After our late arrival in Zurich due to our plane landing late at Heathrow resulting in a missed connection, we had just had one morning to explore Zurich before catching a train to Lucerne. Since we were staying in the old town area we just went out and walked around. First we went to the train station to store our luggage. The station was just across the street from the apartment where we’d spent the night and check-out time was in the morning and our train not until afternoon.
Zurich’s main station is a monstrous multi-level place with shops all over and numerous train platforms. It was much too early to see what platform our train would be on, but I did notice the trains to Lucerne were all on low-numbered platforms in the 6-8 range, which conveniently happened to be quite near the luggage storage locker area, just one level up. Restrooms are also near the luggage storage area, but you have to pay to go in so we never used them. The larger train stations all seemed to have pay restrooms, while the smaller restrooms at small stations were more likely to be free.
My little carry-on size suitcase and backpack fit easily into one of their lower level large size lockers, but my husband had to work at getting his bigger bag in there, though it did work out in the end. You put stuff in a locker with a green light, then shut the door and it flashes red, at which time you pay on a nearby pad. You get a receipt and the light turns to solid red, locking your things in until you come back. Save the receipt because you need to insert the end with a barcode into the slot they have on the pay pad for scanning it, which makes the door pop open. Very useful when checking out of your lodgings hours before leaving town when you don’t want to drag luggage around all day.
Zurich has a lot of public transportation. There were lots of light rail trains all over, as well as busses, taxis, and uber. We just walked along the river out one direction and back and then out the other way and back. There were trails all along the river and some parks. Lots of people were out for a run or pushing strollers or walking dogs. In the summer there are boat rides, but not in November when we were there.
We saw people putting Christmas balls on light fixtures and some sort of carnival in the midst of being set-up. Where the river widened out into more lake size there was a pretty big marina. It started out with little boats on the end we got to first where the river hadn’t gotten as wide yet, then spread out to bigger boats as the river widened. There were a few ducks and a lot of swans.
The old town area has lots of interesting buildings. There are bell towers that all rang at 11am the day we were there. Old churches and cathedrals send spires skyward, and some buildings look like castles. The road is wide along the river, but if you go up a block into the old town there are narrow cobblestone streets and even narrower alleyways snaking their way between the buildings. Sometimes they open up into a sort of plaza or town square.
We stopped at a little shop for lunch that served something called a doner box, where they piled your meal into a box. Something we’ve never seen before, but we wanted to try something local and it was more affordable than most places around there. Meat choices were chicken or lamb, which was layered with French fries, a sauce of your choice, and a bit of lettuce, tomato, and onion if you wanted it. It was actually quite tasty, and made me wonder if the Canadian favorite poutine which I have never tried may not be as disgusting as it sounds. For anyone who has never heard of poutine, it consists of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy in its most basic form, and may have other things like meat added. Food in Switzerland was very expensive. We could get two meals in Austria for about the same price as one meal in Switzerland so while we were there we mostly just ordered one thing and shared it. Luckily the portions were usually fairly generous.
We got back to the train station early enough to wander around a bit, though probably only saw a fraction of it as it seemed to go on forever in multiple directions. When the reader board said our train was coming on platform 6 we retrieved our luggage and went out to wait for it. A little short train arrived soon after. Nobody came out to say anything or take tickets, or even open doors, which did not open on their own. People just had to walk up to a carriage and open the door themselves to get inside. Our ticket said we could sit anywhere that was not reserved or first class and not seeing anything that looked like either we just picked some seats and sat down.
Most of the trains we took had luggage racks above the seats that would hold our backpacks and small suitcases like mine, but only a couple of the longer distance trains had luggage racks big enough for John’s large suitcase. He has said since he would pack lighter if we were to travel around by train like that again. Even though we were visiting cold places pre-cruise and warm ones during the cruise I packed light and did laundry by hand along the way because I did not want to drag a big bag around on the trains.
After stopping at a couple little stations the train slowed down when there was a much longer one ahead of it on the track. It caught up and hooked into that train so we became the tail end of a long train instead of a little short train. The ride from Zurich to Lucerne was 50 minutes with a number of brief stops, but no need to get off or change trains. Lucerne was the end of the line for our small section of the train and everyone had to get off, but walking past the larger section, which had upper and lower levels in each car where ours had only one, we could see people sitting in there so they either didn’t have to get off or had gotten on very quickly. Perhaps the longer bit of the train ditched our small one there and the rest of it continued on to someplace else.