We landed in Zurich on Sep 19 and challenge one became getting from the airport to the main train station as we were catching a night train to Prague. Switzerland lived up to its super efficient multilingual reputation right away as it proved pretty easy to get train tickets at the airport and in about 9 minutes we found ourselves in the vast warren of levels and hallways that is the Zurich Hauptbahnhof – no joke, the place is huge. We struggled a bit getting our bearings, but finally found the ticket office where we asked about the night train and learned that the track is only announced about half an hour before the train arrives. That left us with about 6 hours to kill. Rather than just hang in the train station, we put our bags in a locker and headed out to see Zurich.
Now by this point we’d been awake for over 20 hours and were feeling a tad out of it, but like sharks we kept moving. We walked along the Limmat River then up into the streets that head up into the hills with beautiful old homes straight out of Heidi. We found the Grossmuenster Church but didn’t have the energy to climb to the top of the tower. Since we’ll be back in Zurich towards the end of our trip we decided we’d come back and do that when we felt peppier.
After a few hours of walking we (well, I) began feeling extremely zombie-like so we headed back toward the train station to get something to eat. In honor (I assume) of the start of Oktoberfest the main floor had been turned into a mini beer hall which was a bit too crazy for our zoned-out brains (also we had no lederhosen or dirndl skirts) and everything else was grab and go so we found a little place across the street that had a basic beer and brats menu. After eating we retrieved our bags and headed up to the main hall to wait for the night train track assignment. As we still had time to kill and there was literally nowhere to sit in the main area, we went to a little café to hang out and both nodded off the minute we sat down. The train finally arrived and we wandered around looking for our sleeper car before a conductor found us and got us squared away. Thanks to Seat 61 (I never would have known how to buy the correct tickets without the site’s fab assistance), I had purchased a double sleeper deluxe which gave us two berths and (the really special part!) our own toilet and shower (admittedly it was a wet bath and required some maneuvering to get in and out of it but it got the job done). Ours was the only cabin in our car with that combo and it incited some envy from the folks who had to trundle to the end of the car for the single lavatory. Yay for Seat 61!
We slept surprisingly well despite the rocking and rolling of the train as it traveled across the Alps and uncoupled several cars and added some new ones (only one car was actually going all the way from Zurich to Prague). We both woke up several times as things herked and jerked but eventually went back to sleep. Contrary to what we had read, there was food served on the train, just no dining car. So in the morning the conductor came by with a continental breakfast for us and the news that a section of track was being repaired so about two hours from Prague we had to get off the train and take a bus for about 45 minutes to a station on the other side of the repairs and then catch another train to Prague. It was a fun adventure – we were super glad for our light luggage as there were stairs and general slogging of bags from place to place. Some folks on the train were mightily sad as they had ginormous bags that they had to lug up and down stairs and across a field to the (new) train station. We quickly made it to the new train, found seats (thanks, Mr. English-speaking Conductor!) and resumed the train journey to Prague.
We arrived in Prague around 11:30am and walked the half mile from the train station to the K+K Hotel Central, our home for the next three nights. It’s a really nice place – if this is indicative of the caliber of the hotels booked by the Rick Steves folks I’d have to give them 5 stars! Free (and very solid) wifi, air conditioned rooms (which matters with temps outside in the upper 80’s), in-room coffee and tea. Nice! And the bed – well, after spending a night on the slats that passed for mattresses on the sleeper train, it’s heavenly.
As our room wasn’t ready we left our bags at the hotel and went for a little walkabout through the Old Town to get acclimated. We climbed Powder Tower (186 steps) and were rewarded with a great overview of Prague. Having wiped ourselves out climbing the tower we stopped in a little alley lined by lovely flowers and quaint buildings and had lunch (more brats and beer). Our actual tour starts tomorrow so stay tuned, but I feel like it was something of an accomplishment just to get this far. 🙂