Day 6 - 20 Sep
Not a great song title, but it accurately describes our day, which was spent getting from Peterborough to our apartment in Lucerne. We were up with the sparrows to get out for an early bus to Peterborough train station, where we had to wait an hour for our train to Stansted airport. This train was much more like home! Slow, somewhat grubby and tired, but it was comfortable and delivered us to Stansted in plenty of time to wait around for a couple of hours or so to board.
Stansted is unlike any other airport we have used. Being one of the major hubs for low cost carriers such as Ryanair, it revolves totally around volume and speed. Going through security emphasises that like no other experience. The process is carried out like a conveyor belt process, with about as much human interaction as you might find on the robot floor of a Toyota plant, but it seems to be just as efficient. The press of people and the monotonously repeated imprecations to remove your laptop and put one bag only in each box, somehow dulls the senses and eliminates the desire to protest at having to remove a watch. Still, we were through quickly (which was the point) and headed off to find lunch in the enormous, teeming waiting area.
When looking for flights around Europe over the last few years, the increasingly rapacious approach adopted by Ryanair eventually led us to blacklist it. However, it has recently moderated some of it's more obnoxious practices and even increased its carry on baggage allowance, so we decided to give Ryanair a second chance. Perhaps people power can impact even Mr O'Leary! In the end, the flight still largely looked and felt like Ryanair of old, but the price, baggage and less intense on-selling of everything made it worthwhile.
So, finally, we arrived in Basel Europort, the hub for three countries. We passed our first major test with ease, turning right for Switzerland instead of left for Germany and France, then managed the next as well - finding our number 50 bus to Basel train station. This was the first use of our Swiss Travel Pass, which we hope will be worth the price. The bus run was easy, with live monitors informing us about the route, and, once inside the train station, it was again easy to find the platform for our train to Lucerne.
Two other things that we found, while waiting for our train. First, in common with much of Europe, public toilets are not free. In fact, the toilet at Basel train station belongs in a bullring in Spain - they charge like wounded bulls for the privilege of using them! We have VERY quickly learned to use every available free toilet - on the train, in the restaurant- whether we need to or not! Secondly, Switzerland assaults the senses, particularly the olfactory sense. Limitations on smoking in public places are far less restrictive than in Australia or Britain, and the Swiss seem to smoke a lot. For poor, sensitive souls like us, the smell of tobacco is quite offensive and it seems to be all-pervasive, here.
Whinging done! Everything else has so far been fantastic. Our train turned up as soon as the platform had been cleared by the previous train and left bang on time - of course! This Is Switzerland, after all! The journey was fast and smooth, even if the terrain was not especially spectacular. When the conductor appeared, our Swiss Travel Passes past muster, which was a relief, even if it was expected. In just over an hour, we arrived at Lucerne's impressive station and made our way along the river to our apartment in the Old Town.
This apartment is extremely well situated. Less than ten scenic minutes from the train station, right alongside the iconic Chapel Bridge and water tower, we are pretty much central to everything. The apartment is in a building on the river, but sadly we don't have any views. What we do have, is an experience in living the IKEA way! Everything, literally, is from IKEA - furniture, lamps, cutlery, towels, even the artificial orchid! But it all works really well. The apartment is spacious and very well presented, and importantly, the bed is comfortable, which was very good after our first day ever as backpacking grey nomads!
Speaking of which, our plan to travel with just 10kg backpacks and self-cater as far as possible is working out just fine, so far. Saved on air fares, saved on food; more funds for fun stuff, healthier eating - definitely win-win! We are now looking forward to our first adventures in Switzerland - more later when I get time to write!
TTFN - RandA