Sunday, September 12, 2010

We could learn a lot from the Swiss . . .

. . . about train travel.  Wow!  The trains are absolutely wonderful: clean, quiet, and exactly on time.  Our trip from Basel to Zurich was on an express train which ran at 123 kph and completed the trip in 53 minutes.  There are signs in the cars that say these are "quiet areas."  In other words, no loud talking and no cellphone use.  Wouldn't that be wonderful in the US?

I had a bit of trouble in the WC.  In order to flush the toilet, you have to push a red button.  Now to me, pushing a red button means "Help, I'm in trouble!"  I took a chance and pushed the button and voila!  A flushed toilet.

We passed through several long tunnels - a bit disconcerting since we don't travel by train very often.  The landscape was beautiful:  large areas of green countryside below rolling hills, small villages appearing now and then, grazing cows on the hillsides, fields of corn.  I even saw two cows in a backyard no bigger than mine!  Fresh milk every day at that house, I am sure.

The majority of houses are beige with brown roofs and 2-3 stories tall.  In the villages, there are well-maintained community gardens alongside the rail tracks.

The helpful conductor told us that the train from Zurich to St. Gallen would be leaving from Track #10.  These two old folks managed to get off the train with our bags and hot foot it over to Track #10 to board our next train in less than 9 minutes!  We are now confident train travellors.
This second train was a "tilting train."  You really feel the tilt as you go around curves, especially the long S curves.  Our train-loving grandson, Jackson, would love these babies!

St. Gallen oriel window
Arriving exactly on time (I expect nothing less from the Swiss), we walked several blocks to our hotel, the Dom.  The hotel is quite contemporary.  The room seems HUGE compared to what we had on the boat.

Stores are closed on Sunday in Switzerland by law.  Many restaurants also close, apparently.  We walked quite a bit looking for a place to have lunch before giving up and returning to the restaurant adjacent to the hotel for their expensive Sunday brunch - 26 Swiss francs each!  Between lunch and the 50 Swiss franc taxi ride to the railway station in Basel, it has been an expensive day.

We visited the gorgeous Cathedral of St. Gallen and it's world famous library.  The Cathedral is the centerpiece of a monastery that dominates the old city.  Only portions are open to the public, but the central area with its grassy area and parklike setting is open.  Many families and couples, both young and old, were enjoying the sunny afternoon.

Cathedral of St. Gallen
The library is amazing.  Before you enter, you put on slippers that fit over your shoes so that you do not damage the wooden floor.  Visitors seem to be skiing over the floor!  The ceiling is covered in beautiful frescoes.  I stood in the room transfixed by the hundreds of texts on display some dating prior to the year 1000!  I walked from stack to stack trying to find something that I could decipher; many titles are in Latin.  I did find one that said it was the correspondence of Napoleon I.  That's impressive.  The library owns the original plan for the monastery from the 9th century, but it is too fragile to have on display.  A replica is displayed for visitors.  Apparently, Umberto Eco spent two months in the library's reading room studying the plan and used it as a basis for his bestselling novel, The Name of the Rose.

Starbucks St. Gallen - really!
A beer at a corner pub, then pizza at the restaurant across from our hotel.  Uh, oh.  There is no laundromat in St. Gallen.  Time to wash out a few essentials in the hotel sink.

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