A Travellerspoint blog

From the Rhône to the Rhine: Back to Zürich and conclusion

View Benelux 2022 on zzlangerhans's travel map.


After five weeks on the road we were finally on the verge of closing the ambitious circle that had once only existed in our imagination. Our route back to Zürich took us through a sparsely populated, bucolic area of northeastern Switzerland where foothills of the Alps were always present on every side of the road.

I had no plans for Zürich aside from organizing our belongings prior to the flight back to Miami, so there was no reason to get to the Airbnb before dinner. That left us time for one final stop and the obvious choice was Rapperswil, the only other town on the Zürichsee with a preserved old town. We parked near the ferry terminal where we were surprised to find an enormous Ferris wheel that seemed out of place in such a small town. From there we walked along the Bühlerallee, a gravel promenade lined by plane trees that extended around a triangular peninsula. Above us was the medieval Rapperswil castle although we couldn't see it very well from the lake shore.

We walked around the small medieval center but there was little to distinguish it from countless other old towns we'd visited in Switzerland and Germany. The most unique feature of the town was on the other side of the large train station which was dominated by a rather sterile university campus. From the shoreline a wooden pedestrian walkway crossed over the Zürichsee to a peninsula projecting from the southern shore of the lake. We walked about halfway across and the sensation of standing in the middle of the lake was blissful.

From Rapperswil we chose to take the slower route along the lakeshore instead of the highway. We passed an endless series of lakefront activity areas that were still quite busy on a late Sunday afternoon in July. It seemed that the locals took full advantage of their proximity to the water. Soon enough we were at the outskirts of Zürich, approaching from the eastern side which we hadn't explored on our initial visit. It wasn't until we reached the Quaibrücke that crossed the mouth of the Limmat that I experienced the thrill of recognition and the realization that we had finally come full circle. The bridge and its surroundings were unsurprisingly even more crowded than they had been at the beginning of June. We might have left on a five week road trip but Zürich had continued on without us, just like every other place we had passed through in our years of travels. Our destination for the final night of the journey was the northern suburb of Oerlikon, whose Saturday market we had visited soon after arriving in Europe. I had no intention of going back to Zürich's old town that evening and it would be an easy drive from Oerlikon to the airport the next day. Thanks to our stop in Rapperswil we didn't get into the commercial center of Oerlikon until almost nine and found that the Thai restaurant we were interested in had already closed its kitchen. For the next half hour we walked around the empty streets of the center to be turned away by a succession of restaurants until we finally found a Mexican place that was open. The prices were staggering for typical western interpretations of Mexican food like burritos and fajitas but we had no choice. It was only after we were seated that I realized it was the same plaza that the market had taken place in, almost unrecognizable at night and without all the stalls. The food was decent enough considering it was the most expensive Mexican meal we'd ever eaten in our lives.

On our last day we had just enough time to stop off at a cafe in the center for a quick breakfast before proceeding onward to the airport. At the rental car return we pulled into a empty space between two other cars and unloaded all the bags. When I saw the agent circling the car I kicked myself for leaving plenty of space on the right side. Surely enough she spotted the tiny dent and gasped in dismay, looking at me as though I had totaled her own personal car that she had lent me. At this point I didn't care, figuring that if they charged me something outrageous I would just dispute it with my credit card company. We already had our own photographs in which the dent was hardly visible. I signed the forms she proffered to me and we went on our way to the terminal. Once we passed security I was pleased to see a Mövenpick restaurant. I hadn't eaten in one since I lived in Boston twenty years previously and I didn't even know they still existed. Like everything else in Switzerland it was expensive but it was impossible to resist the beautiful display of freshly-cooked food. Even Mei Ling was impressed by their version of Asian cuisine.

Our flight took off without a hitch and we were treated to one last view of the idyllic Swiss landscape from our airplane window. In nine hours we would be back in Miami and our forty days in Europe would soon feel like a dream. For just a little while longer I could dwell on the satisfaction of having achieved everything we had planned so carefully, before once again I would have to devote my full attention to the demands of our regular lives at home.

I find myself completing this blog a full nine months after our return home. I began right away and didn't take any long breaks from writing, except for our winter and spring vacations. Each time I begin a blog I resolve to make it more detailed and descriptive than the last, which means I do a lot of extra research after we come home. In many cases I learn a lot of things about places we visited that I was oblivious to at the time and would have been quite useful to know. It's a reminder that I need to begin my preparatory research earlier and make more extensive notes so that I can use the knowledge during the trip, not just when I'm writing about it afterwards. I see that I've completed thirty-nine blog entries for thirty-nine days of travel, each one with maps, extensive text, and about thirty photographs. My writing isn't as good as the professionals for sure. Whenever I read my Lonely Planet I'm shocked by how knowledgeable the writers are and how authoritatively and evocatively they describe the territories they cover. I doubt I'll ever reach that level of proficiency but since my target audience is my children once they've grown and become more curious about the details of their childhood it probably doesn't matter.

I used to make top ten lists of experiences and meals but I've grown a little tired of that. It's somewhat arbitrary to assign a ranking to sights and cities that are so disparate and most of the time the restaurants we eat at aren't exceptional. Some of the biggest upside surprises from this trip were Zürich, Grenoble, and Brussels. Some places that didn't quite match expectations but were still worthwhile and interesting were Lyon, Luxembourg City, and Köln. I can't say there were any truly bad experiences or places I wish I'd left out of the itinerary completely. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and I felt we had accomplished all the goals we had set for ourselves.

It's difficult to compare or rank our European road trips as well. This was our sixth that was at least three weeks long and we've had a couple that were shorter. Mei Ling and I are agreed that we enjoy the Latin countries the most but we would rather experience new places than return over and over again to well-trodden paths. The Netherlands and Germany don't evoke the same bliss in our souls as France and Italy, but I still feel a great sense of contentment over having explored those countries and now having a much greater understanding of their history and culture. My personal goal is to visit every great city of Europe and hopefully every country at some point, with the possible exceptions of Belarus and Moldova. Our next long European itinerary will take us through Lombardy, Tuscany, Corsica, and Sardinia in the summer of 2024 which will take care of the majority of Italian territory that is still unexplored. After that we still have the Balkans, the Baltics, northwestern and central France, and the British Isles remaining as major European journeys. By the time those are completed on an every other year basis even our youngest son Spenser will be on the threshold of college and we'll be back to traveling on our own for the most part.

Now that I've completed this blog I need to focus on research and preparation for the upcoming summer trip which is mostly dedicated to China but will also include a two week stop in Istanbul and northwestern Turkiye. My goal for Turkiye is to know as much as possible about every city and every historical sight before our visit rather than learning about them after we return home. When I get tired of doing research I might try writing the blogs I haven't even started for the three shorter trips we've taken since getting back from Switzerland: Tennessee, Québec, and Costa Rica.

Posted by zzlangerhans 05:47 Archived in Switzerland Tagged road_trip family family_travel travel_blog rapperswil tony_friedman family_travel_blog

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That was quite a long journey. I do not think I could travel for that long a period of time. I am worn out after just ten days it seems. We just returned from nine days in Switzerland. I've been home for three days now and still trying to get my energy back! I look forward to reading about your summer trip later this year.

by littlesam1

Flying intercontinentally with three kids is expensive and traumatizing enough that I can't imagine it would be worth it for less than four weeks. One way we avoid getting bored of traveling is too make sure we leave some of the good stuff for the tail end. Knowing we had Alsace ahead of us was a big motivator to keep going. Switzerland is pretty amazing, isn't it?

by zzlangerhans

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