D A Y - E L E V E N
Geez - ANOTHER DAY of this stuff?
HEY! You only gotta READ it!
I had to TYPE all this drivel.
If you've got complaints, call 1-800-WHO-CARES!
A little about hotels.
The Swiss use a "star" rating, but it does NOT mean fewer stars are "substandard", just that there are fewer or more ancillary services available. Obviously I haven't stayed at enough hotels to be an "expert", but by reputation nearly EVERY hotel in Switzerland is a "class act", and I can't argue with that description. The hotels used on this trip were chosen for various reasons. In Thun we used the Freienhof, having stayed there previously. It was very convenient to the train station, was on a beautiful setting on an island where the river between two of the lakes split (water immediately to the side in both directions), had a lovely restaurant, staff, and was extremely clean. The only negative on this particular hotel is very small rooms and tiny (but modern) bathrooms.
Rates were rather high - (francs) 210 per night for the first 4 nights, then jumping to 260 from 12/23 on (holiday season increase). We actually could not obtain rooms there beyond 12/25, but a week there was plenty and we wanted to move eastward anyway. Swiss DO give a decent "break" for singles, and instead of the usual $10 or so difference for a US hotel, the single rooms were 125, jumping to 155. Again take note that there is none of the "+ 7% sales tax", "+ 12% occupancy tax", etc common in the US - the rate quoted was the total amount billed.
In Chur we stayed at the "AH-B-C" as noted. I located that thru an internet search and email (picking it because it was located close to the train station). I recevied a number of various courteous emails to questions, and they informed me they were the only 4-star hotel in that vicinity. Rates there were 190 - 140 single. Our room there was VERY large, and had a balcony which was very enjoyable. Unfortunately the queen bed in our room was "past it's prime", and the only reason we did not ask to change rooms was that it appeared unlikely that we would be able to get another room with a balcony, so we "bit the bullet" and got the "early marrieds" version of togetherness (rolling towards the center) again.
Our last hotel was the Best Western Zurich at the Airport our last night (New Years Eve) again for 190/140 rates, and again was modern, clean, and a lovely facility (and again had a very small bathroom).
Another problem with the bathrooms in all 3 hotels was very limited shelf/sinktop space in the bathrooms. It was necessary to remove my shaving kit to the bedroom for my wife to be able to apply makeup - that should give you a good indication of what I mean by "limited" space.
Hotels (if they have a restaurant) almost always offer Half-pension/halfboard or full-pension/fullboard meals. (Half = dinner only - full = lunch and dinner). This is for a set price per person per day, and gets you full meals without wandering looking for a restaurant, and also saves you menu choices, as they are pre-set from their menus. We exercised this on previous trips and were very pleased, as dinner included soup/salad entree, dessert and beverage in the price. Again, prices seemed a little steep (25-30 francs average for dinner), but it was the full price including taxes and tips, and was usually a little less than restaurant prices on the streets. Not sure how many people exercise the lunch option since you are usually touring, and on this trip none of the ladies were big "dinner" eaters, so we did not use the option on this trip.
Additionally, virtually every hotel (as far as I know) offers "continental" breakfast, even if they do not have a restaurant. And "continental" does NOT mean the garbage they throw at you in typical US motels (OJ - rolls - cold cereal - take your pick). Swiss (or european) breakfast is a "thing", and the spreads are far more extensive than in the US. All the non-grill items you could expect are present - multiple juices, milk, many types of breads, rolls, and croissants, fresh and canned fruits, cereals, bowls of different flavored yogurt, hardboiled eggs, many types of cheeses, and cold cut trays with several types of meats. Coffee was never in an urn - always delivered to the table by a waitress from the preparation area. The A(ah)-B-C, which did not have a restaraunt, even allowed the ordering of bacon and eggs (for a price) and cooked them on a small grill in the breakfast prep area. These breakfasts easily comprised a full meal in the morning, and were included in the room charges. And although I'm sure it was not intended as such, a roll with meats and cheeses and other easily handled items always accompanied me out the door for "snacking" during my travels of the day.
And my wife suggested I mention that there was never a clock in any of the rooms we stayed in (we had carried a small portable alarmclock with us). Don't know if that is standard or not, but if you travel, you might consider it. Additionally, we had a 220 "european" electric converter along for my razor (220V hair dryers were in all the bathrooms). Also, most hotels have converters available with a deposit.
Routes today: 900 880 856 855 850 750 761 701 710 900
WELL! - let's get on the road! - and speaking of road, as we headed out from Chur to Sargans on the standard gauge line this morning, I noted road signs and saw directional signs to Sargans and Zurich, plus Konstanz(D), Feldkirch(A), and Vaduz(FL). The parenthetical letters I note above were letters in big white circles follwowing the city names (kinda like the "GB" people like to stick in their window or bumper on English (Great Britain) sports cars. Thus Swiss citys apparently are noted by name only, while the others indicate foreign destinations (D)eutchland, (A)ustria (I thought it was "Osterreich" in this area), and (F)ederation(L)ichtenstein?
We drop off the train in Sargans, as the girls want to visit Lichtenstein, and there is no rail service (a line cuts thru, but there are apparently no stations serviced). However, the omnipresent (remember that 3-inch thick book?) yellow postal bus system runs thru the country, and so we (gasp!) have to resort to a BUS of all things! This is not a "tourbus" thing, just standard transit with many stops, and we get our "country tour" in that manner.
Although it is a monarchy and "independent", Lichtenstein in actuality is represented in all foreign matters by the Swiss, has a totally open (non-existent) border with the Swiss, and the Swiss franc is the official currency (but they DO have their own very collectable "postage stamps"). The area looks (as you would expect) just like any other area of eastern switzerland, and other than a castle on a hill (and there are LOTS of those in Switzerland too), you would never know you'd been there. The girls of course "have" to stop and do "just a little" souvenier shopping, but we are shortly back on another bus, cross the river (border) and are at Buchs, the next station north of Sargans where we detrained.
We ride a couple stations further and drop off at Alstatten, where we (oh - the SHAME of it for a "railfan") have to take ANOTHER bus. Here is an oddity in the Swiss rail system, where there are two rail lines about 10 blocks apart in a small town, and they DON'T CONNECT!?! I am aware of the needed bus ride, and kinda assume there must be some geographical (or political?) reason for the lack of connection, and will soon find out.
We catch the (natch) scheduled connecting bus and drive thru town a few blocks and stops, then pull to a curbsite stop and sit. I assume we are "early" and waiting for a timed departure, but check my watch and see that we are due at the connecting rail stop in one more minute. We sit for another minute or so, and I wonder if maybe I'm on the wrong bus (there was only one available). I get up to go to the front to see if the driver speaks english to ask, and a block ahead I see the nose of a railcar peeking out. HOLY COW! THIS is the "connection stop", and our train is scheduled to leave in 1 more minute! I hustle the girls out the door with no explanation, hurry up the street with them trailing (and probably thinking "THIS is the leader we're supposed to "follow"?), and we board the train (1 engine pushing, 1 car, rack railway) and depart.
Others have since informed me that there originally was a rail line from the main rail station through town to this station, then continuing on in another direction to other local towns. That line was cut back in pieces over the years, and finally rail service was abandoned in the 1970's. They determined that only about 10% of the traffic was coming off this line, so paved over the streets and substituted bus service. Now there is not enough traffic to warrant reconstruction, so the bus bridge will likely exist for many years to come.
We are in "hill" country, not mountains, but immediately start climbing hills on the rack at over 15% gradient, which is STEEP. We run for several miles, climbing all the while, then crest a ridge and drop down to a juction at Gais, on the AppenzellerBahn I had ridden back on the 3rd day (actually, the line we are on is also part of the same private railway).
We connect on the next train back into St Gallen, and the girls (as I had suspected), enjoy all the hills and the various homestyles we wind thru. At St Gallen, I again "carefully" point out the yellow platform boards showing proper track departures (there is hourly direct service from here to Chur), leave the ladies to another city to "shop", and hop the next train on the schedule bound thru the Zurich airport.
As I head westward on the main, it begins to snow, and DOES NOT STOP. I reach the airport, make the necessary escalator transfers, and find the "hotel" board and locate a hotel at the airport for New Years eve. We will depart at 10am New Years day, are "supposed" to be at the airport approx 2 hours early, and to do so will require a train from Chur at 6am, with en even earlier "rise and shine", so will move locations. I then cross back over to the train station and grab the next train back to downtown Zurich.
Here I take a local up the mainline north to Shaffhausen and Germany, to catch a train along the Rhine river for some sightseeing. The local I want comes across from the east at Winterthur on a line north of the Airport, then joins this line at Bulach and diverts west again at Eglisau, where I switch trains. Unfortunately, the snow DOES NOT STOP, and my "river viewing" as we run near the banks is thwarted as all I really get is a blurry white out the windows.
My train ends at Koblenz (actually it reverses after stopping and swings back across the Rhine on a bridge into a stop in Germany), but the snow cuts visibility, so I opt for another line heading south and run thru what appears to be relatively heavy industrial areas to Turgi, and then Baden on a main line from Basel to Zurich.
As I wait for a connection to Zurich, a French TGV trainset comes through without stopping. The TGV's run high speed on special dedicated trackage in France, but also run at normal speed to provide "through service" into other countrys. In Switzerland they come into Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchatel, Bern and Zurich. My next train comes along shortly, and I ride into Zurich and again head to the "flip" board to find a train/platform back to Chur.
Here I see one of the pretties sights of the whole trip. Darkness has fallen, I am in the "open air" but roofed trainshed, and the streets along the sides of the station are lit by streetlights. As I have mentioned THE SNOW KEPT FALLING, and I am treated to a "fairyland" scene of the snow falling thru the lights all around the sides. Anyhow, I find the next train back and have an uneventful (THE SNOW KEEPS FALLING) trip back to Chur and my hotel.
Today - 11 more trains - 110 to date - 238 more miles - 2802 so far, and yep, 3000 miles will fall no prob.