Zurich to Constance, by Winterthur
12 Stunden = 39 ¼ English miles.
A diligence daily in 9 hours.
Despite it not even taking a page up of “Murray’s Hand-Book For Travellers In Switzerland 1838”, I tremendously enjoyed this particular route and would repeat the rewarding cycle out of the city, into the countryside around Zurich, albeit less enthusiastically, a day later, armed with the knowledge of the long steep climbs involved, as Murray would also pass this way on Route 10.
What took 9 hours by horse in 1837, can now be done in half the time by bicycle and little more than an hour by car or train. How times have changed.
The road passes through Schwammendingen and Bassersdorf.
Schwamendingen is now little more than a district (District 12, to be precise) of Zurich, whose growth has seemingly swallowed it up with modern office blocks, superstores, industry and petrol stations lining the roads in between.
The steep hill out of Wallisellen to Bassersdorf is also the entry into the green countryside, far removed from the industrial landscape that marked the outskirts of the city. Once an important trading town for its location halfway between Zurich and Winterthur, today Bassersdorf is more famous for being the crash site of the tragic Crossair Flight LX 3597 from Berlin to Zurich, which came down just 4km short of the runway, bursting into flames in a forest on the edge of the town in 2001. 24 of the 33 people on board were killed, including popstar Melanie Thornton, who was flying into Switzerland to promote her new album, somewhat inappropriately titled, “Ready To Fly”.
Cycling through a different forest, to the pretty village of Lindau, I crossed the Autobahn and started the long steep climb to Kyburg. A 200m climb over 6km, the surrounding forest and panoramic views somehow allow your brain to override your aching muscles’ request to stop, and the final reward for my efforts was duly delivered by a stunning place that I never even knew existed prior to following John Murray’s route.
On the banks of the Töss, about 3 miles on the right of the road, and nearly 4 miles from Winterthur, rise the ruins of the Castle of Kyburg, memorable in history as the seat of a powerful family of counts, who, between the 9th and 13th centuries, gained possession of the North of Switzerland, as far as the Rhine and lake of Constance, and numbered as their dependents and vassals 100 lords of minor castles, now for the most part in ruins.
The picturesque village, built around Schloss Kyburg was, according to Murray, under the control of Rudolph of Habsburg, from 1264.
The Austrian family still used the title “Count Of Kyburg” in 1837, despite the ruined castle, by then, according to his notes, belonging to a “citizen of Winterthur”. That citizen, Heinrich Hirzel, bought it from the local Zurich government in 1831 and planned to use it as a quarry, proving that it’s not just modern property developers who care little about a building’s heritage. Fortunately, it was saved in 1835 before he had chance to ruin it further, when he sold it to the exiled Polish count, Alexander Sobansky, who lived there until 1865, which indicates Murray’s information was two years out of date. The Canton of Zurich bought it back in 1917 and today it has been completely rebuilt and serves as a museum and the heart of the village.
Whilst the climb up to Kyburg had been long and gradual, the steep road down to the river, on the opposite approach, snaked down through the forest in a series of tight and twisty hairpin bends.
Crossing the River Toss on an old covered wooden bridge, which I presume would have stood back in Murray’s time, the 6km approach to his next stop was spent on the car free cycle path, deep in the beautiful forest.
I emerged from the forest directly opposite a site which is important to the history of Switzerland, Austria and, in particular, Hungary.
“The ancient Dominican Convent of Töss, on the road, now converted into a factory, was the chosen retreat of the Empress Agnes after the murder of her father, Albert of Austria. Here, her daughter-in-law, St.Elizabeth of Hungary, took the veil, and died in the odour of sanctity. ”
Today, the factory at Töss remains, increasing so much in size that it has gobbled up the church, which Agnes, the daughter of the murdered Habsburg king, retreated to, begging forgiveness for avenging his murder by a thousand innocent people at Windisch (as told in Route 6). Elizabeth, her stepdaughter, whom she took with her, spent most of her life here despite being the sole surviving member of the first Hungarian royal family, the House of Árpád.
The princess never had any influence on Hungarian politics, and was prevented from becoming Queen of Hungary on account of being too busy becoming a saint in Töss, some 1000km away, a result of her evil stepmother forcing her to become a nun, in the interest of strengthening the Habsburg dynasty.
Whilst the locals bestowed sainthood on her, it was never accepted by the Vatican, presumably as her miracles were not as spectacular as that of her great-aunt, St.Elizabeth of Hungary, who had an uncanny knack of bringing people back from the dead when you prayed to her. She could also make roses appear, as if by magic, in her apron. Over the years, there has been much academic debate as to whether the miracles credited to “St. Elizabeth of Thuringia” were actually made, instead, by her niece in Toss. Having read many of these studies and arguments on the subject, in research for this paragraph, I can conclude that it is indeed possible, nay, I’d say even more than likely, or, I’d even go as far as saying that it is without shadow of a doubt, that neither Elizabeth of Hungary nor Elizabeth of Toss could have even remotely performed the miracles that are talked of.
The monastery closed down after the Protestant Reformation in 1520 and, after the French Revolution, was bought by Johan Jacob Rieter in 1833, as a base for his textile machinery factory, which still exists to this day, a leading global supplier for components used in fiber spinning.
Unfortunately, Murray’s description of the monastery church, with its monument of Elizabeth and “arms of Hungary”, is no longer relevant, as is the case with “the cloisters, built with the church in 1469” and “ornamented with fresco paintings from the Old and New Testaments”, as the entire monastery and church was finally demolished in the early 1900’s to make more room for the factory.
I tried to find more information about what happened to the contents of the monastery, and received this very helpful reply from Rieter:
“I’m sorry, but I think we are the wrong place to answer your questions.
We produce spinning machines.
Thank you for your understanding.”
No longer a separate town, Töss now basically morphs into its big sister.
“An industrious manufacturing town, of nearly 3500 inhabitants; consisting of two long parallel streets, crossed by eight smaller ones at right angles.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is all Murray has to say about Winterthur, a large city now with 110,000 inhabitants and a well preserved Old Town. Fortunately, the tourist board fill the gaps he leaves unanswered with the history of each street and many of its buildings told on various signs dotted throughout town.
“The weaving of muslin and the printing of cotton are the most thriving branches of industry here.”
Noticeable on the cycle into town, the old cotton mills and factories from the Industrial Revolution still stand proud, now transformed into bars, shops and office units for small businesses, together with a huge museum which celebrates the city’s important manufacturing history.
ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS IN WINTERTHUR (45km):
Inns: Wilder Mann, good
The Gasthof zum Wilden Mann at Obertor 3 existed for 320 years and was rebuilt in 2004, with a beauty shop and four luxury apartments replacing the restaurant and six hotel rooms. Somehow, I couldn’t picture John Murray popping in to get his nails manicured. Like many buildings in the Old Town, a plaque above the door marks its original use.
Still operating however is the Wirtshaus Zur Sonne at Marktgasse 13-15 , one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the city. Dating back to 1483, it was bought by the Coop in 1875 and used as a shop. Today, it is owned by the student association, Vitodurania, who have been holding meetings on the premises for more than 100 years. Whilst the ground floor is now the Mueller store, the first floor Restaurant Zur Sonne serves good old fashioned Swiss food, with recipes dating back to Murray’s time and over 24 different röstis.
It’s an hour’s ride from Winterthur to Frauenfeld through pleasant countryside. With the entire route barely taking a few paragraphs in his notes, I’m not sure which exact path Murray would have followed between the two – if indeed, he actually did at all – however mine took me passed the beautiful Villa Lindengut, dating back to 1787 and now a museum…
[Photo: Joachim Kohler Bremen Wikipedia]
…and then Schloss Hegi, a stunning castle built in 1200 as a private residence, it has been home to many a distinguished family since. Today though, it is a museum with a delightful weekend beer garden (May – October).
The approach into Frauenfeld passed many an old farmhouse that would have been around at the same time Murray past by too.
Frauenfeld: The chief town of the Canton Thurgovie (German: Thurgau), has 1,200 inhabitants, and is situated on the river Murg, which sets in motion the wheels of numerous cotton, dyeing, and printing mills.
Today it has 25,000 inhabitants, some who work at the riverside headquarters of the Sigg aluminum bottle company, which moved here from Biel in 1916. Many of the old cotton factories still stand and have been sympathetically converted to luxury apartments and offices.
“The stately Castle, on the summit of a rock, was built in the 11th Century by one of the vassals of the Counts of Kyburg.”
Built in the 13th Century for influential Prog Rock group The Counts of Kyburg, and inherited by Rudolf von Habsburg in 1264 after they split to embark on unsuccessful solo careers, the castle almost seems to be an inconvenience, surrounded, not by a moat, but by two busy roads, one of which leads to Murray’s next stop;
“On a hill to the South of the town stands the Capuchin Convent, founded in 1595, now occupied by only seven or eight brothers.”
Brothers made way for sisters in 1853 before moving out when the cloister was sold to the Catholic church in 1869. Today, the restored chapel is mainly used for “foreign language worship”, which presumably means worshipping the Lord in a language other than Swiss German, rather than worshipping foreign languages.
ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS IN FRAUENFELD (63km):
Inns: Krone, best and clean
Now a lawyer’s office, with the original “Krone” name standing proudly above the door, a plaque on the wall at Bankplatz 1, explains that the Krone was a hotel from 1771 until 1851, before becoming a bank.
Around the corner from the Krone, at Zürcherstrasse 179 a plaque explains that the Hörberatung Nathalie Farner hearing clinic was previously the Hotel Zum Hirschen from 1771 until 1890.
Not mentioned by Murray but around in his time, is the Wirtschaft Zum Goldenen Becher opposite the Krone. Today, it is the museum cafe of the Naturmuseum (open Tuesday -Friday day times).
Next stop was Pfyn, 7km away.
“a village on the Thur, was in Roman times, a frontier fort, called Ad Fines; whence its modern name.”
The Roman heritage is celebrated today, and the original walls of the Ad Fines fortress have been preserved and can be seen at what is now the village school and museum, just a short but interesting detour off the main road.
Murray then continues on to Mühllheim, presumably stopping for a round of golf at Lipperswil before riding the rollercoasters at the Conny-Land amusement park.
He then heads up the hill to the tiny farming village of Wäldi.
“a wooden tower has been erected on the summit of a hill near this, called Hohenrain, on account of the extensive view it commands.”
The 21m high wooden tower at Hohenrain, built by 20 year old local lad, Louis Napoleon (Route 7), has been replaced with the modern day equivalent, a mobile phone mast, and the trees surrounding it seem to have grown so tall (now 30m) that its panorama was blocked. It was a magnificent structure popular with rich tourists although too expensive for locals to climb, with the cost being the equivalent of 3 hours wages. In 1850 it was sold to Englishman George Treherne, but was soon abolished in 1855.
However, I was excited to learn a few months after visiting, that construction started in November 2016 to build a modern day “Napolenturm” just 100m from its original site. [more information here].
Fortunately, I was still able to enjoy “an extensive view” as the steep descent from Waldi, down the other side of the hill towards Tägerwilen, gave a stunning panorama of Lake Constance, although trying to take a photograph with one hand whilst travelling at over 60 km/h on a bicycle resulted in this rather blurred vision…
At the foot of the hill, close to Gottlieben, the route joined up with the Swiss road into Konstanz (Route 7). I enjoyed the remaining 5km cycle into the city with the setting sun keeping me company.
ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS IN KONSTANZ (97km):
The Hecht, or Brocket, and the Couronne Imperial, both good; but the latter is to be preferred as the posting-house. The other is the voiturier connexion.; and they do all they can to advise travellers to adopt that mode of transport, saying that you cannot rely upon finding horses, and the like.
Once a grand building and centre of attention, Hotel Hecht or Hotel du Brochet was the yellow building at Fishmarkt 21, home to the Brasserie Chez Léon restaurant. A plaque marks its wall, stating that Michel de Montaigne, arguably the most influential writer ever, stayed here in 1580. It doesn’t state if he took them up on their offer to hire a horse.
The Couronne Imperial, at Brotlaube 2A, is no longer a hotel but, from September 2016, will be Brasserie Colette from legendary German chef, and former Berlin gangster, Tim Raue, which will move into the premises formerly occupied by the Krone restaurant and coffee house. The golden crown on the building’s roof signalling its former use.
The former Dominican monastery which Murray visits (Route 7), a cotton factory at the time, was converted by its owner, Eberhard von Zeppelin, the brother of the more famous Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, into a hotel in 1875 and is now the 5 Star Steigenberger Inselhotel. Rooms cost from €195.
For hotels in Konstanz, the picturesque Hotel Graf Zeppelin was opened in 1835 as the Deutsches Haus, two years before Murray visited and possibly not established enough to make his recommendations. It was renamed in 1950 as a tribute to Ferdinand von Zeppelin, the airship pioneer who was born in Konstanz the year Murray’s “Hand-Book For Travellers In Switzerland 1838” was published. Rooms cost from €100.
Hotel Goldener Sternen, meanwhile, has been owned by the same family for the past 250 years.
Zurich to Constance, by Winterthur
12 Stunden = 39 ¼ English miles.
At 97km, this is an enjoyable route, although there are some challenging climbs to conquer – especially up to Kyburg – however the entire route is possible by road bike with only the forest ride into Winterthur being off road.
0km ~ ZURICH
5km ~ SCHWAMENDINGEN 85
12km ~ BASSERSDORF 60
35km ~ SCHLOSS KYBURG 260
42km ~ RIETER-SIFTUNG, TÖSS 70
45km ~ WINTERTHUR → flat
46km ~ VILLA LINDENGUT → flat
50km ~ SCHLOSS HEGI → flat
63km ~ SCHLOSS FRAUENFELD 110
64km ~ KLÖSTERLI, FRAUENFELD 20
72km ~ PFYN → flat
76km ~ MÜLLHEIM → flat
85km ~ WÄLDI 175
86km ~ HÖHENRAIN 30
92km ~ TÄGERWILEN 30
97km ~ KONSTANZ → flat