Vacation Destination: Switzerland
First stop: Moriken/Baden
It was time. Dan and I had been planning this trip to Switzerland for months, anticipating the excitement of visiting his family and seeing new things. Now we’d finally be doing it.
Our neighbor drove us to the airport, eliminating any need to worry about directions or parking. We checked our bags and slipped through security without a hitch and were soon in our seats on a Boeing 767. The flight was about half full and those around us stretched out for the almost 8 hour flight across the Atlantic. The video monitors showed us our proposed altered course, a more southerly route due to the ash being spewed by Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano. We slept through most of the flight, waking up 6am Zurich time (midnight our time) to the sight of cows grazing peacefully near the runway.
Dan stands in the empty Zurich airport
This guy appeared to have a blast re-stocking the luggage carts
Some old, some new
The airport slowly fills as we wait for Dan’s mom to arrive
Dan’s mom, Claudine, was flying in that morning as well but her flight was delayed and we spent a couple of extra hours in the airport waiting for her. When her plane landed, we gathered up her and her luggage and made for the train station across the street. There, we purchased a Swiss Rail pass, good for any train and bus in the country, as well as discounts on cable cars and museums. The Swiss Rail Pass (similar to the EuroRail Pass but covering only the country of Switzerland) was a true money and time saver. While it seemed expensive up front, the overall savings was phenomenal. We calculated that we probably would have easily spent well over twice as much in bus and train fares, never mind the discounts at the various attractions we went to. And it saved time and frustration of having to buy a ticket at each station, calculating the fare and route each time. During the ride, train conductors would walk down the rail car, asking for tickets. They would scan each ticket, handing it back to the owner for another check that may or may not happen further down the line. And the inspections were completely random. There were days when no one checked and other times when our tickets were verified three times on the same journey. The Swiss have a pretty good way of keeping the scofflaws to a minimum: if you get caught on the train or bus without a ticket you are fined the cost of the fare plus 80 Francs (~$80) and your name is taken down. If you are ever caught again on a train or bus without a ticket, you’re in considerably more trouble.. Considering that these people rely on the public transportation system for daily use it is understandable why they would never want to face the prospect of ever losing it.
Now that we had our rail passes we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then hopped on the train to our residence for the next 10 days: Dan’s aunt Suzanne’s house near Lenzburg. The train ride went by quickly and then it was a very short wait for a bus that would take us on the final leg. I will probably say this more than once, but the Swiss public transportation system is amazing. The wait between trains and/or buses was rarely more than 7 or 8 minutes and everything was well-signed. I never felt like I was lost or ever uncertain of what track to be at for my connection. And the timeliness! If the schedule said “9:32” then I knew very well that there would be a train there at 9:32.
At the train station buying our rail pass
The Zurich train station
Clever ad (artwork?) in the Zurich train station
Claudine, Dan and I waiting for the bus to Moriken
Everyone rides the bus in Switzerland
Walking the last hundred feet to Suzanne’s house
The bus ride to Suzanne’s house didn’t take more than 10 minutes. There was a nice video monitor near the front of bus that listed the next few stops and how many minutes to each one, as well as the final stop for that route. With that information, we got off at the correct stop and walked the 100’ or so to the house. Suzanne had left us a key, as it was Thursday and she was at work. We let ourselves in and then went for a walk around the neighborhood. The house is in the village of Moriken, home to about 4,000 people. It was a nice, tidy community with a butcher, a cheese shop and a gas station (as well as a few more shops to round things out). We walked through quaint residential areas and marveled at the beautiful flowers and architecture. Eventually we returned to the house where we found Suzanne waiting for us. The evening was spent catching up or, in my case, getting to know each other.
Moriken neighborhood. It reminded me a bit of San Mateo, CA
Self-propelled lawn mower with underground guides to tell it when to turn
Old Swiss barn and miniaturize horse
Bernese Mountain dog, snoozing on the steps
Wildegg Castle overlooks Moriken
Interesting wall solution
Leave the kid outside while grabbing some cheese
Dan discovers a new treat: espresso!
Friday was Suzanne’s day off so she joined us on a trip to the historic town of Baden. Even though Moriken is small, there are three different bus routes that stop by Suzanne’s stop, once an hour. Therefore we had our choice of three different buses each hour to take us to the train station. Once at the station, we caught the train to Baden and began our first full day of exploration.
Well laid out video monitor on the bus, letting you know exactly what’s next
Limmat River in Baden
Covered wooden bridge over the Limmat
Thousands of shingles cover the bridge
Inside the bridge
Stone archway in Baden
Claudine, Suzanne and Dan ahead
Garbage day in Baden
Buildings from the 1700’s
Baden is an old city with a very well-preserved Altstadt (old city). We prowled the streets and alleys and explored the ruins of the Stein Castle high on a hill. There is an ancient covered bridge across the Limmat River, which was most impressive to me as it was covered in thousands of tiny wooden shingles. Also impressive were the half-moon windows, complete with corresponding shutters. After considerable exploration, we met up with Suzanne’s daughter Mirjam who works in the city. She joined us for lunch but had to get back to work, where she gave Suzanne a quick haircut before her next customer arrived. It was a full day when we finally returned back to Moriken on the train.
Unlike US police cars, Europeans want to be seen
Baden clock tower
Church in Baden
Elaborate pipe organ
I have no idea what this is, but it fascinates me
Destroyed in 1415 and again in 1712
Dan overlooks Baden
Old and new
Red-tile roofs are the calling card of Swiss buildings
Walking the streets of Baden
Fancy garage entrance
Public fountain – note the iron rails to hold buckets
No weiner dogs!!
We still had some time, so we hopped into Suzanne’s car and took a quick drive south to Beinvil am See, to see the recently sold home of Dan’s grandmother. It was essentially a drive-by sighting, with Suzanne not even slowing down for me to peer through the bushes that surround it. But before I could comment, we had reached the shores of Hallvilersee, parked the car and began a short walk along the shores of the small lake. We hadn’t been on the trail for more than half an hour when we had to turn around; we were planning on going to The Roschti Farm, a nearby restaurant that catered to the local favorite dish: roschti (sometimes spelled “Rosti”).
Dan at the grocery store
Migro is huge in Switzerland. Food and gas stations and more!
Fields on the way to Beinvil am See
Looking toward Beinvil from the lakeside
Fields near the lake
Claudine, Suzanne and Dan walking along the lake
We still had some time to kill before dinner, so a few of us went for a quick walk around Moriken. It was quiet and relaxed and by walking along various paths, streets and trails, I was able to get a deeper look into the “lives of the Swiss”. For instance, I don’t think that I ever would have learned, nor thought to even ask, that cemeteries are constantly changing their residents. A person is allotted 25 years with their own headstone but after that time, they are exhumed and put into a common area, rather like a mass grave but with names. That explained why the cemeteries are so small and the headstones so new looking.
Bike shelters near Moriken school
Dandelions and sunset in Moriken
Cemetery in Moriken
We got back to the house, met up with the rest of the family (Suzanne;s boyfriend Peter and two of her three kids (Nicole and Roman)). Mirjam would meet us at the restaurant. I should point out that ;kids; is misleading, as they are all over 30.
I hate to explain what Rosti is because I feel that it cheapens the dish. But it is essentially hash browns with cheese. Wonderful cheese, and often other tasty bits, like meats and vegetable and even topped with fried eggs. It is a wonder that the Swiss are in such great shape, considering the foods that they love. While sitting at the table ordering our drinks, I caused some difficulty by ordering “tap water”. I didn’t want the typical carbonated mineral water and I didn’t feel comfortable ordering a glass bottle of water, when I knew very well that the tap water would be perfect for me. But the waitress didn’t fully understand my request and brought out a bottle of water anyway. I drank it quickly as the group teased me about ordering “Hahnenwasser”. I am not entirely sure how that translates (“Rooster Water” is the best I could find), or maybe it’s not even the translation but the idea of it, but they all found it quite amusing. I found it frustrating. Regardless, it led to some good laughs for the rest of the trip