Sunday, April 15, 2012

Semana Santa 2 - Switzerland

I fell completely, head-over-heels in love with Switzerland the minute I saw it. Coming from Florence, we took had a short stop in Zurich before continuing to Lucerne. As we stepped off the train in Zurich, and I took in the pretzel and brat stands, my happiness level went through the roof. My favorite trip before this had been to Munich, Germany. Something about the language, all my favorite comfort foods, and scenery that looked like home combined with hundreds of years of history, caught me. Zurich felt just like Munich.

As we rode the train from Zurich down to Lucerne, my jaw kept getting further and further toward the floor. Switzerland is drop dead gorgeous. The lakes were an aquamarine color which contrasted against the bright green of the rolling hills. Not to mention the swiss chateaus and swiss cows scattering the mountainsides.

But first, lets back track to our ride from Florence to Zurich: For those of you you have the fortune to be skilled in the art of avoiding Moroccan street vendors, have you ever wondered what they're actually like when they're not trying to sell you something? The 4 of us were sitting next to a guy from Nigeria who was "living" and "working" in Rome, and on his way to Zurich to "..........haha........." find more work. The conversation say the least.

During the half hour that Kaitlin talked to him before I eventually realized that she needed an escape, he grilled her on her family life, whether or not her parents where in Spain with her, why weren't they, she wasn't married?? She was living on her own in Spain? She didn't love America? But...America is the land of the free! America is a great place to live! You should love America! Can I come visit you in Spain? Where do you live? I'll come visit you, but you have to ask me too. You don't have facebook? But, everybody has facebook? Are you weird? You don't have email either? Well then I'll give you mine. Email me and ask me to come to Spain with you.

At this point I cleared my throat, stood up and said "Kaitlin! Coffee! Let's go!" And the man gave a "you're leaving? Oh, okay. I see." The strange part was, was that he was completely 100% serious. He didn't understand why Kaitlin wouldn't want to be his facebook friend, or why she wouldn't be excited to ask him to come visit her in Spain. I understand the grilling her about being single and living on her own was a cultural difference, but the whole interaction was

Anyway, we shook him off as we changed trains for Lucerne, although Lisa and I would take every opportunity to say "Kaitlin, we'll do it if you ask us to. But only if you ask." She hated it, but it made us laugh every time.

We spent the night exploring Lucerne, and quickly found that almost all stores close at 7, including supermarkets. What do people do at night in Switzerland?? There was almost nobody on the streets past 8, and for 2 girls coming from a culture in which one doesn't even contemplate eating dinner until 9, this was difficult. We walked around for a bit, saw the Dying Lion of Lucerne monument, and had took in lots of fresh mountain air.
Lots of painted buildings in the Old Town.
Chapel Bridge in the background.

Tuesday morning we woke up bright and early to start exploring. We saw the Fruit & Flower Market and then took a cable car up to Mt. Pilatus, a mountain peak 7,000 feet above sea level. The view from the top was incredible, although a little cloudy and rainy at first.

After spending the morning oggling the view from the mountains, we went back down to the city on a mission to find chocolate. 6 macaroons, 12 truffles, 2 chocolate bars, and 2 bags of chocolate flakes later, we weren't feeling so hot. But I have to admit I've never had better chocolate anywhere else. We topped off our day of eating with a microwaveable dish of fondue, which our hostel recommended over paying for the over-priced restaurant fondue. It was delicious!

Even though we were only there for 2 days, Lucerne has been one of my favorite cities I've travelled to. It is an adorable medieval-looking town, split in two by the Ruesse River and overshadowed by the towering Swiss Alps in the background. It looks like a fairy tale, especially with the town's resident swan population taking up the river.

Traveling with a 7 foot tall guy also gave way to plenty of funny stories and situations. He kept hitting his head on things, which led Kaitlin to seriously tell him, "Brian, if it's at eye level than its too low to walk through." Poor kid. Being 7' tall can have its disadvantages sometimes.

The next stop after Lucerne was a 3 hour stop over in Interlaken. We had booked seats on the 'Golden Pass Panoramic View', or something like that, which meant that the windows opened!! So we got to take some really awesome pictures without worrying about the reflection from the window. But then we got yelled at by a worker who said we had to close the window because the 'evening chills' would be coming soon. It was 11am. Whatever.

Once we got to Interlaken, we made a beeline for one of the lakes. As we laid on our backs with our feet dangling off the pier, the sun shining down on us and the alps in the background, I said "this is what bliss must feel like."

Sadly, we had to leave Interlaken and trade the Swiss Alps for Geneva. Of which I was not a fan. The only good thing that came out of our day in Geneva was the dark chocolate covered giant fudge macaroon that Kaitlin and I spied in a window display. So so so so so so soooooooooooooooo good!

Geneva was a weird city. On the one hand, it was still Swiss, which meant that stores closed at 7. But it is also right on the French border, which means that they speak French, their building and street design is French, and they eat French food. I'm not really a huge fan of French architecture, and especially paired with the fact that I had just spent 2 days in a cute-german speaking city, I was not loving Geneva. I don't think I would go back. It was just...bland compared to everything we'd seen before that.

Geneva's famous fountain

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