Saturday, September 8, 2012

Swisspitality: My brief but pleasant stay in Switzerland

Zurich:

On Tuesday, we arrived at the Zurich Int'l airport and was greeted by my former student, Fabian, with whom we stayed for two days. When we arrived to his apartment after a quick hop on a train and a tram, we arrived to this:


With a quick explanation and sans map (I realize I'm a tourist but I hate taking the map out every two seconds to check where I am or where I aim to go), we headed towards Bahnhofstrasse and Zurich's Old Town. We were told to hit up places like the Sprungli cafe and Tao Restaurant on the Bahnhofstrasse, then cross the bridge over to Odeon at Bellevue Platz for some lunch and then on to Limmatquai for a nice stroll through old town--we bopped and weaved through the little streets. 

limmatquai in old town zurich

After just a few hours of wandering, we headed back to our hosts' home.  Despite the fact that they had to work all day, the fabulous newlyweds cooked us a traditional Swiss dish called Raclette (melted cheese cooked on a special griddle/oven and poured over boiled potatoes) served with pickled baby corn, shallots, mushrooms and some bacon. Delicious! Though not usually my cup of tea--melted cheese (i'm lactose intolerant), potatoes,  and no bacon for me!--, it was such a great meal of great conversation with great people...isn't that what the little joys in life are? 

So, as if that wasn't enough to welcome us with such a day, Fabian decided to take the day off to show us around town. Even though the public transport was set up so well, we didn't even bother taking it that day and walked all through Longstrasse to the via ducts (these little design shops and cafes were the small little gems of this area!) to the famous Swiss brand Freitag's flag ship store (it sells durable bags made of recycled truck tarp, bicycle tires, and seat belts) in which we climbed up at least 8 flights of steps to the top "observatory deck" where you can have a nice view of part of the city.  (I'm 6 months pregnant and I had been walking around all day plus 4 flights of steps twice daily at Fabian's house and this proved too much for my quads as they developed some sort of charlie horse. haha!) We officially made James Swiss by purchasing a Freitag crossbag that he can use for everyday + work (you can see my hubby sporting his washed out orange crossbody manbag in subsequent photos). Then, we proceeded to a higher point (Hoenggerberg) in Zurich by bus so that we can have a view over the city. I gotta say...there was a large assisted living center up there and as Fabian said and I would completely agree: I would appreciate being put up here just for the view. Finally, we headed back down to the river and took a river bus just to have a different view of the city from the lake of zurich.

We got back home and then Fabian cooked us a scrumptious pasta dish with capers...yet again, he spoils us. This night was the night I had planned to meet up with all my former Swiss students at Newsbar. About 25+ of my students all showed up to greet their former English teacher. It's quite unusual for the Swiss to come together with a whole bunch of strangers in one place where they know no one and to socialize like that. It's an easier thing for Americans to show up at bars, parties, or social events at random and meet new people. But all of them came out with only one thing in common: me. I had students show up that I'd had from 2007 to last year and although I was bouncing from person to person to make sure I caught up with everyone, they were all so patient and gracious.


One last thing to mention in Zurich: Rimini bar. During the day, it's a swimming joint for men, but in the evening it turns into a bar (open air). Perfect little place to meet friends after work, I'd say.

Lucerne:

Met with a LARGE bag of Swiss chocolate and baby clothes, I was taken from Zurich to Lucerne via a less than one hour train ride by another former student, Des. The Swiss Germans are a much more polite bunch to tourists as the tourist guide and our apartment host, Renata (from Airbnb.com) were so very kind to us with the minimal English they spoke. More on that a bit later when I talk about Geneva... Desi reserved day passes for us ahead of time so that it helped us save over a hundred CHF in public transport and various transportation we took to get to Pilatus--Luzern's hausberg. First, this ticket bought us a 90-min boat ride through Lucerne's lake to a 40-min steepest cogwheel train ride in the world to the summit.



We then took a tour around old town and decided that we'll walk around more the next day. Man oh man did we walk the next day. Mario (yes I have former students stashed all over Switzerland) came out to meet us to show us Musegg gate/towers. Of course, he didn't come emptyhanded (it seems the Swiss never do) but rather with a bag of traditional gingerbread from their capital, Berne, and some candied almonds. He left work for a lunch break with us to eat kebabs (the Swiss version of "fast food"), my second time eating kebabs in CH. This place is DELICIOUS.


Then on to torture my calves yet again. There are a total of 9 towers on the Museggmauer, 3 of which we can climb up. These towers and wall remind me of the wall in the phenomenal show Game of Thrones.... but i digress.... very medieval protective wall of the city now a monument provides a fantastic view of the city of Lucerne.

top 3 views are of the old town and the city; the bottom photo is of the other side of the wall where I found the cows in the foreground quite quaint against the backdrop of a pretty dense residential zone. 

Behind the wall lay the school play fields where I saw this:

...girls doing YOGA!!!!

Then the wood bridge....and the lake view over an afternoon coffee break...



Side note--strange things about the Swiss:

We ate fondue at a place (James requested that we try all traditional Swiss food regardless if it was out of season...it was fun!) where there was a yinyang sign above the door and inside they played American hip-hop/club music that was popular at least two years ago and one server was Asian and the other from Bahrain. The place had a wall of watches that they sold and a bunch of schick-schnack (that's Swiss German for "chotchkis")  all over the walls.


yum.

strange #2...what is this fashion????? I want to know where and when was this inspired from. I've only seen Swiss men wear this....is it bad that i took random pictures of any man that walked by with these SHANTS (cross between shorts and pants....not really diggin the clamdigger look on men)?


Geneva:

James and I arrived at the train station around 1pm and was greeted by yet another former student, Helene, of course bearing gifts. Here is where I cut back to the impoliteness of the Genevans to tourists. I didn't have wifi and my phone doesn't roam, so I asked a cafe clerk about wi-fi and possible internet service to which she was curt and dismissive. She also didn't speak English and I find that when you're in a foreign country and you speak English to a random person, he/she might be caught off gaurd and thus not friendly. Not so in the German part....most people spoke a bit of English and were quite helpful. Helen later confirmed that Genevans aren't so friendly (unlike the people where she lives in Lausanne), but I thought hey, practice for the cabbies in Paris! Regardless, I found a payphone, inserted my credit card, and called Helene. Phew! First sunny day in Switzerland since our arrival, but I did not mind the cool since we left a non-airconditioned sweltering 90 something degree apartment in San Diego behind. It made for great photos and a beautiful walk around old town.



(for MORE photos....follow me on instagram: Jeni5

Albeit a short time, my visit to Switzerland was a testament to how loyal, kind, generous, neat, and conscientious of a culture/people the Swiss are. I am so thankful I know you and was allowed this opportunity to grace your home. Danke + Merci. 

I'll be back to bring y'all some jennifer oh yoga!! coming soon.......

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