Sunday, August 2, 2015

Switzerland & a little France

I can't seem to unhighlight the words so my apologies for the format...

This past week I went to visit a family friend in Zurich, Switzerland. Of all the countries I had visited this summer this one was by far the coldest, cleanest, greenest, prettiest, and the MOST EXPENSIVE places I'd been. I thought Paris and London were a lot of money... Switzerland takes the meaning of expensive to a new extreme. I am a bit spoiled though since I've been living in such a low cost to live country, but these Swiss prices were crazy. For example in Spain you could get a high-speed train ticket to take a day trip to a neighboring city for about €10-15. However in Switzerland, the cheapest day trip ticket I found (on a non high speed train) was about CHF 55 (Swiss francs, the equivalent is about $57 U.S dollars), with the average train ticket for a day trip being about CHF 100-150. So given these prices I found myself limited from doing many things that I wanted to do such as go for a hike on one of the famous Swiss alp mountains (one of them cost CHF 340...). Despite the unfortunate price tags, I made the most of it! 

I spent my first day there exploring Zurich in awe of the beautiful lake in the middle of the city. The water was so clear and light blue as though you could drink right from the lake (and apparently it is safe if you ingest the water...just don't drink a lot it's still lake water...). I also learned that you are allowed, and it is encouraged as part of "being green" to drink from the fountains all around the country. The water comes down from the Alps and is some really tasty water. After walking around I met up with my family friend after she was done work and we went paddle boating on the lake. This was such a relaxing experience to be in the middle of this blue lake and look up and see the Swiss Alps. Afterwards we went and had cheese fondue for dinner. Sadly some ideas that I had of Swiss fondue were not true: 1) the Swiss only eat fondue in the winter, but luckily tourist places have it year round 2) chocolate fondue is not a thing they make in Switzerland, it's an American idea 3) Swiss cheese is not a thing in Switzerland (all cheese is "Swiss cheese"), the American Swiss cheese is not even popular there. While the chocolate fondue thing was a bit upsetting, the cheese fondue was amazing. 

The next day I bought the cheapest day trip ticket I could find and went to a city called Lucerne that was also on a beautiful lake and had a historic old bridge running across it. When I got there I took a panoramic bought tour of the lake, which was extremely cold but really pretty. For lunch I bought a Bavarian pretzel with cheese inside. This is a typical food throughout Switzerland and the interesting part is that they put a layer of butter and then the cheese on top. If you ask them to warm it up they look at you and say "it's a sandwich...sandwiches are cold..." Apparently the only kind of warm sandwiches they have are paninis. I walked around the city and also saw the famous lion sculpture that Mark Twain once described as "the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world". 

The day after Lucerne the most reasonably priced day trip I could find involved leaving Switzerland and going to to Strasbourg France I went! This was a very tiny and classic European town. There was a huge gothic cathedral in the center and an area called "petite France" which was a tiny French village with little cottages along the water. I enjoyed walking around and of course ate more croissants! On the train ride home I had to transfer trains in Basel, a city in Switzerland but is on the border of France and Germany as well. Part of the train station was actually located in France. I explored Basel for a little before heading back to Zurich. I then spent one more day walking around Zurich before coming back to Madrid. In all, Switzerland is a beautiful country and I want to come back one day in the winter to ski. However, if you plan on coming, bring a jacket no mater what season it is (this was late July and I was constantly wearing a coat), and be prepared to spend a lot of money (but it's worth it)! 
Overlooking Zurich from the top of a cathedral
The bridge in Lucerne

The river that connects to the lake in Zurich
The Zurich lake

The mountains in Lucerne taken from the boat ride

The famous lion statue in Lucerne

The "petite France" in Strasbourg