Thursday, 10 November 2011

Schaffhausen, Rhine Falls and the River Limmat - Day 2

Schaffhausen Old Town

Located in the northern tip of Switzerland in the canton of the same, the medieval city of Schaffhausen was a prominent city state in the Middle Ages, and its history could be traced back to 1045 AD when the first coins were struck. Today, visitors to this charming settlement can stroll through the beautifully preserved cobbled streets and admire the oriels (decorative protruding window frames built as a symbol of wealth) that adorn many of the buildings.

Many fountains with elaborately carved centrepieces could be found at the numerous plazas scattered throughout the town.
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The family crests of the different families that reside in the town are also hung above the pedestrianized streets to further enhance the atmosphere of the old town.
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Random photos of Schaffhausen
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We walked in the general direction of the Munot, a circular fortress built in the 16th century on a vineyard covered hill. Despite its elevation over the town, it was a challenge to find a suitable location to admire the medieval structure as the view was always blocked by the densely clustered buildings. Eventually, we decided to scale a steep flight of steps that was tucked away from view in a side street to obtain a less obscured view.
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Originally built as a fortification, the Munot boasts an impressive 4m thick wall with a diameter of 50m and had only seen one siege in 1799 before it fell into disuse. It is now used to stage cultural events during summer and the Munotkinderfest is staged as a capstone event to celebrate the end of the season with a grand fireworks display.
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Looking back down at the medieval town of Schaffhausen from the steps. The 79 acre Munot vineyard produces 5000-6000 litres of Schaffhausen's signature wine 'Munötler' annually.
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Schaffhausen Buses

The city bus fleet of Schaffhausen (Verkehrsbetriebe Schaffhausen, VBSH) consists entirely of Volvo buses, and all appeared to be fitted with Voith gearbox. Thus, it was a most enjoyable affair spotting buses at bus terminal outside the Bahnhof for most of us with the retarders on the buses whistling away as they head down the slope.

A Volvo B7LA articulated bus fitted with a Hess bodywork awaiting passengers outside the station entrance.
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Interior of a Hess bodied Volvo B7LA articulated bus.
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A Short wheelbase Volvo B6L with Hess bodywork working service 8 to Im Freien.
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Integral Volvo 7700 with a full body advertisement promoting the Rhine river cruise in Schaffhausen.
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A Mercedes Benz Citaro O530 with the updated front mask operated by Regionale Verkehrsbetriebe Schaffhausen (RVSH) which focuses on regional bus routes as compared to the city bus routes chiefly operated by VBSH.
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A notable bus spotting target at Schaffhausen is the cross-border bus service 7322 operated by Südbadenbus. The German bus company is a subsidiary of the German national railway Deutsche Bahn. A Setra S415NF was photographed departing Schaffhausen Bahnhof for Trasadingen across the border.
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Another highlight of our visit to Schaffhausen was the ability to spot and ride on an increasingly uncommon NAW trolleybus. The Schaffhausen trolleybus system is the youngest and smallest in Switzerland, having being established in 1966 from the conversion of a tram line. In 2009, the town council voted in favour of retaining the trolleybus network against replacing the service with diesel or biofuel buses as the higher operating costs of the trolleybuses were justified by the lower emissions and noise levels. The existing NAW trolleybuses that were introduced two decades ago were refurbished while an order for seven new Swiss Trolley 3 was placed in 2010 to replace the aging vehicles.
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Trolleybus service 1 provides a useful link between Schaffhausen and Neuhausen where the Rhine Falls is just a short walk away from the trolleybus stop.
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Instead of taking the direct S33 S-bahn service from Zürich, the brief stopover at Schaffhausen allowed us to explore this unique town and ride a NAW trolleybus to the Rhine Falls. The NAW did not sound as enthusing as the O405GTZ but we still found that the older trolleybuses have more character, possibly because both models which we rode have hub reduction. The passenger information system was basic with only an audio announcement and the friendly bus driver assisted us in alighting at the correct stop and also provided us detailed directions to get to the Rhine Falls.
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Interior of NAW Trolleybus. Note the provision of proper seats in the articulated section of the trolleybus.
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Rhine Falls

The Rhine Falls is the largest waterfall in Europe by volume and is located along the Upper Rhine River which divides the cantons of Zürich to the south and Schaffhausen to the north. The falls measure 150 m across and 23 m high, with an average water flow of 700m3/s during summer.

After alighting from the trolleybus, it took nearly 15 minutes to walk from the bus stop to the bottom of the falls as we slowly picked our way through the crowded staircases along the side of the falls and pausing along the way to obtain photos of the falls.
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The Rheinfallfelsen is a pair of large rocks in the middle of the falls and constitutes the remnants of the original limestone cliff that flanked the original channel.
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The Rhine Falls is classified as a segmented block waterfall and was formed approximately 14,000 to 17,000 years ago where the Rhine flowed over a ledge of erosion resistant limestone over erosion prone gravel that was deposited by previous glaciations during the last Ice Age.
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The historic Laufen castle in the background offers a panoramic observation deck where visitors can admire the Rhine Falls from the other side.
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We continued walking along the river to the pier for better view of the falls in full splendour and to catch a boat tour. A number of luxury hotels are located on the western flank of the falls to cater to well-heeled visitors.
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Schlössli Wörth was an important transhipping, reloading area for the east-west trading route between Lake Constance and Basel until the middle of the 19th century when it lost its significance with the development of the railway. Wörth castle now houses a restaurant and a common boarding area for the sightseeing boat tours. We decided to take a shorter round trip to the rock outcrop in the middle of the falls due to a lack of time.
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There are 4 official boat tours of the Rhine Falls, along with other boat tours that are offered by other operators. Visitors can choose from the following boat tours:-

Route 1 - Felsenfahrt (Panorama-Sicht) [Rock Ride (Panorama View)]
Duration: 20mins / Departure every 10mins / CHF8

Route C - Schloss Laufen [Laufen Castle walking tour]
Duration: 40mins / Departure every 10mins / CHF7.50, includes 2 crossings across the Rhine.

Route 4 - Kleine Rundfahrt [ Small Roundtrip]
Duration: 15mins / Departure every 10mins / CHF6

Route 5 - Audioguide Tour [Audioguide Hear & Share Tour]
Duration: 30mins / Departure every 30mins / CHF10
(Map courtesy of Rheinfall-info.ch)

Package 1+C+4 - Kombi-Fahrt «Das Rheinfall-Erlebnis» [Combined Ride ]
Duration: 60-90mins / Departure every 10mins / CHF17

(Map and information courtesy of Rheinfall-info.ch, correct for summer 2011 schedule. 1 CHF approx SGD1.40)

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It was truly an impressive sight to admire the rock in the middle of the falls which had withstood the erosion from the elements for the past millennia.
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Route number 1 (Felsenfahrt) is the shortest and most popular boat tour and plies between the common boarding area at Wörth castle and the rock in the middle of the falls where visitors can scale up a steep staircase for a better view of the falls. It costs CHF8 per adult for a roundtrip, while more comprehensive boat tours that include the sightseeing platform at Laufen castle costs slightly more.
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View from the base of the rock with Laufen castle being partially obscured by the thick water mist churned up by the falls. The brief boat trip was significantly drier than expected which was partly due to the skill of the experienced boatman at the helm. The heavy mist of water in the air also served to provide a respite from the afternoon summer heat.
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Much to our delight, the steps were much less crowded when we had alighted from the boat and we wasted no time in hauling ourselves up the steep flight of steps that were fastened to the side of the rock.
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The spectacular and awe-inspiring rush and thundering roar of water through the falls at the top of the rock.


We decided to shell out CHF3 to save us the potentially torturous uphill trek as we noted that the next trip of Rhyfall Express was scheduled to depart at 1730hrs. However, there was no sight of the train as it approached the scheduled departure time and we joked that it was perhaps the only train in Switzerland that does not run on schedule. We later learnt that it was an additional ad hoc trip to cater for the crowds as the published timing of the last trip was at 1700hrs.
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The Rhyfall Express Tschu-Tschu Road Train. The train eventually departed almost 15 minutes late and we were not optimistic of keeping to our original schedule. However, we were pleasantly surprised when the road train stopped right outside Neuhausen station (which is not a scheduled stop according to the pamphlet) and we were just in time for the S-bahn train!
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Jestetten

A small section of the railway line between Zürich and Schaffhausen passes through German territory due to the way that the territorial boundaries between the two countries are drawn. As such, we decided to alight at one of the two stations along this stretch for the novelty of 'visting' Germany and adding another country to the list. We had chosen Jestetten out of the two stations as the other neighbouring station, Altenberg, had been closed with effect from the 2011 timetable due to low patronage and had been replaced with a rail replacement service from Jestetten Bahnhof.

The S22 S-bahn service is operated by THURBO, which is a regional railway operator in eastern Switzerland that is co-owned by both SBB (90%) and the canton of Thurgau (10%). The name came about from the contraction of “Thur” from Thurgau canton and “bo” from Bodensee (Lake Constance) which straddles the boundary between Germany and Switzerland. The THURBO operated S-bahn lines within the canton of Zürich radiate out of Winterthur, with the exception of S22 that plies between Bülach and the Swiss border town of Thayngen.

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A THURBO Stadler GTW EMU at Jestetten Bahnhof. Although the tracks at the station are double-tracked, trains call at the station using the same track nearest to the station building. The THURBO fleet consists entirely of Stadler Gelenktriebwagon (articulated railcar; GTW), which has a rather unconventional design where a basic version consist of 2 cars flanking a central 'power module' instead of having the power modules housed in one or both cars.
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The rail replacement service to Altenburg bahnhof utilising a 8-seater Mercedes Benz 212D van that exemplifies the low demand at Altenburg. The timetable of the service is tied to the hourly schedule of the S22 S-Bahn service that calls at Jestetten. In addition, Jestetten station is an unmanned station with all the doors and windows of the station building being boarded up. The self-service ticketing machine located at the platform accepts both Swiss Franc (CHF) and Euro (EUR) due to the station's unique operational requirements. It is also perhaps an irony that the residents in the German town have to take a Swiss operated railway to get to Schaffhausen where they could change to a cross-border train operated by Deutsche Bahn (DB) to Germany.
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The Swiss, European Union and German flags at a shopping precinct in the town. As it was a Sunday, all the shops are closed as it is the norm in most European countries.
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Streetsigns in Jestetten. One significant difference betweeen Germany and Switzerland is that the former uses standard German where 'ß' instead of 'ss' in Swiss German.
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We spent half an hour walking around the largely residential town and as we had half expected, there were no sights of particular interest in the largely residential area. Moreover, the local bus services were also not in operation on a Sunday.

The German equivalent of a 'primary school' in Jestetten town.
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We spent the rest of the time at a Chinese buffet restaurant / guesthouse that was located besides the station having a drink and making use of the toilet facilities.
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THURBO from Jestetten

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The interior of a THURBO Stadler GTW EMU which features colourful headrests on the second class seats that are arranged in a 3+2 layout. The low floor entrance area facilitates passengers to bring their bicycles on board and the centre raised articulated section houses the driving motors for the train.
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The S22 brought us as far as Bülach Bahnhof, where we had to transfer to to another Inter-Regio (IR) service back to Zurich after a brief look at the row of parked Re 420 electric locomotives at one of the platforms. Some considerable effort had definitely been put in to decorate the station premises!
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Re 460 105 'Fürstenland' upon arrival back at Zürich Hauptbahnhof after working Inter-Regio service IR2589 from Schaffhausen. The Pininfarina designed Re460 standard electric locomotives were introduced as part of the ambitious 'Bahn 2000' project to rapidly modernise and improve capacity on Swiss Railways. They are built by SLM Winterthur and ABB Zürich and have a top speed of 200km/h.
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Dinner at Zürich Hauptbahnhof

The last rays of the evening sun filtering through the concourse of the Hauptbahnhof. Designed by Jakob Friedrich Wanner and opened on 9 August 1847, this historic station is also inscribed on the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National Significance.
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There were very limited options at the railway station for a dine-in meal and we soon settled for the Nordsee Restaurant located at the ground floor of the station. The Grillfillet Milano (CHF 21, inclusive of small Coke) was decent but otherwise unremarkable for an establishment which prides itself on its quality fish and seafood dishes. Many of the patrons (including some of us) were also glued to a TV which was broadcasting the ongoing F1 Grand Prix finals at Montreal, Canada.
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Evening Cruise on the River Limmat

Consistently regarded as one of the best river cruises in Europe, a leisurely cruise on the city's iconic Zürichsee and River Limmat allows passengers to take in the best that the city has to offer in comfort. The Zürichsee-Schifffahrtsgesellschaft (Lake Zürich Shipping Company), or ZSG, offers sightseeing round trips of varying durations around the Zürichsee between Rapperswil and Zürich Bürkliplatz, as well as shorter cruises along the River Limmat. The hour long cruise along the River Limmat costs only CHF4.10 per person (ZVV Zone 10 ticket) and is free for holders of the Swiss Pass and Zürich Card as it is considered to be part of the city's extensive public transport network. The Zürich Card offers incredible value for visitors in this rather costly city as it allows for free travel on the public transportation system in the city and free entrances to museums. (CHF20/24hrs, CHF40/72hrs).

More information about the River Limmat cruise can be found at this link from the operator's website: ZSG Website

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Landesmuseum boarding stop. The boarding stop is located diagonally across the northern face of the Zürich Hauptbahnhof and we readily recognised the 'Dim Sum' takeaway outlet besides the jetty from our earlier trip planning using Google Map's streetview function.
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Regula approaching the Landesmuseum stop to offload passengers from her previous trip before working her final trip down the River Limmat. Named after one of the patron saints of the city, Regula is one of the three purpose built low profile river boats and was delivered by Boden to ZSG in 1993, with the twin MWM diesel engines produce a total power of 116kW which allows for a smooth and rather quiet ride during the journey. The round trip operates every 30mins from 1005hrs to 2105hrs daily during the peak summer period from May to October.
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Interior of the Limmat boat. The boat carries a maximum of 51 passengers and features panaromic windows at the side for passengers to take in the sights of the old city along the banks of the river. The River Limmat service is also operated by a two man crew, with one responsible for operating the boat and the other assisting him during the docking of the boat and performing conductor/ticket inspector roles. In addition, the roof is also fitted with retractable blinds and sliding windows for passengers to enjoy the view from the roof as well in the evening and on cloudy days.
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View along the River Limmat near Rathausbrücke.
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The distinctive twin bell towers of Grossmunster church are highlighted in the warm glow of the setting evening sun.
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Strict environmental protection regulations in the canton of Zürich had enabled the River Limmat to maintain its excellent water quality and there are a number of dedicated 'river swimming' facilities along the waterway where one can enjoy a dip and enjoy the view of the city. The Frauenbadi (Ladies' Swimming Area) located at Stadthausquai in the heart of the city is only open to ladies during the day. The Art Nouveau swimming bath is transformed into the Barfussbar (bare foot bar) in the evening after 6pm when everyone is welcome to drink at the bar and dance the evening away (of course after leaving their shoes at the entrance!).
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The Jet d'Eau on the northwestern banks of Zürichsee at Mythenquai. A number of prominent Swiss financial institutions house their global headquarters in the stately buildings along Mythenquai.
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Restaurant Fischstube located along the eastern shores of Zürichsee at Zürichhorn. The River Limmat cruise loops at Zürichhorn Casino before heading back to the Landesmuseum.
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After a brief stop at Zürich Bürkliplatz, Limmatquai and Storchen stops, the boat headed back to the starting point at Landesmuseum to complete its 55min long round trip. It is worthwhile to note that the clearances between the river boats and the bridges is so narrow that the boats are unable to call at the stops along the River Limmat (Landesmuseum, Limmatquai and Storchen) when the water level is too high. Following which, we decided to head back towards the Hauptbahnhof to obtain dusk and night photos of trams.

The Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, or Swiss National Museum, was built in 1898 by Gustav Gill in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first Swiss Federal Constitution. The expansive museum houses an impressive collection of Swiss cultural artifacts as well as hosting different thematic exhibitions throughout the year. At the time of our visit in June 2011, a special exhibition entitled "WWF: A biography" was held to showcase the efforts of the foundation which had initially began as a humble Swiss foundation dedicated to the conservation of wildlife 50 years ago in 1961. The CHF10 entrance fee to the museum is waived for holders of the Swiss Pass and Zürich Card.
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Bahnhofstrasse by Night

One of the two major tram stops located outside the Zürich Hauptbahnhof. In typical Swiss efficiency, an automatic network of sensors regulate the constant stream of trams into the tram stop to minimise the waiting time of trams waiting to enter the stop and conflict with other road users.
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The main entrance facade of Zürich Hauptbahnhof in the evening. The Alfred Escher memorial located outside the entrance pays tribute to the famed Swiss politician and railway entrepreneur who had championed the development of private railways in the country. The bronze and granite statue was sculpted by renowned artist Richard Kissling and was installed at its current location in 1889.
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The famed shopping precinct of Bahnhofstrasse is equally, if not more, alluring when bathed in the warm glow of the streetlamps in the evening. The well documented and reliable public transport infrastructure means that late night shopping is seldom a hassle for both residents and visitors alike.
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