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Switzerland (after Abruzzo, Italy)


10+ Posts
By avvocato from NJ, USA, Spring 2009
A trip to Abruzzo's Adriatic coast in April 2009 to visit family. My third trip to Bel Abruzzo; my wife's first. Then a continuation to Winterthur, Switzerland (also to visit her family) with day trips to the Appenzell Alps & Konstanz, Germany in May 2009. Our first trip to Switzerland.

Read part 1 of this trip on the Italy Trip Reports forum.

This trip report was originally posted on SlowTrav.

Catering Winterthur

We depart on a train to Winterthur. There are many local and intercity trains between Zurich and Winterthur. It is a direct train with one stop at the Zurich Airport. When we depart Switzerland, we will be reversing this train ride. On the train, Michael gives us a few phrases in Swiss German: Grüezi- Hello, Merci vilmal - Thanks a lot, Bitte- Please, Uf widerluege - Good bye. My wife practices her greetings on a woman (reacting with much amusement) who is sitting opposite us on the train. We arrive at Winterthur after about 30 minutes and we change to the local bus system to arrive at Michael’s house where Michael’s wife Jeab greets us. We finally get to meet Miya born on 24 March and now 36 days old. She is a charming baby girl.

Michael’s house sits at the bottom of the Golden Berg or a large hill facing west, which overlooks the city of Winterthur. Behind the house is a vineyard. My wife (ever the contadina) and I spend the first day helping our hosts clear some brush and doing some gardening in their backyard. The weather is wonderful, unlike what we experienced in Italy.

Shortly afterwards we help Jeab shopping. Jeab is establishing a catering business in Winterthur and has a large catering assignment for Sunday dinner. My wife is fascinated by a chance to visit another European supermarket. She buys several cookies including what will turn out to be her favorite - Swiss meringue. The house is a short walk to the old city center. I notice that here as in the Netherlands bicycles are a prime source of transportation.

Jeab is meal planning a Thai banquet of laap, rice, vegetables and chicken and green curry and samosa. The latter is not Thai food but is taking the place of spring rolls since it holds up much better after cooking. The meal is a part of a party held at the Kraftfeld club in the working district of Winterhur. The club is a modern/alternative music venue and bar where Michael’s brother is one of the managers. There will be over forty people expected and Jeab is understandably nervous about the event. But all goes well and this bodes well for her future business.


Kraftfeld Party Platter - Laap, Samosa, Chicken with Vegetables and Rice

Winterthur is a major city in the canton of Zurich and lies northeast of Zurich proper. Winterthur has a lovely old center city with many shops and restaurants off the Marktgasse. Modern Winterthurians pride themselves on a growing cosmopolitan streak that is developing such as the revitalization of their industrial district and the development of new restaurants and cuisines (Thai?). Winterthur has numerous academic institutions such as Technorama and the Music Academy. Winterthur bills itself as the City of Museums. There are at least 17 museums in the area for a city of only about 100,000. There is a museum pass that allows you to visit any multiple museums for one day for one low price. Some of the most interesting museums are:
  • Sammlung Oskar Reinhart - private collection including Breugels and Reubens.
  • Museum Oskar Reinhart - featuring Swiss German and Austrian artists from the 19th century.
  • Kunstmuseum Winterthur - modern art museum.
  • Kyberg Castle - outside of town a tower and castle featuring medieval history of the area.
Other items of interest are the Kirchplatz featuring a twin towered church and many gardens and parks and all in bloom and lovely in early May.

Our host Michael also introduces me to some Swiss cheeses. What we in America call Swiss cheese is generally a not very good version of Emmentaler. What Michael buys and we taste are artisan cheeses from the local farms - Seemerzler, Oberlaend and Klosterk. My favorite is Oberlaend a harder aged cheese with a distinct bite of sharpness. I recommend it if you are in Winterthur or environs.


Overview of Winterthur - view from the Golden Berg
Säntis der Berg

No trip to Switzerland can be complete without an outing to the Swiss Alps. The “Alps” are not a monolithic mountain range but a series of different ranges in different locales. The nearest Alps to Winterthur are the Appenzell Alps. These are located in St Gallen, Appenzell Ausserholden and Appenzell Innerrhoden Cantons in Northeast Switzerland. This area of Switzerland borders Germany Austria and Lichtenstein. The most easily traveled-to “peak” from Winterthur is Säntis der Berg near the village of Schwägalp. It is easy to get from Winterthur to Säntis by public transportation and all within two hours.

Public transportation in Switzerland is a source of pride and the ability to travel almost anywhere by combination of local bus, local train and intercity train is remarkable. Our trip to the mountains begins at 08:37 where we board the intercity to the town of Wil. At Wil we change to a local train to Nesslau Neu St. Johann then we take a bus to Schwägalp and arrive at 10:28. Here you are at the base of the mountain. The trip to the mountain is via cable car. The Säntis peak is 2,502 m above sea level. It is 06 May and there is still a great deal of snow in the mountains and in the high valleys. The day is absolutely gorgeous, sunny and mild. This is a picture postcard day that feels as if it was ordered by the Swiss National Tourist Office.

There is a large Hotel and Restaurant in Schwägalp at the mountain base. I order some coffee and hot chocolate for my wife and Jeab and order a hearty lunch of bratwurst and frites. After lunch we take the cable car and ride to the top of the mountain. There is a hiking trail available in the summer but not open in May. The views are fantastic. It’s like being on top of the world. On a clear day you can see six countries from the top of the mountain - Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany, France, and Italy. There is a restaurant available on the summit and many other educational exhibits demonstrating the biology and geology of the Alps.


On top of the world - Santis Berg
Konstanz, Germany and the Bodensee

Winterthur is very close to southern Germany and the Bodensee. The Bodensee is a large inland lake that borders Switzerland, Germany and Austria. The Rhine River flows in the eastern end and emerges larger at the western end in Konstanz on its journey to the North Sea. My wife and I take the direct train from Winterthur. The train goes through Frauenfeld the capital of Thurgau Canton and arrives in Konstanz in under 50 minutes. There is no immigration at the station as evidence once again that Switzerland is now fully integrated into the Schengen convention.

Konstanz has a somewhat unique recent history. It was the only major German city not to be bombed by the Allies in World War II due to its proximity to Switzerland. In fact Konstantz left its lights burning brightly during air raids to avoid all doubt. Because of the lack of bombing, the city retained its medieval and historical buildings intact.

The focal point of the town is the lake but the town was a well established trading and cultural center due to its location. The town has many gardens and fountains as well as a central shopping district on the Marktstatte. Near the Bodensee is the 14th century Mercantile House a key landmark for trade with southern Europe. The harbor is dominated by the Imperia statue.

While we are walking at the harbor my wife and I see a rigid airship or “Zeppelin” cruising the skies over the lake. It turns out that Count (Graf) Ferdinand Zeppelin was born in Konstanz and a Zeppelin NT manufacturing plant is in nearby Friedrichshafen. Both the Graf Zeppelin and the infamous Hindenberg were constructed here. There are museums nearby and airships operate today from the airport in Friedrichshafen.

Our lunch in Konstanz consists of a simple schnitzel and frites plus salad with a local beer.


Schneitzel, frites and a beer in Konstanz
Flea Market

The second Saturday of each month is devoted to a wide ranging flea market in Winterthur’s historic center. My wife is a flea market (or second hand as she calls it) aficionado and this is something she will not miss. We are looking for things that can be used by Jeab for her catering business. Thus we find some large cooking utensils, carrying boxes and other items. It’s a great deal of fun and everyone has a good time on a beautiful day.

Our trip comes to an end with an indoor barbecue at Michael’s house. We have a chance to meet Jeab’s friends and Michael’s family. It’s a wonderful way to end the trip.


Nuan buys a ceramic pitcher at Winterthur Flea Market
Back to USA

On Sunday morning we rise early to prepare for our trip back to Philadelphia. US Air has a direct flight - US 711 - from Zurich to Philly which has since been suspended. Our trip to the airport is basically a reverse course from our arrival. We take the city bus at the Cantonschule to the train station in Winterthur. We board one of the many local or intercity trains from Winterthur to Zurich, which all stop at the Zurich Airport.

The airport at Zurich had some interesting features to look out for and enjoy. The inter-terminal train has Swiss cow sound effects. You are serenaded at various stops by mooing cows. There is also a Lindt Boutique du Chocalat where a Maître Chocolatier creates chocolate confections while we and others watch transfixed. My wife buys some alcohol infused chocolates for our friends and I stock up on one of my guilty pleasure foods - white chocolate.

By late morning the flight leaves on time and after a nine hour flight we are back in Philadelphia by mid-afternoon to an unwelcome traffic problem on I-95. But nothing can replace the warm feelings for our Swiss relatives and new friends. "Uf widerluege" to Switzerland and "merci vilmal.”


Leaving Switzerland - Zurich Airport

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