are left in the middle of a thoroughfare ad infinitum.

We then strolled through the small and delightful town of Engelberg, which is a recommended day trip option from Luzern or Zurich. It has a pretty little old town section with a pedestrian shopping area and gorgeous views of the little valley in which it sits. Also there is Benedictine Abby with a small cheese shop where they make the cheese right on the premises. The Sanctuary of the Abbey Church has one of the most beautiful interiors we’ve ever witnessed with polished marbles of unusual colors. Although not frequently used, this church boasts one of the largest pipe organs in the world, encased in a magnificent cabinet of polished green marble. We returned to find that much of Luzern was shut down for the “Monday after Pentecost’ holiday, but we found and enjoyed a meal at the Restaurant Fritschi, in the old town area, which is recommended in several guidebooks, and we found its reputation to be well deserved.

Day 6 – LaundryArt day – Laundromats are not as easy to find in Switzerland as they are in other parts of Europe. We achieved doing laundry by buying an all day city bus pass and riding to the opposite end of downtown. Then while the laundry was running we found the Rosengart Art Collection (www.rosengart.ch) While pricey, at 18 SF for admission, this should be considered a “must-see” for modern art or art history enthusiasts, as it has an extensive collections of works by Picasso, Braque, Paul Klee, as well as other Impressionists, Cubists, and post-impressionist artists. We then found the nearby small Taverna Syrtaki (www.syrtaki-luzern.ch) which had delightfully authentic Greek fare. If you like Modern Art AND Greek food, missing an opportunity to visit Luzern is plain foolish.

Day 7 – transit to Konstanz and the start of our bike trip. Waking at 6 am, we got to the train station for a 710 departure to Konstanz, with rail transfers in Zurich and Weinfelden, then a planned 5 min cab ride to the bike rental agency, Radweg-Reisen.com. This is a fine agency which arranges for a host of different bike trips through Europe, but their forte is the Bodensee trip, which they can arrange with different time periods. Basically, they rent you bikes for however long you need, arrange for hotels along your way, and transport luggage to and from the hotels. Very Seemless.

Our plans went awry at Weinfelden, when a distraction caused us to just miss the train connection to Konstanz. This problem was fixed with finding what appeared to be the only two taxicabs in Weinfelden and commandeering them to take us to the agency, at a cost of a whole pile of Francs.
But we made it on time and soon we were pedaling away to the ferry to Meersburg on the North side of the lake. For the rest of this day we biked the German shore through Friedrichschafen and on to Lindau. The German side had the bike trail go a bit far inland at times, often through Nature preserves. The good news was that the nature preserves were lovely; the bad news was we didn’t have a view of the lake. Once we thought we were finding a more scenic route very close to the lake, which worked fine, until we ran into a dead end. But for the most part, the journey was very nice. Had a nice German food lunch at a small hotel in Langenargen.

Just past Lindau (south-east), our hotel was the Hotel Nagle in the small village of Zech, which is actually right on the Austrian border. This hotel actually had the finest breakfast we enjoyed anywhere. It also had a small pool which looked inviting after a long day that had become a bit too warm. I donned swimming trunks and jumped in, to the protests of several guests, who assured me it was too cold to enjoy. They were correct, it was very cold, but it was refreshing all the same.

Day 7 – biking in 3 countries. - Since the day before we were actually too tired to enjoy Lindau, we backpedalled into the city and took about a half hour to enjoy it. It is truly one of the most idyllic spots on earth, a lovely medieval town to stroll around, with lovely parks all along its perimeter, and the Swiss alps visible in the far distance. .

Then on to Austria, stopping in Bregenz. We tried one restaurant, but for some reason it was closed just that day, then another that we dismissed as too many of the clientele were smoking, then we happened to come upon a Spanish tapas restaurant. So we had great Greek food in Switzerland and great tapas in Austria! After that, we first crossed the Ach river on a bridge just for non motorized transports, to include horses. In this area the Rhine is split into two parts: “New” and “Old” first we crossed the New rhine on a large bridge wthat was also used by heavy motor traffic. We then pedaled across the fertile Rhine delta in the area that comprises the Swiss/Austrian border. We found a small craft harbor on a point of land called the Rohrspitz where some local folks were swimming off one of the jetties, so the young folks of our party went swimming in the lake while DW and I watched the bikes and enjoyed a large glass of a fine local Austrian beer. After swimming, we set upon the trail to the Swiss border crossing over the “Old Rhein, “ but in so doing past some farms where they were laying out some fresh “natural fertilizer’ with the attendant full range of smells, not all of which were pleasant. Finally, we corssed the lovely small footbridge going over the Old Rhine into Swiss territory, passed by the Altenrhein general aviation airport, and then just like that, we were at our next stop, the Hotel Weisses Roessli (www.weissesroessli.ch)in the town of Staad.

This was a fine, very well run hotel with a lovely Lake terrace were we enjoyed a nice meal. The only downside was that our room was on a corner that was directly over the road, so some traffic noises were a small problem. But overall, I thought this hotel was a great value.

Day 8 – A bit of rain and end of bike tour. Unlike the German side – the Swiss side ran right along the waters edge for a majority of the trip. Quite lovely. Intially, we did entounter some drizzling rain but notihing too heavy. We shopped briefly in the small city of Rohrshach, then on to the larger city of Romanshorn, where rail travelers form the south transfer from train to ferry to Freidrichsafen. So the bike path had to meander around the rather large rail yard there. We saw some rail cars that looked nearly a half century old rotting on long forgotten sidings. But the bike ride from Stadd to Romanshorn was the prettiest segment of the whole trip, due to the proximity of the path to the lake along that segment. Once past Romanshorn, the path came inland more frequently and we rode past very rural and agricultural areas again. About a ½ hour out of Romanshorn, the rain started to get heavier, and we were, for the first time in 8 days beginning to get cold, wet, tired, and hungry at the same time, and the path suddenly looked like we were in the middle of nowhere. After just another kilometer of very rural countryside, we spied the small hamlet of Güttingen a bit more inland, and noticed there was a tiny train stop there. Well, other than the one trainstop we found with no facilities north of St Mortiz, in most of Europe, where there is a train stop there is usually a Gastehaus, so we turned inland on faith. Sure enough we soon saw a small building with the sign out front “Speiserestaurant und Hotel BAHNHOF” with “Fahrrader Wilcommen” (bicycles welcome) Looks like we weren’t the first to turn in there for refuge. We had a wonderful meal to include this great spatzle and a locally distilled fruit schnapps. (www.speiserestaurant-guettingen.ch) After lunch the rain stopped so we were able to complete the trip to Konstanz on dry pavement. We found our last hotel, the Kruetzlingen Youth Hostel, which is located in a lakeside park in an old mansion that is over 100 years old. While I believe I booked a single room for the six of us, we found that, true to hostel form, they booked us into a room for eight and we shared the room with a single traveler from Berlin, who clearly didn’t know what to think of a family of Americans with 4 giggly females. After checking into the hostel, we rode the remaining 5 K to Radweg’s offices, took a city bus back to the center of Konstanz and strolled the large old town area, then walked back to the hostel. Breakfast the next day included fresh apple juice (apfelsaft) produced from the orchard they had right on the premises.

Konstanz (Constance) is a beautiful city with lovely lakeside promenades, great shopping, and spectacular old buildings. It seems to be a very popular visit for day trip travelers from throughout Central and Northern Europe. I’m surprised in isn’t on most American travelers itineraries.

Day 9 – uneventful ride from a small commuter rail stop, Kreuzlingen hafen, into Kreuzlingen mian, then on to Wienfelden – this time no problem with connection, then directly onto the Zurich Airport, finally flying home on time and with luggage.

Summary: Pleasant surprises/exceeded expectations/very highly recommended: Scuol/Tarasp – just too lovely for words. Restaurant Roberto in St Mortiz Bad. Rosengart Museum in Luzern; Konstanz (Constance) city; Radweg-Reisen.com

High expectations met/ recommended: Luzern, Lindau, Bodensee bike trip, Engleberg, Rhaetan railway, Hotel Villa Maria, Trotti bikes on Mt. Titlis.

Glad I did it, but would only suggest it to others with caveats: Palm Express, Youth Hostels

7 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

  • Announcement:
  • Fodor's Go List 2015 Has Been Announced
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Dec 19, 14 at 05:08 PM
View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Taxi or Tube from LHR to Gloucester Road Tube?
  2. 2 Siena - Pienza - Montepulciano
  3. 3 Airport ATMs
  4. 4 Charles de Gaulle to Gare du Nord with limitations?
  5. 5 Upgrading second class Swiss pass to first class for individual train rides
  6. 6 Trip Report Transferwise: My latest experience in currency exchange
  7. 7 Trip Report Sono arrivato a Venezia
  8. 8 American Express
  9. 9 Which european city?
  10. 10 San Sebastian, Spain and where else?!
  11. 11 Earthquakes in Tuscany
  12. 12 Favorite London spot for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding?
  13. 13 Trip Report Finally in Italy for the holidays - installment report
  14. 14 I lost the thread to respond about th Arles Amphetheatre
  15. 15 Dordogne or Nantes and La Rochelle
  16. 16 All Set To Go!!
  17. 17 Rome, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Venice, Florence
  18. 18 Help!! which tour company is the best for group tours in Italy?
  19. 19 Italy, mid May, 10 days, Rome + another city?
  20. 20 Three ferries to Mull
  21. 21 Trip Report 27-DAY ODYSSEY IN THE ALPS with 3 FINAL DAYS IN PARIS
  22. 22 N Ireland / Ireland driving
  23. 23 Treis-Karden 4 days and Trier 2 days?
  24. 24 Andalucia - very early trip thinking - reactions?
  25. 25 Trip Report Scotland: North West Highlands: July 2012
View next 25 » Back to the top