Start of 1,200-word article
ON THE RAILS IN SWITZERLAND
Remember the old "If it's Tuesday it's
Belgium" joke ? We found ourselves giving it a
new twist while travelling on Swiss trains last
month. "If it's 10.24 it's Leuk" we said, hopping
from train to postal bus with hardly a second
glance at the station's name. "If it's 13.16 it's
Bad Ragaz" we agreed and disembarked with
confidence to the smell of manure freshly spread
through that scenic valley. 10.08 saw us in Lucerne. 1l.26 was Interlaken.
13.06 brought us to the top of the Jungfraujoch.
Switzerland's trains are electric, immaculately maintained and so
scrupulously clean you can photograph through their spotless windows. But
the name of the game here isn't cleanliness. It is punctuality. During the ten
days we boarded eleven trains and about half as many busses only one was late
- and that was because the conductor waited while I retrieved a friend with our
luggage from another platform. Where the trains left off the postal coaches
took over, with the same reliable efficiency.
Time permitting, we could also
have crossed fairy-tale lakes like
Geneva, Thun, Lugano and Lucerne.
All of these transportation systems
are synchronized, so that transfer
from one vehicle to the next is
simple. Train, bus or boat, they run
with the precision of a Swiss watch.