Monday, September 08, 2008

The Swiss Transportation Disaster

Swiss transportation has a reputation for being perfect. And usually it is, or very close to it. But Sunday was a complete disaster. In one way, this was very satisfying, to see the perfect Swiss in such a mess. In another, standing in the rain while Swiss-German speaking people pushed in front of all the polite English and laid back Italian people to get on a single bus was not. We stood in the rain while other train loads of people from trains that arrived after ours cut in front of us as different buses pulled up to take us on the section the train could not, delaying our entire journey a total of two hours.

But let me explain the day. We took the 12.09 train from Lugano to Zurich because it was direct and my husband and I were traveling with (they dubbed it themselves) the "Medicare Mecca". (In other words, four people over the age of 60). These people couldn't walk fast on a regular day, not to mention they had luggage. So we tried the easiest possible route to Baden which would involve one change only in Zurich.

We got all comfortable and then the train stopped in Biasca. We were all told to get off the train to go meet buses because the trains couldn't get through. But they didn't tell us ahead of time, so there was no time to use the bathroom or eat a sandwich in the comfort of the train. Instead, we all stood outside in the cold rain while one bus took the people fast enough to get on it away to the town of Aiorlo (sp?), a half hour ride away.

As we stood, six people, the Medicare Mecca, trying to stay together and drag luggage (not to mention find bathrooms), people pushed and barged in front of us even though their train arrived later as bus after bus pulled up leaving us in the rain for at least 45 minutes. We met a nice Italian girl from Verona, also amazed by the pushy Swiss people and lack of transport. There was no line. There was no organization. It was awful. I thought we'd be standing there all day. I was ready to give out numbers to these people.

I started to shiver because I had worn my train outfit (shorts and t-shirt) since trains have a reputation for being hot. Finally I told my Medicare Mecca that they had to be mean and pushy and charge towards the next bus or we'd be there all day. And they did! I was very proud. They pushed and shoved the Swiss people like they'd been doing it for two years like me. It was very brave of them as this was completely out of character not to mention physical prowess.

So we took the half hour bus to Airolo, tried to figure out which train was going to Zurich (no signs, no conductors helping). We dragged all the luggage onto one train and hoped for the best. It turned out to be right, but we had to change again in Arth Goldau to meet the connecting train.

When we arrived in Arth Goldau, there were hundreds of people already waiting for the train, and we had no choice but to get on in first class, where the train stopped where we were standing. There was no way to get to any part of the train except where we were there were so many people and luggage, so we sat in first class. My husband yelled at a Swiss man who said a seat was reserved even though it clearly wasn't. A Medicare Mecca member clubbed someone with her umbrella who wouldn't move out of the way. It was all in good Swiss fun. Luckily no conductor could make it through to find out us second class citizens were in first class and charge us all 80 francs each. Blah.

In Zurich we changed again to Baden and got home about 5.30. What a day. So we drank champagne and ate Big Macs and finally went to bed happy.

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