Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland & Sziget 2007’

Switzerland & Sziget 2007: looking back

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Well it’s already been almost two weeks since I got back, and now I’ve finally finished my writings. A selection of my pictures (and some movie clips) have been up for a while at http://picasaweb.google.com/edsuit/SwitzerlandSzigetFestival2007


Lucerne


up in the Alps (Jungfrau region)


Sziget festival

As you may have guessed, it was once again, amazing. Some random remarks:
– Switzerland is an awesome country. Of course, nature-wise it’s amazing, no doubt about that. But it also has some nice cities, and nice people. It’s also very interesting how it has German, French and Italian speaking parts (Romansch doesn’t really count), which all have a very different feel to them. Still they all have a Swiss identity.
It’s an excellent country to explore by public transportation. It’s not that big, so you can get to whatever next place you want to go to fast. Sometimes I wonder if there are any other countries where I would have liked to live if I didn’t live here. There aren’t a lot of ’em, but Switzerland can be added to the list. I felt kind of at home there.
– it didn’t feel as much as a ‘big thing’ as my trip to Scandinavia last year. I guess because it wasn’t a first time thing, and maybe because it lasted about a week shorter as well. It also felt more natural. Travelling by train combined with staying with people from CS and HC is definitely my thing.
– met some great people again, although I only stayed at three different places. For a while I was afraid that I wouldn’t find any hosts, but once again, CS and HC did not let me down.
– it was a great idea to finish my trip in Budapest and meet up with my friends there. It was something I could look forward to during the trip.
– music that mattered:
All Star United – s/t
Beastie Boys – Ill Communication
Beastie Boys – The Mix-up
The Ladybug Transistor – Can’t Wait Another Day
Django Reinhardt – The Discovery of Jazz
Elliot Smith – Either/or
Social Distortion – Sex, Love and Rock’n’roll

Switzerland & Sziget 2007: day 9-10

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Wednesday, 15 August
At about 4.30 I woke up because I had to go to the bathroom, and while I was getting out, Tim just arrived at the tent to go to bed. Nice timing.
The next morning everyone packed their stuff and we left the festival ground to head for the hostel. ‘We’ was reduced a group of 7 people, Tim, Josse, Marijke, Koen, Mendy, Bart and me. We would all take the plane home the next day, so we had another day to spend in Budapest.
I’d picked a cheap hostel in the city center. I only knew how to get there from the train station, but with the help of a map which indicated the public transportation lines, I figured out how to get there from the festival. Budapest has a good public transportation system. When we got to the street where it was supposed to be, I didn’t see a sign of the hostel or anything. And at the street number it was supposed to be on was just some old residential building. I asked around, people had never heard of it. Then we looked closer, and it turned out it was just a couple of rooms in the residential building. On the top floor of course. But it turned out to be a very cozy place, with only three bedrooms, a kitchen / breakfast room, good showers (which we were all very eager to try out) and friendly staff. Artnouveau Hostel, I can definitely recommend it. After taking a shower we set out the explore the city a bit. Had a couple of drinks, checked out the Buda riverside, and then had dinner at a restaurant on a pretty cool boulevard. After that everyone was pretty tired so we just went to bed.

Thursday, 16 August
We had to catch our plane at 10.45, so we had to get up pretty early. The night before we’d asked the hostel receptionist to call some cabs for us, to get to the airport. We could have gotten there by public transportation, but most people didn’t feel like that. Whichever was fine by me.
Our cab driver was pretty crazy, he really wanted to get there fast. Ignored some red lights, drove on the wrong side of the road for a bit, and everything fast of course. Although I couldn’t really approve of it, it sure was exciting and I must admit that it was kinda nice to get there so fast.
Got to the airport around 9 I guess, so very much on time. We were flying with WizzAir, which is a Hungarian airline I think. It was your average low cost airline, everything went just fine. The flight was pretty much filled with Dutch Sziget people, but only a couple of them were annoying. Arrived in Eindhoven around 12.45. The weather in our country was a bit of a bummer, cloudy and much colder than in sweet Budapest. We took a train home, some people got out in Breda, then the rest of us got to Dordrecht, where I took a bus back home, because I was too lazy to walk for 20 minutes.
And that was it. It was much better to get home this time than last summer. For one because it was during the day, and second because I’d just been hanging out with friends for a couple of days. And then it’s actually kind of nice to be alone again.
I’d taken off Friday as well, so I still had another 3.5 days to enjoy my vacation. Nice.

Switzerland & Sziget 2007: day 7 – 8

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Monday, 13 August
Woke up pretty early, Joris’ friend drove me to the supermarket, where I bought some bread, and then to the train station. I hadn’t gotten to know him very well, but he seemed like a cool guy. Well, he was actually, since he’d let me sleep at his place.
I took a train to Brig, which on the Glacier Express route, which is supposed to be the most spectacular train route is Switzerland. There is a special train, with panoramic windows (for real, not like the Golden Pass trains), and which goes straight on and doesn’t stop that often. But it would cost me 60 CHF; Interrail only got me a discount. So my plan was to take some regional trains, same route, just slower and some change overs. There didn’t seem to be any good connections when I got to Brig though, so I just went for the special Glacier Express train. I would come to regret that pretty soon. The train was packed, set up with 4 seats facing each other and a table in between, so not a lot of space. Besides that there were mostly old people sitting around me, who seemed like the ‘whiny’ kind of old people. The windows could not be opened, so it would be hard to take good pictures because of the reflection. And during the first part the scenery wasn’t all that spectacular (it was nice, but nothing I hadn’t seen already). Lame, yeah.
But after a while things got better. The train went up the Oberalp pass, up until about 2300 meters, and the scenery got pretty stunning. I got some good pictures and the people around me turned out to be ok. Later on, a lot of them got off and I got a lot more space. Then we passed through the ‘Swiss grand canyon’, a spectacular part of the Rhine valley. Very beautiful.
Around 2.30 pm I arrived in Chur. That evening I would take the night train to Budapest, leaving from Zürich at 10.40 pm. So I had about 8 hours to kill and a train pass to go anywhere. Just the way I like it. I turned to LP to see what I could do. I was pretty close to Liechtenstein, a tiny country about the size of Manhattan, locked between Switzerland and Austria. Just for the heck of it, so I could be a nerd and add another country to my list, I decided to go there. I went to Buchs, and two minutes later I got on a train to Austria/Liechtenstein. Got out at Schaan-Vaduz, took some pictures and got on a bus back to Buchs, and I was back at the train station in 15 minutes. Shortest trip to another country or what! Got some really nice falafel in Buchs, by the way.
Next part of the plan was to visit St. Gallen. It was on the way to Zürich, and it offers a UNESCO world heritage site; a complex consisting of a 16th century abbey library, one of the oldest in the world, and a cathedral. Unfortunately they were closed once I got there, but it was still a nice place to walk and sit around. St. Gallen also has a nice old town. Spent an hour or two there reading, before leaving for Zürich.
There I spent my last CHF coins on a huge pretzel with cheese. Unfortunately the IKEA corner was gone, so I had to eat it somewhere else. A bit later I got on the night train to Budapest. I only got a chair this time; it was almost the end of my trip, and I didn’t care that much about getting a good night’s sleep. And besides, a couchette was no guarantee for that anyway. There were no lights in my carriage, but who needs lights on a night train? Later they fixed it.
Fortunately it wasn’t crowded at all, so plenty of space. I got to my seat and there was a Swiss girl sitting across of me. She said hi, asked if I was going to sit there, and said “That’s great, then you can help me getting my bags up”. But she said all of this in kind of a spontaneous way, like she was really glad to see me or something, and she seemed pretty cute, so I figured I’d found a cool companion for this ride. But then I sat down and she didn’t say anything, and neither did I. I could have, but I thought I didn’t really care, or pretended I didn’t. Then after an awkwaaaard moment (at least to me), she put on her music and then I did too. Later she started talking to a Swiss guy in the seats next to us, and they turned out to be from the same city, neighborhood, street or whatever and she moved over to his side. They kept talking, and a couple of hours later they were kissing. Go figure! Well at least I had more space now. I actually got some hours of sleep, spread over the night, it wasn’t that bad at all.

Tuesday, 14 August
The train had to take a different route because of the construction work going on in Austria and when the train left they’d announced there would a 60 minute delay. But on the way it seemed we were making some long stops, and the next morning, at some station in Germany or Austria, I saw a sign saying the train had a 90 minutes delay. Whoopee. In Vienna the train ‘changed’ into a regular InterCity, and I asked the conductor what time we would arrive in Budapest. 12:48 is what he told me, which was the planned time on my ticket. I guess the delay was calculated in the time of arrival. Nice.
The Hungarian landscapes were not too pretty, it’s all pretty flat. Although, as I got closer to Budapest, it got a bit more interesting. Entering Budapest was pretty exciting as well. It just felt good to be back, after being there in both 2004 and 2005. The first experiences there were not too great though. I wanted to get some Hungarian forints, so I went to the Western Union office there, you’d say that would be trustworthy, right? Changing some Swiss francs was no problem, but getting some extra money with me credit card was a whole different story. They also needed my passport and they could only charge me in dollars. Well, ok. Then this guy with some sort of VIP pass just ‘jumped’ in front of me and was helped first, while I wasn’t even done yet. In the meantime he introduced himself and tried to have a conversation with me in English/German/Hungarian, that was kinda funny. When he was gone, the lady in the booth gave me a key, which I needed to open a small cabinet which held the machine where I had to enter my PIN. I closed it, and gave the key back. Then she held my passport and credit card in front of a security camera for a while, and she wrote down all the data of the transaction, including my credit card number on paper. Then I finally got my money. Riiight..
Next I got on the bus, it was standing in the wrong direction, but I remembered that at the station it would make a turn and then went the right way. But it didn’t, and it took a long time before I could finally get off. Welcome in Budapest. I was thinking that I wouldn’t like to travel out here on my own (and that probably goes for any country in Eastern Europe), probably mostly because I don’t speak the language, and not a lot of people speak English.
I was glad that I knew my way around the city somewhat, so I knew which way I had to go. After some time I got to the Óbudai island, where the festival takes place, and I met up with Tim and Josse. Pretty awesome to meet my friends, so far away from home! The plan was to sleep in Tim’s tent that night, but I had some troubles getting on the campsite. The rule was that day visitors had to have at least two day tickets to enter the site. But this was the last day, so that meant I had no ‘legal’ way of getting there. After arguing with the guard for some time (thanks to Tim), he let me enter, if I promised not to tell anyone, ha.
So, it was great to be back at Sziget. It is an awesome festival, something you have to experience at least one time in your life. But I’d done that two times already, and I was really glad that I’d decided to spend more time in Switzerland and visit Sziget for only one day. It was just perfect like this.
There were some more friends and people I knew, great to see them as well. The rest of the day/night I just spent hanging around at the festival, checking everything out, watching some bands and eating food. Nothing like trying out different types of food and not caring about health for a day. I saw The Eagles Of Death Metal play, but I thought they sucked. Josh Homme wasn’t even there. Then The Motion Trio, which was three guys all playing accordion. Awesome! And finally the headliner for tonight, The Killers. Hadn’t really expected anything from that show, but they were actually good. By then, it must have been 12 or something, people in our group started going to bed. They’d had a killer week. I went on for a while, with Tim and Marijke, at the drum’n’bass tent.
It didn’t take too long before I was done with it as well, and I decided to head to bed. I guess it was 1.30 or something. I’d found a gap between some of the fences surrounding the campsite, so it was easy to get in. At the main entrance they were still checking the people walking in, haha. It was relatively quiet around our tents so that was nice.

Switzerland & Sziget 2007: day 6

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Sunday, 12 August
Had breakfast with Kathrin and then said goodbye. Once again it had been a great CS experience. She and her sister had been very nice and hospitable to me and they were just cool in general.
I walked to the train station, in the sun, with only some thin “morning clouds” in the sky, and Interlaken looked really great on this quiet Sunday morning, located in between the mountains. Today I would be travelling to Sion, via Montreux, so entering the French speaking part of Switzerland again. I took the slow, scenic route from Interlaken to Montreux through the mountains, with regional trains. A beautiful route, with not a lot of peopl, music, sunshine and open windows.
When I got to Montreux, the architecture, the scenery, the weather and of course the language made me feel like I’d arrived in France. The city looked beautiful in this weather, by lake Geneva, which was also nice to see again. The call the coastline between Montreux and Lausanne the Swiss Riveira, now I could see why. I took the train to Sion, where things got even more ‘French’, because of all the vineyards they had there. A guy from Hospitality Club had said he could show me around town, I could have dinner at his parents’ house, and then spend the night at a friend’s place. Sounded good enough to me. I had no idea what he would look like, but I’d given him a short description of myself. At the station I saw someone who I figured would be him, and I was right. Usually I’ve got some kind of feeling about it when I see someone, and so far it has always proven to be correct. The guy introduced himself as Joris, with a heavy French accent, but his English was pretty good. He had a car with him and drove me to a couple of places around town; a bar up the mountains with a great view over the city / vallery, a lake where we had a drink with a friend of his and Sion’s old town center. His friend had just come back from Amsterdam and some other places, and when I asked if he liked it, he bluntly answered: no! That’s probably the first time I’ve heard a foreigner say that about Amsterdam, haha. He wasn’t very good at English, but with the help of Joris, and my small understanding of French, we managed to have a decent conversation.
In the evening, Joris took me to his parents’ place, where he also lived at the moment, and we had dinner. His dad was a professional cook, so it was definitely the best dinner I’d had so far. I was wondering why I couldn’t stay here for the night; his brother was gone so they had a spare room, and his parents seemed very hospitable. But I had another place to stay, so it didn’t matter.
After dinner we went ‘downtown’ (Sion is not that big). That night there was some sort of light show planned, sounded good to me. At a bar we met up with another friend of Joris, the one that I would be staying with. I didn’t catch his name, and I still don’t know it.. haha. The show started at the city hall, lights in the pavement led us (and some other people) from one place to the next one, and at each place they’d nicely lit up one or several buildings. This went on until we got up the hill of the Tourbillon castle. Sion is located in a valley, but there are two seperate, steep hills in the middle of town, and each one has a castle on it. From the hill we could see both of the castles, and there was the climax of the show, with music, a narrator telling a story (in French, probably about the history of the castles and Sion), and spectacular lighting on the buildings that changed with the music. It was a cool experience, although not 10-million-euro cool (that’s the amount of money that had been made available to create the show, so I heard). Afterwards we went to Joris’ friend’s place, and hung out there for a while before going to bed. I said goodbye to Joris, I wouldn’t see him anymore because I was planning to leave early the next morning. He’d been a great ‘host’, with some interesting stories. He had travelled South and Central America, and besides his study he worked for the UN, trying to raise money for a development project in the Amazone.
The apartment was pretty big. The guy’s parents had lived there, but they’d moved to Lausanne and hadn’t sold it yet, so he could live there for a while.
I got a room for myself, with a ‘fully equiped’ mattress, so that was great.

Switzerland & Sziget 2007: day 5

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Saturday, 11 August
Got up at 8.30 and left for the Jungfrau Region. This is an area in the Alps, south of Interlaken, and it’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful parts of Switzerland. I had all day to spend there and I figured this was probably going to be the best part of my trip. I took a bus to Wilderswil and then a train to Grindelwald, one of the main towns in the region. Lots of tourists there, but a good place to start exploring the area. On the way to Grindelwald things were starting to look like the Switzerland that everybody knows, especially with the high mountains with snow covered tops. Lucerne and the Golden Pass route had been beautiful, but this was something else.
The location of Grindelwald was awesome already, in a valley between Alpine mountains. Makes one feel really small. First thing I did was take an 1.5 hour walk to the Oberer-Grindelwald Gletscher (glacier). It was a nice and quiet route, a bit tough. Near the glacier they’d built a steep, wooden stairs with 890 steps, so you could get close to the glacier. Got some good views along the way. If I would have been there a couple of years earlier, I could have touched the glacier at the top, but nowadays it has shrunk so that can only see a small part of it in the distance. They had built a suspended bridge over a small canyon, it was pretty cool. So all in all it was worth it.
When I got down, my legs were shaking, I hadn’t rested since I left Grindelwald. But now there was some time for that, because I had to wait for the bus that would take me back to the town. Back in Grindelwald I walked down to Grindelwald Grund, a lower part of town, as the name suggests. There I took a cable car up to Männlichen, at 2200+ meters high. Kathrin had recommended it as a good place to start hiking. So I walked from there to Kleine Scheidegg, a small settlement with a train station. I got beautiful views over Grindelwald in the valley and over other mountains. There was some snow up here, and lots of cows with bells around their necks. So all the time while walking you heard those bells, and I just thought it was hilarious; the cows with their expressionless faces, making that noise. Along the way I also ran into a small herd of goats, which were walking the trail in opposite direction, without someone to herd them or anything. It took about 1.5 hour to do the trail and it was probably the most beautiful one I’ve ever done. It was just one awesome view after another. By the way, the weather was pretty good. It was somewhat clouded, but I got quite a bit of sun.
From Kleine Scheidegg you can take a train up to Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe, at about 3500m. I thought about taking it, but it cost 104 CHF and it looked kinda clouded up there, so I didn’t go for it. Instead I took a (cogwheel) train to Lauterbrunnen. This guy in traditional Swiss clothing, carrying an Alphorn (in 2 pieces) got on the train, and in Lauterbrunnen he set his horn up and started playing. Pretty awesome, haha!
Late afternoon I got back to Kathrin’s place and hung out there for a while. Now I still didn’t have a reservation for a train to Budapest. First I’d wanted to go via Feldkirch in Austria, and then cross the whole country, but there was some construction work going on there, so that wasn’t possible. So I’d booked a seat on the night train from München, but since the system in The Netherlands was broken, I hadn’t been able to collect it, so I didn’t have anything. Kathrin told me there was also a direct train from Zürich, and since worked for the main Swiss rail company, she’d been able to make a reservation for me that day. Another ‘problem’ taken care of!
That night, she had to work at the Tell-Freilichtspiele. Every summer from June through September in Interlaken, a group of (mostly local) volunteers performs the story of the Swiss ‘historical hero’ Wilhelm Tell. Kathrin sometimes volunteered there by showing people their seats, and she could take people along for free, so she asked me to come along. Sounded pretty cool to me, so I went for it. They had built a ‘live set’ with real houses on a hill, just for the show, it wasn’t used for anything else. For the visitors they had a big, covered seating area and Kathrin said it was filled for about 2/3 most of the time. Pretty impressive when you realize that they’ve been performing the same piece (with minor modifications) for almost a 100 years, about 20 times per summer. The play started with cows and goats coming down from ‘the mountains’ into ‘the village’, with people greeting them. I liked that a lot, since I’d seen those animals myself, up in the mountains earlier that day. The play went on and it was really good. During the first half, Kathrin had to translate a bunch of things for me, but after that I could understand most of it (it was in ‘regular’ German, not Swiss German). All the actors did a really good job. It’s just a hobby for them, none of them have been to acting school or anything.
Back at the house I had some good talks with Kathrin about jobs, church (turns out she and her sister were Christians as well) and just life in general, it was nice.

Switzerland & Sziget 2007: day 2 – 4

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Wednesday, 8 August (part 2)
At 8 pm I took the train to Lucerne. At some place not too far from there, the train made a pretty long stop, and then they announced that the train would no go further, because part of the tracks were flooded. Yay… But pretty soon a bus came that took me and the other passengers to the next station, Rotkriez, from where we could take the train to Lucerne. From there it was another short train ride to Littau, where Stephanie, my host for tonight, lived. But she had messaged me that I could better take a cab and she would pay for it. I didn’t want her to do that, but I took a cab anyway and paid for it myself, because I just wanted to get there quick. The radio was on and they were naming all these places that were troubled with the floods, including Littau and Grindelwald, a place I was planning to visit later on. So for a while I was thinking about just leaving Switzerland and go to Italy or something. The cab couldn’t take me all the way, because a road was closed, so I walked to last part to the Littau train station. There, Stephanie and two of her friends picked me up and I finally got to the house. The house was quite old and the style was very similar to old houses in the former DDR (my aunt and uncle, who have moved there, used to live in the same type of house), so it looked pretty familiar. I hung out with Stephanie’s friends for a while, because she had to take care of some things. They were staying over, because it was kinda hard for them to get home in these circumstances. Pretty soon we went to bed; I didn’t mind, because I could use a good night’s sleep. I got my own room with a king size air bed with pillows and blankets and everything. Nice.

Thursday, 9 August
Woke up and it was raining still. I checked the weather forecasts, and it seemed like it was going to get better, so I decided to just stick to my plan (and not leave Switzerland), except that I would probably just stay in today, or check Lucerne out for a bit.
I had some brunch with Stephanie. She actually used to live in Dordrecht; for about 6 months in 2006 she worked there as an au pair. Talk about coincidence? She was also a vegetarian, liked good music, she knew a lot of famous people and a christian. So we had enough to talk about.
Early in the afternoon it stopped raining and I headed to Lucerne. Once there, I decided to take a boat trip across Lake Luzern. It was pretty nice, and I got some good views. In Vitznau I got off and walked up the mountain a bit to get some more views. Took the boat back to Lucerne and walked around town a bit. Nice place, pretty old buildings. So in the end I’d actually been able to do what I wanted to, cool!
At 5.30 I got back to Littau, where I spent the rest of the evening. I read for some time, talked to Stephanie while she was making bread (for me to take along!), watched Goodbye Lenin! (great movie, even better in the setting of this house) and ate pizza. Then another girl who lived there, Angela, joined us for a while and I was pursued to play some Beatles songs on the guitar. It was a fun and relaxed night.

Friday, 10 August
I woke up with a clear blue sky, wow! Had breakfast with Stephanie and then said goodbye. She’d been one of the best hosts ever, and besides that it had also been fun hanging out. I took the train to Lucerne, where I got on the Golden Pass panoramic train to Meiringen. I don’t really know why they call it ‘panoramic’, because it wasn’t in any way more panoramic than the regular trains on that line, but whatever. I guess it was more about the route than the train itself. And the route was definitely ‘golden’. Although it had gotten a bit cloudy, the weather was still great, with quite a lot of sun.
I wanted to go to Meiringen, because from there you can get to the Trift Brücke (bridge), the highest pedestrian bridge in the world, over the melting water of the Trift Glacier. At the train station I asked how to get there, but the man in the booth said it was too late to go there today. I figured I’d go see for myself. First I had to take a small ‘special’ train and then a postal service bus. Switzerland’s bus network is mostly run by the postal service. Back in the day, people started riding along with postal service cars, because they were going to all these hard-to-get-to places anyway. More people started doing this, they got bigger buses, etc. And to this day, the bus drivers sometimes deliver mail and groceries to houses in secluded area’s. Once at the cable car station, the lady there also told me that it was getting pretty late to go up (by now it was 12.15). To get to the bridge, you had to take the cable car, and then walk for 1.5 hours. And back of course. The last cable car would go back at 4. I guess I could have pulled it off, but it didn’t seem like a great idea. I realized I’d just made a miscalculation. Oh well, it’d still been a nice ride to get here.
I turned to LP to see what else there was to do around here. At 6.15 pm I’d have to be in Interlaken, so I still had about 5 hours to kill. I took a train to Brienz, which was supposed to be located pretty nicely by a lake (Lake Brienz). It was a nice place indeed, and I just sat there eating, writing and listening to music for a while. The sky had pretty much clouded up by now, and by the time I left there it was raining a tiny bit. I got on the train to Thun. I passed Interlaken on the way, but I went on because I still had some time left, and Thun was supposed to be a worth seeing, as well as the route that led to it. I got some good views over Lake Thun and various towns along the coast. Once in Thun I took the first train back, because I actually didn’t feel much like checking the town out.
Tonight I would meet up with Kathrin, my host for Interlaken, at the Interlaken West train station, only a couple of minutes after she’d off from work. So I figured she worked there. I got there early and I saw a girl selling train tickets who looked a lot like the picture I’d seen, so I figured that would be her. Went to a supermarket (finally) and then met Kathrin. Turns out she’d already seen me as well. We drove to her house, which was actually in Matten, a small town attached to Interlaken. She lived in an apartment with her sister (Kimberly), which was located in the same house her dad and granddad lived in, but they all lived in separate parts. It looked typically Swiss, with pretty much everything made of wood.
Spent the evening hanging out there, eating dinner, taking a drive around town, and checking some things online. I’d received a message from someone in Sion who could fix a place to stay for me, so that was taken care of. Went to bed pretty early.

Switzerland & Sziget 2007: day 1 – 2

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

Date: Wednesday, 8 August
Time: 9:00 / 19:30
Location: train from Basel to Geneva / Zürich train station

Tuesday, 7 August
So here I am, just past the start of another journey. It’s been a bit hectic so far. On Monday and Tuesday I had to work, and also had some some people to stay over: Ane from Norway (I stayed with her last last year) and her friend Tryggvi from Iceland. They were hitchhiking together. So that was fun, but I didn’t have a lot of time for packing and stuff. Tuesday afternoon I went out to the stores to get some stuff for my trip, and in one store I saw a newsflash about the bad weather and floods in some parts of Switzerland.. ok, great.
Nonetheless I left the house around 5.40 pm to catch the bus, realised I had forgotten something so went back again, missed the bus, and then decided to walk to the train station. Got to Utrecht almost two hours before my night train would leave, because I had to pick up some seat reservations. Turns out the computer system was down and they could not print ’em out. But I was told that the train staff would know about it, so it should work out. I went on to get some Swiss francs and Hungarian forints, but there were no more forints in stock (I bet all the people going to Sziget took them). I got some fries for dinner, possibly some of the worst I’ve ever had. After all of this I still had to wait for an hour and 15 minutes.. yeah I sure was off to a great start…
Once on the train I asked several people what I had to do. The train manager had no idea about the system breakdown and for a while I got the idea that I might have to spend the night on the floor. But then he said I should go see the steward in the sleeping carriages, who could probably help me out. The steward was very nice and helpful and got me my place. I sure was happy about that, especially because I hadn’t slept well the night before. I was sharing a couchette with five Koreans, who were pretty nice and quiet. The train, part of the CityNightLine, looked pretty fancy compared to the Berlin Night Express train I took last year. But the beds weren’t that great.. I figured I’d get a good amount of sleep anyway, since I was pretty tired. First I listened to some Social Distortion and Bouncing Souls songs, while lying on my bed, with the window open and the sky turning dark. Nice.

Wednesday, 8 August
Too bad, I was wrong, again I didn’t get much sleep. Better luck tonight.
Right now I’m cruising Switzerland and it looks pretty good already, even though I’m still up north (so not in the Alps). It’s clouded, but not raining. I’m going to check out Geneva for a couple of hours, and then probably Lausanne or Bern.. depends which looks best from the train station. The trains are pretty nice here and people seem to speak English well. See ya.

(later that day..)
After a while I was riding along Lake Geneva, what an amazing sight! I got to Geneva at 10.15 and headed into town. I decided to do the LP (Lonely Planet) walking tour. The city has a great location, at the end of the lake, partly up against some hills. I spent a couple of hours walking around by the lakeside and through the old town. I liked it quite a lot; definitely a city worth visiting. I left at 1.30 and by then it had started raining. I took the train to Lausanne to see if I could get some nice sights there (it’s also located by the lake, up against some hills). But once there it had started pouring, so I figured I’d move on to Bern to see if things were better over there. Negative. I went into town a bit anyway, to look for a supermarket and a cheap umbrella. Only found the latter. “Well, maybe the weather is better in Zürich”, so I took a train to Switzerland’s biggest city. But alas, here it was pooring as well. I figured I wanted to check something out anyway, so I just did a part of the LP walking tour. Zürich is also a very nice city, but despite my umbrella and my TPG Post coat, I was still getting pretty wet. Couldn’t find a supermarket here either.
So now I’m back at the train station, where they have set up a big spot with about 20 IKEA couches, for people to relax on. Nice going, IKEA! Of course it’s probably some big promotional stunt (they are handing out brochures), but I don’t care, I’m sitting on a nice big couch in the middle of a train station.
I’m off to Luzern in a bit, adios.

leaving for Central Europe

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Tonight I’m leaving on an InterRail trip to Switzerland and the Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary.

The plan:

7/8 – take a train to Utrecht in the evening. In Utrecht, take the night train to Geneva, Switzerland.
8/8 – check out Geneva and Lausanne, Bern or Zürich. End up in Lucerne and spend the night there.
9/8 – stay in Lucerne and check out the city, Lake Lucerne and the surrounding mountains.
10/8 – leave Lucerne, visit the Trift Glacier, end up in Interlaken and spend the night there.
11/8 – take a train through the Jungfrau Region, stop in Grindelwald for some hiking. Back to Interlaken in the evening.
12/8 – leave Interlaken take a train to Sion via Montreux. Check out Sion and spend the night there.
13/8 – leave Sion and get on the Glacier Express to Chur. Check out Chur or take a short trainride to anywhere. Head for München, Germany in the evening, from there take a night train to Budapest, Hungary.
14/8 – arrive in Budapest in the morning, meet up with friends at the Sziget Festival and spend the rest of the day/night there.
15/8 – spend the day/night in Budapest with friends.
16/8 – take a plane back to Amsterdam and then a train home to Dordrecht

See you in a week and a bit. I will try to update my journal as I go along.