15 January 2016 – Snow fun at Uetliberg Mountain and cruising Lake Zürich
The plan for our second (and final) day in Zürich, was to check out the snow and views at Uetliberg Mountain and then see the city from the water with a cruise on the enormous Lake Zürich.
As usual on a morning when we can sleep in…… the kids are up not long after 6.30am! So we were down at breakfast by 7ish, along with all the business people (it was a Friday), who wisely fled not long after 2 noisy children turned up. Our 2 nights in Zürich are the last hotel stays of our trip, we are in Airbnb apartments from here on. As always seems to be the way, we end our hotel stays with disappointing breakfasts. It happened to us on our last Europe trip too! There was an OK selection of cereal, bread and cheeses but nothing to write home about and the hot food was a total of some very inedible scrambled eggs (or at least we think they were eggs). There was no hot chocolate service to your table here, the kids were not impressed.
Anyway, we filled up as much as possible, especially given the price of food in Switzerland. Mikl was initially going to eat from 6-10am to put off having to buy food for as long as possible but decided that plan was foiled by the poor selection. We headed back upstairs and got organised for a day out in the cold. As usual this takes way longer than we hoped for, due to having to herd small cats around a hotel room, or at least small kids!
Once we were finally out the door (and Anto has located his ‘missing’ gloves) we headed to central station. There had been a good snow fall overnight and the kids were having fun playing in the snow outside our hotel.
We caught the train to central and picked up tickets for some of our long-distance trains into and through France, and then got our daily tickets (covering all zones) for the planned trips for the day, and some Swiss Franc coins. After all this we just missed the train to Uetliberg so have 25 minutes to kill before the next train so went exploring in the streets surrounding the train station. There was lots of snow and ice everywhere and it was quite slippery, so not easy to walk around. It did however bode well for our trip up to Uetliberg.
We were on the train to Uetliberg at 10.30am and heading up the mountain. It’s only a 20 minute ride as the mountain overlooks the city and is only 400m high. It only takes that long as it’s a local train that stops a lot and winds its way up the mountain slowly. There was certainly a lot of snow covering the tracks and houses, and plenty of kids out sledding in their yards and the local open fields.
When we arrive at Uetliberg it’s absolutely freezing but so pretty. The actual temperature was around -3 degrees but the apparent temperature was at least -10 as there was a very unpleasant wind.
There are lots of walks you can do around Uetliberg mountain, on marked trails. They are open during Summer and Winter, but a few were closed this day due to relatively heavy snow fall so we decided to start off with winding our way up to the top of the mountain for views over Zürich. On the way up we walked past a solar system model at a scale of 1:billion which was rather cool.
The trail winding around the outside of the mountain was full of walkers (and people riding bikes on snow). The views were impressive even before we got to the top. Soren and Astrid were both desperate to play in the snow and there was plenty of snowball and snowman construction!
Once we were up the top of the mountain we were sinking into snow up to our knees in some places and the snow was lovely and soft and fresh. If it wasn’t for the bitter wind it would have been magnificent. From the lookout area at the top of the mountain there were glorious views over Zürich as it was such a clear day. We didn’t get up here on our last visit so it was nice to see. It wasn’t quite the height of other mountains on our trip, but so worth going to for both the amazing snow cover and fabulous views.
We couldn’t find anywhere to hire sleds so we just did a few walks around, and looked at the views and let the kids play in the snow. It was a bit scary in some places as there were lots of stairs and trails down from the lookouts that were covered in snow and essentially slippery dips and we didn’t want the kids to go over them.
Anto and Alan decided to climb the tower for pictures (this is why we needed the Swiss Franc coins). I’d injured my foot the previous day and gave it a miss and watched the small people. Both Anto and Alan agreed that the views were spectacular but the wind was making it feel more like -20 up there and they were freezing!
After an hour or so of playing in the snow Soren was getting cold, so we walked back down the trail and thought we’d get a hot drink and some food at the self-service cafe at the train station, since the lovely looking restaurant at the top was probably way too expensive. The cafe did not have an exciting range and anything would have cost us a small fortune so we opted to play in the snow near the station until the next train, and go back into Zürich for lunch.
Conveniently there was a nice playground near the station which the kids loved. A snow-encrusted train, and swings in the snow made the kids happy! There were even statue animals covered in snow for them to visit. Mikl decided that he was kid-like enough to have a climb on the snow equipment too!
Once the train to town arrived, we jumped on the train and dug out all the snacks floating around in my bag to keep the kids happy. We also had a supply of cheap Austrian chocolate to warm up the adults.
Back at central we located a cafe for a quick lunch. We all (except Anto) had toasted Panini with coleslaw and chips. Except the ‘chips’ were thins/crisps – not what we were expecting. Our food ordering in Switzerland has missed the mark a few times! The panini were nice though. Anto had a omlette and toast It only cost us half a small fortune.
The plan for the afternoon was a boat cruise of Lake Zürich. We hadn’t made it out to the lake on our last visit to Zürich (we did the zoo instead). We caught a tram down to Burkeliplatz, and tried to purchase tickets for the boat cruise. Our all zone day tickets covered the cruise which was convenient, and an actual saving in Switzerland! There were only 2 cruises running per day during Winter and we were on the second one. We had made sure we had times our morning up the mountain to make it back in time for the afternoon cruise. While we were waiting for the boat to dock we checked out the statues and obligatory city flower clock. Judging from the clouds, a storm was brewing, but we figured we might as well go out on the (covered) boat to get a better look at the lake.
The boat was pretty full and by the time we got on people had taken up a lot of the seats, mostly with bags. They weren’t going to move, even when I was trying to get seats for the kids. In the end I gave up on the back cabin and headed to the front cabin where the same thing was happening. We ended up just moving into some seats that no one was using near a window but they had inconveniently blocked off with themselves and bags. Our group ended up split all over the front section of the boat, around people who were sitting by themselves, but none of them were offering to move. After about 20 mins some people got off at a stop so the boys all got to sit together on one side of the boat while I had Astrid with me on the other side. Astrid chatted non-stop and probably drove the elderly lady (who wasn’t looking out the window at all – but wouldn’t move for us) and the weird guy drinking beer and not looking at anyone (or out the window) insane.
The cruise was 90 minutes and didn’t have any commentary. The boat loop is also used for commuters and stops about 8 times around to let people on and off. Most people seem to use it as a sightseeing cruise though and it was a very comfy and quite boat. We got lovely views of houses along the banks of the lake, and snowy mountains in the distance. There were certainly a number of big and very expensive looking houses, with glass fronts looking out over water. We also spotted numerous boat garages with garage doors over the water.
We also went past the Lindt factory (the big yellow building in the middle left-hand photo below) which definitely caught my attention! Soren was rather tired and fell asleep (in the ergo) on Anto after about 45 minutes. It was now after 3pm, but he really needed the sleep. Astrid spent the entire 90 minutes talking to me about lake depths, which lake in Switzerland is the biggest and uses for safety glass. The last bit back of the trip it was sleeting/snowing and very choppy, but we still got some nice views of the city from the water.
We finished the cruise at 3.40pm with Soren still asleep in the ergo. We ended up wrapping him in Anto’s coat as we got off the boat, as it was getting pretty cold outside. It had started snowing again, which at least made us slightly happier about it being so cold! With a sleeping Soren we opted to walk back towards the river from Burkeliplatz. Astrid had to check out all the fountains on the way. Zurich does seem to have a lot of fountains!
Soren, the exhausted little munchkin, was flatly refusing to wake up. It was obviously too comfy and warm, wrapped up in Anto’s jacket……despite the snow falling on his face! We walked back along the Limmat river and found a large group of swans to say hello to. The swans were quite keen on being fed by passers-by. We figured if we managed to wake Soren up (in the hope that he would actually sleep again that night) the sight of swans might make him less grumpy………
After a good commune with the swans we wandered in the direction of central station, enjoying our last bit of daylight in Zürich. The cloudy afternoon, snow falling and sun setting made for some amazing light and colour for photos. Despite having walked this area many times now, the camera got a workout!
By 4.30pm we were all cold and it was getting pretty dark so we stopped past the supermarket to pick up supplies for a hotel picnic dinner. Both to facilitate an early night and to save some money. We ended up having a very tasty dinner of supermarket salads, some hot strudels and a BBQ chicken, washed down with beer and wine and some cake. Then it was time for a quick repack before departing in the morning for the Swiss Alps.
Statistics for Friday the 15th of January 2016, in Zürich, Switzerland – the temperature range was -1 to 2 degrees in the city with a mean of zero degrees and light snow. Up at Uetliberg it was -3 with an apparent temperature of below -10! The total walking for the day was just under 13km, a fair proportion of it in snow, and all of it walked by Miss Astrid!