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A trip to Heidiland

Mr.R and I took a weekend break over the bank holiday to Switzerland. We didn’t expect to make it. We watched aghast as news reports warned us of flooding throughout Europe. We watched, fingers crossed, images of people being airlifted from Bern. Someone Up There surely likes us, because although Switzerland was badly affected by the floods, Zurich, where we were going, wasn’t really hit. The flights were still on and there was no question of cancellation.

Saturday :We reached Zurich in the morning, one hour ahead of UK time, not yet feeling the effects of waking at 2 am and driving to the airport. We discover that our hotel is not really in Zurich proper but on the outskirts and we need to take a train to get there. Can’t really expect a straightforward holiday these days, can you?!

On getting to our destination, we saw it wasn’t going to be so bad after all. The railway station at Horgen was bordered by the lake on one side and our hotel on the other. It was going to be okay after all.

We dumped our bags and went back to Zurich, in time to catch a guided tour of the Old Town at 3 pm. The guide was a batty old lady who didn’t liked being asked questions! To her credit though, she was full of information, in German and in English and we all enjoyed walking through the city and learning more about it.

This summer, Zurich has been invaded by Teddy Bears. As we were told often, there was no special significance to the 600 odd bears lined up in the streets, in every corner and even in the airport. It was a tourist attraction, just like the cows and the benches a few years ago. There were teddy bears of every hue, colour and description. Our favourite was a giant talking bear that spoke German. Mr R and I (and possibly every other traveller who heard him speak) couldn’t get enough of him and that bear was easily my favourite part of the trip!! We took a look at him atleast once each day that we were there!

Day 2 : Sunday morning and we are off on a nine hour tour to Mount Pilatus up in the clouds. At 9.30 we set off in a bus from Zurich, with a bunch of English, American and other assorted travellers. We pass by breathtaking hillsides, deer by the roadside and steep views that get all the cameras out. Nothing prepares us for the ride to the top though. We get off and take a cable car that ascends at a 48% gradient halfway to the top. We are lost in the clouds soon enough and visibility is zero. The little boy in the cable car with us wants to take some cloud back and put it in a bottle. His mother apologetically tells us that he has not yet grasped the concept of vapour and solids. I thought to myself that she should help him hold on to his innocence as long as he could, instead of apologising about his ignorance.

We reached Pilatus and found that the sun had not yet made an appearance. It wasn’t cold at all. Enveloped in cloud, we made our way to the top, bumping into hordes of Indians and Pakistanis on the way. Switzerland is the only country that allows people with UK residence permits to come in without a visa. Which is why there are so many Asians there – it’ the easiest place to go to without the hassle of queuing at an embassy to get your passport stamped. We were also told by our guide that the popularity of the Swiss mountains with Indian filmmakers was also a reason for the number of Asians around. I guess they all come to see the places where our heroes and heroines frolic in the snow and in the meadows in their skimpy outfits while the rest of the crew tries hard not to freeze!

We were taken down the mountain in a train – the world’s oldest cogwheel railway. The descent was steep and it was amazing how they must have built this railway so high in the mountains over a hundred years ago.

A boat ride took us back to Luzern where our bus was waiting to take us back to Zurich. It was a day well spent.

Day 3 : Monday morning and we had a leisurely breakfast content just not being at work. The café on the top floor of the hotel offered great views of the lake and we lingered there for a while. Breakfast done, we checked out, left our bags at the hotel and took the boat to Rapperswil at the other end of the lake. We had a few hours to spare before taking the flight back home.

Rapperswil is called the city of Roses because they have a rose festival during the summer and the gardens are lovely. Mr.R and I bumped into a nice man at the postoffice, who was a textile engineer once and travelled from Chandigarh to Madurai. We seem to be meeting a lot of people lately who have been to India at some point or the other. People on Rapperswil spoke English a lot better (and more willingly) than at the other places we were at. Mr.R’s German got us through in Zurich and throughout the trip. Thank goodness for that!!

In Rapperswil, we walked on the longest wooden bridge in Switzerland and then took a motorboat out on the lake. Mr.R was looking forward to more adventure sports I guess, but the time was just not enough to pack in more stuff. He had to be content with this, for now.

We were back by 9.30 UK time, spending a hectic weekend trying to see and do as much as we could. The bears will be gone soon and so will summer.

Today we had one of the hottest days yet in the UK – a 36 degrees C day that ended in thunder and lightning. Switzerland, on the other hand, stayed bright and sunny throughout, the waters lapping at the edge of the lakes onto the banks belying the devastation that ripped through earlier last week. Heidiland was everything I imagined, except for the warm weather and my lasting memories are one of bears, bells and clocks everywhere.

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