Sunday, November 14, 2010

And so then we got on a train...

Here and now, starts probably one of the most intense parts of the trip.  It involves a lot of taking the train, and a lot of bite-size tourist days.  Mostly, our days were pretty similar in schedule: wake up somewhere new.  Get off the train, go to the ticket office, and find out where we can go overnight that we haven't been to yet.  Book tickets.  Find the tourist office.  Ask our very simple question (what are the three things we absolutely MUST see in this place?) and discount any responses that involve churches or castles unless the info person is particularly enthused about them.  If we remember, ask them to translate our five words into whatever language is local.  Go off for the day, take pictures, try to remember to eat lunch.  Perhaps pick up a picnic dinner and breakfast for the next day.  Get on the train. Try to sleep.  Repeat.

We started out in Nesslau.  The community has half-price SBB day passes available to whoever calls in to ask for them in the morning, it seems, and the Wiederkehrs offered to do so for us.  We accepted, because otherwise rail travel ends up being rather pricy, and walked down to the community office with Selina to get them, after packing up all our things, and making sure we had everything we'd brought.  We left our last Tesco tent (did I mention we bought two tents at Tesco in the UK? £10 each.  They didn't leak or anything) with Selina, and headed on our way.  The day was enough to make us appreciate wholeheartedly how efficient the Swiss train system is.  The trains run around and about the entire country, and I swear every single community has a station.  They are always within 5 minutes of on time, and generally the connections are excellent.  They can also print up itineraries, complete with platform numbers, so you have all the information you should need BEFORE you get to the station, though you should always check that things haven't changed.  In any case.  We went from Nesslau to Geneva via Kandersteg.  This meant seven trains in the course of the day.  From Nesslau to Wil.  Wil to Zurich, Zurich to Bern, Bern to Spiez, Spiez to Kandersteg.  In Kandersteg (and all you scouts will see this one coming) we went to the International Scout Centre.

KISC gate

This is the gate for the campground side of the KISC.  Not a bad pioneering project...

I mean, really.  We had to.  It was the whole reason for GOING to Kandersteg.  And it was cool.  We got the tour of the place from someone who is usually a maintenance guy, but happened to be at the desk when we came in.  So we got probably different versions of things than normally would be presented, and that was pretty cool.  We didn't get the chance to see any of the dorms, because it was high season and they were all full, but we got a great tour of the grounds, and were generally happy scout nerds.

Kandersteg Lodge
The front of the Lodge.  The flags are all from this year, from groups who have stayed there.  There aren't enough spaces for all of them to be up.

After spending some money on the requisite souvenirs (Pretty sure I sent at least one Kandersteg postcard, though I can't remember to who) we got ourselves back on the train, to go back to Bern, and from Bern to Geneva.  Now, the original plan had been to pick up our Eurail passes that same day, and get on a train that night.  But when we go in to Geneva, it was about 20h00.  Everything was pretty much closed up for the night, and we were not going to be able to get on a train.  So instead, we spent the night at the HI in Geneva, which turned out to be a pretty good deal.  We got a decent night's sleep after a long day, and had a chance to regroup and made sure we knew what we wanted to do.

The next morning, we packed up, had breakfast, and left the hostel, armed with one-day local transit passes, included in the hostel stay, and went out in search of the Eurail office.  That ended up being slightly trickier than we expected.  We ended up at the airport office, and had a great chat with the SBB guy there, who understood ENTIRELY what our plans were (essentially, none) and pretty much got right into it.  He wanted to help us book our whole trip, then and there, but we only let him book us on one train, overnight from Geneva to Hamburg, and took itinerary suggestions for the next few days of travelling.  And then we spent the rest of the day hanging out in Geneva.  We went, and were refused entry to,


the UN headquarters (something about having huge-as packs... whoops) and took buses and trams.  We went to the WOSM headquarters and took the tour, and caught the interest of our tour guide, who, it later turned out, is the unit manager for Advocacy and Media.  The fact that we were trying to blog the trip, and that we're both Rovers, was clearly interesting, but I haven't heard anything since.  There are better, more scout-centric blogs on the internet, I'm sure.  This one just happens to be mine.

Door marker at WOSM HQ
This is the marker on the door for WOSM headquarters. It's about 2" square.

In any case.  In the evening, we caught the train from Geneva to Basel (which, it turns out, is at the very border of France, Germany, and Switzerland) where we would catch the overnight to Hamburg.  We found dinner, and tried to take pictures of the craziness that was the departures board in mid-change.  I'm pretty sure mine still need some editing to look the way I want them to, but that's ok.

Waiting to go to Germany

In any case, that's probably enough for now.  Up next, Hamburg, or The Germans Have No Imagination.

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