Posts Tagged ‘lakes’

Sunday 22nd July 2012:

Zurich was settled around 7,000 years ago on the banks of a river in a valley banked on either side by woods. Today a large part of the woods on those hills is still there but the river, fed by the clear waters of the Zurich-see (the Lake of Zurich) now courses its way through a thriving, global city – one of the world’s largest financial centres and a city that mixes it’s history with modernity very well.

Part of the old town of Zurich on the banks of the Limmat River with wooded hills behind. (Photo by A. for jtdytravels)

Zurich not only cherishes its history but looks also very much to the future.  It is now among the world leaders in protecting the climate. In November 2008, the people of Zurich voted to write into law that by the year 2050 the city would be down to a production of just one tonne of CO2 per person per annum… even if that means higher costs for everyone.  As part of this mission, they continue to develop their already excellent public transport system, including the enlargement of their ‘bicycle only’ network and an increasing interest in research into renewable energy.

One of the many iconic blue and white Zurich trams.

Large numbers of residents as well as visitors use the trams in this well connected system to get around Zurich. Less able and wheelchair passengers are well catered with special areas designated for them to board the trams … and we noticed the driver getting out to assist them on and off the tram.

Tickets purchased are valid on all forms of transport so it’s a hop-on-hop off system using trains, trams, buses and trolley buses as well as lake boats, funicular railways and some cable cars. We were very impressed by the reliability, cleanliness, efficiency, feeling of personal safety and choices available – and we really put it to the test!

To make the most of this system, we bought a four day, 1st Class Swiss Pass for two seniors. The only stipulation was that we had to travel together and have our passports with us for verification at all times… though that was never asked for. We were always treated like welcome guests. It was all so easy. There were no worries about buying individual tickets during the day and we went where we wanted to, when we wanted to, on our choice of transport, because the whole system dove-tails together so beautifully. And the train web site www.sbb.ch helped us to plan each day – times, platform numbers, station stops etc. And each station or halt has timetables clearly shown. Rail stations have charts showing where each class of carriage will stop on the platform in relation to the engine.

Day one of our pass started as soon as we arrived at Zurich airport. We off-loaded our bags into our room at the Radisson Blu within the airport (it was a great hub for us) and set off to explore.  Zurich Airport has its own underground railway station, connecting it directly to the CBD of Zurich and most of the major Swiss cities.

The best way to enjoy the Zurichsee is from the water on one of the many boats like this motor vessel the Pfannenstiel..

We took the first available train into Zurich (they run every few minutes from the airport) and then a tram to the waterfront of the Zurich-see.  From there, the Zurichsee-Schifffartsgesellschaft (the ZSG) operates boats not just for relaxing cruises but that also connect many of the towns along both sides of the lake. There is a car/passenger ferry that crosses the lake between Horgen and Meilin ( half way down) but there are no bridges until Rapperswil.

‘Were we prepared for a four hour ride?’ we were asked.  YES! YES! YES!  After a very early morning start and flights from Dublin and London including a chaotic time getting from Terminal 1 to Terminal 5 at Heathrow and surviving the crush of people arriving there for the Olympics…. YES we were more than ready to sit quietly on a boat and enjoy the view for four hours – and enjoy an evening meal along the way!  This was to be a round trip from Zurich at one end of the lake to Rapperswil at the other end – and back – calling at many of the villages named on the map.

Map of Zurich-see with Zurich (top left) and Rapperswil (bottom right).

At its widest the Zurich-see is 3 km across and its maximum depth is 143 m – not as deep as some of the Swiss lakes in more mountainous regions, but still too deep to easily touch the bottom! The average depth is 49m of very clear, glacial water. The only bridge is at the far eastern end at Rapperswil.  A regular car/ passenger ferry crosses between Horgen and Meilin.  The small, but ever growing, villages are serviced by trains that run regularly down each side of the lake as well as passenger vessels like ours that ply the waters every day of the year.

New and old architecture along the banks of the lake with the wooded hills behind.

It’s good to see that, as the city spreads out along the lake, the woodlands on the hills above have been retained.

Vineyards and farms disappear as more and more apartments are built.

As Zurich grows and spreads itself further and further along the lake, new low rise apartment blocks are taking the place of farms and vineyards. We wonder how these flat roof buildings deal with the weight of winter snow!

A lazy sailing day. (Photo by A. for jtdytravels)

The further down the lake you sail, the more often vineyards still form the backdrop to a lazy afternoon’s sail.

Some scenes have not changed.

Zurich is not very far from the Alps which make a perfect backdrop for many a peaceful scene along the lake.

An old Church – and a modern crane.

A common sight these days in Swiss villages is the sight of a crane dominating the skyline. Switzerland seems to be in something of a building frenzy.

Typical old style house and farm architecture.

There are still a few places along the lakeside that have not been changed by the addition of modern architecture. The steeply sloped roofs with attics in the roofs are designed to deal with heavy winter snow falls.

Village church (Photo by A. for jtdytravels)

The afternoon light makes a great play of light and shade on this old village church.

Paddle steamer, “Stadt Rapperswil”, built in 1914 and still going strong.

There’s nothing quite like a pleasant afternoon lake cruise on an old paddlewheel steamer on a sunny afternoon.

More farms, fewer houses towards the end of the lake – getting closer to the Alps.

The Zurich-see is formed at this its eastern end by waters from the River Linth which rises in the glaciers of the mountains in Canton Glarus. In 1811, the Linth was diverted through the Escher Canal into Lake Walen – a small lake further east from Rapperswil. Another canal, named the Linth, was completed in 1816 to divert the waters into the Zurichsee here at Rapperswil.  A bridge now crosses at this point. There are no other bridges on the lake. At the Zurich end of the lake, 40 kms away, the waters flow on as the Limmat River.

A small island surrounded by reeds.

This is one of two small islands at the Rapperswil end of the Zurich-see.

The Capuchin Friary, Rapperswil

First established in 1606, this Capuchin Friary originally consisted of a community of just four priests and three brothers. It was built by the citizens of this area as a Roman Catholic answer to the Swiss Reformation that had been led by Zwingli in Zurich in the 1520s. The buildings of this monastery, still in use today, were fortified in 1662, becoming part of the walls of the growing town of Rapperswil.

The medieval town of Rapperswil dominated by its Schloss.

The town of Rapperswil is overlooked by its castle, perched high on a rocky hill.  With a history going back to 1229, the main castle was destroyed by the mayor of Zurich, Rudolf Brun, in 1350.  It was rebuilt by The Duke of Austria, Albrecht ll, in 1352/54 and it has dominated this town ever since. In 1870 it was restored by a Polish Count, Wladystaw Broel-Plater, and became a Polish National Museum, created for and by Polish emigrants.

The town has many medieval alleys. It’s a pity we didn’t have time to stroll there on this sunny afternoon and enjoy the rose gardens that give this town the  title ‘Rosenstadt’. Over 600 different kinds of roses are grown here.

Rapperswil in the late afternoon light.

Looking back over the bay of Kempraten to the hills beyond, old Rapperswil gleamed in the late afternoon sunshine.

This was the first sunny day in Zurich for a month – but clouds threatened again to spoil the Swiss summer holidays.

Fountain of Meilen at sunset.

By the time we had sailed half way back up the lake, the sun began to set, turning the fountain at the ferry port at Meilin into a shower of gold.

Sunset strip!

One of my favourite memories of Switzerland’s lakes is of the beautiful golden strip made by the sun just before it slips below the horizon.  I was not disappointed.

Looking back down the lake towards the Alps at dusk.

It’s a wonderful time to be out sailing as the dusk settles over a lake and lights begin to twinkle. It’s so peaceful.

As the whole scene turned to gold, the contrails of many planes merged in the sky over busy Kloten Airport.

And that’s where we headed back to, in the dark, via tram and train, to find our beds at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

It had been an absolutely magical afternoon on Zurich-see.

J and A

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Nagin Lake looked absolutely stunning in the morning light – perfectly still with perfect reflections.

I did not look forward to leaving this idyllic location to go on the long, all day drive to Gulmarg with D and Mr B.  That, I reasoned, would have involved a lot of loud talking by Mr B., a long and bumpy road trip, a rather long walk or a horse ride and a ride up a gondola that would go too high for me to be able to breathe properly.  And who knew where the ‘loo’ stops would be. That important part of daily planning did not seem to be on Mr B’s list of considerations at all. So I wisely decided to stay on the boat and enjoy the beauty that was right there, all around me. I had the houseboat to myself on a glorious sunny morning; life was indeed good. Not only was the view delightful but there were lots of birds to watch.

A lone heron kept me company.  He stood on one of the mooring ropes, quietly gazing at the view, just as I was doing.

A magnificent eagle, its call like that of a ‘whistling kite’, soared backwards and forwards across the water in front of the house boat.  At times he seemed to be moving and gliding in perfect time with the Mozart piano concerto that I was enjoying through my headphones.

A black and white kingfisher fished from a perch on the next houseboat. It flew high above the water, flapped its wings at a great rate as it hovered before darting straight down into the water for its catch.

A tiny bright blue kingfisher darted back and forth as it skimmed the water for food.

A large group of pigeons cooed from the roof of the next houseboat.

Small ducks dabbled happily in the weeds that are beginning to choke the lake front.

And of course there were a few hawkers that I had to dissuade from trying to sell me their wares.

And out on the lake there were a few ‘shikaras’, perfectly reflected in the still waters.

That was my morning. Perfect.


And it seemed that it was perfect for others, too.

One or two shikaras glided over the water – and the guests on board seemed to be very relaxed.

This local was off to do a spot of fishing – but he was not in a hurry.

Nothing was moving – the reflections were perfect.

The sun was warm;  the whole scene was soporific;  I began to nod off to sleep.

I had not had a good night’s sleep. This was catch up time.  Not long after we had gone to bed, the mosquitoes flew in – and they would not be caught!  Then, during the night, the light that we had left on in the ‘loo’ area had gone off and not long after that so did all the electricity… and all the outside security lights. It was very, very dark which is not a problem until  nature calls and a visit to the ‘loo’ becomes essential.  Now going to the loo in the middle of a very dark night in a strange place is always a bit of an obstacle course, but this adventure included a couple of steps.  Groping in the dark, I finally found the loo and on lowering myself, as we women have to do, I discovered that the loo seat was no longer attached to anything. It slid around all over the place and ‘bit my bum’- not nice when your need is by now urgent! Getting back to bed was another ‘bumping into things’ adventure.  And just when I finally got to sleep, the dawn ‘call to prayer’ began – very loud and very long.  I know. I know – I was in India. One expects these things. It’s how it is.

Both loos and electricity are interesting facets of houseboat living.  Electricity seemed to be ‘stolen’ from the mains power by many of the houseboats. How? Simple really! One end of a stiff, plastic coated, copper wire is bared and then bent into a hook. This is thrown at the live wire and, when it hooks, hey presto, the house boat has electricity! Of course this isn’t done in front of guests but the evidence is there for all to see. When an inspector comes lurking, the wire is unhooked and hey presto, the lights go out!  No more electricity. We also discovered to our dismay that the loos were not connected to anything at all – except the lake beneath the boat!  We wondered what the e.coli count would be – off the scale perhaps!

I was wakened from my nap for lunch by Majid who had made me a sandwich and yet another cup of tea. As we sat and chatted for awhile, I realised that the house boat lounge where he slept with its carved tables and chairs and tapestries on the wall was a far cry from the home he had left behind in his small hill village, 100 kms away.  He returns home for only four days a month. He’s working on the houseboat to support his wife and three small children as well as his sick brother and his wife and their two children. The family all live together in one small house in a village of about 500 people. The two women grow some vegetables and a little rice for the family’s food. It’s real subsistence, survival living.

As we talked, the local grocery shikara came by.  Majid told me that these men live on their craft – it’s their way of life.

And then, as we chatted, my idyllic day took a turn for the worse –  the peace was shattered. A couple of shikaras arrived with a total of ten new guests, a group of Indian friends. Two were to sleep on our houseboat, and four each on the boats on either side. For some reason, not at all clear to me or to Majid, they all decided to congregate on our boat. Perhaps it was because ours was the middle boat. Without so much as a nod in my direction, they simply took over the front deck and the lounge room and made me feel like I might as well be a fly on the wall. The chatter and laughter was loud – happy, yes – but they certainly made no effort to include me in any way whatsoever.  I retreated to our bedroom. With no good book to read, no internet connection and no human interaction possible, the time went by very slowly. If I was to be on my own during the day, this was just not going to work.  I would have to move and leave the houseboat to the others.

I thought it would be best to move to the Srinagar LaLit Hotel where at least I’d be land based with a garden to walk in. When David came back from his long day out in the countryside, he’d already decided that a move was our best option and had made arrangements with the hotel.  I was sorry to leave the houseboat and Majid but not the least bit sorry to leave the noisy new visitors. We went to the peace and quiet of the Lalit Hotel – and had a very good night’s sleep!

JT   for   “jtdytravels”

Photography    ©   Jt of ‘jtdytravels’

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More of our travel photos are on   flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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