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Swiss Adventure Begins

Saturday, October 13, 2012

 Family, friends, friends of family, and any other concerned individuals, I am alive, well, and thoroughly enjoying my time in Switzerland. I arrived in Zürich on Thursday around 1400 and met my first couchsurfing host, Pascal, at the main train station. It became aware to me quite quickly how grateful I was for him being there. It would've been quite complicated finding out where to go, which train tickets to get, etc. So he first proposed to take me to Üetliberg, which was conveniently one of the things on my to do list. Üetliberg is (usually) a good lookout point of the city but it was quite foggy when we got up there. It was still quite cool though. 
        From here, we went to grab a beer at one of his favorite places, a REALLY cool restaurant called El Lokal, that had a super eclectic ambiance... Giant skeleton hanging from the ceiling, chaotic-like decor all around. I wish the picture turned out better to show how interesting this place was. One of his friends met us out here and we had a good time talking before he had to go back to study some more law. We then went to meet a couple of his other friends at a student bar nearby. All of his friends were really nice and really easy to talk to. 
        As always, it was interesting learning about another culture and sharing stories. It seems Switzerland is similar to Denmark in the social aspects, as we discussed how Swiss are also generally reserved at the start but "once you have a Swiss friend, they're a friend forever" kinda deal. It was also interesting learning about all their languages. They have like six: German, French, Italian, Swiss-German, one I can never remember, and most know English. 
        I also learned that apparently the Zürich accent is looked at similar to how New Yorkers or northern accents are in the states. I suppose like the snobby, rich people of Switzerland. It's all European to me, so I'm a fan of it. It sucks having an American accent... Not sure anyone thinks that's hott.
         We turned in rather early our first night out, which I'm kind of glad, so I was able to wake up early the next day for a long day of exploring the city. I literally explored all day; I made it to the city around 10 and was going to try the Swiss National Museum, first but couldn't find it right away so wound up finding the Old Town. I went to a strange museum, Helmhaus, which showcased one painting of a totally naked man, one of 4 rotisserie chickens, one "stewardess in the mountains" (a painting of a stewardess hanging off the ledge of a mountain on a limb), and other very strange paintings... Or super simple ones of triangles or little lines making a circle... Needless to say, I didn't stay here too long.
         Next it was time for all the churches. I stumbled upon Fraumünster, St. Peter's, and Grossmünster. St. Peter's is the church with the largest clock face in Europe. All of these were incredible inside. The organs, flowers, stained glass windows and intricate architecture were breathtaking. I'm planning on going to Grossmünster in the morning. I figure it could be an interesting experience even if it is in German.
          In the afternoon, I found Conditorei Péclard im Schober, or Café Schober, which was recommended to me by a friend of a friend, which I'm SO grateful for. It was amazing... Another place where I wish the pictures turned out better because I can't do it justice. But to give it a shot, on the second floor, it had beautiful red, velvet, vintage chairs as well as a mix of other antiquey looking furniture, a piano, beautiful lighting and chandeliers and so many elegant, eclectic touches all around. I, however, sat downstairs due to the heat upstairs, at a little table overlooking the garden patio, where I would've been sitting had it not been raining all day. I had this delicious Lachspinat quiche... Salmon spinach quiche. For dessert, I was recommended a chestnut dessert that's popular in the winter, which did not disappoint. I wish I could remember the whole name of it. :/

 The rest of the day, I saw the Opera House and went to Landesmuseum, the Swiss National Museum. I'm glad I made it here because it was a very interesting museum. It seems the Swiss can be quite creative and even subtly humorous with their normally formal displays. i.e. Instead of just displaying the furniture from different eras in a normal fashion, they decided to throw 'em on the wall. Even some of the descriptions of displays had some less than formal language or humor. The religious displays were some of the most interesting here, showcasing so many paintings, sculptures, chabules(?), and chalices. 
          To kill time before going to one of Pascal's friend's houses, I wandered the city a bit to stumble upon another thing on my to do list... Café Zähringer. I had read about this place being a cafe with a unique atmosphere with a hip, reggae feel. This it was, with my server having dreds and reggae music playing. People around were playing cards, some game I didn't know, or just enjoying some tea. I had some nice pumpkin soup and just chilled after a long day of walking.
           Since Pascal was going on a trip for the weekend, he set me up with this friend, Lukas, who was having a monthly party where they celebrate what could possibly be their last month in this awesome house. So I made it to their house, which was indeed awesome, with a very fun night ahead. At arriving, Lukas was so welcoming, offering a hug from the start, and made me feel right at home. About SIXTY people wound up coming to this party. It was crazy. It was extra nice being around so many people after a long day of exploring alone. It can definitely be fun solo exploring, but by the end of that day it was definitely nice having people to talk to and make memories with. "Happiness is only real when shared?" Maybe not but it can definitely make for a different happiness.
           At the party they actually played beer pong which is apparently just making it to the European party scene. One of his friends made glüwine, which was soo good. It's a hot drink the Swiss, as well as German and Danish and probably other Europeans enjoy during the winter, especially after a day of skiing. It's wine, fruit, vanilla, and some other spices. I can see how sipping that after skiing in the Alps would become a tradition. The rest of the night was really fun talking to so many different people, all of which were Swiss, and continued my stereotypical ideal of Europeans being a beautiful species. Out of 60 people? Probably 70% were beautiful. And none of the other 30% were ugly either. I dunno how they do it. Everyone else went out to the clubs around 11 but I was so so tired I couldn't even get myself to go out... I figured since that doesn't happen often I should listen to my body and sleep.  
          I luckily woke up quite early, allowing me to plan a day of hiking and set up a couple plans for the next couple days. It was supposed to be raining for like four days straight so when I woke up to see the sun shining I changed my plans to do some hiking. I decided to check out a couple other cities too since I'm turning out to have enough time. So I'll be off to Lucerne tomorrow and Bern the next day. While dropping my bag off at the hostel I'd stay that night, I stumbled on Rosenhofmarkt right outside the hostel, a little market of international traders selling their hippie-esque, unique products. This was another thing checked off from my to-do list.
  To get to my hiking destination, Kerenzerberg, in Filzbach, Switzerland, I took a train about an hour out and switched to a bus for the next 40 minutes. It was such a beautiful train ride passing the amazing Lake Zurich and through the countryside seeing some, what have to be happy cows, and going through incredible mountains making feel like I was in a movie. I kept thinking how this whole trip and the beauty and wonder of this place seemed surreal. I wouldn't have minded if the train just kept going but I had hiking to do! 
          So I was finally off on the way up a mountain to see Talapsee, a quaint little lake at the top of the trek. We also saw an amazing, bright blue lake on the way up. Not sure what it was called though. Oh, by "we" I mean me and the two random Swiss hikers I joined (luckily) that were nice to talk to and take my mind off the problems that came with my overestimation of my physical fitness... It was a bit more difficult than expected. Thus, I only did the 3 hour trek instead of the one to the highest peak. The couple took the chairlift down and I fortunately found my way hiking down on my own. This was definitely the best hike I've done. I was able to see Lake Zürich in the distance, obviously beautiful mountains, the beauty of the leaves changing, walked through little mountain villages with houses that had adorable little gardens in their backyards, saw the tallest (or longest?) waterfall in Zürich, and little streams along the way. Sadly no wildlife besides the nicest, prettiest kitty ever and a dead deer these hunters just shot. :/ 
         When I finally made it down the mountain, I missed the bus by FIVE minutes and would have to wait an hour for the next. I didn't really plan or think ahead on that one. But it allowed for me to check hitchhiking off my bucket list! A really nice, non-English speaking guy took me all the way to the train station. I was so so grateful as waiting in the cold for an hour with a very hungry tummy weren't too ideal. I tried to offer him some money but he wouldn't accept it. I just kept saying "danke, danke," and gracious Heinrich was on his way. 
         By the time I got to the station I was STARVING, as that apple and bread and some canned mackerel were my only meals for the day, so I did a bit of over-stuffing my face with a (finally) delicious hotdog with curry mango sauce! What?!, half a can of Pringles, and a chocolate chip cookie. Apparently that wasn't enough so I had to get a Bueno while waiting on the train. Oi vey. Then, making it back into the city, I was so so cold, so a pumpkin spice latte was necessary. Now, on my Saturday night in Zürich, I just took a two hour nap and am now blogging in the lobby of my hostel. Haha 
           It's been such an amazing, surreal trip so far. I've met some awesome people, seen gorgeous churches, incredible mountains, and awesome scenery, stumbled on so many little gems in the city, and have done more than expected in just four days. Everything just keeps seeming to work out really well; It's been easy to find places and things to do, my hosts have been excellent, and my plans for the rest of the trip just seem to be falling into place. It's worked out even better than expected coming here with one night's stay being the only thing planned and set up. Hopefully the rest of the trip will go as smoothly and wonderfully!

              El Lokal
 Café Schober 

Train ride to my hike





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