Monday 8 October 2012

Swiss Railways

By absolute coincidence, just before I went to Switzerland (last week, that was) I was reading about this famous observation in The Third Man:

Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

Of course, this isn't exactly true (apart from anything else, cuckoo clocks are traditionally from the Black Forest region of Germany) and also a much better symbol of Swiss achievement is the Swiss railway system.

Over a 36 hour period last week, I took eight trains, six of them Swiss.  They were all exactly on time.

The train stations were, at the very least, pleasant - and some of them were absolutely enchanting. Basle station (my first port of call en Suisse) had these amazing murals depicting famous Swiss destinations that one can visit by train - from the style, I'd guess they date from the 1920s or 30s.

The station where I got the Appenzellerbahn (I kind of glorified tram that goes up a mountain) was pretty grand:

 Even the stops on the side of the mountain had shelter and snack machines ...

The views from the windows were a delight (I love that in Switzerland, one minute you're in a city and the next you can see alps.  And cows with bells.)  

But the absolute cherry on the Swiss cake was the presence of dining cars with realio, trulio white damask tablecloths, waiter service and wine.

I am planning to return to Switzerland soon - I think I might just spend a few days getting off one train and on to another.  The BEST way to travel.

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