Orange you glad I didn’t say Vienna? Yes, we’re finally moving on with the Travel Tales – it’s only pushing over a month now since Spring break! I do apologize for the delays, however…onward and forward to Switzerland!
We arrived in Zurich after an 8 hour train ride from Vienna. The view was something to behold as we sped past magnificent mountains, tips covered with pure white snow. The city is a quite a pretty one, and we were very lucky on our trip thus far with the weather (really, who would have thought I’d be getting a tan in Europe in March?). I’d been to Switzerland once before, with my high school French class when we spent a day in Lucerne, which is on the opposite side of the country, with it’s green hills and beautiful wooden bridge. Being a country bordered on every side, Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Because we would be near the northeastern border, however, we can pretty much say that we would be hearing German…which was starting to become a little normal from our time in Austria!
Language wouldn’t actually be a problem here, though, because we did a thing called “couch surfing”. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, couch surfing is based off a website where people submit profiles to host or requests to be hosted in cities all over the world. I had never done this before, and needless to say my parents were less than thrilled with the idea, but the four of us ended up staying in the apartment of a very nice family in Zurich. And they spoke English! (and German, French…) Well, the parents did at any rate. Their two children, a four year old boy and a one and a half year old girl, were working on three languages as it is! Thinking ahead, we brought cookies from the Naschmarkt in Vienna for the family, which was great as itdefinitely gave us the “in” with the kids! They have hosted couch surfers before, one gentlemen for 6 months even, and have a positive philosophy of differences, wanting to expose their children to new cultures and languages.
It was neat staying with this family in their apartment, getting to witness the very friendly atmosphere of the complex were they live, sleeping as they do on mattresses on a wooden support framework that is very low to the floor, and sharing a few meals with them. Definitely a different experience than we would have had staying in a hostel! The first afternoon we arrived we had dinner with them where we ate a homemade mushroom risotto with fresh salad, then just settled in. In the morning, they shared some homemade zopf bread; a bread traditionally made in Switzerland on the weekends. I think I’ll have to learn how to make that at some point, it was excellent! Especially with this honey from the market spread on the slices, and blueberry preserves with the honey also made for a nice mix.
We were given some ideas of what to do as none of us researched anything about Zurich. We ended up walking through the Old Town section, or Altstadt, stopping at the Rosemarkt (a little arts market) and a few tourist shops as we went. Lunch consisted of these pretzel sandwiches and a beautiful view of the lake as we sat on the wall above the water. The atmosphere reminded me somewhat of the Ferry Landing back home, actually.
After walking along the lake we turned around and decided to figure out where the local university was (for the recommended view, not to attend a lecture – we were on break after all!). So we made our way back to the start of the older section of town and commenced up a hill and to the school. The view was pretty cool, and of course, we found some other tourists up there to kindly take a group photo!
For dinner that night we decided to go out and searched for a well known vegetarian buffet called “Hiltl”, again, upon our host’s recommendation. It did take about three tries, asking at a hotel and then a police man on the sidewalk, but we finally managed to get there! Now, something I haven’t explained about Zurich yet…or Switzerland, really. It’s an expensive country. And I mean expensive, not just in “broke college student” terms (just especially in those terms). All you have to do is walk down a street for proof, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many nice cars in one place!
But hey, we had to get out some Francs for the two and half days we were there and we were going to use them! Thank goodness that at least the Franc to Dollar exchange rate is basically one to one. So we had a decent meal, in which I had falafel for the first time (though I just grabbed one piece, having no clue what it was and lots of other foods to sample), for between 20 and 25 Francs. My eyes were bigger than my stomach, no surprise there, so I manged finagling a lunch out of it as well.
That night we watched “Amelie” as we had gotten into a discussion about movies and Iris and I had never seen it. Sunday brought a fairly similar day with a few minor changes. We started off back at the train station in an attempt to get more Euros out, an attempt to top up Amanda’s phone, and to actually get some sweets at famous Swiss confectionery shop, “Sprungli”. The one at the train station was the only Sprungli still open in the city on a Sunday, thank goodness.
So after our somewhat frustrating venture to the train station, hence the “attempts”, we took our purchases to enjoy outside in the blue skies and sunshine. Though expensive, they were so worth it! Iris and I split a “glazed mini-gugelhupf” – think a mini chocolate bunt cake with chocolate icing and sprinkles – and a “chocolate kiss”, which was a ball of chocolate fondant covered cake with vanilla cream in the middle. I could have sworn there was a thin layer of apricot jam between the cake and the chocolate, too…
After our Swiss treat, we walked back through the Old Town of Zurich, picked up some kebaps for lunch (fajitas, but an altogether different taste than the Mexican variety I’m used to) and walked along the other side of the river where we found a good spot to eat and explore. Again, I ended up with leftovers for the train ride to Venice the next day. Finally, before heading back to home base in Zurich, we walked up and down the famous shopping street of Zurich, Bahnhofstrasse. Of course, all the shops were closed but it was still fun to window shop and imagine what it must be like to be able to purchase anything in those windows on a whim…
We had dinner with our lovely host family that night in which we had a favorite of mine – spaetzle (or spatzle, if you prefer). It was cooked with beet roots, turning the pasta a light magenta shade, and served with a warm cooked cabbage sauce and a side of salad. It was delicious. Though I would be going separate ways with the other three to catch up with my parents in Venice the next day, we all had an early train to catch so turned in early after saying our final thanks and good night to the family.
Though our time here was not as eventful and despite it being very expensive, Zurich is a wonderful town. From my own experience, I can say that the people of Zurich are some of the nicest you will meet! While it wasn’t a city that would have jumped out at me to go visit, I’m glad to have visited and seen what it has to offer. Maybe someday I’ll be back there and will have a better chance to explore what is in and around the city itself, but for now, I can settle for the experience I had.
As for me, I’m starting to feel normal again but trying not to push myself and ruin that! Summer will officially start tomorrow after 12:30 pm, London time, and kicks off with a final lunch with Oran and Joi (the small Sussex Butler group). Following that is one of the Brighton Festival events I’m going to, “crafting a great story”. Promises to be a busy, but fun, day. You can expect to hear about Barcelona soon, as well as more Travel Tales as I head into Italy. Hope your weeks are starting off well! Thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…