Tag Archive | Switzerland

Indulging the Child Within (Zurich, part 3)

My advice to any of my friends who plan on visiting Zurich in the future: one full day is plenty to see all of the city. Especially if you are traveling alone, you can really get a lot done in a day and then you won’t need to resort to arriving at the airport 5 hours early for the sole reason of you have run out of things to do.

Because that is what I ended up doing yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, I had an absolutely lovely trip and am so glad I went, but I would have been just as happy leaving at 6 pm instead of 9:25 pm. Alas, my flight was not changeable and I had to wait around.

Of course that gave me plenty of time to handwrite my blog posts intended for publication today.

A definite advantage to solo travel that came in handy yesterday was that you really get to do whatever you want and for as much time as you want because there is no other person’s whims to cater to, no alternative agenda to accommodate. So there was no one stopping me from going to the zoo in the morning. I haven’t been to a zoo in years and with a discount from the ZurichCard and a beautiful day of sunshine ahead of me, I decided to satisfy my inner child with a stroll around looking at animals.

Nemo!

Completely worth it! It may have been one of the nicest zoos that I have ever been to, and I got some amazing pictures of the animals.

You lookin' at me?

It was clean, well-signed, easily navigable, and you felt like you were barely separated from the animals instead of looking at them in cages. Of course I’m sure that there were safety measures in place to prevent innocents guests such as myself from being mauled by a white rhino, but they weren’t so apparently obvious that you felt like you were enabling animal mockery.

Awww baby deer

There was a school group there from an international school so I got to see a bunch of adorable and excited little children. Made me wish my cousin Emily was with me! I quickly put away my map and decided to wander and rely on signposts to get me to all the animals (which was a complete success and I saw all of them). I also realized a few things about myself on this stroll.

1) I am afraid of birds much in the same way that I am afraid of bugs, but not as extreme. I can handle looking at them (which I can’t do with bugs) as long as they are in an enclosure with no way of getting to me, or in nature. But as soon as the tops of their habitats are open and the birds have the ability to get to me, I am freaked out. I booked it out of that section of the zoo. Maybe I just don’t like things flying at me.

2) I really think that lions and tigers are crazy cuddly and I would love to curl up with them, provided they wouldn’t bite or try to eat me. Okay so this isn’t really a new realization, but the lionesses did look an awful lot like Brinkley…

Come on! So cuddly right???

A main selling point of the Zurich zoo is that it has the only indoor rainforest. I kind of rushed through it. By this time I was getting a little bored (zoo info plaques only written in German do take some of the fun out of learning about the animals) but I will say that at 35 degrees Celsius and 80% humidity, being inside the rainforest was the first time I’d felt properly warm in months! My glasses and camera lens fogged up the instant I walked in and I couldn’t see for about 10 minutes.

Couldn't see anything!

After that, I left the zoo; I’d seen everything. But it wasn’t even noon (zoos go faster when you aren’t a child and all the signs are in a foreign language) so I took a detour to the FIFA headquarters.

FIFA Headquarters

Honestly, I don’t care a bit about soccer, but I have some friends who are absolutely obsessed and will be impressed, and I had the time so I figured that I might as well. Thoroughly unimpressive in my opinion, but I took my pictures and caught the next tram back into town.

Next stop was the Swiss National Museum.

Swiss National Museum's cool layouts

The layout had some pretty cool architecture and design, but sometimes museums begin to blend together and you stop caring about all the pointless reading and captions (again in German, though with a notebook with them in English made available). I got tired of the museum really quickly and stopped paying attention to what I was reading or seeing so I figured it was time to call it a day. I walked back through the train station and wandered around their farmer’s market before deciding that I’d had enough of Zurich and that the airport sounded much more appealing.

Did I mention that they give you free chocolate EVERYWHERE you go? ­čÖé

Overall, so unbelievably glad I went, and in hindsight glad I went alone (though I would have loved to travel with Dan) because it gave me a lot of time to reflect and just absorb everything that has gone on this term, something I didn’t afford myself last term. And I got to see an amazing city and experience traveling alone for the first time.

Now, to clean my room because Mom’s flight just landed!!!!!!!!!

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All By Myself (Zurich, part 2)

On the glorious second morning (glorious because I was well rested for the first time in what feels like a week) I got dressed and ready for the day and went to breakfast in the bar of the hostel. The included breakfast was soooo much better than that of the hostel I stayed at in Paris. It wasn’t that much more extensive (bread, various jams and Nutella, cereal, yogurt, tea, and coffee) but the bread was fresh and the coffee made to order. As it was free (well, included in the price) I was not going to sneer at it. Plus the employee was helpful and pointed me in the direction of the bus to the train station.

On my way there, I realized that all the clocks said almost 9 am, but my iPhone said almost 8. Took me a few minutes to catch on that Zurich is on a┬átime zone┬á1 hour ahead of London. Thank goodness I noticed or else I would have been an hour late for everything! I just barely caught the 9:05 train to the Uetliberg, Zurich’s mountain.

It is 869 meters above sea level, towering 450 meters over the city, affording some breathtaking panoramic of not only Zurich, but of all these other little villages and valleys between more forested mountains. I love nature but am apparently known in our family as not liking hiking, so Mom and Dad will be shocked when I tell them that I hiked to the top of the mountain alone! There was a lookout tower at the peak so I got some more incredible panoramic shots which almost didn’t happen as my memory card became full and I had to frantically delete pointless photos from my camera to make room.

Zurich Lake from the lookout tower

Once back in the city, I had to buy another card, but thank goodness I deleted those other ones because I can’t even describe the experience; words just simply cannot do it justice. I need pictures!

Back in the main thoroughfare and away from the icy peace of the mountain, I rewalked Bahnhofstrasse, but at a much more leisurely pace than yesterday’s mad rush towards lunch. It looked completely different this time, I suppose because the sun was out despite it still being cold. I took some more detours down those addictingly quaint streets, but always brought myself back to Bahnhofstrasse. I may have ended up popping into another famous chocolate shop (Spungli) but I limited myself to only one piece!

Rows and rows of chocolate!

I also found some souvenirs for Dad and Kevin. And I took a picture of the Jimmy Choo store for Mom ­čśë

I couldn’t find the museum I was looking for so I found myself with an hour to kill before my boat tour of Zurich Lake. I wished I’d brought my Kindle but I didn’t want to carry it around all day and I couldn’t bring a purse because of the airline restrictions. So I spend 45 minutes sitting on the dock listening to music while watching the ducks and swans (they have wild ones here) battle over a few pieces of bread a kid was tossing into the lake. It struck me though how weird it already felt speaking and hearing others speak English. The official language of Zurich is German and I was already used to hearing it everywhere. Granted I didn’t understand a word of it, but even hearing English come out of my own mouth seemed strange.

I took a boat tour of the lake that was really just a round trip ride around the lake, but as I had a ZurichCard it was free so I’m not one to complain. Again I got some amazing pictures of the colorful houses and little neighborhoods surrounded by forests and snow capped mountains in the distance. There wasn’t any snow in Zurich but other areas had it a few days ago. After 90 minutes of complete silence (I didn’t even listed to music!) I walked back along the lake to the anti-climatic Museum Bellevire, with a snore-worthy exhibition on perfume. I really didn’t care so I ended up just tracing the remainder of yesterday’s walk and heading back to the hostel. Then I showered, finished my book while eating another pizza, and journaled.

And the night set on my second day. Once again, to be continued….

It’s a Small World After All (Zurich, part 1)

I figured that as I spent three days in Zurich, it would be more feasible to post each day as it’s own blog. This way you don’t have to read 3000 words about my trip in one fell swoop, and can better peruse at your own pace. So I shall begin with the first day, hence the title part 1, because I am nothing if not a stater of the obvious.

A few things amazed me about the city right off the bat. One, it is so unbelievably pedestrian friendly. Like really, you barely get to a crosswalk when it switches to WALK–or more accurately the symbol equivalent–and cars instantly stop. Or mostly the buses and trams as a lot of the heart of the city is a car free zone. Also, they have an obsession with clocks. Nearly every corner has a clock. Which really came in handy as I wasn’t carrying my phones around (no point since they didn’t work) and all the clocks kept me aware of the time. But┬áevery┬ásingle corner? I like punctuality more than the next person, but this seemed overkill. Oh well, onto the actual trip.

I was so completely exhausted. I have a hunch that this may have been due to my sleeping over the previous 72 hours occurring in random stolen one hour bursts in unconventional locations, such as a restaurant booth in Gatwick airport. But again, just a hunch. At the airport I bought a ZurichCard for 3 days which allows me to use unlimited public transportation, free museum entries, and some discounts, all for the price of just 40 Swiss Francs! Trust me, that’s a bargain in Zurich. Zurich is apparently one of the most expensive cities in the world. Smart decision to choose here! Anyways, after asking the Tourist Office for help, I safely arrived at Langstars Hostel and used their computer to send an “I’m Safe” email to Mom. Turns out that my timing was perfect.

The famous Zurich transportation, more punctual than human beings

The only other guy in the bar at the time was American. Even cooler–from California, and Los Angeles at that! In fact, Alex (this guy) is from Ventura! And went to uni at the same school Jordan’s dad is a professor at! But Alex didn’t have him. Thankfully he and two other guys from Brazil were about to head out into town to explore, so I went with them. They all turned out to be really chill guys (though I was obviously partial to Alex) and knew their way around the city so I never even needed to bust out a map.

We started off walking down Bahnhofstrasse, the mile long shopping street that is home to every single designer and watchmaker that you could possibly imagine. And banks, lots and lots of banks. We ended up wandering around some picturesque little side streets because I am a menace with a camera. But it all worked out for the best as I unintentionally led us to St. Peter’s Church, famous for its four 9-meter clock faces (shocking!) that are the biggest in Europe, reportedly. It was also Zurich’s first Protestant church.

St. Peter Church

The next inadvertently stumbled upon landmark was another church, Fraum├╝nster, which has three stained glass windows created by the artist Marc Chagall. They are unlike any stained glass windows I’ve ever seen, almost Impressionist, but certainly not the Renaissance windows that I’m used to seeing in churches and cathedrals. Actually the churches here are completely bare, products of the Protestant Reformation. Next we walked down to the docks of Lake Zurich before deciding to check if the Chinese Garden was open (it wasn’t).

The long journey down the banks of the lake was the perfect time for Alex to fill me in on all his awesome travels and what he has seen in Zurich thus far. He saw a man balancing a bunch of rocks along the path we were on, a yodeler, and a bunch of accordion players. And some prostitutes, but that’s not as surprising as it sounds because our hostel is in the former red light district. At the end of our walk was a park and it had a pond with a bunch of stepping stones across it so Alex took the only picture of me that I’ll get on this trip of me on the stones. Inner child was definitely happy.

It was freezing cold on the banks of the lake so we headed back to town to another famous Zurich church, Grossm├╝nster. You can climb 187 steps to the tope of the two towers (insert Lord of the Rings pun) but I was still so knackered from Blackpool that I chose to wander the church and warm up while the two Brazilians made the climb. According to legend, Felix and Regula, the patron saints of Zurich, walked up to this site holding their heads after they were beheaded. Charlemagne later had this church built in their honor.

As soon as we left the church, I could literally feel the heat I had finally accumulated being leeched out of me. It was also well past lunch time so we decided to take the scenic route through Old Town Zurich–an area chock full of those adorably distracting side streets. Eventually we made it back to Bahnhofstrasse and up to the restaurant Manora on the fifth floor of the Manor department store. It was an amazing restaurant and supposedly super cheap for Zurich (still cost me SFr 11.40). And of course no visit to Switzerland would be complete without chocolate, so I took the boys to Honolds on Rennweg. Oh my god, the chocolate was incredible and deadly though all three guys thanked me profusely for finding the place. Besides the amazing chocolate, the woman was overly generous with the samples. I’m pretty sure she would have let us try everything in the shop! As it was, I tried “Lotti’s Best” and Dark Chocolate with Strawberry and Rose Pepper before buying a whole bunch to take with me and to give as gifts back home.

Lotti's Best

Alex led us back to the hostel so that he could get his bags (he was flying to Dublin). I was really sad to see him go. Such a cool guy and so helpful. With him gone, I went up to the 12 person co-ed dorm and took a nap. The rest of my night was super uneventful. I planned the rest of my trip with help from the hostel owner, ate a pizza I bought in the hostel (because it was convenient and only SFr 8.50 and the boys have me paranoid about money) and then I read and went to bed in an actual bed with more than two hours to spare, finally!

So ends Day One. To be continued….