17 January 2012

Travelday - Where we get left behind

For most of our holiday I avoided tour guides and groups. Our preference was to not overly plan or get caught up in the regimented timing and movement of someone else telling us what to do and where to go.

As I was planning things though it became apparent that there were two trips we wanted to do where we would benefit from being part of a group. My reasoning was this - both of the locations were a long way from Zurich and public transport was going to both take longer than the tour bus and cost more than the tour bus. On top of that, neither location appeared to be fully accessible by public transport so logistically it was simply more than I cared to deal with, particularly given that neither of us knew how we'd cope with jet lag in the first few days - being picked up from our hotel door step and taken where we wanted to go would make things so much easier if we were tired or unwell.

The first of these trips was to Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Europe (but if you've been to Niagara Falls you'll be disappointed - no really, the number of times I heard or read that I was left with the impression that it was the official tourism tag line for the falls!). The bus ride up was longer than expected but with the beautiful scenery, quaint little towns and tour guide's commentary it finished before it began to feel too long.

Left - boat ride out to the rock in the middle. Centre - pulling into the foot of the rock. Right - view of the river from the boat.

Views from the top of the rock.

"A portion of the cataract arches over the lowest platform, and the spray fell thickly on us, as standing on it and looking up,we saw wave, and rock, and cloud, and the clear heavens through its glittering ever-moving veil. This was a new sight, exceeding anything I had ever before seen; however, not to be wet through, I was obliged quickly to tear myself away." Mary Shelley

Remember what I was saying before about regimented timing? When we got off the bus we were all asked to be back by 11:30 and to please make sure that we weren't late as a fellow traveller had a train to catch upon our return - this despite the fact that said fellow traveller and his friends had caused the bus to leave Zurich late, meaning we were getting less time at the falls than we should have.

The photo below, or rather the properly edited version that's on my computer at home, is one of my favourites from the holiday (and not just because it's one of the few self portraits that I don't have a double chin in). You see, this photo here documents the exact time where this day could potentially have fallen apart but instead turned into one of the best days of our holiday.

Once the scenic self portraits were taken we hiked our way back up to the car park feeling very happy with ourselves and our timing - by our calculation we still had a few minutes to spare - only to find that neither our tour bus nor any fellow travellers were there. For a few short moments we thought maybe we were the first to arrive, after all it wasn't even 11:30 yet. A bit of a walk around the two car parks and a conversation with another couple from our bus later we came to the conclusion that we had been left behind!

The other couple had a phone on them and I had contact details for the tour operator so we gave them a call and were advised that the bus had waited five minutes for us and that the tour guide had signatures from everyone on the bus to confirm this - now, the couple that were with us had arrived at the car park before us and we were there before 11:30 so we knew the waiting part at least was a lie but I didn't feel comfortable taking that argument up with her while on someone else's phone. I assured her I would be calling again to discuss the matter further when we were back in Zurich.

Getting back to Zurich however was easier said than done. Following a short discussion with the people at the Information Centre it was clear that our options were limited - we could wait an hour for the next bus to Schaffhausen, walk to Schaffhausen or call a taxi. Any which way we chose, the young couple with us were told in no uncertain terms that there was no way to get back to Zurich in time for their 1:00 tour (side note - unexpected delays were exactly why I had left our afternoon free, I was feeling pretty good about that decision right about now). Feeling a little sorry for the young couple (I should stop calling them that, they were actually brother and sister) but not able to help in any way, The Sparky and I decided to start walking as there was a lot to the area that we hadn't yet seen.

Left - the rock and falls from the walking track. Centre - rail bridge and walking track. Right - view from the bridge.

The area is just beautiful and, despite the initial stress of the situation, I am so very glad that we had the time to take a proper look around. The river, the falls, the castle, so many things we wouldn't have seen if we were on the bus heading back to Zurich.

Left - looking back towards the boathouse. Centre - a real life working water wheel. Right - Schloss Worth Castle.

At this stage there was still nearly half an hour until the bus left so we decided to continue along the riverside footpath and make our own way to Schaffhausen. As we walked, talked and took in the sights we decided to simply make the most of the situation and enjoy. A hot but scenic five kilometres later we found ourselves in the middle of a beautiful Swiss town.

We lunched, we wandered, we enjoyed ...

Left - view over the town. Centre - moss and climbers. Right - medieval castle.

The castle had deer living in the moat!

After the climb up the hill to see the castle and then back down again we decided it was time for a coffee and ice cream. After finding ourselves some delicious ice cream and a barista that almost knew what she was doing (yes, we're coffee snobs but honestly the coffees we had in Switzerland were so bad we ended up not having any for two days) we found ourselves a bench on which to sit, eat and people watch.

Cobbled streets!

Fortunately I looked up at one point or we would have missed this -

Unbelievably intricate architecture.

Eventually we made our way up to the train station, worked out which train to take, purchased our tickets and headed 'home'. As we travelled through yet more beautiful country side we decided that things had turned out better than we could have planned - our afternoon had been free, no other plans were missed or sights left unseen, the town we had spent our afternoon in was nicer than anywhere we could have easily got to from Zurich and the train tickets were probably no more expensive than what we would have spent on the afternoon's travels anyway.

All in all it ended up being the best of both worlds - someone who knew what they were doing and where they were going got us there but we ended up with the time to see it all (and then some!) at our own pace and in our own time.


  1. Brilliant! Well done for making the most - the wonderful most - out of a sticky situation. My best moments while travelling have generally come out of nowehere. I'm amazed by the bus, though. I did a few tours and the number of times we waited for over half an hour for the same group of late people, never following through on the threats to leave without them...

    1. We were totally gobsmacked by the whole situation but also now very glad that it happened. There is actually a little more to the story but because it didn't occur until the next day I've left it until next Tuesday's post.