I felt a little puny today, which, if you think about it, is pretty funny. I traveled all over Southeast Asia and Africa, eating everything in sight, including raw vegetables washed in the local water, and never got sick. But two days after I arrive in Switzerland I come down with some sort of gastro-intestinal, flu-like ailment that puts me out of commission for all but the most basic of activities. I decided to be kind to myself and just stroll down to Lake Zurich.
By the time I reached the lake I was beginning to feel better, so I continued around the lake shore. Several miles later I came upon the China Garden and a nice lakefront park, its nicely manicured lawns dotted with intrepid sunbathers braving the cold lake waters and 70ish degree weather. Here I also found a nice lakefront restaurant where I parked myself at the water’s edge and ordered some much needed food (with my stomach doing somersaults, I hadn’t eaten for a day). Within minutes after sitting down the wind whipped up, the skies turned black, and it began to pour. Fortunately, by the time I’d finished lunch the rain had let up and I was able to catch a water taxi back to the main dock without getting drenched. Since it was now around 3PM and the weather looked iffy, I decided to take a cruise to the other end of Lake Zurich on one of the big ferries.
The ferry pulled away from the dock PRECISELY on time – of course. We passed the water fountain at the city marina and headed for our first stop, the town of Thawil. Along with the trains, the ferries that ply Lake Zurich are the lifeline of the small towns that are nestled at its shores. Some, like the ferry I was on, carry people from one end of the lake to the other, making stops at various towns along the route. Others ferry cars and people across the lake to avoid the necessity of driving all the way around. The towns we stopped at were all picture postcard perfect – in each the obligatory church steeple poked its head up over homes and businesses that were terraced up the green hills. I found the towns of Stafa and Wadensvil to be particularly charming:
As we neared the opposite end of the lake the mountains finally began to come into view. During the past two days, clouds and haze have obscured the distant mountains and this was my first view of the alps. They rise quickly and steeply from the shores of the lake and provide a magnificent backdrop for the town of Rapperswil, our final destination.
More than just another picturesque town, Rapperswil has a 14th-century castle, a 15th-century town hall, and a 17th-century Capuchin monastery. So, rather than staying on the boat for an immediate return to Zurich, I disembarked and took a walking tour of the town, climbing to the top of the hill where Rapperswil Castle commands a view of the entire town.
From here, the views are of amazingly well-preserved ancient houses, interspersed with vineyards of a more recent vintage:
Two and a half hours later I caught the last ferry of the day back to Zurich. This was the much acclaimed “Sunset Cruise,” but the sun was nowhere in sight, as the rain that had been threatening all afternoon finally materialized. Wind-whipped whitecaps covered the lake and driving rain lashed the boat, forcing me inside to the restaurant, where I loitered over one 4 Franc cup of tea for the two hour journey. Although the rain had let up by the time we docked, I was wet and shivering with the cold by the time I walked the mile and a half to my hostel. So much for taking it easy. Oh well, tomorrow is another day – maybe the sun will shine and warm my aching bones.