Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Switzerland: Ich liebe Dich!

Here's a recap of my amazing time in Switzerland!

Day 1 (Friday): arrived in Switzerland where I stayed with Jessica! See last entry.
Jessica's apartment where I stayed!

Day 2 (Saturday): Got up early and went paragliding off of Pilatus mountain near Lucern. Mountains were unreal. Spent the evening swimming at Hunenberg-Body, the local lake. All the lakes are so crystal clear and clean. 

Day 2: Paragliding

Day 3 (Sunday): Jessica and I went to Stoos to hike. Stoos is a mountain that people ski off of during the winter, but in the summer is great hiking. The neat thing about Switzerland is that although the countryside is owned by farmers they are required by law to leave their property open so people can hike across it. So there are always hiking paths through farmer's field to reach mountain peaks. I got SO sunburnt.
Day 3: Hiking in Stoos
Day 4: The city of Cham

Day 4 (Monday): I rested since I'd been going since I arrived. Jess and Mike went to work. I explored Cham, the larger city near Hunenberg. Walked by the lake and read. 

Day 5 (Tuesday): Took a morning train to Interlaken which is about 3 hours west. I had to do all the navigating of the train stations/platforms/buses myself. I think it's always good to spend a part of your traveling time, even if it's an afternoon, on your own. It teaches you to figure out directions/locations yourself without relying your your hosts. 

Day 5: Hiking in Interlaken
Interlaken...  a really beautiful place with 2 lakes (hence Inter-laken) in a mountain valley. There are numerous hiking trails, and you can take lifts to the top of the peaks.  You can also take a train and lift to the top of Jungfrau the tallest peak in Europe. I went hiked between 4 towns. Took the tram to the first, hiked up for 2 and then down into the valley. There were glacial waterfalls everywhere.  

Balmers Hostel- there is a ring of "famous hostels" in Europe and this is one of them. It has a great lounge, coffee shop, game room, kitchen, movie room, bar, restaurant... everything you could want! I met 4 Aussie guys who let me eat their food and hang out with them so I didn't feel quite so lonely!

Day 6: Trip back from Interlaken-view from train.

Day 6 (Wednesday): hung out in Balmers in the morning cause it was raining, and then caught the train back to Hunnenberg. Showered and got ready to go to Zurich for an M.Ward concert. First had dinner at a vegetarian buffet restaurant called "Hiltl." Amazing food!!!

Day 6: M. Ward concert
M.Ward - the concert was at an amazing bar/concert venue called "Papiersaal." Since he isn't as big of an artist in Europe the crowd was pretty small- about 150. Concerts always start on time in Switzerland which is so great. We only got there about 30 minutes early but were able to stand directly in front of the stage and be in the front row for the concert. My experience with Ward's music has been that it is pretty mellow and laid back. Live it is SO different. It was crazy upbeat, and rocking - reminded me a little of Elvis' style with a little Johnny Cash mixed in. Folk/rock. I wish I could go to more concerts in Europe- the small intimate venue is so much better. I'm sure the musicians prefer it too. 

Day 7 (Thursday): I went running along the river that is behind Jessica's house and then went over to join Jess and Mike at their international school for a lunch celebrating the end of the year. It was neat to meet a lot of teachers and learn more about the international school setting. The school is quite a bit different than US schools- at the lunch they served margaritas in a bag along with unlimited Prosecco. A lot of teachers got pretty tipsy right alongside the principal... fun times!! After that we moved the party down to the lake for more beer and swimming. You can drink out in the open in public places- there aren't the rules about open containers. Finished the night off with Indian food. 

Day 8: Exploring Lucern
Day 8 (Friday): I went to Lucern for the day for what I thought was a "hike" above the city. It turned out to just be a quick walk along some historical towers. I was dressed for a hike- with running shorts and jacket. Swiss cities are classy. Everyone is always dressed fashionably and nicely. You don't see people in sweatpants or torn jeans. So I was really out of place and feeling it! So I decided to get a Starbucks so I would stick out even more, and hang my camera around my neck. Then I made a sign that said "I'm a tourist" and put that on my back. Well... maybe not. 

Day 8: City of Lucern

This was not my favorite day in Switzerland. I wanted to spend time in the mountains again, but had to settle for the city cause of time. I did do a 2 hour hike through a forrest outside the city and did get a view over the city which was nothing like what I'd seen before, but still nice. 

I have realized I am not a city girl. When i think of cities all I think of is consumerism and constant spending. What is there to do but go to shops, spend money, and eat? Give me the forrest, and mountains any day. My negative city feelings were just confirmed when I got pooped on by a pigeon in the train station. All over my arm, and some on my face. I just wanted to cry and die at the same time. So I played it cool, and went quickly to lounge. 

Day 9 (Saturday): Took the 3 am train to Zurich to catch my 6:45am flight. Spent the rest of the day in trains getting to Prague. Arrived in Prague at 3:15pm - but the hostel directions were wrong so I spent 3 hours walking around the city lost, carrying 50 pounds of luggage. I cried. 

Overall thoughts on Switzerland:  
  • Switzerland is one of the cleanest and most storybook-like places I have ever been to. There is no trash on the streets, everything is clean and beautiful. I also didn't seen signs of poverty because you simply cannot afford to be in Switzerland if you don't make a certain income. 
  • It is expensive! Everyone is driving a BMW, Mercedes-Benz or something like that. I didn't see a single beat-up or rusty car the entire time I was there. It is insanely expensive to go out to eat. Lunch entrees are $15-$35 at a normal restaurant where at dinner they are $25-$50. Add a couple drinks and you are easily spending $50-$75 each time you go out to eat. I had to buy sunscreen while I was there and a small normal bottle cost me $16.
  • The language: They speak "Swiss-German" which is a mixture of Italian, French and German. It is not a written language, only spoken. The students learn "High German" in school, and write in high German. This makes it very hard for people moving to the country or visiting. It's hard to learn Swiss-German because it's not written, but the Swiss people don't often want to speak to you in German or English even though they can.
  • The people: The Swiss are very proper and refined. Mostly they seemed quite and self-contained. They aren't very friendly, especially to tourists. They will help you and be polite to you... until you break the rules. Then they become very harsh and scolding. Many of the Swiss rules are not written or explained anywhere, everyone just "knows" them unless you're foreigner. Some rules I "broke": Didn't tell the bus driver I had a reduced fare right away- I got a stern lecture. When we were swimming, Mike jumped off the side of swimming platform and got kicked out. Even though there are no posted rules, no lifeguards, and kids were jumping all over each other. The Swiss like to say "think of the children" as a reason to obey the rules- we should be giving a good example for them after all. 
  • Moving to Switzerland: From the people I talked to it seems it would be difficult to move to Switzerland and feel you belonged. None of the expats have made Swiss friends. They are friends with other expats and foreigners. The Swiss aren't really excited to get to know you. It seems like it can be very lonely living there. The are a lot of foreigners (about 25% of the population), but they are hard to find and the businessmen working insane hours until 10 or 11pm. 
  • Visit here! If you have the opportunity I recommend Switzerland as a breathtakingly beautiful place. But only come if you have extra cash to spare. Do not stay in hotels unless you want to spend crazy money. Find a hostel, a friend or use I feel very privileged in the U.S. but it is nothing compared to Switzerland. It is the epitome of luxury. Amazing experience overall!


Keith said...

I was in Zurich for about a day, so I don't have much of an impression of it, other than pretty, with lots of fancy watch shops. The unwritten rules remind me of Austria, but I think Austria is probably more laid back. There were definitely right and wrong ways to do things, though. None of that jaywalking!

Kaitlyn Cooper said...

How long were you in Austria, Keith?

Liz said...

This post makes me wish I'd been able to visit my Swiss friend even more!