I am sure dear reader you are well aware that it is best not to stare at the sun with the naked eye … unless you find yourself on top of Zurich’s only mountain Uetliberg, in which case it is positively encouraged. Thankfully, I was not left blinded as a result of staring at the Sun on the Swiss peak back in September 2015, but I was left wondering why on earth nobody has given it a rub down with a wet sponge recently as it was looking a bit grubby.
I was of course looking at a model of the star and not the real thing. This scaled model of the Sun marks to start of the Uetliberg Planetenweg, a pleasant six kilometre walk along the ridge of the Swiss mountain. Models of planets pepper the walk along the way accurately scaled in size and distance to the Sun model where every metre of the trail represents one million kilometres of our solar system.
Whilst walking along this picturesque trail it doesn’t take long to realise how vast Space must be, and how utterly minuscule the human race is within it.
Once leaving the Sun behind, it took just a few hundred steps to come across the first planet along the walk.
Further along the path …
Only 40,000,000 kilometres further along the walk (40 m), I arrived home.
Much as I was enjoying my walk across the Solar System, I have to admit I got a little distracted by the sight of some alien-like creatures between Earth and Mars.
Back along the Solar System …
A little further on I reached the astroid belt.
After passing Ceres, it took a while to reach the next planet along the walk.
There was a even longer stretch to walk between Jupiter and Saturn, but the scenery along the way was absolutely beautiful.
Finally, I reached Saturn.
Even though it was billions of kilometres away from the Sun, Uranus appeared to be getting plenty of light.
Although there were a few hundred million more kilometres to go before reaching Neptune and dwarf planet Pluto at Felsenegg, the end of the trail and the furthest reaches of our solar system could now be seen in the distance, a sight probably appreciated more by the paragliders above me.
Just before reaching Neptune, I passed the point where Pluto passes as close to the Sun as it possibly can during its 248 year long orbit around it.
Shortly leaving Neptune the path through the beautiful Uetliberg plains led into a wood and towards Felsenegg tower and cable car station. Yet, on finally reaching the cable car station, Pluto was still another few minutes walk away further into the wood. Eventually …
A quick five minutes walk back into the wood to Felsenegg station …
… I took the cable car down to Adliswil and caught a tram back the Zurich HB.
The path of the Planetenweg is very well maintained, well sign-posted and is reasonably flat along the whole route making for a lovely, undemanding six kilometre walk at a comfortable altitude (the peak of Uetliberg is 871 m).
To reach the Sun and the start of the Planet walk, the S10 ‘Uetliberg’ tram leaves Zurich HB twice an hour terminating at the peak of Uetliberg around twenty minutes later. This journey alone is a delight offering stunning views of Zurich below as the tram chugs its way up the mountain side, whistling like an old steam engine as it approaches junctions and trams going in the opposite direction.
On reaching the end of the walk, Felsenegg cable car will take passengers down to Adliswil usually every 15-20 minutes. This journey is covered by a valid Zurich public transport travelcard, otherwise tickets can be bought for a few Swiss francs from the machines inside the small station. Don’t wait for the car to arrive. Go through the barrier as the car is already there and will automatically set off at precisely the time the dot matrix displays say it will. The journey down to Adliswil takes less than five minutes. The cable car operates between 0800-2200 Monday to Saturday and 0800-2000 on Sundays in all but the Winter months where the operation times are shorter. There are easy-access paths down to Adliswil if the cable car is not operating. Timetables (albeit in German) for the cable car can be found here.
Regular trams and buses direct to Zurich city centre and Zurich HB can be caught at Adliswil station, a short walk from the cable car station and clearly sign posted. The journey from Adliswil back into town takes around twenty minutes by tram, a little longer by bus.
Walking at a leisurely pace, the Planetenweg from Uetliberg peak to Felsenegg took me around two-and-a-half hours. Apparently, that meant I was travelling through the Uetliberg Solar System at twice the speed of light. Fancy that.
More information on the Planetenweg and other activities and events that can be enjoyed along Uetliberg can be found on the official website here.
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