My Journey to Zermatt – Episode 323 March 2022
My Journey to Zermatt – Episode 121 March 2022
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I CAUGHT THE BUS TO GARE DE LYON, a magnificent railway station a stone’s throw from the Seine.
I was booked on the 12.22 TGV (Lyria 9213) arriving in Basel SBB at 15.26. The high-speed double decker train was a delight. I sat on the upper deck in a window seat and watched kilometre after kilometre of lush green French countryside flash by. We headed south-east out of Paris down to Dijon and from there to Mulhouse in the Haut-Rhin Département. Here the terrain changed from woods and forests, and rural villages, to distinctly Alpine. The transition is gradual but dramatic.
Once out of Mulhouse the train took us down to Basel, the line running more or less parallel with the Rhein. Presently we pulled into Basel station; at half past three in the afternoon, I was still only halfway through today’s journey.
On the Basel train, the young ticket collector asked me for my ticket and ID – ‘anything with your picture will do’ she said archly – ‘and DOB.’ I handed her my British Driving License, she scanned the QR code on my ticket and moved on with a breezy smile. Did I not convince as the seasoned traveller?
I had two stops before Gstaad – Spiez and Zweisimmen – an area I knew very well from family holidays on Lake Thunersee – Interlaken – and Brienzersee. The Swiss train was packed with skiers and locals, depositing passengers at Bern and Thun, beautiful towns even when briefly glimpsed through the train window. At Spiez I missed my connection – I had five minutes to get off the train – walk down two stories of railway station to reach platform five. It was never going to happen. I was tired, my case had gained weight somewhere on the journey and the stairs were a killer. I watched my train disappear, chugging in what looked like the wrong direction.
With Swiss efficiency, another train appeared, and I was told by a helpful Swiss train guard this was the one I wanted. One more hour to go before my son Nibby was due to meet me. I woke up at Zweisimmen – the terminus – and heard someone say – ‘M’sieur! Quick! The Montreux train is about to leave! That’s what you want! Get off at Gstaad!’