Prepaid GSM
Getting around

Part 1: Geneva, Zurich, Vaduz

Map of trip to Switzerland

13.8: Lyon -> Geneva
14.8: Geneva
15.8: Geneva -> Zurich
16.8: Zurich
17.8: Zurich -> Liechtenstein -> Munich

13.8: Lyon -> Geneva
Etap Hotel, Geneva. 99 CHF for a standard Etap hotel room. This is bigger than the one in Lyon, meaning that there is now enough space for the luggage. The A/C this time works and is actually a bit too strong, i.e. the room is quite cold.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some clouds in the morning. From 1pm onwards a mix of overcast and sunny blue sky. Temperatures around 24-25°C in Lyon. In Geneva it is significantly more fresh in the evening and it is overcast.

It's almost 5pm when we leave the basilica in Lyon and start driving towards Geneva. On the way, while still in Lyon, we stop at a bakery and buy some cakes. The drive to Geneva proceeds smoothly. The motorway on the French side is mostly a toll motorway (around 10 cents/km). Minimal border controls at the French-Swiss border (they wave us through without checking anything, even if Shirley clearly does not look European).

We are in the Etap hotel in Geneva a few minutes before 7pm. We check in, unload the stuff in the room and then drive into town for dinner. It takes some effort to find a Chinese restaurant with the Magellan navigation system, as the three restaurants closest to the hotel suggested by Magellan all do not exist. I can only guess that these places existed once and that the database of the navigation system is not up to date. In any case it is frustrating driving to a place only to discover that this place does not exist. We find a Chinese restaurant in down town Geneva by coincidence.

After dinner we drive to the lake and walk around a bit. Surprise, surprise, the entire area is full of Arab tourists. We've never seen so many Arab tourists in a European city. Geneva feels like Dubai. No idea why there are so many Arab tourists here.

The entire area around the lake is full of shops selling luxury goods. There are several luxury hotels and lots of expensive cars around. The area feels a bit like Montecarlo. We are back in the hotel at 11pm.

14.8: Geneva
Etap Hotel, Geneva. Internet access in the hotel through the WLAN hotspot of Swisscom: expensive, as 30 consecutive minutes (i.e. usable only in half an hour) cost 5 CHF. 60 minutes usable over 24 hours (you can connect and disconnect) cost a ridicolous 25 CHF.
Weather: mostly sunny in the morning, although the sky is covered by a thin clouds layer. Quite fresh. It becomes overcast after 2pm, then the sun shines through briefly at 4pm and disappears again shortly after that. Light rain in the evening after 8pm.

We spend the entire morning in the hotel (I check my emails at 10:30am through the Swisscom hotspot), skip breakfast and at 12:25pm head to the Balexer shopping mall opposite the Etap hotel. This is a huge air-conditioned mall with several shops and a Migros supermarket with attached restaurant. Interesting place, we'll get back there tomorrow when it rains (for tomorrow rain has been forecast). We have a lunch in the Migros restaurant of the mall (good value and good choice of food; 34 CHF for the three of us).

After lunch, at 2pm, we drive to Geneva and start the sightseeing. The first stop is Place de Nations in the international organisations area. Here is where the UN, ITU, UNHCR, Red Cross and other international organisations are located or head quartered. We spend almost two hours in this area (2:30-4:20pm), seeing a number of places.

At 4:15pm I briefly stop in front of the Ariana museum to take a picture, later realising that I have stopped in front of the Russian embassy. Further along the street there is the US embassy.

At 4:30pm we drive to the lake, arriving at 4:50pm. It is actually a very short distance, but there is a traffic jam in the final km. Driving in Geneva is a bit messy, because the roads and the street signs are confusing. We explore the area around the waterfront until 6:30pm, then take the small electric train for a half an hour tour of the left waterfront (8 CHF per adult, 5 CHF per child).

Then, at 7pm we continue walking around the area. This time we walk to Rue de la Confederation, which is a pedestrian area full of shops. We are there until 7:45pm, the start walking towards the car. It has started raining lightly and we need to find a place where to have dinner. It takes some time to walk back to the car.

Once there we use the navigation system to find a nearby Thai restaurant. This works fine, the only problem is that the Thai restaurant is on the waterfront and is expensive and we'd prefer not to spend too much for dinner.

It takes some effort to find a restaurant, because we are in the expensive area of Geneva. In the end, at almost 9pm, because it is already late, we simply have a small thing in a McDonalds restaurant. At 9:30pm we drive back to the hotel.

15.8: Geneva -> Zurich
Etap Hotel, Zurich. Room similar to the one of the Etap hotel in Paris (the shower head is in a fixed position, toilet has no toilet seat. The hotel is in a somehow ugly industrial area, but according to the map only a couple of km away from Zurich down town. The hotel parking is fully booked, but I manage to find a free parking (free during the weekend) 100m from the hotel. No WLAN hotspot (i.e. Internet access) in the hotel.
Weather: overcast and cold (15-16°C) in the morning in Geneva. Around 1pm the sky opens up and the sun shines through, but closes again by 3pm and after that it starts raining. Between 3pm and 7pm it rains intermittently and the temperatures drop to 13°C when we arrive in Zurich. Overcast and cold but dry in the evening in Zurich.

We sleep until after 10am, then get up and manage to check out shortly after 12pm. We pack the luggage into the car, then walk to the Balexer shopping mall opposite the Etap hotel. Today we won't do any sightseeing because of the bad weather and instead take it easy - have a nice lunch and do some shopping.

We have lunch in the Migros restaurant and do some shopping. Around 2:40pm we walk back to the car, and refuel it at the nearby Agip petrol station. The fuel (95 octane) here costs 1.95 CHF (=1.17 Euro), much less than in France or Germany. I also buy a vignette for the Swiss motorways. The price is 40 CHF (= 24 Euro) and the vignette is valid for the whole year. The guy apparently does not have a one week or 10 days vignette - in Austria you can get a vignette for 10 days for 7.60 Euro.

After that, shortly after 3pm we start driving to Zurich. Traffic on the motorway initially is heavy but quite fluid. After Bern (which we reach around 5pm) we enter the mother of all traffic jams. There is no accident or road works, it's just that many people are on the motorway for the weekend traffic and the motorway is not built to cope with so much traffic.

No wonder, considering that this (the A1) is just a two lane motorway. It becomes a three lane motorway towards the end of our trip (the last 50km), but otherwise the motorway sucks. In France the motorway was mostly three lanes and almost empty, while here in Switzerland it has only two lanes and there is far too much traffic.

Because of the traffic jam we arrive at the hotel in Zurich only at 6:50pm, almost one hour later than if there had been no traffic jam. The last few km before Zurich are also in the stop-and-go mode. Swiss motorways suck. Also the roads in the cities suck. Confusing and too many stops at red traffic lights. For some reason or another the traffic lights tend to become red very fast.

Shortly before 7pm we check in at the Etap hotel in Zurich. This is in an industrial area, next to an Ibis hotel, with which the Etap hotel shares an underground parking.

The receptionist initially sends us to room 338. When I open the door a half naked black guy rushes to block the door and tells me that he is already occupying the room. Later Shirley tells me that the guy actually was naked and that he put on his underwear in a hurry (he probably had sex with somebody). Back in the reception the staff says that the room is empty in his computer. Some discussion and we are reassigned a new room.

We spend the evening in the hotel room and do not even go out for dinner, since we are not that hungry, have some food with us and outside it is quite cold (13°C).

16.8: Zurich
Etap Hotel, Zurich.
Weather: sunny with a very thin clouds layer (some kind of high altitude fog); some clouds every now and then obscuring the sun. Quite cold, despite the sunny day. Windy on the lake of Zurich.

We leave the hotel at 11:40am and drive to Bürkliplatz in down town Zurich. Here is where the lake ferries depart. Today we are planning to take a boat ride on the lake. Unfortunately there is a traffic jam on the roads in Zurich, so that we manage to reach Bürkliplatz where the boats take off quite late.

We'd like to catch the 12:30pm ferry, but reach Bürkliplatz only
at 12:15pm and still need to find a car parking. I drop off Shirley at Bürkliplatz and tell her to buy the tickets while I park the car somewhere. I find a parking near the lake, then rush back to Bürkliplatz with Alissia and the baby in the stroller. I only manage to reach the ferry at 12:31pm - too late apparently. Shirley tells me she asked the boatmen to wait a moment, but they refused and were also quite rude.

So I go to the ticket counter and speak with the staff. No problem, the next boat leaves at 1:30pm (we later find out that there is a boat every hour). No need to rush after all then and I could in fact have looked for a cheaper parking (the parking where I left the car costs 40 CHF for stays of 9-24 hours - quite pricey).

Never mind, we walk to an open air restaurant, actually a beer garden, near Bürkliplatz and have a quick lunch there. Today is Saturday and there is a flea market in Bürkliplatz. Lunch is OK. I notice that the Swiss of Zurich call chicken "poulet", i.e. use the French word instead of the German "Hähnchen" or "Huhn".

After lunch, at 1:30pm, we take the ferry for the lake cruise. The boat will do a round trip to Rapperswil, stopping at a number of stations in between. It is actually sort of a bus service and the boat has an own restaurant on board. The entire trip should last around four hours. If I'm not mistaken you can drop off at any of the stations in between and take a subsequent boat. The boat has surprisingly modern and clean toilets.

The boat trip turns out to be quite boring, because the lake of Zurich lies in a relatively flat area with no dramatic scenery. In fact almost the entire lake is surrounded by houses and villas. The lake of Lucerne is much more interesting.

When we arrive in Rapperswil at 3:20pm there is an air show of the Swiss air force going on with five planes performing acrobatic formations.

At 3:25pm the boat leaves for the return trip to Zurich arriving in Burkliplatz at 5:15pm. We get out and start the sightseeing of Zurich. We stop for a while in Burkliplatz because there is a show of artistic roller-skating.

At 6pm we start walking to the old town of Zurich. This is quite nice with a number of sights, but is not as impressive as the old town of Lucerne. At 7:15pm we stop for dinner in a Mexican restaurant in the old town. The food is good but is also a bit expensive.

At 8:20pm we continue exploring the old town of Zurich, walking to the railway station then walking back to the lake through Bahnhofstrasse and some of the side streets. At 9:45pm we are at the lake and take a ride on the panoramic wheel. It's almost 11pm when we are back in the hotel.

17.8: Zurich -> Liechtenstein -> Munich
Home, sweet home
Weather: overcast and cool the whole day, both in Zurich, Liechtenstein and Munich. No rain. Temperatures in the morning and evening below 20°C.

We check out and leave Zurich by 12:15pm, driving to Vaduz (Liechtenstein) initially, arriving there at 1:40pm.

Vaduz is a very small place. The interesting part of Vaduz is mainly one pedestrian area, less than 1km long along which there are restaurants, some shops, an art museum and some government buildings. This pedestrian area has been renovated recently with the addition of a parliament building and the "beautification" of the government building at the western end. Works are still going on as of now. It seems that the locals are trying to make Vaduz more attractive for tourists. Vaduz itself is a very Swiss place, meaning that the shops, the setting and the overall layout are typical of a Swiss town.

We have lunch in a restaurant, then at 3pm explore a bit the pedestrian area of Vaduz. It doesn't take long to see everything there is to see and at 3:50pm we leave Vaduz by car. On the way back, near Bregenz (Austria) we get stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway. We exit the motorway hoping to bypass the traffic jam by driving on the national road through Bregenz and catching again the motorway in Lindau (Germany), only to end in a huge traffic jam almost immediately after leaving the motorway. I end up regretting having left the motorway.

It seems that we chose the wrong Sunday to drive back because today there is a huge number of cars driving back from the holidays. I can only guess that August 17th coincides with the end of the holidays for a large number of people. Or perhaps many people have used the long weekend (Aug. 15th was a public holiday in a number of countries) to make a short trip to somewhere.

Anyway, we finally reach Lindau a bit after 6pm. Since I'm tired of driving we stop at a McDonalds restaurant and have some food.

Around 7pm we leave for Munich. Initially everything proceeds smoothly and we can drive speedily on the motorway, but after maybe 10 minutes we are stuck again in a traffic jam. This is caused by the motorway ending, two lanes becoming one and subsequent road works. We lose perhaps an hour in this traffic jam. At the end of the road works the motorway starts again and is quite empty. We drive speedily and are at home finally at 9:20pm.

Copyright 2008 Alfred Molon