A non-walking tour to Switzerland – Day 6, Zermatt home to Brussels

  • 592 km as the crow flies
  • walk-train-train-train-train-taxi
  • 46 kph door to door
  • 72 eurocents/km
  • 6076 steps

To avoid the train strikes in France we came back home from Switzerland via Germany. It was a soft misty journey.

castle Rhine train Basel-Cologne 518 3.JPG

It wasn’t cheap or quick. There was a great stretch in the middle, along the Rhine, though with castles galore.

Setting off from Zermatt we changed in Visp, Basel and Cologne. I hoped to get Saturday’s newspaper in Visp and Sunday’s in Cologne but no dice (unless we wanted the well-distributed Sunday Mail): we found Saturday’s Times in Basel and that was that.

man axe Basel station 518.JPG

At Basel we remembered a hot end-of-summer afternoon a few years ago, changing trains on the way back from Croatia. The café above the tracks wouldn’t take plastic. We had to change money to buy a couple of highly-priced Swiss beers. (At least we remembered to bring the coins that were left over with us on this trip.) This time there was a man with a cardboard axe.

The train we took onwards from Basel to Cologne was run by SBB, the Swiss national operator. It was going all the way to Hamburg Altona. I wonder if its Swissness explained the absence of friction at the border (unlike when we crossed the other way, coming from France).

There’s an odd-shaped bit of Switzerland north of the Rhine and then you’re in Germany; the only obvious difference in these old railway and industrial lands is that the abbreviation for Bahnhof changes from Bf to Bhf.

dining car train Basel-Cologne 518.JPG

Do buffet cars vary more between trains than ordinary passenger carriages do? This one had white table cloths and a mixture of square two-seater and semicircular six-seater tables. I ate pasta arrabbiata and drank Fendant white wine again. Just as they say, the wine we drank on holiday didn’t taste as good outside its home country. I blame the pasta.

cathedral Cologne 518.JPG

At Cologne station there is usually time to go out and have a look at the cathedral.

Cologne station 518 3.JPG

Like other big city, like Paris’s Gare du Nord on the way out, the structures near the station are interesting to look at.

Our last leg was an ICE train from Cologne to Brussels. We went to the buffet car again. My travelling companion and I sat opposite each other. What can I serve you? I spoke up (in my poor German) on both our behalves – and was reprimanded, let the lady speak first. Later, our order came. Move your laptop, Sir! This is your half of the table, that is hers.

Two Englishmen on their way to Aachen talked nearby. This countryside would be identical to England, I wouldn’t know where I was. Yes, except for the hedges. And the sheep.

Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

One thought on “A non-walking tour to Switzerland – Day 6, Zermatt home to Brussels”

  1. You are correct about using spare time between trains to view the cathedral at Cologne, whose size and all-round impressiveness is hard to capture in a photo. But there are competing attractions. On my first visit to Cologne station in 1973, a group of us got off a train from Ostend to catch one to Krefeld and Dusseldorf to begin a German exchange with our teacher Mr Matthews (known as Stan). He led us 4 intrepid students into the long underpass under the tracks (a feature of German stations, which are rarely terminuses like British stations but usually have trains entering and leaving both ends – what is the opposite of a terminus station?) to a sausage stand where he bought us delicious Frankfurters and enthused about German sausages. I have been back there many times since, with a sausage usually taking priority over the cathedral if there is not time to do both.


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