Route 15 ~ Zurich to Zug and Lucerne, by Horgen and The Righi


13 stunden = 42 ¾ English miles.

I covered the stunning 75 Swiss kilometres route in around 5 stunden by velo.

This is the most direct road to Zug and The Righi, but it is practicable for heavy carriages no further than Horgen; they must therefore be sent round by way of Knonau (Route 16) to meet their owners at Zug or Lucerne.

Whilst I acknowledge that I am a few kilos above my ideal weight, I reckoned that a bicycle, even with my fat arse upon it, would not be classed as a “heavy carriage”, so I headed confidently for the “direct road”.


As far as Horgen the road runs along the West shore of the lake of Zurich, described in Route 14. The best mode of proceeding thus far is in the steam-boat.

Sadly the steamer does not carry bicycles, so instead, on leaving Zurich, I cycled alongside the lake towards Horgen along the “Silberküste” (Silver Coast), also known mockingly as the “Pfnüselküste” (Cold Coast), due to its shaded location. It gave me an opportunity to visit those unremarkable “principal places” I had missed by cycling along the opposite shore on Route 14.

Passing various factories, luxury apartments and offices, first stop amongst those “seats of flourishing industry” was Rüschlikon.


Behind this are the baths of Nydelbad, with a bathhouse. 

The detour to Nidelbad involves a very tough 2km climb away from the lake shortly after passing the famous Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate factory in Kilchberg, which has stood here since 1899. The company growing out of Rudolf Sprüngli’s confectionery shop in Zurich, 1845, and later his first factory in Horgen, where I was heading, which opened  in 1847, ten years after Murray visited.


The sulphurous healing springs of “Nydelbad” (Nidelbad) date back to 1500 and were so called as the water was covered by a light yellow film (Nidel). With the waters long since drying up and the air now smelling of delicious cocoa, the building has been the Gästehaus Nidelbad since 1903,its small swimming pool a meagre alternative bathing experience for its guests.

To save myself another climb, I only descended half way down to the lake, taking Alte Landstrasse past houses of Murray’s period, to “Thalwyl” (Thawil) where his recommended inn, the “Adler” is now a private building at number 85.


Lavater is said to have written a portion of his work on physiognomy at the parsonage of the village of Ober-Rieden, about 3½ miles farther on.

The parsonage (Pfarrhaus) in Oberrieden can be found further along Alte Landstrasse, at number 36. A plaque on the wall states that the anti-corruption crusader, Zwinglian and poet, together with his best buddy, Goethe, merely visited the pastor here on the 15th June 1775, rather than writing “a portion of” his catchy little number “Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe”.


Having also mentioned Lavater and his physiognomy in Route 8, Murray had stoked my interest in what I had previously thought was the study of the facial expressions of garden gnomes. Lavater’s book was partly responsible for Murray’s own travels around Europe, having been the most profitable works his grandfather had published, sold by subscription in 41 parts at 12 shillings each.

The best-selling lifestyle book of its day, thanks largely to the 800 attractive illustrations by William Blake, Henry Fuseli and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, explained the ability of being able to assess somebody’s personality simply by looking at their face.

It’s an interesting science that gripped the world at the time. Why not try it yourself and describe each of these four characters from his guide, and see if you can match his analysis:

Phlegmaticus (top left) = cool, calm and loves himself, or cold, dull and couldn’t give a shit; likely to sleep with your wife and tell all your mutual friends how satisfied he made her.

Cholericus (top right) = bad-tempered, irritable, touchy, ratty bastard; likely to be a school headmaster, traffic warden or football referee

Sanguincus (bottom left) = cheerful, happy chappy who owns a hairdresser salon and likes musicals

Melancholicus (bottom right) = sad, dejected, miserable bastard; likely to blame immigrants for all his troubles.

Despite “Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe” becoming the book of its time, later inspiring the works of Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Charlotte Brontë, Thomas Hardy, and Oscar Wilde, who made it the central plot to “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, it received mixed reviews from the critics:

“Not as effective as pathognomy. 2 Stars” ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Die Welt

“In vain do we boast that philosophy had broken down all the strongholds of prejudice, ignorance, and superstition; and yet, at this very time Lavater’s physiognomy books sell at fifteen guineas a set 2/5” ~ Hannah More, The Guardian

“Lavater fails to see that man is a two-part being, one part capable of evil and the other capable of good, that which is capable of good is not also capable of evil, but that which is capable of evil is also capable of good. Now both good and evil can not exist in a single being. But if man is considered only as evil and God only good how then is regeneration effected which turns the evil to good, by casting out the evil to the good. Overall: good to evil, evil to good. ***”  ~ William Blake, Metro

“So much more than a ‘how to’ lifestyle book, it explores the impact physiognomy has on European society and, in a very personal way, what the rest of us can learn from those funny looking people we encounter every day.*****” ~ Cosmopolitan

“Lovely engravings.*****” ~ Hugh Marston Hefner, Playboy

“See! I told you so! All foreign looking people ARE criminals.*****” ~ Katie Olivia Hopkins, Daily Mail

“Enemies of the people!  EU floods UK with ugly-looking, unfriendly people.*****” ~ The Express

Whilst his writings had made him one of the most famous people in the world, and, in the process, John Murray’s grandfather one of the richest publishers, sadly, for Lavater, his close friendship with Goethe, whom he initially employed as a relatively unknown artist, soon deteriorated as the two disagreed on much of his findings.

Now, I may be a relatively new student to Lavater, however I’d guess that he’d describe Goethe, based upon his facial expression in this portrait, as being a “disbelieving, contentious balding old fool who tuts at every fact he is presented with.” 

Whilst Goethe would go on to become the most influential name in German literature, the fall out with the man who shot him to fame would later coin that legendary dinner table phrase, “never discuss religion, politics, football and physiognomy.”

Lavater’s controversial ideas remind me of an hilarious interview with Freddie Mercury in 1985. Asked why he had called his solo album “Mr Bad Guy “, he replied, “To be honest, I’m not really worried about it, it’s what you listen to that matters, not what the title is. Don’t judge a book by its cover!”… before quickly adding with a cheeky smile… “Mind you, there’s a beautiful photo of me on the cover!” [watch here]

Freddie Mercury Mr. Bad Guy.jpg

Dropping back down to the lake, with a look on my face that students of Lavater would have correctly described as “happy to be going down hill”, I was soon in the pretty town of Horgen

Here passengers, bound for the Righi, by way of Zug, disembark and cross the hills (Route 15).

Indeed, the lakeside harbour is still a busy hub, with the adjacent train station ferrying commuters onwards to Zurich, Chur and beyond.


It’s a beautiful little town that has kept much of its character from the time of Murray’s visit.




Whilst you can still find beds at the former Hotel Löwen, on the corner of the main Seestrasse and Löwengasse, unless you are as bold as a lion, you can only buy them, rather than stay in them, as it’s now a furniture store.

Schwan, rather dear

The beautiful Hotel Schwan at Zugerstrasse 9 in the Old Town, dates back to 1462 and remains “rather dear” with rooms starting at CHF 165 a night. Its Italian restaurant offers a beautiful terrace with a 3 course meal costing from CHF35.  [CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]


A char-à-banc, with one horse, may be hired for 12 or 14 Francs to Zug, a drive of about 2 ¾ hours

Today, you can actually catch the train to Zug from the Horgen Oberdorf station, just a kilometre up the hill from the lake front. For less than CHF10, you can be there in just 11 minutes. It’s a good alternative for those unable, or mad enough, to do as I did and tackle the tough 1 hour climb over the mountain by bicycle.

The ascent of the Albis Ridge behind Horgen is very steep, but commands a fine view of the lake as far as Rapperschwyl and its long bridge.


Work on the narrow and busy Zugerstrasse car road over the mountain, which runs from outside the Hotel Schwan, did not actually start until the year after “Murray’s Handbook For Travellers in Switzerland 1838″ was published, eventually opening in 1846.

Instead, the route taken in 1837 was the same that the cycle route takes today, leaving town on the ridiculously steep Kirchstrasse next to the church, following the historic Saumweg until it joins up with Veloroute 32 on the relatively kinder Bergstrasse. The road keeps on climbing until you reach the Hirzel Höhi, with the spectacular views and pretty farming villages continuing to reward for your efforts throughout.




Whilst Murray doesn’t detail the route over the mountain, it’s more than likely he took the pass over the Hirzel Höhi, which interlinks with the historic Saumweg, the main trading route for 600 years from 1230 – 1830.

Passing 18th Century farms and numerous restaurants en route, the Restaurant Höchi marks the summit of the climb and the extensive panorama extends as far as The Rigi and Mount Pilatus.



Unless she was off sick with chickenpox or hair lice on the day Murray reached this vantage point, it is possible that just 1km away, a ten year old Johanna Spyri, the famous author of “Heidi”, would have been sat at her desk in the classroom of the incredibly pretty village of Hirzel. Her birthplace is marked and the old schoolhouse is now home to the Johanna Spyri Museum, worthy of a brief diversion (and additional climb) if you happen to passing by on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday afternoon.



The steep descent which follows leads down to the village of Sihlbrücke, so called from a bridge over the Sihl, which conducts the traveller from Canton Zurich into Canton Zug.

The very steep descent down Alte Zuger Strasse is not for the faint hearted, and is recommended only for those with good brakes, strong wrists and big balls.


It ends at the Hotel Krone, which stands on the river in Sihlbrugg, and dates back to 1796, Its guestbook boasts comments from the likes of Britain’s Prince Philip, Prince Henry of the Netherlands and the Duke of Mecklenburg. The hotel doesn’t name John Murray within its list of famous guests, however this could be purely in spite for the fact that Murray also omits the hotel from his notes.


From here, the road passes through the valley floor, packed with car showrooms, petrol stations, fast food drive-thrus, furniture stores, industrial units, technological factories and out of town supermarkets – all alien concepts in the 1830s – before turning off towards Baar and Zug.

From the Ridge which succeeds, the Righi and Pilatus are first seen, and soon after the borders of the lake of Zug are reached.

Presuming I understood Murray’s use of the word “succeed” correctly, I could only think his notes were either muddled or his view of the two mountains was obscured by cloud whilst he was on top of the Hirzel Höhi. Either way, they appeared in full view once again as the road led to Baar. 


I decided to take a diversion from Murray’s notes and check out the  Höllgrotten caves, a beautiful 3km forest ride away from the main road, passing colourful riverside Norwegian style cottages enroute.


The caves were only discovered in 1863, and opened to the public in 1887, fifty years after Murray passed by.

They are unlike any other dripstone cave in the world, having been carved by the underground water in just over 3,000 years rather than the millions of years usually taken for such grottos. They are definitely worth the detour.

Back on track and following the signs into the Zentrum of Baar (not mentioned by Murray, who may have headed through neighbouring Inwil, following the old Saumweg route), the Zugerstrasse continues past the pretty Rathaus and church of St. Martin.



It’s a straight run along Baarerstrasse into Zug, passing thousands of international companies headquartered here to take advantage of the cheap tax rate.


Capital of Canton Zug, the smallest state of the Confederation, has 3200 inhabitants, and is prettily situated at the North East corner of the lake

It has an antiquated look, surrounded by its old walls, and, being without trade, has a silent and deserted air.

Whilst Zug, as one of the Bund der fünf Orte (League of the Five Cantons),was at the forefront of the fight against the Protestants during the Reformation, today Catholics are less exclusive, only making up 62% of the inhabitants, with 18% able to safely call themselves Protestant without the fear of having their head chopped off. In fact, they are more likely to believe in the teachings of Zwingli than be in “pursuit” of agriculture, with only 36% of the surrounding area now farmland.


Actual industrialisation in Zug began thirty years after Murray visited, with the American George Ham Page founding Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co., the first European condensed milk factory, soon after merging with Nestlé. The real boom came in 1946 however, when the cantonal government took advantage of the effects of World War II on the rest of the globe, by offering one of the lowest tax rates in the world. Agriculture made way for national and international financial companies, with the likes of Siemens basing global divisional headquarters here. In fact, it is said that today, there are over 24,000 companies registered here; one for every man, woman and child in the town. It explains the sheer number of Post Office boxes on the station platform, one of which possibly belongs to Boots, the UK’s biggest chemist store, whom, it has been reported, save an estimated £100m in tax every year by being registered in an empty unmarked office here.


Zug’s richest company and biggest contributor, the secretive British commodity and mining trader, Glencore, claim to be based here because of the “good quality of life, good international transport links and high-quality people in the workforce”. They fail to mention the low tax rate or the fact their billionaire founder, Marc Rich, fled here to escape justice after being charged by the US Government with tax evasion and illegal business dealings with Iran. The company has continued to be linked to rogue states and accused of ignoring UN-sanctions “to profit from corrupt or despotic regimes”, with a leaked CIA report in 2005 hinting at “illegal dealings with apartheid South Africa, the USSR, Iran, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein.”


News outlets in Switzerland and beyond have linked Glencore to a massacre in Colombia, acid rain in Zambia, sending children down the mines and polluting rivers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, illegally drilling off the coast of occupied Western Sahara, and bribing numerous corrupt African governments.

Their then-Chairman explained in 2011 why they had no women at board level: “they are not so ambitious in business as men because they’ve got better things to do. Quite often they like bringing up their children and all sorts of other things”.

In short, it really is a company that could quite easily be lifted straight from the pages of a James Bond novel, or even the minutes of a FIFA Executive Committe meeting.

Talking of which, Zug is the town where it all started to go wrong for Sepp Blatter and his corrupt cohorts. The local authorities, perhaps growing uneasy at their Dr.No’s Crab Key reputation, decided to prosecute ISL, the Zug-based sports marketing company, for corruption in 2004. Huge bribes paid to FIFA executives for ticketing and media sell-on rights had bankrupted the company with fingers pointing clearly towards Blatter’s own bank account.

When auditors started to try and reclaim funds for unpaid parties, which included an understandably reluctant FIFA, the accused ISL ‘bag man’ who had delivered over CHF 41m (£27m) alone to FIFA executives João Havelange and Ricardo Teixeira, was represented by none-other than Sepp Blatter’s own personal lawyer, who successfully reduced the repayment to a mere CHF 2.5m. Low-and-behold, Blatter then wrote to the Zug prosecutors saying that FIFA were satisfied with the amount and wished to drop their complaint, preventing any further investigations into where the rest of the money had gone.

FIFA, under Blatter’s guidance, would later award even more lucrative multi-million Franc contracts than those given to ISL, to various companies part-owned by his nephew, Philippe Blatter, all rather conveniently based in the same Zug office vacated by ISL and also being the place of work for the wife of Sepp Blatter’s right hand man, Jérôme Valcke, the banned former Secretary General of FIFA.

What the authorities in Zug had started, may have eventually led to Sepp Blatter’s downfall ten years later, but the story does not end there.

In these new “transparent” FIFA times, the first sponsorship deal signed by Blatter’s replacement as President, Gianni Infantino – who was born and raised just 10km away from his predecessor, in that famous football hot bed of Valais – was a 12 year contract with Wanda, a company controlled by China’s richest man and whose sports division is, rather conveniently, based in an all too familiar office in Zug. Its CEO? One Philippe Blatter. No prizes for guessing where the next World Cup is going to be awarded to, and who will get the exclusive TV rights. All change, my arse. Here’s hoping the local authorities in Zug have not given up the chase just yet.

Anyway, back to 1837, when Zug’s income was far more ethical.

The rich crops, vineyards, orchards, and gardens, on the borders of the lake, proclaim a soil not ungrateful to the cultivator.


Hirsch, Cerf, good

The former Hotel Hirsch at Hirschenplatz has been replaced with an absolute eyesore of a modern building, starkly not in keeping with the historic buildings that surround it, let alone the grand hotel on whose spot it stands. Ironically, it houses the FMZ Migration Service and is clear proof that buildings, not just people, need to integrate better into their surroundings.


Whilst here, you should visit the Platzhirsch wine bar for the famous local 42% ABV Etter Vieille Kirsch Barrique, which you can sip whilst staring across the pretty square at the ornate Haus zur Münz and trying not to be distracted by the neighbouring modern monstrosity, with a gigantic nose inexplicably protruding from one side.


Just along Zeughausstrasse, you get a glimpse of the Hoher Zitturm (High Time Tower), which was built in 1526. An event known as “Friedensglöggli” has taken place at 20:00 on the 8th May every year since 1946, with the tower clock ringing for 15 minutes to commemorate the end of World War II and the city council serving an apéro in the adjacent Klostergarten.


Although not mentioned by Murray, this is one of the city’s most important buildings and is better known locally as the Kapuzinerturm, given its location.

There is a Capuchin Convent and a Nunnery here.

Built in 1595, the Kapuzinerkirche in Zug is hidden away, up a hill on the nearby Kapuzinergässli.

The library of the former monastery is listed as being a Swiss heritage site of national significance.


The Church of St Michael, a little way outside of the town, has a curious bone-house attached to it, containing many hundred skulls, each inscribed with the name of the owner.

The Rufi, or Ross-berg, rising in the South West corner, is also lofty and steep; the lake, at its base, is not less than 1200ft. deep.

Best seen from the lake itself or from the opposite shore, the Rossberg, “which has obtained a melancholy celebrity from the catastrophe caused by the fall of a portion of it”, is the main focus of Murray’s notes in Route 17, in which he explains that thirty years prior to his visit, on the 2nd of September 1806, the top of the mountain would collapse and kill 457 people in the valley below. It has remained to this day, Switzerland’s biggest disaster.

It was in consequence of this that the confederates occupied the position indicated,  and it contributed mainly to their victory on that memorable field.


Schwarzer Adler, Aigle Noir; good

The Seehotel Adler still stands, although has most certainly seen better days. Its location on the busy corner of gives you an idea about how popular it would have been back in the 1800s. The Eagle Bar & Lounge is open in the evenings only and boasts a wide choice of beers and whiskies alongside Swiss organic teas.


 Inns: Schwan –  a new house, in the best situation, and good; in 1837 complaints were made that it was dear

Restaurant Schwanen above the Perosa store on Schwanenplatz, overlooks the lake with its Cafe de Ville offering terrace seating outside and a menu that, whilst good, in 2015 complaints could still be made that it is dear. They don’t offer hotel rooms.


Balances (Waage) – an old-established house, good, clean, and moderate charges. The four daughters of the late host take the management of the establishment, and the traveller will find in it extreme civility and most excellent attendance.

The chic 4 Star gourmet Hotel de Balances on Weinmarkt dates back to 1807 as “Wirtshaus zur Waage”, and was actually refurbished and renamed in 1837, the year Murray visited; going on to host the likes of famous Irish poet George Bernard Shaw, Princess Louise of Baden and, on numerous occasions, the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina. The restaurant boasts 14 Gault Millau points and is reasonably priced (5 courses for CHF 105, or 3 course lunch for CHF 45), although the rooms are no longer moderately charged, starting at CHF150.


Rossli (Cheval)

The former grand Hotel Rossli is now a Co-op supermarket on the corner of Mühlenplatz and Rössligasse. It boasts a restaurant.

Whilst not exactly the same, you can still stay at a Guest House Roesli, at Pfistergasse 12, with rooms starting at CHF 80. Belonging to the Baslertor Hotel, you can use their summer pool too.


There is a good pension overlooking the lake close to the Kapel Brücke

Nowadays, the best fit for this is the popular English pub Hotel Pickwick, where I’m sure Murray would have gone to watch Preston North End beat Notts County to be crowned Champions of the first ever Football League, had he not arrived exactly 50 years too early and exactly 100 years before the first televised game.  Unlike the beer, rooms are reasonably priced from CHF 90.


Alternatively, the excellent boutique Hotel des Alpes next door also fits the bill and offers a terrace restaurant too, serving regional dishes (3 courses from CHF 30). Rooms start at CHF 135.



Zurich to Zug and Lucerne, by Horgen and The Righi
13 stunden = 42 ¾ English miles.

At 75km, this is a short cycle, and other than the the steep 7km climb out of Horgen over the Hirzel Pass, is relatively flat, give or take a few rolling hills, and follows the main road alongside the three lakes. It offers beautiful views throughout and the entire route is possible by road bike. The incredibly steep climb out of Horgen on Kirchweg, following the Saumweg, can be avoided by taking the more gradual climb up Stockerstrasse and Einsiedlerstrasse before picking up the path on Bergstrasse, where it joins the stunning Veloroute 32 through pretty farmland, eventually branching off over the Hirzel Höhi (signposted) and almost falling down the mountain to Sihlbrugg (you’ll need good brakes). It’s also possible to take the train from Ober-Horgen to Baar and save yourself the efforts of the climb altogether.

0km ~ ZURICH

8km ~ RÜSCHLIKON  → flat

10km ~ NIDELBAD (Gästehaus Nidelbad)   up  90 m

13km ~ THALWIL (Altes Landstrasse 85)    up  25 m   down  55 m

15km ~ OBERRIEDEN (Altes Landstrasse 36)    → flat

18km ~ HORGEN   down  55 m

25km ~ HIRZEL HÖHI  up  325 m

Possible Excursion:

1km ~ HIRZEL (Johanna Spyri Museum)   up  35 m   down  45 m

2km ~ HIRZEL HÖHI  up 45 m   down  35 m

28km ~ SIHLBRUGG  down  200 m

32km ~ BAAR (Lorze river)  down  80 m

Possible Excursion:

3km ~ HÖLLGROTTEN   up  135 m   down  45 m

6km ~ BAAR   up 45 m   down  135 m

33km ~ BAAR (Rathaus)  down  15 m

37km ~ ZUG → flat

38km ~ ZUG (St.Michael)  up  15 m

51km ~ St. ADRIANSKAPELLE   down  60 m


51km ~ ARTH → flat

60km ~ KÜSSNACHT AM RIGI  up  40 m   down  25 m

73km ~ LUZERN  up  85 m   down  85 m

Route 14 ~ Zurich – Chur

Route 16 ~ Zurich – Luzern via Albisrieden >

~ All routes ~  Introduction ~

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