We’re nearly there…

Posted by on 8, May 2016 in 2016 - Cycle The Rhine, Europe, Switzerland, Tilly the Tandem

We’re nearly there…

We awoke in Zurich, having taken the night sleeper from Amsterdam, to be greeted by the fresh mountain air that is Switzerland. No, hang on, that’s not quite right. We got off the train to be greeted by a station that was so smokey it actually had a mist hanging over it. It stank of cigarettes and we almost felt we’d gone back go the 1970’s on some time train, but no, this is Switzerland which advertises it’s clean mountain air but greets you with smell like a stale ashtray.

A few days earlier we’d cycled from Orford to Harwich, got the night ferry and then cycled 75km onto Amsterdam the next day with 45 kilos of luggage (Cheddar weighs an awful lot you know). This was our first long cycle with our panniers and it went quite smoothly and wasn’t too bad, I’m not sure Switzerland and Germany will be quite so easy but I live in hope!

The train journey from Holland had been an adventure in itself with the previous train braking down so ours had 200 extra passengers trying to cram on and all the staff in hiding. We’d been told we had to reserve space for Tilly and present her to the guard for loading, but after patiently waiting whilst people jammed themselves into every nook and cranny dumping luggage anywhere they could we realised if we waited any longer the cycle van would be full of luggage and irate passengers with no seats. So, we thrust Tilly into the meleè pinging our bells and forcing a gap through the crowds till we got to a door.

We hoisted Tilly up and got stuck. Too many people behind to get out and so much luggage in the bike wagon that the previous bike was marooned 2 suitcases and a rucksack short of the parking places. No turning back now though so we held firm despite the protests behind us and Jon and the other bike owner jettisoned the offending luggage overboard (ok we moved it to one side but the intent was certainly there!)

Tilly naturally was far too long for the spaces so there then began a game of Bike Tetris until we found a solution that allowed us all to tie up our bikes securely and people to get by. Then another bike form the previous cancelled train arrived and we played Tetris once more.

By now the carriages were awash with people firmly refusing to back up to let others pass in the single corridor that ran down the side of the compartmented train, all with the super size suitcase and a look on their face that said “Go on, I dare you to ask me to back up” . They were mainly Germans, 6ft 6in and built should we say heftily, and so we stayed in our now secured safe zone of the bike carriage until an opening appeared when the conductor foolishly ventured out of his cabin. Linda legged it down the corridor to secure our cabin and I waited with the rest of our luggage until the crowd dispersed enough to squeeze through.

Our cabin was an oasis of calm amongst the Dunkirk like masses crammed into the seating carriages. People (quite rightly) didn’t look happy at the disorganised chaos of Amsterdam station. Our conductor eventually found us and wasn’t interested in our tickets for Tilly but did comment that Amsterdam had been quite good tonight and it often was far worse. The guy deserved a pay rise for his cheery attitude despite the bedlam.

So we slept through Germany and awoke in Zurich by which time we had the train to ourselves.

Tilly had to be shipped that evening to our nearest departure point for our Rhine Cycle, a town called Andermatt 800m below the top of the Oberalppass start point for us. It’s at 1400m and our train journey up to it the next day was beautiful and spectacular and just a huge bit worrying. The train went uphill all the way, so much so you could almost roll down the carriage, and we’d prebooked a first class ticket to take advantage of the panorama car. Absolutely gorgeous ride from a 25C Zurich to a 2C Andermatt. My sandals may have to go away again!

Tomorrow we collect Tilly from the station and go on to the top of the pass to set off on our cycle.

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