Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In and Around Zürich

There are a few places in Zürich that I found interesting from an outdoor activity point of view… and it doesn't take more than half a day for each of these. When you’re in Zurich you cannot miss the Lake. It’s the single largest attraction of the City… and I’ve covered my tryst with the Lake in another blog of mine, except for the cycling part that I will cover in this small write-up.

To start with, about an hour or so from Zürich Hauptbahnhof via rail is Rheinfall –the largest waterfall in Europe. I do not remember the route we took but if I remember correctly, we took a train to Winterthur and from there we hopped onto another one for Schaffhausen. The Rheinfall is about a few minutes from there along a zigzag pathway near the shoreline. In fact as soon as you get out of the train you can hear the mighty Rheinfall… and when I saw it for the first time… it was incredible, tons of water just kept flowing and there’s just one thing I could think of… no wonders it’s the largest in Europe. You simply have to be there to realize the magnitude of power that the waterfall yields.

We boarded a powerful motor run long boat which crawled along the side of the waterway to the point where the waterfall ended and then as soon as our boat caught up with the current it was just shoved along the flow and that really showed what strength lied there… we had to hold on to our seats to avoid falling into the waters.

At the center of the waterfall there was a rock quite high from where you get a panoramic view. Our motor boat took us there and we did a small video shoot. You cannot miss this. I was simply thrilled to see so much water gush out with so much power. It was amazing!

Second must do activity would be to hit Lake Zürich. I had taken steamer rides from Bürkliplatz to Rapperswill a couple of times. It’s a nice 2 hour ride and the restaurant in the steamer serves some good sandwiches along with strong black coffee. You can also admire this exquisite beauty by cycling around the Lake. That is what we had planned earlier, but we got so tired and late at reaching Rapperswill that we had to take a train back to Hauptbahnhof. Another reason for us getting late was that we took breaks all along the south side of the Lake.We got down from our cycles and rested, cracked jokes and took photographs at any nice spot we chanced upon. It was a fun filled outing that we had planned with no serious time check being done. We also took a dip at a clearing near the shoreline. The water was cold and clean. It was great fun to get drenched on the hot sunny day. But for serious cyclers, a round trip of the Lake is surely possible.

While we’re talking about cycling there’s a much smaller and unknown lake that we had cycled around –Chatzensee. Not too far from where we stayed, there were some breathtaking sites of the crops along the hills with the setting sun. A nice picnic spot.

Next comes the trails and I remember two of them –along Griefensee and to Uetliberg. For Griefensee, we had to take a train from Oerlikon to Dübendorf and then walked all along the farms to Griefensee. The walk was nothing great… a simple trail with signboards to guide us to the lake… we just kept following them. At the Lake we boarded a steamer which took us to the South-West end of the Lake.
After the walk, the cool breeze of the Lake was a welcome relief. We saw a few people come out with their small boats… some were fishing, others enjoying a picnic or reading books… it was very relaxing. At the other end we also rented out a boat and did a bit of rowing… it was a lot of fun. After that we also cooled our heels [literally] by dipping our feet in the water. I had a nice Wilbur Smith novel to give me company while my backpack acted as a not-so-comfortable pillow. The water was cool, and so was the rock and breeze. I loved being there. So that’s another nice place to spend the weekend.

Last but not the least, like Lake Zürich, another big attraction of the city is Uetliberg –the top of Zürich. Every time I listen to the song – Top of the World by Carpenters, it reminds me of this trek trip I had taken. Apparently this was the first trail that I had set out on, during my short stay. The walk from Hauptbahnhof to the base of the climb was about 30 odd minutes. We stopped on our way for a Subway sandwich which was to act as our fuel till we reached the top. Most of the trail was plain or a slight angle except for a few places the climb was real steep, but we kept pushing. There was promise of chilled beer and a 360 degree view at the top. The route offered a nice view of the countryside and lots n lots of vegetation. As we were walking, we came upon an opening where people had gathered with what seemed like a paragliding wings… this was exciting. We waited and saw how a couple of guys lined up and took to flying with the next gush of wind. It sure seemed a lot exhilarating and later, after a few months I had also done that from Interlaken. After a lot of distractions, we finally reached the top… as expected it was windy and the view was just spectacular! We could see Lake Zürich streached between the West and East. Everything seemed little from where we stood. The sight towards the south was more of farmlands as far as the eye could see while north was the Lake along with the city. We took the ropeway to our way down to ground level and that was all about the top of Zürich. Of course we did give in to the chilled beer that was our prize for all the toil.

Apart from the outdoor activities that I’ve listed, there are a few more that one can do to enjoy their time in the city –walking in the old town on a Saturday evening also is quite nice… the lanes are narrow and paved with stones smoothened through generations of leather. And that covers more or less of what I’ve done here. I might be getting a bit sentimental now...I’ll always cherish my stay in this city.

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