Need a Starbucks fix in Switzerland? Take the train.

SBB Starbucks on Rails car

ABOVE: A "Starbucks on Rails" car in Zürich's Hauptbahnhof. INSET BELOW: A Starbucks barista strikes a pose during a press preview.

Starbucks barista in Switzerland

The next time you feel a craving for caffeine as you're traveling across Switzerland, you may be able to get a Starbucks fix without leaping off the train. 

According to the Swiss Travel System, the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB CFF FSS), will launch a "Starbucks on Rails" car as a pilot project on the Geneva-St. Gallen-Geneva route in fall, 2013. A Second Starbucks on Rails will be added to the same route in spring, 2014.

The test phase will last for nine months, with the Starbucks cars operating twice a day in each direction. Passengers will be able to eat and drink in the rolling restaurant or take coffee and food back to their seats.

Trivia notes: Switzerland was the site of the first Starbucks in Continental Europe 12 years ago, and all of the high-grade coffee machines used by Starbucks worldwide are manufactured by a Swiss company.

For more information about travel on train, boats, and buses in Switzerland, visit For railway timetables, go to

Photos: Swiss Travel System.

More chaos and confusion at U.S. customs and immigration

U.S. and British passprots

ABOVE: Will a valid passport get you into the United States.? Maybe--or maybe not.

by Durant Imboden

In early October, we flew from Paris to the United States, arriving at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (MSP). We expected the usual long lines at Customs and Immigration, but on this occasion, the chaos and confusion were even worse than usual: Officers of CBP (Customs and Border Protection) were shouting at travelers, warning that they'd need to show both a "secondary photo ID" and boarding passes along with their passports.

When we finally got to the head of the line, we asked the CBP officer if this was a new requirement. He answered "yes," and he explained that the new procedure stemmed from the fact that "our enemies" had learned to copy U.S. passports, which were "the most easily-forged passports in the world."

The officer then made a show of holding up our passports and secondary IDs and comparing them, even though he'd already expressed his contempt for drivers' licenses, which anyone could buy "on the street."

We managed to get through immigration, and after we got home, I scoured the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Web site in search of information on the new "secondary photo ID" policy. When I couldn't find anything, I e-mailed the CBP's press department. Today, I got the following reply from a press officer named Cherise M. Miles:

"There are no new requirements or changes to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectional procedures. During arrival processing, CBP officers may request additional forms of identification for verification purposes."

So what's the explanation? Did a rogue CBP supervisor at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport decide, without consulting higher-ups, that requiring a secondary (and unreliable) photo ID and boarding pass would help to keep "our enemies" out of the country? CBP isn't saying. Still, if you're traveling to the United States from overseas, it might be a good idea to bring along a secondary photo ID and keep your boarding pass handy when you're arriving at a U.S. international air gateway. And be sure to allow plenty of time for connections: We had to stand in two long, slow-moving lines at MSP on October 1--the first to get through immigration, and the second to hand in our customs forms as we left the immigration and customs area.

New Berlin airport delayed until 2013

Berlin Hauptbahnhof

PHOTO: Until BER opens next year, you can fly into Berlin Schönefeld or Tegel, or--better yet--arrive by train.

We just got word from visitBerlin that new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) will open for business on March 17, 2013--ten months after the previously-announced opening date of June 3, 2012. Why? Reportedly, the airport must pass "safety tests" before it begins commercial flight operations.

Berlin's tourism officials describe the delay as "surprising and annoying." Still, the existing Berlin airports at Schönefeld and Tegel will continue operating as before, and the extended summer flight schedules of the three largest airlines serving Berlin (Air Berlin, Lufthansa, and EasyJet) are being maintained. VisitBerlin does concede that the postponement of BER's opening could lead to "delays in airlines committing to new intercontinental routes."

Photo: Olaf Loose.