Zurich's Planetenweg (Planetary Way)

"One of the best short trips out of the city.."

"One of the best short excursions out of Zurich.."

Herein lies a photojournal of something that nearly shattered our faith in our otherwise trusty travel guides to Switzerland: the Planetenweg. We admit, though, that the overall experience of hiking along the ridge from Uetliberg train station towards Felsenegg was very nice and we are glad we went up there, sat in a cafe, played in a playground, viewed Zurich from the base of the Top of Zurich, and sat on sunny benches reading a Nancy Drew book together. It is a lovely hike, but we still feel like we were gravely misled about the part of the hike involving the planets.

The Planetenweg consists of scaled models of the planets (1 : 1 billion), and the distances between the planets are also to scale. One starts the hike at the Sun, and the problem immediately becomes obvious: the Planetenweg creators made the Sun quite small..

Reeling from the shock of the small Sun model, and, after doing some quick mental calculations to estimate what the planets were going to look like on this walk, we were drenched with despair and decided to veer out of the solar system and go straight to Jupiter via a detour to the Top of Zurich tower.

Upon rejoining the weg, our worst fears were confirmed when we finally found Jupiter:

Naomi tried to hide her disappointment, but she instantly decided that she would not pursue a career in planet model building, but instead would either be an artist, a rock star, or a paleoanthropologist.

We took a lengthy break to read a chapter or two of a Nancy Drew book. I don't remember the title of the one we were reading that day (Mystery of the Moss Covered Phantom? The Clue in the Old Toaster?), but I know for a fact that one or more characters likely were knocked unconscious, drugged into unconsciousness, or fainted from shock, the former two occurring with alarming frequency to Nancy (but never the latter). We kept a tally of the number of times Nancy was knocked on the head in the series, and the total was well over 100. There is no way she was not brain damaged by the time she was 18. But I digress from the solar system.

The hike back to the train station from Jupiter was uphill, but the planet model experience went downhill.

Mars was shocking. It was a pellet embedded in epoxy in a rock. We decided that humans should not explore Mars.

Earth was of course not so different from Mars in size, but how thrilling to see it embedded in epoxy! We contemplated the fact that we are just an insignificant speck in the universe, that our lives are probably meaningless, and that we were at least 15 minutes walk away from a place to buy ice cream.

Venus blah blah blah

Mercury left us speechless, not to mention nonplussed. We had no regrets about missing the post-Jupiter planets, and could not have dealt with the minuteness of Pluto. We did, however, enjoy the train ride back down to Zurich city center.

We would recommend this hike to others, and even to friends, but we would be honest about the planet experience and prepare them psychically for the sizes of the planets, starting with that dismally small Sun.