Travel break part three: Zurich!

Nov 11, 2006 • Karen

(Edited from journal entries written in Switzerland.)

The flight to Zurich wasn't exceptionally different from American flights, excepting that the in-flight snack was a Swiss chocolate bar. Mmm. The ground that rose to meet the plane didn't seem too different from Denmark, at least in terms of construction--same palette of exterior colors, same curvy roads and tile roofs. A bit lumpier terrain and more trees, but from what I could see from the plane that was pretty much it. When we landed, we got off the plane outdoors and boarded two buses to get to the actual terminal--up to that point, that was probably the biggest difference of all.

Then came trying to navigate the airport and take a train to downtown Zurich. That's when I realized--I don't know German. At all. I mean, sure, when I first arrived in Denmark, I didn't know any Danish, but I could pick up enough through cognates and context that I could still mostly understand what was going on. Not so with German. Virtually all the words on the airport signs hit me like lengthy incomprehensible collections of letters--beyond the word "bahn," it's completely foreign. Oh dear.

Eventually I made my way to Zurich HB, found the station grocery store, held up the line when I forgot the price-per-kilo of apples, and picked up a city map from Tourism. On to the hostel!

Half an hour later...

Hotel Biber's instructions for finding the hostel suck. Also, the hostel is *not* an eight minute walk from the train station, unless you're a speedwalker with no baggage. The reception desk is three flights of stairs up, which after all that searching was nearly my snapping point. But then I walked into the common room--and it immediately felt like home. Dim lights, yes. Expensive internet, of course. I can't put my finger on just why, but the atmosphere just exudes student-friendliness. There's kids here from New Zealand, Mexico, England, and Japan, so far as I've seen. English is the lingua franca. And this Cat and Girl cartoon definitely nails a decent number of the common room conversations right on the head.

That evening, I went exploring a bit in Zurich--went up and down Niederdorfstrasse and down by the river. Nelson and I were texting each other, and he suggested that we play a "text adventure game" where he said to /GO NORTH, /FIND FLASK, /GET FLASK. I did so, drinking the most expensive Coca-Cola in my life in the process. *So* worth it, though.

I wonder why Zurich has so many vegetarian restaurants. I've seen four veggie-friendly places just in my limited exploration--a far higher concentration than in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, or Brussels. The oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe, Hiltl, is in Zurich, too. Why? And why do they have a flash game called "Miss the Chicken" on their website?

Zurich is also chock-full of fountains. Most aren't all that pretty; they look rather old. Again, why? Something to do with Zurich's Roman heritage, maybe...?

It feels really good to be somewhere new, even with all the difficulties that travel entails. I'm glad to be getting out of Copenhagen--perhaps if I am gone long enough, it will regain its shiny "new" charm? But all the same, breathing new air and seeing new sights is much more fun when there's someone else to share it with.

The window of my hostel room is open. I can hear the sounds of people laughing and chatting in too many languages and the jazz band playing in some bar on the street below. Screw playing a cover charge!

Now it's time to play: Guess What Karen Forgot! Yep, my toothbrush and toothpaste aren't here...

Next post: I go to Lugano! Until then, you can see all of my Switzerland pictures here.