Posted: 8/1/2008


For my third Swiss match in four days I was due for an evening kick-off in Gossau in Ost Schweiz, but had a whole day to use my rail pass in Central Switzerland's magnificent mountain scenery. First leave my bag for 48 hours at Zurich Hbf. It must be the biggest locker room in European rail, over 1,800 lockers of various sizes.

    Straight down on the express to Interlaken Ost where along with Interlaken West, the two stations(between the lakes) Thunsee and Briensee, are abuzz with tourists from around the world. I pick up bread, ham, swiss cheese, apples, bananas and orange juice at a small supermarket and off we go on the little yellow and navy private railway, the Berner Overland Bahn up in the Bernese Oberland and up to Grindelwald. Ten minutes and the train splits up, the front few carriages to Lauterbrunner, and the rear section with me, to Grindelwald. This small resort is at 1,090 metres(3,575 feet) The picture windows on the train open wide, you can almost touch the butterflies, the alpine flowers, the roaring whitewater river.

    Spectacular is an understatement. In front is the mighty Eiger at 3,970 metres,(13,000 feetthe Eismeer Glacier,(Ice Sea) The Monch 4,099 m (13,445 ft) and the Jungfraujoch(young maiden) 3,454 m(11,329 feet). It takes about 30 minutes each way to Grindelwald, but another 2 hours and 150 Swiss francs(US147.00) gets you to the top of Europe and the Jungfraujoch. Very expensive, but small discounts for rail pass holders and the first trains of the day. Lots of Indian tourists make me enquire of them. Evidently Bollywood uses this area to represent Kashmir, which is too dangerous to film in, so Indian tourists want to see where their favourite movies are made on location. Also, remember the Eiger Sanction, a spy thriller with Clint Eastwood in 1975. It's clean and fresh and lots of hotels, chalets, and pensions with flower boxes, outdoor cafes and many couples and small groups with their hiking boots, back packs and those silly pairs of 'booster' walking sticks for the many easy and difficult

    It's time to leave to the North-East corner of the country and a small pension in St. Gallen. I had visited in 1990 to watch Switzerland v USA just prior to Italia '90, and our group had a fab time at the fans pub next to the old stadium. Tomorrow FC St. Gallen, the oldest in the country founded 1879, and second oldest in continental Europe, open a brand new one, 21,000 seat AFG Arena and the old Espenmoos is now closed. The city has a UNESCO World Heritage site- The Abbey of St. Gall and its 9th Century library. It also boasts the best German language business university in Europe.and only 10 minutes by train to Gossau for the match. 

    Next door to the Gossau Bahnhof is the Stadion Buechenwald, a tiny stadium for this Challenge League match -FC Gossau v FC Wohlen. Its an exciting contest in front of maybe 800 spectators. I go to the little corner food stand where they are selling fat sausages and really cold beer. I chat with the couple working there-and get a shock when I burn my left elbow on the corner of the grill, ouch!  I chat with a less than sober fan, tattoed with St.Gallen logos who claims he loves West Ham United, though has never seen them play.

   For the first time I see a home victory, 2-0. The referee, Rene Ragollo is wearing a FIFA badge and is very good  at his job. FC Gossau are an attack minded squad, mostly Swiss but a couple of tricky Brazilians as well.A penalty from Sandro Fooschini after 59 minutes followed by a Tomislav Misura goal 4 minutes later makes trainer Vlado Nogi a happy manager. Next day, French speaking Switzerland.