29 December 2013: The adventure begins

We decided to fly to Madeira from Zurich because it was cheaper than either of the airports close to us… I’m talking roughly €200 per person cheaper even after buying train tickets to get to Zurich! Unfortunately, that also meant a 3 hour train ride to get to the airport… and the flight out was at noon. So we reserved seats on the 5:50 a.m. train and I dragged myself out of bed ridiculously early to have my shower. It was so early that I couldn’t even bring myself to eat breakfast… too tired. We then left for the train station with plenty of time to spare. So far, so good! On arriving at the station, we dicovered that our train apparantly did not exist. No listing for it on the main departures board, and no train on the screen on our platform. It was listed on the printed timetables though and we had been sold the tickets at the train station, so we knew there should have been a train! Of course, the service desk was closed… but we went there with another family who had tickets for the same train and eventually managed to get the person behind the desk to open up for us (after he pointed at his watch a few times. Yes, we know it’s too early… but we can’t hang around til 9 a.m. when you finally decide to open for business!). The service desk person told us there appeared to be a delayed train arriving at that platform in a few minutes, but under a different number, so back we went to find no train. With only two minutes before the alternative connection Jan had found left, we decided not to risk it and headed off to catch a regional train. Just as the new train pulled out, we saw a train arrive on our original platform, and the family who had been with us running to get on through the only door that had actually been opened. Typical! But if we hadn’t gone for the regional train, we would probably have missed both…

Karlsruhe train station, not at 5:30 a.m.!
Karlsruhe train station, not at 5:30 a.m.!

We then settled down for an even longer than planned journey through Germany and part of Switzerland, following an entirely different route. We were supposed to go via Basel, but the new connections took us to Singen with the Schwarzwaldbahn, then to Schaffhausen and finally to Zurich Aiport with one change in Zurich Oerlikon. Phew! The conductor on the Schwarzwaldbahn had no problem with us staying on his train, but remarked that he had no idea what the Swiss colleagues would do, so on arrival in Singen Jan called the Deutsche Bahn hotline to ask what to do. We were told to find someone in Schaffhausen who would write on our ticket, so in Schaffhausen we headed to the service desk (it as late enough for that one to be open!) to find out our options. It turned out to be surprisingly easy… the Swiss train service person said “Oh, you need a “change of route ticket” (I don’t remember the German word)” and printed out two tickets for the new train which contained the sentence “Statt Hauptfahrausweis” (Instead of main ticket). We were then told to show both our original tickets and the new ones then sent on our way, no fuss and nothing extra to pay. Well done, Schweizerische Bundesbahn! You beat the Germans on that occasion, at least. After that, we were at the airport fairly quickly, where we dropped off our suitcase and made it through security quickly and easily. Stage one, complete! We then boarded our first plane, a Swiss Airways flight headed for Lisbon.

We had a roughly four-hour layover at Lisbon airport, so after looking around all the shops what else was I to do but indulge in some pastéis de nata, Portuguese custard tart. Lady of the Cakes assures me the ones at the airport aren’t that good, but I was pleasantly surprised by how nice mine was. I expected to find it horribly sweet, but it actually wasn’t… and because it was still slightly warm, I wasn’t subjected to the texture and taste of cold custard, which I detest!

Luckily our onward flight to Madeira was on time (Lisbon airport is one of the better ones I’ve been too, but I definitely didn’t need any more time there!) and everything went smoothly, so we landed in Madeira as planned, collected our suitcase and picked up or rental car ready for the drive to the hotel. Despite the slightly annoying beginning, we had made it! And as for our time in Madeira… you’ll just have to come back tomorrow to start reading about that!

~ I am counting Madeira as my January 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge, even though part of the holiday was actually in December! ~