All Things Swiss

5 12 2010

Emma’s mom Lisa said that her absolute favorite European country was Switzerland, so naturally that’s where we went our last weekend together. I was all about it since I wanted to see the famous Swiss Alps (even if I couldn’t ski them… I’ll save that for next time) and obviously I love everything Swiss: cheese, chocolate, fondue, and men. Our friend Jena who was spending the semester in Copenhagen, Denmark was also able to meet us there which we were psyched about. I met up with the two in Zurich a date late because of my internship duties and was shocked to find them half drunk in a 4-star hotel room. Turns out that 1. They had a rough night trying to find the hotel and decided to remedy it with a full night’s sleep and a case of Heineken and 2. The “Hotel Allegra” that I had booked on hostelworld.com was by fay nicer than any hostel I’d stayed in Europe. It was a legit hotel and rivaled sweet hotels like the Hilton in quality and amenities. I was pumped to not only have the bomb-ass hotel room, but to find two of my best friends with beer… heavenly.

view from our hotel!

Although our hotel was a bit outside of the city, I made plans to meet up with Spyros (you know, the funny, cute Greek guy I spend a week partying with on Ios Island) who was at Grad School in Zurich of all places. I was so excited to see him again! Jena, Emma, and I caught up while having ourselves a little pregame with beer and wasabi-flavored snacks. You feel it? Finally around midnight we hopped on the train to meet Spyros at the Zurich main station. When we finally spotted him, Spyros was excited to take us to one of the nicest bars in Zurich. The problem (which we didn’t realize until we got there) was that you had to be not 18, not 21, but freakin 23 to enter. Shocking.

Of course we worked our charm/ played the ignorant American card and they eventually let us in. “This is our ONE night in Zurich…!!” Afterall, I look Swiss, right? They basically didn’t have a choice haha. One problem about Switzerland is that everything is CRAZY expensive. Even though the exchange rate is about equal to the USD$, the prices are out of this world. My Bud Light was, I kid you not, 12 swiss francs. Needless to say I did not drink a lot at the bar (and was thankful for out lengthy pregame). The bar was quite glitzy, walled with mirrors and with a thirty-something, business-y crowd. At this point I was questioning how classy Spyros really thought we were, but it turned out fine. We had a good time dancing with the DJ and mingling with locals. Later on in the night I started speaking (not singing) the song “Bis Du Bei Mir” (the one German song I know) to try to convince them that I could actually speak German. Yea, that didn’t work. I still have this strange interest in learning to speak German. One guy said I looked Albanian which I guess is supposed to be offensive? I still tell people I look Swiss, haha.

SPYROS!!

Emma and Spyros really hit it off and they spent the night dancing and talking while Jena and I preoccupied ourselves elsewhere. At around 4am we decided it was time to make our way back to the train station. As luck would have it, our train only came once every hour, ten minutes past the hour. When Spyros told us this, we literally had five minutes to get to the station so we started sprinting in the frigid night air. Alas the train had left two minutes before we got there. I was not a happy camper. I think it was Spyros’s secret scheme to spend more time with Emma because over the course of the night he had basically fallen in love with her… oh geesh, twas amusing. What was not amusing was the fact that we had to wait another hour for our train. Jena and I decided a late night snack would temporarily occupy our time so we went to the Burger King in the train station. The “value” meal—burger, fries, and a drink was, I kid you not, 15 Swiss francs. Unbelievable… I got a small order of fries for 5. We were more than ready to hit the hay.

Since we didn’t get back to our hotel until the crack of dawn, we didn’t get the early start we were hoping for. By around noon we were finally ready to head to Lucerne— the destination we had been waiting for. I was vaguely disappointed that we didn’t get the chance to explore Zurich more, but I think our night tour that Spyros gave us somewhat sufficed. We wanted to get to the real good stuff anyways. Our train to Lucerne lasted about two hours and it was so exciting to see the Swiss Alps unfold before our eyes. They were spectacular. It made me realize how much more I need to appreciate natural beauty in America. I mean how many times have I seen the Colorado Rockies and not even thought twice about it? They are just as majestic and there’s so much in the U.S. I take for granted! Being abroad has opened my eyes to beauty… I never miss a sunset. Speaking of I need to explore more of America… it’s my own country for darn sakes and I’ve only been to what twenty out of the fifty states? Shameful.

view from the train

Regardless, within seconds of arriving to Lucerne, my breath was literally taken away by the utter exquisiteness of these mountains—which engulfed the city in all directions. Possibly the most amazing natural phenomenon I’ve ever seen, rivaling the floating boulders of the glorious Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. An intense feeling of awe, happiness, and thankfulness overwhelmed me as we stood there, time standing still. Unfortunately by this time it was about 4pm and the sun had already begun to set. We decided right then and there that we had to spend as much time there on Sunday so we could use all the daylight to soak up the incredible scenery.

After finding our bearings we headed to the hostel. Now unlike the Zurich hotel, this was truly a hostel through and through. We shared a room with a German girl in town who was working at the Christmas market in town and we used a communal shower/kitchen with the fellow guests. Now of course I love nice hotels, but there is also something to be said about hostels. I like how exposed you are to the other guests, it gives you a real opportunity to meet new people from all over the world. I wish I could’ve taken more advantage of this, but my stays in hostels were always too fleeting to make any real connections. Once we settled in, we asked the receptionist/ hippy Swiss girl what the coolest, most local place to grab a drink and a bite was. She recommended a café called Luz where we spent the majority of our night. We navigated our way through the small city and found the small café. At first we were just going to stop for a few beers, but we simply enjoyed each other’s company so much and cozied up there for the night. Sipping on Grolsch’s we talked about everything—school, boys, careers, problems, love, and just life. It was refreshing getting lost in good conversation with dear friends as the hours flew by. Eventually I think even the waiters were getting weirded out by out lingering, so we decided to explore Lucerne by night.

The city is divided by a canal and bridge between New and Old Town and Lucerne is famous for its medieval bridges and churches in Old Town. At night, although the peaks are invisible, the ancient buildings magically come to life. There are sweet, small alleyways defined by the 12th century Europe on one side and the other bustling with modernism. I preferred the quaint Old Town, picturing what life must have been like centuries ago. Jena had an early flight the next morning so we woke up with her to get a kick start to our day. For breakfast we ate at a nice Swiss bistro which overlooked the spectacular Lake Lucerne. We nibbled perfectly crusted bread and Swiss cheese with an assortment of jams— apricot, kiwi, strawberry and more. It was a wonderful, typical Swiss breakfast as we said our farewells to Jena who whizzed back off to Copenhagen.

The whole day was ahead of us— Lucerne was our oyster. First we wanted to explore and to SHOP. We wandered aimlessly in and out of shops, stopping by anything that caught our eye. Chocolates, cheese, souveniers, cows, salt and pepper shakers, gorgeous buildings, we spend hours taking it all in and embracing Lucerne. We strolled for miles by the lakeside admiring the snow-capped mountains and fog rising from the water. Around noon we were back at the train station browsing the German Christmas Market. Goodies like sheep blankets, candles, ornaments, fun hats, candies, and jewelry filled the first floor of the station. I spotted the most adorable angel holding a sign which read in German Ein Engel für den besten Opa der Welt… an angel for the best grandpa in the world. I immediately thought of my papa, the General, who to me truly is the greatest grandfather a girl could ask for. I hope he liked his Christmas present!

We then decided we just had to take a boat ride across the lake to see more of the Alps. We hopped on a ferry that took us on a two hour cruise of the lake. Emma and I filled our lungs with the brisk winter air and let the wind and scenery engulf us. It was heaven, even in the freezing weather, as we bundled up in our eskimo jackets. I felt like an Arctic princess. As we were on the boat out of the blue I got a call from my mama; I couldn’t believe where I was and that I was describing to her! Unbelievable. I am so blessed. Next time I am definitely skiing those babies.

snow princess!


Our final stop in Lucerne was to indulge in what in something Switzerland is known for— fondue! Yes, it was touristy. Yes, it was freakin expensive, but it had to be done. What we stumbled upon was Dfistern, an outdoor fondue restaurant in Old Town that overlooked the Chapel Bridge. We cozied up in furry blankets and handwarmers that the restaurant provided while sipping hot mulled wine; it was the perfect evening for our last in Switzerland. We examined the list of dozens of fondue options and finally settled on the curry cheese fondue, a savory combo of spicy and cheesy… mmm mmm it was gooood. We used bread, boiled potatoes, and mushrooms as dippers for the bowl of delciousness. Even though we were stuffed by the cheese, we just couldn’t resist treating ourselves to the dessert chocolate fondue. Incredible! Disclaimer: when the price of fondue says 36 swiss francs, it actually means 36 swiss francs per person. Woops- spent twice as much as we thought we were, but still well worth it. As we finished up dinner, we kept hearing these strange buzzing sounds and drums echoing throughout the streets and restaurant patio. Turns out it was Lucerne’s St. Nicholas Parade, a celebration for the beginning of the Christmas season. Men and women dressed in traditional Swiss clothing and celebrating through whistles, drums, and cheers as loud as they could. It was wild. We sat for hours enjoying the atmosphere until it was finally time to head back to Zurich. It was the cherry on top of an unforgettable weekend and trip with one of my best friends… from Amsterdam to London ending in Switzerland (love you Emma!). Off to the airport where our flight was delayed over two hours until midnight. Thank goodness we have a gang of British blokes to keep us entertained. Back to the Crofton and South Kensington by 3am…

Getting Emma back to American the next morning was an interesting experience to say the least. After bidding her adieu around 6am, I got a call from Emma via pay phone that she had literally forgotten the one thing you can never forget: her passport. Naturally, she was freaking out and I was freaking but told her to go talk to the Delta people and call me back. I never heard back from her! So, I scrambled for the next hour trying to find solutions—get the passport to her somehow, reschedule her flight, meet her halfway…anything! Eventually I tried getting in touch with Emma who was both passport-less and phone-less. After trying literally twenty different airport numbers I finally got in touch with the Delta people. Leave it to Emma Davis Weldon to fly from London to the USA without a passport. Those big, green eyes never fail. I was beyond relieved to hear the good news and honestly, thoroughly impressed… definitely makes for a great story. Some airport security we have 😉 She made it home safe by Monday night and I was back into my London routine. We’re already planning our next international destination! Until next time yall… GO BRAVES!!!

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