Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rhine Falls and Schaffhausen

One of the best things about living in Zurich is the easy access to other cities and natural beauty, all by public transport. So far, taking a little day trip on the weekend has required almost no advance planning.

Step 1: Get your transit pass(es).
The Sunday before last, Brian and I got our half-fare cards, which give you half off of all public transportation travel within Switzerland, as well as discounts on private transport (e.g., mountain gondolas) and travel to Germany and Austria. In addition, we can get daily and monthly add-ons that provide unlimited travel throughout Switzerland. I also got a 9 o'clock pass, which gives me free rides around Zurich after 9am (Brian has been walking to and from work, so hasn't needed a pass).

Step 2: Figure out where you're going. Last Sunday, this took the form of "it's a nice day, we should go somewhere, or else we'll play on the internet all day" around 10am. So, off we went to Zurich HB, the main train station. We decided on Rhine Falls, about 50 minutes to the north of Zurich. It was just barely within the Zurich transportation network limits, so I just needed to buy an add-on to my pass, while Brian got a day ticket.

Step 3: Profit. Rhine Falls is a total tourist destination, but fun. We rode a train (S-Bahn) to Winterthur, a largish city to the north of Zurich, and then transferred to a train that passed by Rhine Falls. After getting off at the almost non-existent train station, we walked down the hill to the falls.

Rhine Falls is the largest waterfall in mainland Europe, by width. As it was a beautiful Sunday, it was chock full of tourists. There is a walkway from the train station to a platform directly on top of the falls, but we opted for the boat tour, which gets you close enough to the falls for it to splash on you. We also took the boat that lands you on the little rock that lies in the middle of the falls; from there, you can climb to the top and took over the falls.

Rhine Falls

After our boat ride, Brian and I had some ice cream and walked along the Rhine River for 45 minutes to Schaffhausen. Schaffhausen is a small town to the north of Zurich in a canton (like a state) of the same name. It is dominated by a old fortress, the Munot, which was built in the 16th century. We walked up to the fortress and then up to the top to take in the view of the town.

Step 4: Return to your home.
At Schaffhausen, we went to the main train station for the town, grabbed a train back to Winterthur and then back to Zurich HB (there are direct trains to Zurich HB, but it was quicker for us to do the transfer). Once there, we ran the gauntlet of the main station grocery store for some milk (it is one of the few groceries open on Sunday) and then took the tram and bus back to our apartment, just in time to make some dinner.

We plan on using trains, buses, trams, gondolas, cable cars, funiculars, and boats lots more in our future travel around Switzerland. So far, in addition to Rhine Falls, we've been up to Uetliberg and Felsenegg, both hiking and overlook points near Zurich, as well as to Luzern and Mount Pilatus, to the south of Zurich.

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