Five days in Switzerland

I just want to get it out of the way and say how expensive Switzerland is. Even people who live and work there agree.

I figured it would be like other European countries where transportation is pretty reasonable or cheap, but I did a day trip to Luzern, and that wasn’t the case.

But, aside from that, Switzerland is beautiful! Since I’m traveling in the winter, I get to see all the views with snow, which makes it magical.

Granted, some days it was actively snowing and, therefore, cloudy and one couldn’t see the mountains, but it was still nice wandering around the city with the remaining Christmas lights.

I was able to stay with a high school friend, Y, who is studying there enabling me to explore Zurich quite a bit. It was awesome seeing him as we haven’t seen each other in almost 6 years.

I visited the Swiss History Museum and the Kuntshaus, an art museum in Zurich. Both were nice. The history museum is quite big and one can easily spend several hours there. Each room is set up by a different artist and it goes out of order of history from room to room, but it is all very informative and hands on with modern technology. I was very impressed and learned a lot about Swiss history- archaeological history as well as more modern such as the birth of the Red Cross or the religious changes that took place like Luther or Calvin.

The art museum is a decent size as well. You can buy tickets to the special exhibits or the main collection separately or to the whole museum. I bought it for the whole museum and was not disappointed. They strive to hold mainly Swiss artists, but it still has works from others such as Monet. I’m not a big modern art fan, but its contemporary/modern art rooms were actually interesting. With your ticket, you get a free audio guide and I think that helped a lot for me in those rooms, but it also was very informative on the other art genres.

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There are some great views of the city at the university, Polystrasse, and at Lindenhof. One on each side of the lake offering different perspectives of the city. I think my favorite was Lindenhof. On a clear day there is a lovely view of the mountains beyond the lake from Burkliplatz.

Switzerland is known for their chocolate so I indulged and it was delicious! My friend and his friends also set up a cheese fondue, also very Swiss, which was great!

If you read my posts on Budapest, you may recall that I met some Swiss guys there. I was able to meet one for coffee, which was nice. It’s always cool meeting people in different places than where you originally met.

Zurich’s nightlife was recommended to me and I don’t think I saw it to its full potential, but I still had a fun time.

For Luzern, it was beautiful! I only did a day trip like I said before, but that’s plenty for the city itself. It was a bit cloudy and the tourist office recommended I don’t go up its mountain, Pilatus since there wouldn’t be a view. A friend who had visited here before told me about another mountain named Rigi. Something to look into if/when you visit. Luzern is also known for its wooden bridges, oldest in Europe. They were interesting.

One of the city’s renowned landmark surprised me. It’s a lion statue in honor of the Swiss mercenaries who died in the French Revolution. I thought it was going to be an ordinary statue, I was pleasantly wrong. It is a statue, but in a rock face and it’s huge. There’s a small pond in front, which, when I was there, was frozen. I sat there for a few minutes looking at this cool piece of art. I swung by one of the churches on the way to the lake front and absorbed the mountain water views. It was incredible.

I toured around Zurich some more and walked through its several parks. It was actively snowing and it was beautiful. I sat in one park under a tree for a long time just watching the snowflakes fall. Though I could hear children playing and cars whizzing by, it was very peaceful.

Besides the fondue, Y and his friends made me some local cuisine for couple of dinners. It was delicious.  I can’t thank them enough for a wonderful time in Zurich.

Especially my last night when I was having difficulties booking my train to Geneva online and then Y got stuck in the building’s elevator for an hour.

Geneva is a beautiful city as well. They have a lake and mountains, but in its lake they have this jet water fountain. It’s cool, but I keep thinking it’s a bit of a waste of energy. Geneva is very proud of its St. Pierre Cathedral. In comparison to other cathedrals and churches I have seen, it’s decent, but not that impressive. What is impressive about it is the history. To enter the church is free, but for a small fee you can go to the adjoining archaeological museum on the Cathedral and basically Geneva as most towns were formed around religion back in the middle ages.

The Cathedral has been changed so much over the years and scientists have uncovered all the different layers and you can still see the room layouts and mosaic titles. For 4 francs, it’s really cool. I also paid to go up the Cathedral’s towers for the view of the city. It was pretty cool, but for me, what was more exciting was walking around the small spaces of the bells and the workings of the towers versus the actual view. Though, the view was made better by the light snowfall.

It was a Sunday when I was there and like Germany and Austria, everything in Switzerland is pretty much closed so old town and the shopping districts were dead, but it was nice having an unrestricted view of the pretty buildings.

The museum of Art and History is free in Geneva, except for the special exhibit. They also offer free WiFi so I spent an hour or so in there touring around. The weapons room was cool as well as the self-portrait room. There’s a little of something for everyone- from modern art to archaeological finds from Egypt and the area.

Near the museum is the Reformation Monument, something worth seeing and near the jet fountain in the lake is a flower clock that’s neat to see as well.

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My flight to Belgrade was at 6.50 in the morning and I was thinking of spending the night at the airport to save some money on a hostel (because Switzerland is expensive). However, after much debate, I decided to spend the money. I had originally left my bags at the train station lockers (for a medium locker it’s 7 Francs for 6 hours). So when my time was up I grabbed my bags and went to Geneva City Hostel, a few blocks from the station. It is pretty massive and has a more of a hotel feel than hostel. I checked in and went to see the United Nations and the Broken Chair statue in front. This statue is a symbol of peace and tolerance in the world, but in every country with their citizens.

When walking around I noticed ads for McRaclette at McDonalds. Now, I normally don’t go to McDonalds, but seeing that raclette is a Swiss dish and I won’t be able to try this burger anywhere else (most McDonald’s have a local specialty on the menu just for that area), I decided to try it for dinner. It was alright. Glad I tried it, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

The train and a bus goes to the Geneva airport from the city. The train takes 7 minutes and costs the same (normal transport ticket). So I took the 4.45 train to get to the airport at about 5. My hostel also gave me a free transport card for my whole time in Geneva, which was great. Anyways, I planned on getting up at about 3.30 to get ready. So I went to bed quite early to get some decent amount of sleep. Unfortunately, my roommates were not so cooperative leaving me a bit tired for my flight.

But no matter, super excited to be going back East. I’m planning a work away at a hostel in Belgrade allowing me to stay for a bit and fully explore the city. It will also give me a routine for a bit before I continue to move every few days again. It was great being in “Western” Europe the past weeks, but I’m ready for the more untraveled Europe.

I’ll be back in Germany and probably Austria soon. I’m not sure when I’ll be back in Switzerland. I realized that the past few weeks have been German central. Starting in Bratislava, I’ve been with German speaking people and I’ve slowly picked up a few words, but I have developed a stronger understanding of the language and realize that the language is quite expressive and there’s words that English don’t have- we need phrases or multiple sentences to explain.

But now back to Slavic languages! Danke, but dobro dan! (Thank you in German and good day in Serbian).

More pictures: http://www.flickr.com/myopenpassport

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