More & Faster Swiss Trains

Starting June 10 the Swiss Rail System will introduce new, faster equipment and more frequent service. Half-hourly departures will be available on most Intercity lines, new late-night and early-morning trains are being added, and ICN tilting trains faster around curves will reduce travel times. The Zürich-Lausanne route, for example, will drop by 17 minutes from 2 hours, 43 minutes to 2 hours, 26 minutes.

For those attending evening cultural events, more than 20 new late-night trains will operate on many routes. In addition, earlier trains will operate to get passengers to Zürich and Geneva airports by 5:30 or 6am.

The ICN tilting trains feature new dining/restaurant cars where a full meal is served; three business compartments in first class (four seats each in a glass-walled compartment with table, laptop outlets, and built-in amplifiers for better cell phone reception); and one "quiet car" in both first and second class where no cell phones, laptop computers or loud discussions are permitted.

Double-decker IC 2000 trains will operate on many routes. These feature one "quiet" car in first and second-class, a Bistro Café car where passengers can purchase snacks/light meals and beverages at a counter and sit at small tables or stand at a bar; and a newly-designed children's playground/family car.

Another innovation is the Co-op Railshop, an onboard grocery store on weekday peak-hour trains between Bern and Zürich. Launched in late May 2000, the Railshop offers 900 items, including beverages, cheese, meat, prepared meals, sandwiches, and salads.

Internet Hotel Deals

  • Readers about to leave for Europe are advised to regularly check the websites of European hotels for last minute specials. At press time the Steigenberger Maxx Hotel, near the Frankfurt Airport offered a price of 146 DM ($66) for a double room with breakfast, 122 DM ($55) single. Click on "Special Offers" at steigenberger.com/en. You must book via the Internet.
  • At its website, one of Switzerland's poshest hotels, the Victoria-Jungfrau, whose double rooms cost up to 670 Sfr. ($395), offered doubles for 250 Sfr. ($147) on four dates in April.
  • The MinOtel chain, which has nearly 200, mostly moderately-priced hotels in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, offers a 3-nights-for-the-price-of-2 deal at its website, minotel.com/fr/. For example, the double room price for Munich's Hotel Amba is 218 DM ($99). Under terms of Minotels 3 for 2 arrangement the per night price for a three-night stay becomes $66.
  • One of Germany's top hotels, the Brenner's Park in Baden-Baden, where double rooms can cost as much as 980 DM ($445), is offering a double room, breakfast and a four-course dinner in its elegant Park- Restaurant, or the more relaxed Schwarzwaldstube, for 360 DM ($164) per person.
  • Each Monday, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts offers low rates on hotel rooms around the world for the coming weekend. For April 27-29, the rate for the Forum Hotel Hamburg was approximately $66 per room, per night.

KEY WEBSITES

  1. viamichelin.co.uk/
    The Michelin database of hotels and restaurants plus great interactive trip planning tools.
  2. bing.com/maps
    Map and automobile trip planning. Locates routes and distances.
  3. bahn.com/i/view/index.shtml
    German rail. Train schedules throughout Europe, not just Germany.
  4. sbb.ch/en/home.html
    Swiss and European rail schedules.
  5. ski-europe.com/
    Top web resource for skiers with much data on Alpine resorts.
  6. myswitzerland.com/en-us/home.html
    Website of Switzerland's national tourist authority.
  7. germany.travel/en/index.html
    Germany's national tourist authority.
  8. http://www.anto.com
    Austria's national tourist authority.

Notes for Readers

  • Foreign currency prices are converted to U.S. dollars at the exchange rate in effect at the time of publication.
  • Hotel prices listed are for one night. Discounts are often available for longer stays.
  • All hotel prices include breakfast unless otherwise noted.
  • Local European telephone area codes carry the "0" required for in-country dialing. To phone establishments from outside the country, such as from the USA, do not dial the first "0".