A Day of Riding Swiss Trains

November 2, 2003

(photos follow text)





      It all started with an annoying buzzing noise, an alarm clock going off at 5:30 in the morning. A Sunday morning, for God's sake. What made it even worse was the fact that I had gone to a village event the evening before with our neighbors, Beat and Anneli. We had gone to the Landfrauen Kaffetrinket - or Country Ladies coffee drink. It should really be called a 'wine drinking' evening, because that's what everyone, including me, seemed to be drinking. Anyway, I had gotten home at one in the morning and should have been sleeping until, at the earliest, noon. But, Herbert was in Taiwan and I had agreed to spend that Sunday with Laurence and Andreas, riding trains all over Switzerland. I left home at 6:30 and started to wake up as I drove along the Aare River towards Biel. I was still half asleep, but I was starting to get excited.

     We had each bought a one-day pass that allowed us to ride any train, tram, bus or boat in Switzerland until midnight. We didn't have any definite program, just an idea that we should go to either the Ticino - the Italian part of Switzerland, or to St. Moritz in the canton of Graubünden. The first train we would ride was to Zurich, and we would make our decisions along the way. Before catching any trains, we had to catch a bus from where Laurence and Andreas lived to the train station in Biel. The first thing I said to Andreas when I arrived at their house was, "Are there no trains that leave Biel later than God-awful early in the morning?" He just gave me one of his big, understanding smiles and I couldn't help but smile back. My mood improved immediately and stayed that way for the rest of the day.

     By the end of the day, we had managed to go to both St. Moritz and the Ticino. We spent very little time in either place and mostly, we sat on trains and buses. But, that’s what the day was all about. And it was great. We played a board game I had brought called 5iveStraight,  a dice game Laurence always carries with her called Mayer, and because it’s Switzerland, the card game Jass. We ate all of our meals on the train with food and drinks that Laurence and Andreas had packed. And, most important, we laughed – the whole day.

     Here’s a schedule of what our day looked like:


           7:03am – 7:08am     Bus to train station in Biel.


            7:11am – 8:53am     Train to Zurich.

                                          Breakfast along the way of Zupfé (braided bread), butter, jelly, boiled eggs, pears, coffee and tea.


           9:10am – 10:44am    Train to Chur.

                                          Many games of 5iveStraight.


          10:54am - 12:55pm    Train to St. Moritz.

                                          An ‘apero’ of sweet white wine, cut veggies, salsa, and veggie dip.

                                          Played the dice game Mayer.  The number 61, or aina-sachxs (my spelling), is a big part of the game. It was the first word I learned in Swiss German, while playing the game with neighbors. After a few years of using it, I thought I was pretty good at saying it. Laurence and Andreas thought differently. They spent most of the game correcting me on the sound at the end of the word ‘sachxs’. I was hurt. (I’m winking here.) Besides, they understood me, no matter how I was saying it. I practiced anyway.



           12:55pm – 3:02pm    We spent about two hours in St. Moritz. We sat on the patio of a hotel restaurant and played Jass and walked along one side of the lake. We suddenly realized that we would have to run-walk to catch the next train or we wouldn’t be able to fit the Ticino area into our day. We made it with at least 24 seconds to spare.


           3:02pm – 4:32pm     Train to Thusis.

                                          Snack of tortilla chips, salsa, pears, apples and boiled eggs.

                                          Laurence had brought a bottle of salt along and the cap broke. The salt spilled out of her backpack and made a large pile on the floor between our legs. I put on my ‘motherly cap’ and told her she had to clean it up. She listened to me.

                                          More games of Mayer. More corrections of my aina-sachxs. I started to just say, “sixty-one.” Finally, I didn’t want to play any longer. (I can be like that.)


           4:37pm – 6:25pm     Bus to Bellinzona, the capitol of the canton of Ticino.


           6:25pm – 7:26pm     An hour in Bellinzona.  We walked around the town and tried to take photos of the castles in the dark. After realizing that we had 25-30 minutes to spare, we went for a drink at a small pizzeria. Since none of us spoke Italian, there was a little language-barrier difficulty with the waiter, but we managed. After serving our drinks, he brought us a plate of bread and parmesan cheese chunks, without saying a word. It was very sweet and it’s the memory I’ll keep of the Italian part of Switzerland.


             7:26pm – 10:34      Train to Olten.

                                          Dinner of Zupfé, butter, jelly, parmesan cheese and wine.

                                          More games of 5iveStaight.


          10:47pm – 11:29pm    Train to Biel.


         just before midnight  We wanted to end the day with a cup of coffee in Biel. After finding that all of the bars and restaurants were closed, we caught the last bus back to Laurence and Andreas’.


     It was a great day and now I have another adventure that will always be in my memory. It reminds me of what my dad said in September when I was showing him photos of places I’d been in the last few years. He simply said, “You have a tough life.”

     The last thing I’d like to say is a huge thanks to Laurence and Andreas for the planning, the time-keeping, the delicious food and drinks (that didn’t even mess up my diet), the laughing, and for taking so many wonderful photos. They took many of the photos on this page. You won’t usually see my face on my photo pages and it’s not because I’m camera-shy. It’s because I’m usually taking the photos. It’s nice to have someone else help with that for a change. Thanks!


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1 - Starting out the morning with breakfast and smiles.   2 - One of the views along the ride.   3 - Laurence and Andreas, always loving towards each other, made me really miss Herbert that day.
4 - A view of the train, from Laurence's perspective.   5 - Another view of the train. (That's Laurence under the hair.)   6 - Andreas, ensuring that the wine we had for our 'apero' was fit to drink.
7 - Part of town of St. Moritz.   8 - The other side of the lake in St. Moritz.   9 - Because it was Sunday, all the shops were closed in St. Moritz. Luckily, the restaurants were not. We enjoyed the warm sun while playing Jass.
10 - The bus ride to Bellinzona wasn't as comfortable as the trains had been, but we still smiled.   11 - This one's for Herbert... Next time, maybe he'll think of staying home instead of running off to Taiwan all the time!   12 - Laurence and Andreas finally agreed to let me try to get some sleep. I got none. Every 3-4 minutes, Laurence was telling me to look at a 'great view' out in the dark of the night or snapping photos of me, like this one. (What am I doing with my hands? Getting ready to sneeze.)
13 - Bellinzona is known for it's castles. In the dark of the evening, with the moon in the background, they looked beautiful. I didn't have any success trying to capture that with my camera. But, either Laurence or Andreas took this great photo.   14 - Drinks, bread and cheese at the Pizzeria in Bellinzona.   15 - Playing 5iveStraight on one of our last trains, the one to Olten.
16 - This one is for all of the people that think I've posted un-attractive photos of them in the past. I'm a good sport and am not opposed to equaling things out. Laurence had set the timer on her camera and I thought we were posing for a nice photo of all three of us. When Laurence and Andreas started to count to three before the flash went off, I thought I was missing a joke. The joke was on me.   17 - A better photo of the three of us and a nice way to end this photo page.


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