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Posts tagged ‘zurich’

 Overland to Zurich

So this is our situation: We need to cover 1,200km to reach Zürich, and six days to do it in. There are also four people we’d like to catch-up with en route.

The first night we stop in the small town of Nieburg, Germany. There is nothing outstanding to write home about, it was simply a suitable way-point to end our first day of travel southwards.

Dinner reminds us that we are back in Germany; the land of beer, schnitzel and sauerkraut. I make the mistake of ordering a salad, only to end up with an extra serve of cabbage!

Next stop is Dortmund. This town probably wouldn’t feature much in tourist guides, however the attraction for us was to catch-up with Inga, who we met on our Mexican adventures.

Inga has grown up in the area and also spent some time in Australia with her studies. She works in wind-turbine energy, which is huge in this part of Europe. She kindly offered us a bed, generously taking the couch and vacating her own comfy bed for us. It was a quick visit, as Inga was off early the next day, to holiday in Kenya.

We head out to dinner and see a snippet of Dortmund. As brief as it was, it was lovely to see Inga and get a locals perspective into what living in Germany is like. Inga, we hope you come and visit soon, so we can repay the hospitality.

Following the Rhine, our next stop is the town of Boppard. I wouldn’t rate the river as scenic as the Danube had been, though it could make a nice cycle trip one day.

Driving on a German autobahn is not for the faint-hearted. Impatient drivers weaving in and out of lanes at high-speed (there are no limits enforced), is a recipe for catastrophic accidents.

If you dare sit on the recommended 130km/hr, you are constantly watching your rear vision mirror for cars and trucks descending upon you at much greater speeds; blaring horns and flashing headlights at you to move right.

The right lane is full of heavily laden trucks and older cars struggling along. Without warning, one of these will also pull out in front of you, to overtake the slower vehicle in its lane. This is no place (or time) for being indecisive, it’s ‘pedal to the metal’, work the gears hard and keep-up!

After not seeing Sue Haviland for 15 years, this is the second rendezvous in a year! Sue and John, along with their dog Bailey, have moved to Oberursal, teaching at the Frankfurt International School.

We have two nights with them, taking the opportunity to wash, re-pack and get ourselves ready to change continents.

Our last night in Europe is at the Zurich Airport Radisson, practical and reasonably priced. We’re back in Switzerland, so ‘reasonably priced’ is a relative term.

Birgit is another traveling companion, this time from our South American adventures, who lives in Zürich. She makes the effort to trek out to our hotel in torrential rain and have dinner with us. The rain is so heavy, we don’t even venture outside the hotel to eat.

We really appreciate the effort to come and see us Birgit and it was great to have one last hurrah on our final night on your continent!

Our little Renault has served us well and we head to the airport with a whiff of petrol in the tank.

There is no obligation in a lease agreement to return your car with a full-tank, given the price for petrol in Switzerland is extortionate (or US$2 per/L) – Don can push the car if needed!

We drive up to departures, meet the agent and hand over the keys in a hurry to give him possession before it dies, we warn him that he won’t get far.

Next stop Beijing. Unfortunately there was no business upgrade on offer this time!


Magit words rang true – Switzerland is one very expensive country. In searching for accommodation, we quickly realised this was going to be a costly detour.

But, so be it; we had been reminded of late, that this a not ‘if only…’ tour; we don’t want to end up back in Australia saying “If only we’d gone there, seen that, done that…”

We stretch our budget to $150 a night. For Zürich, that’s still on the cheap side. However, Casa Heindrich, turns out to be a lovely place to stay. The young woman (wow, I feel old using age as an adjective), also sorts us out with a parking permit for the car. Our room comes with a little kitchenette. This will be very useful; we are going to be doing a lot of eating in!

Our daily luxury is purchasing coffee, the CPI spikes to AUS$5.40 each. It’s good coffee but small cups! Magit was right – just being here costs you money. We check-out the prices in McDonalds, always a good benchmak, AUS $12 for a Big Mac. I couldn’t actually tell you how much one is in Australia, I’m guessing around $5? Can one of you closet MacD addicts report back?

It’s about a 2km walk into the centre of town. Walking shoes on and umbrella in hand we set off to explore Zürich (the umbrella was acquired by Don in Istanbul, but that’s another story!). My pangs of guilt for the forgetful tourist are long gone, the umbrella has come in handy of late.

The old parts of Zürich display a majestic city dripping in wealth. Grand boulevards lined with every designer brand you can think off. The luxury retail market is dominated by watches; Rolex, Rado, Tag Heuer are well know names.  Then there are the even more prestigious; Patek Philip, Chopard or Blancpain (never heard of the later, but they’ve been making watches since 1735).

OK, we know the swiss are famous for watches, but how many watches can you sell in a day? Alongside the designer watch shops are designer chocolates. But, the best find of the day was Calanda beer, so of course Don had to sample it.

We decide we should educate ourselves in the Swiss cultural heritage and visit the Swiss National Museum. It was also pouring with rain and it was a good place to stay dry. We manage to fill in a few hours learning about Swiss history. I’d always thought the swiss had it easy, playing the neutrality card in every war; not so. Basically, they managed to alienate themselves from both sides!

As we are leaving Zürich we asked a local policeman; there are several conducting some sort of spot check in our street – “do we need a Vignette?” To which he replies “yes”. It was a slightly longer conversation in pigeon english/french, but I won’t bore you with the details.

We had been mislead in Austria, as we had asked about the Vignette just before the border. When driving is Switzerland you need a Vignette to drive on the national roads, it’s almost impossible to avoid driving on the national roads. A Vignette is simply a road tax. You buy a sticker and place it on your windshield. The cost a Vignette is SF$40 (AUS$50), they are valid for a year, but are non transferable (impossible to peel off).

Great, we need one for 5-6 days, We might be back, but we will be in a different car. The risk of not buying one and getting a fine is SF$100. We buy a Vignette before we leave Zürich.

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