We are about to give up the greatest ground-transport deal going in Europe: Our beloved SwissRail half-pass cards.
These blue translucent pieces of plastic have been with us on all our travels, halving our transportation costs, thereby giving us the endless impression of getting a great deal, and so travelling even more. And more.
In fact, we have been to so many places that my achilles are in a permanent state of near-rupture and my knees are filing complaints daily – because along with train-transport comes trekking a la foot once we arrive at our destination. We love walking, but in this case, the saying “love hurts” applies.
The half-pass, available to Swiss citizens and foreigners bearing a residency card, costs 165 CHF for one year. We handed our 330 Francs over (U.S. dollar equivalent $589,000)* for two cards on April 2nd last year, and through the magic of a rigorous touring schedule, quickly recouped the cards’ cost.
Those happy days are coming to a close as our cards expire in three weeks. To quote Prince Charles: Gloooooom.
As an example of how lovely this card is, our four-hour trip through France’s countryside to Paris cost about 600 Francs for two comfy first-class seats with an elegant supper service. Without our cards, the cost would have been 1,200 Francs. The card extends to bicycle rentals as well, so when we go out for a pedal, it costs us 25 CHF for the pleasure of a day on the bike trails instead of 50 CHF each. Not bad. A quick zip to Bern costs about 30 CHF return for the two of us, instead of 60 CHF. I have not tabulated how much we have saved over the past year, but it has been considerable.
The card can be renewed, but only in 12-month or greater increments, so it is a wash as to whether we will make up our costs by the time we depart this lovely continent in a few month’s time. But if the above math creates this air of sorrow, maybe some more math is the fix. **
Our little town is only 40 km from Bern, about the same distance as Sooke is to Victoria back in Canada, which we used to drive in about 40 minutes.
Biel to Bern via train: $20 x 2 passengers = 1 return trip @ $30
Sooke to Victoria via bus: $5 X 2 passengers = 1 return trip @ $10
Sooke to Victoria via bike: $0 x (infinite number of pedaling passengers) = $0 return trip ******
Sooke to Victoria via car: $40 for a tank of gas x (1 to 5 passengers) x (8 to 10 return trips) = Feathers! The Swiss are ripping us off!
Now I feel better.
* $589,000 is a joke. All other figures in this post are real.
**All currency in Canadian dollars as it is near par with Swiss Francs at the moment.
*** CHF is Swiss Francs. How do you get a “CH” from Swiss? By calling Switzerland’s currency by one of the country’s many names, in this case, the Confederation of Helvetica. Yes, Swiss Cheese, Helvetican Cheese – go on, make your cheesy jokes.
**** Switzerland – German: die Schweiz; French: Suisse; Italian: Svizzera; Romansh: Svizra; in its full name the Swiss Confederation (Latin: Confoederatio Helvetica, hence its abbreviation CH).
***** In high school history classes, our teachers often lauded Switzerland’s neutrality as though it were the only well-behaved child in a class of fractious European nations. As usual, it turns out closing the geographical gap between us and Switzerland reveals that maintaining neutrality was not a given, but a hard-earned negotiated position. Switzerland shot down both Allied and Axis fighter planes during WWII, and at one point were so sure the Germans were about to invade that they were preparing to literally head for the hills, that is, a portion of the Swiss Alps that they were more likely to be able to defend from attack. There are still people alive here who remember that.
****** Bicycle travel drawback: It takes five hours to cover the 100 km/h trip, which is a lengthier Sooke-to-Victoria trip through Vancouver Island’s Galloping Goose trail, a trip that is so enjoyable that it is one of the first things I plan to do when I get back to Victoria.
******* I just like asterisks.