Route 8 ~ Schaffhausen to Zurich, by Eglisau

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Schaffhausen to Zurich, by Eglisau.
9 stunden – 29 ½ English miles.

A diligence runs daily, in about five hours.

Given that it took five hours, back in 1837, to do a relatively short journey, which now is achieved in just 40 minutes by train or in less than three hours on a bicycle, it never ceases to amaze me the time that Murray must have put into researching each route for his “Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland 1838″.

There is another road, somewhat longer and more hilly, on the left side of the Rhine, by Andelfingen – (Inn: Bar) – a village of 2000 inhabitants, and the large manufacturing town of Winterthur (5 stunde), described in Route 9.

Living close by, I am more than familiar with both routes, however it is the first time I had followed the path with Murray’s notes for company. If you choose to take the “more hilly” side of the Rhine, which is 5km longer, you can stop in Andelfingen, after 16km, with its church almost as big as the village itself where the population has remained the same, the wooden bridge over The Thur remains and the Restaurant zum Bären still serves food and boasts a bakery if you want to stock up for the ride on to Winterthur before joining up with the suggested route approaching Zurich.

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Instead, I followed the route described in greater detail by Murray:

The route by Eglisau passes within a short distance of the Rhine-fall. The roar of the cataract is audible 4 or 5 miles off in a calm night, and the column of vapour from it – “rising like incense from the altar of nature” – is visible at a considerable distance.

The Rhinefalls and their spray can be seen from the road above, with a spectacular view offered from the road alongside the train tracks and coach parks, both built long after Murray’s visit, to deliver the tourists in their huge numbers. I very much doubt his claim that you can hear the roar of the falls from 8km away however and, even if you could, I’m sure the ever efficient Swiss would have built some sort of sound barrier so their sleep need not be interrupted.

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A corner of the territory of Baden, including the villages of Jestetten and Lostetten, is traversed before reaching Eglisau.

The steep road away from the falls up to the tiny unmanned German border post passes through the two nondescript towns, with a side trip to the Kloster Rheinau Benedictine monastery, set upon its own island and surrounded by vineyards, surprisingly overlooked by Murray despite it dating back to 778 and being one of the main highlights of the entire route.  It’s well worth following the signs to Rheinau instead of Jestetten and then heading onto the town up the forest road, a worthwhile detour of an additional 4km.

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Back on the path, there’s not a lot to see in Jestetten, as it’s a largely modern border town dominated by supermarkets and new buildings with the building housing the Pizzeria Europa, one of only a few dating back to Murray’s times.

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3km further, Lottstetten, is also fairly uninteresting other than its church and seemingly more restaurants than people.

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The road passes a few kilometers from my home, through Rafz, a beautiful village not mentioned by Murray but still boasting pretty houses dating back to when he passed through in 1837 on his way to Eglisau.

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Every time I cycle along the short stretch from Rafz to Eglisau, memories come flooding back of an occasion, three years ago, when I encountered six beautiful Spanish girls on the first day of their two week bike tour of The Rhine and Black Forest. A mosquito had flown behind the lense of one girl’s sunglasses, making her swerve into the back wheel of another and come crashing down hard on the tarmac. I happened upon the scene as she lay on the ground in agony, her leg broken badly. I called for an ambulance for them and she was rushed to hospital, I did what any other helpful single red blooded male faced with such a situation would do, and invited the other five girls to stay at my place for as long as they needed. Hours later we were enjoying laughter and flirting over homemade paella and local wine as they contemplated whether to continue on their holiday with their friend hospitalised in Zurich. I joined them on their cycle through the Black Forest as the poor girl and her broken bike were flown home to Madrid, barely three days after arriving in Switzerland, of which she had only seen a hospital room and the 20km from Zurich Airport to this point near Eglisau.

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Eglisau – a little town of 1600 inhabitants, in a contracted valley on the right bank of the Rhine, which here flows in a dark green stream, between wooded hills.

Today Eglisau is still “a little town” of 5000 inhabitants, surrounded by steep vineyards, with the river being the focus of the town, the locals bathing or dining along its bank if not swimming, boating or stand up paddle boarding on it.

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At the end of the wooden bridge which traverses it rises a tall, square watchtower of massive masonry: it belonged to a castle now removed. Close to it is a toll-house.

Like the castle, the wooden bridge and its tall square watchtower have also been removed, however the stone bridge that has replaced it offers the best view of the village, with the “dark green” Rhine flowing underneath.

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This road is much traversed by pilgrims to the shrine of our Lady Of Einsiedeln (Route 74): and the traveller encounters, at every step, troops of the poor peasantry of the Black Forest, religiously counting their beads, and muttering their aves and paternosters.

Nowadays, any German pilgrims heading to Einsiedeln are likely to do so in their expensive Mercedes, Audis and BMWs, and are more likely to be singing along to Nena and her “99 Luftballons”, or David Hasselhoff with his “Freedom” blaring from their car radios, than be counting rosary beads and muttering their paternosters.

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From the heights above the town of Bulach  (4000 inhabitants), the snowy Alps may be discerned in fine weather, with the Righi in the middle distance.

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Murray takes us through Kloten, which 85 years later, in 1921, became home to Zurich Airport. The whole area is probably indistinguishable from the time when he visited, with large industrial units and office blocks sitting on land which was probably once meadows.

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The descent upon Zurich, between vineyards and gardens, amidst neat villas and taverns, with the windings of the Limmat, and the lake and the town of Zurich in front, is very pleasing.

Although the city of Zurich has grown significantly, especially along the descent Murray refers to, through Oerlikon, with factories and large building developments replacing the vineyards, there are still a number of pretty villas and taverns dotted along the route. Some of these would have been around in 1837, although the majority of old buildings only date back to the Industrial Revolution of the 1870s and the birth of the railways.

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A little to the right of the road rises the hill of Werd,  3 miles from Zurich, commanding the finest view of the neighbourhood.

The climb to Waid was painfully steep, however, as Murray described, the view certainly made it worthwhile and the large numbers of locals, who had come here to sit and admire the panorama, paid testament to the author’s source for the recommendation and helped keep the owner of the Restaurant Die Waid rather wealthy.

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WAID RESTAURANT (52km):

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An inn was opened here in 1828, eventually becoming the Waidberg Restaurant in 1926. After burning down in 2004, it was rebuilt and modernised in 2005, and the Restaurant Die Waid now offers two two concepts, the Seasons Restaurant and WAID wok with dishes from CHF17.

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A short distance outside of the town may be seen the junction of the Sihl with the Limmat.

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Since 1833, Zurich has ceased to be a fortress; a large portion of the ramparts are already swept away, and the stranger finds himself within its walls without encountering drawbridges and bastions as heretofore.

Cycling downhill into town, it’s not long before you reach the junction of the two rivers, which are home to Zurich’s famous Badis, popular summertime bars with sections of water cordoned off for swimmers. Nearly all of the city’s medieval walls and towers have gone, although I would visit what remains on my tour of Zurich’s city centre (Route 8).

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ZURICH ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS (55km):

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Schwerdt (Epée) – overlooking the Limmat, close to the broad wooden bridge which serves as a market place – expensive, and neither good nor very clean. Beds 3 fr. – in private 4 fr.; tea and breakfast, 2 fr.

A guesthouse had existed in the large Haus zum Schwert at Weinplatz 10 from 1421 and, under the guise of Hôtel de L’Epée, became the best hotel in Zurich, welcoming famous guests like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, Giacomo Casanova, Louis Napoleon, Alexandre Dumas, Tsar Alexander of Russia, Franz Liszt, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Victor Hugo, King Frederick William III of Prussia, King Gustav Adolf IV of Sweden and Emperor Joseph II of Austria, amongst a whole host of royalty. A few months after Murray’s book had gone to print in 1838, the Hôtel Baur en Ville (now the Savoy) opened nearby and, the competition it posed, with presumably better and cleaner rooms, proved to be, rather fittingly, the death sword to the Epée. Since 1918, the building has belonged to the city and its ground floor is home to the Dolce & Gabbana store.

 

Raabe (Corbeau)

I’ve so far been unable to locate where “The Raven” would have been, however my guess is that it was located on Räblaubergässli, a narrow passageway now named Robert-Walser-Gasse.

The beautiful Michelin-recommended Kaiser’s Reblaube at the end of the street is located in one of the oldest buildings in town, dating back to 1270.

Talking of ravens, my favourite bar in the whole world (and I review bars for BestBarsEurope.com) is The Old Crow at Schwanengasse 4, just around the back of the Haus zum Schwert. I’m sure, had it been around at the time, it would have made Murray’s choice of recommended inns, not least for its rare whisky collection alone.

 

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Storch (Cycogne), table d’hote, with wine 2 fr. 8 sous; bed 2 fr.; breakfast 1 fr. 4 sous.

The Hotel Storchen next to the Schwerdt dates back to 1357 and was rebuilt in its current form in 1838, just as Murray’s book was going to print. Today, a room will set you back a hefty CHF 488 a night, whilst the table d’hote in the popular restaurant now costs CHF 100, CHF 170 with wine. A business lunch is half the price and, whilst waiting for your food, you can read about the history of the hotel here.

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The inns at Zurich are notoriously dirty, high priced and ill attended: they have hitherto enjoyed a monopoly, and there has been no inducement to improve. But at this time (1837) two large new inns are building – one near the outlet of the Limmat from the lake, on the right bank of the river; the other near the new post office.

It was this greed and laziness that led to the 500 year old Schwerdt closing down.

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The first hotel which Murray says was responsible for breaking this monopoly, was the Hotel Du Lac at Limmatquai 16 (as shown on this etching from 1845), directly opposite Zwingli’s statue. This stretch was originally called Sonnenquai and, like the hotel, was built around the time Murray visited. No longer a hotel, today it is home to the Molino Select Italian restaurant.

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However, the most important hotel to shake up the scene in Zurich, was the later one Murray refers to, “near the new post office”.  The Hôtel Baur en Ville (now the 5 star Savoy), was constructed the same year as his visit, and whilst it is no longer “notoriously dirty” or “ill attended”, it is just as“high priced” as ever, with rooms costing from a whopping CHF 690 a night.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]

 

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The Old Arsenal  (Alt-Zeughaus) contains some ancient armour; also a cross-bow, said to be (?) that with which William Tell shot the apple from his son’s head: and several tattered standards, taken by the Swiss from their enemies, including one of Charles the Bold of Burgundy. This collection is inferior to those in several other Swiss cantons.

Murray, forever sceptical, seemed to question the claim with his “(?)”, however you can make your own mind up if indeed the crossbow is that of (whisper it quietly in these parts), the fictional character, Wilhelm Tell, whilst enjoying your Zürcher Geschnetzeltes in the former Zeughaus, which dates back to 1487 and remained as the city’s armoury until 1867. Since 1926, it has been the Zeughauskeller, the city’s most popular restaurant, serving traditional Swiss dishes, based on recipes that pre-date Murray’s times, including Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, Bürgermeister Schwert, Möckli, Kalbsleberli, Rösti and metre long Kanonenputzer sausages.

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Back in 1837, Murray would have caught the steamboat from its dock at Bauschänzli, the manmade island which remains from the medieval fortifications of the city. Today the island acts as a beer garden and restaurant. .

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As well as the historic hotels and restaurants mentioned above, if you’re looking for somewhere to dine in Zurich, then you should visit any of the following restaurants, which, whilst not actually inns during his time, do have some relation to Murray’s notes:

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Wirtschaft Neumarkt

This restaurant and beer garden specialises in Swiss wines. Located in the Bilgeriturm at Neumarkt, one of the few remaining towers from the medieval city ramparts, there’s even a dining room in the tower itself. 3 courses for around CHF50.

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Conditorei Schober

Located in the secret annex of the Schwendenturm or Manesseturm, part of the medieval ramparts demolished after Murray visited (in 1850) at Napfgasse.Today it is a cafe and confectionary that has kept the style of the 1800’s.

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Restaurant Turm

This restaurant. also on Spiegelgasse, belongs to celebrity chef Tony  Navarro and is located next to the Brunnenturm, another medieval rampart. The restaurant itself is somewhat tacky but serves good Mediterranean cuisine. 3 courses for around CHF60.

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Restaurant Rechberg 1837

As the name suggests, this excellent Swiss restaurant is housed in a building constructed the year Murray visited.

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ROUTE:

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Schaffhausen to Zurich, by Eglisau.
9 stunden – 29 ½ English miles.

This is a short and very easy route (55km), with the only challenging hill being that up to the panoramic view at Waid. The entire route is well signposted, even when crossing into Germany, and is possible by road bike, with the entire route being paved. Trains also run the entire journey.

0km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN

7km ~ ALTENBURG (D)    up  75 m   down  80 m


Possible Excursion:

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2km ~ RHEINAU ~ Kloster Rheinau (CH)  up  20 m   down  70 m

7km ~ JESTETTEN (D)  up  100 m   down  20 m


10km ~ JESTETTEN (D)  up  40 m   down  15 m

13km ~ LOTTSTETTEN (D)  up  20 m   down  15 m

24km ~ EGLISAU (CH)  up  30 m   down  115 m

32km ~ BULACH  up  80 m   down  20 m

42km ~ KLOTEN  up  30 m   down  5 m

50km ~ OERLIKON  up  65 m   down  35 m

52km ~ WAID  up  75 m

56km ~ ZURICH ~ Platzspitz  down  140 m


Alternative Route:

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There is another road, somewhat longer and more hilly, on the left side of the Rhine, by Andelfingen – (Inn: Bar) – a village of 2000 inhabitants, and the large manufacturing town of Winterthur (5 stunde), described in Route 9.

0km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN

16km ~ ANDELFINGEN  up  130 m   down  140 m

31km ~ WINTERTHUR  up  80 m   down  35 m

49km ~ KLOTEN  up  105 m   down  110 m

57km ~ OERLIKON  up  65 m   down  35 m

59km ~ WAID  up  75 m

63km ~ ZURICH ~ Platzspitz  down  140 m


Route 7 ~ Konstanz

Route 8 ~ Zurich >

~ All routes ~  Introduction ~

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