Sunday, April 10, 2011

Semana Nueve: Zurich/Ricola and Yodeler Land

25 March ~ 31 March 2011

Sorry, it has been so long since I last wrote, but it is not without cause. A friend from school, Elissa, and I went vacationing—well tried—across  central Europe for a week and a half. Instead of ending my blog material when I normally do, after just 3 days of traveling, I decided to dedicate one weekly blog to each city we visited (Zurich, Prague, and Berlin).

We began our grand journey on a bus from Granada to Malaga where we were catching our flight to Zurich. I have learned, after multiple tries now, that I cannot sleep on public transportation—not even smooth overnight flights. As I tried to get some rest on the 2-hour bus ride, I could only hear, “…party and party and Hey! Fun, fun, fun…” Damn you Rebecca Black.

Beginning our trip on the wrong foot should have foreshadowed all that was to come, but it was unbeknownst to us; we stood in line at the Air Berlin check-in counter for what seemed to be eternity, even though we had already printed our boarding passes and weren’t checking luggage. I know better than that! Already immersed in our own stupidity, we decided to have a well-balanced breakfast at Pizza Hut.

When it was time, we boarded our Air Berlin flight to be greeted by one of the three German Charlie’s Angels holding out a basket of welcome candies. I truly felt like any one of these flight attendants could have me tied up in the shape of a pretzel and thrust from the aircraft in a matter of seconds. It all started with their appearance: red leather gloves, a very slim and chic navy uniform, red and white ascot tied to perfection, and (the one) a fierce blonde bob. Elissa and I agreed they were most likely not even flight attendants, rather German undercover intelligence agents who had multiple passports, currencies, and identities in their possession. I made a mental note not to cross lines with these gals.

Air Berlin turned out to be such an amazing airline. They earned brownie points by a.) giving me free food which is unheard of these days, especially for a 2-hour flight and b.) playing Carrie Underwood on the plane. The only slight damper on the flight experience was the lady a couple of rows behind us who had her extremely adorable puppy stuffed in her purse. Its cuteness faded real quickly after it kept whimpering and crying the entire duration of the flight. I did feel somewhat for the dog as it most likely had keys digging into its side and a nail filer jammed in its eye, not to mention the lack of light and oxygen in a purse. I had earlier mentioned to Elissa how I wanted to steal the dog, but wouldn’t know what to do with it on our travels other than plugging its butt with a cork to be more travel-efficient. To her this seemed horrible, but it was ok, after her irritation grew in response to the whimpering, to flush it down the airplane toilet.

When we landed in beautiful Zurich, we once again started on the wrong foot. I have never felt more like an idiotic American tourist in my life. We were waiting for the complete wrong mode of transportation, realized this, then sprinted down the street to catch the right one, which turned out not to be the right one. We quickly got up to get off…if we could just figure out how to open the doors. I stood there pushing all the pictures and symbols on the door before a man leaned over and pushed a button on the handrail which opened the doors. We bolted across the tracks in front of an incoming trolley to catch the one we needed, but it left anyway. At some point during this hellish span of about five minutes Elissa said “hola” to a man who said “hello” to her in perfect English (more on that later). This was going to be an awesome trip.

I must also comment on the Swiss public transportation system: not only do they run with the esteemed Swiss-precision, they are extremely fancy, and more bothersome, extremely quiet. After debating whether or not we boarded a first class train on the subway accidentally, we were taken aback by the utter silence we were rudely interrupting—it was so quiet! The glass must have been sound-proof, the subway barely made any sound as it moved, and all of the people were sitting in silence. Of course, we had to giggle at the ridiculousness of it all and I tried to film this on my Sony Bloggie, that is, until one man seemed to disapprove of my actions and stared at me for the longest time after turning the camera in his direction.

After the whole transportation debacle, we managed to arrive at our couchsurfing host for the night, Melany. To our great delight, Melany turned out not to be a 45-year-old meth addict with a penis as we feared, given this was our first couchsurfing experience, and instead was such a sweetheart. We loved her and her cute little apartment, even if it was decorated by a seven-year old schoolgirl with a passion for teddy bears as the toilet seat and toilet paper were covered by hugging bears. We walked into the living room to find two beds made with maps and attraction pamphlets fanned out across the top with a “Willkommen in Zürich” and hazelnut chocolates. After dropping our stuff down, she poured us some water and helped us plan out our day on the map. We wanted to stay and talk longer, but we were pinched for time and had to go.

Our first stop in Zurich was Uetliberg, which is a mountain adjacent to downtown. The views from up top were phenomenal and among the best I’ve ever seen. Not only could you see the city sprawling out along the banks of Lake Zurich, but the Swiss Alps in the distance and the folds of other green mountains all around. It was in the park we realized how fit the Swiss are; everywhere we looked there was someone jogging or gasping for air on the bikes. Did they seriously run/bike all the way up the mountain? I wanted to tell them there was a train that had service to the top, but I was pretty sure they might already know that, and still made the decision to bike it? I don’t understand this country. There were also very bizarre reindeer-like lamps throughout the park and a group playing a random game of charades.

After my dose of nature, we returned to the center of town and walked along the Bahnhofstrasse which is one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world, to the historic center. It was here that the overwhelming charm and beauty of Switzerland in general was hitting us as we were practically drooling and glossy-eyed as we walked along the lake. I stopped to take some pictures of the lake but had to take a break and watch the lady next to be wipe out down the steps—more like go sledding on her stomach. Dinner was the next priority, but proved to be an obstacle considering the crazy prices of Zurich. We knew Zurich was Europe’s second most-expensive city going into this, but seeing price tags in real life were just shocking—8 Swiss Francs (practically the same as US dollars) for a Starbucks! We eventually settled on an Italian restaurant and had very tasty pizzas. We were slightly confused after dinner as we had managed to overlook the whole tipping situation in other countries which varies greatly. In Spain, you don’t have to tip, but we knew this wasn’t the case everywhere, so we left what we hoped would be sufficient and ran out of the restaurant in case he came chasing after us—literally ran.

Before heading home we swung by a souvenir shop so Elissa could check out the shot glasses which she collects in every city. For some reason, there was a large congregation of Japanese tourists hovering around a table with the store’s entire stock of Swiss army knives as one of them was buying the entire lot. Why? It was rather scary. I’ve seen Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, I know what Asians can do with sharp objects—time to go as their intentions were unclear.

By the time we returned, Melany was already in bed and we decided to go to bed as well. We tried our hardest to be quiet but Jesus Christ walking across the floorboards sounded the symphony! Even if you shifted your weight to the other leg it sounded like fireworks going off. We looked like a bunch of idiots leaping across the living room with giant steps to get to the bathroom while making the least amount of sound. Thankfully the house was really clean and we felt comfortable so we took showers in the morning—well, at least I showered, not quite sure what you could call what Elissa did: she bathed in a squatting position since she could not figure out how to turn the shower head on and then dried off with a t-shirt… which she then wore.

We began our second day with a visit to the Kunsthaus modern art museum. These types of museums always have odd pieces on display but the Swiss took it to a whole new level. Apparently carcasses are seen as art in Zurich, as Elissa and I were frightened by not only what seemed to be a plastered human lying on the ground, but a dead, mutilated horse wrapped in some sort of binding fabric. That is not art, that’s sick and twisted, and that artist is a psychopath. We might as well put BTK’s “work” out on display as it’s just so…artsy?

After leaving the Saw museum, we strolled through the eastern side of the historic quarter. Things were normal and mature until I came face-to-face with my inner eight-year old’s dream store, Baerenland, a store filled with nothing but gummy candies. I didn’t warn Elissa about my erratic and sometimes irrational juvenile behavior when gummies are on the line, but she was quickly introduced to this side, as well as my Achilles’ heel for pastries and coffe/tea products. The man working inside the gummy paradise obviously had not had human interaction for quite some time as he kept bombarding us with samples of all of their products which I didn’t object to, naturally. I left the store with the most amazing of them all, mango and passion fruit gummies, in addition to Red Bull gummies, spicy chili pepper gummies, and a little wet spot of excitement.

We then headed across the lake to the other side to go to a grocery store, but after meeting Barbie herself:

After purchasing my essentials: peach tea, Swiss chocolate, and pretzel bread, we walked to the lake promenade to sit and enjoy our…lunch. The lakeside promenade, like almost anywhere in Europe, was the scene of intense teenage cuddling and P.D.A.s. I’ve never seen the way these people interlock themselves and remain in that position for hours ever. I was soon interrupted by the screams of some child who had fallen off of his scooter for the third or fourth time. I don’t know mom, maybe scooters aren’t a good idea for a four-year old, especially not on a concrete slab next to a large body of water with rather large and aggressive geese.

Before bidding adieu to Zurich, we decided we wanted to rush and see the Lindt & Sprungli factory in the south of Zurich. The Universe had to yet again interfere with our plans—and by that I mean the Universe being the scapegoat for our own stupidity. We only had 45 minutes to get to the factory before it closed so we had to act quickly which was hard considering it took maybe 10 to figure where the factory even was and the fastest route to get there. We eventually got on our train and were off to the factory. There was a very large Swiss woman on board who I assumed took a liking to Elissa as she stared her down for a good percentage of the ride. Elissa said the first time she made eye contact back with Olga (as I’ll call her—sounds large and Swiss) she  looked away, but the second time Elissa looked at her, she continued to stare back—how creepy? All excited and pumped for chocolate we got off the train to realize we went in the complete opposite direction and it was now 4 and the factory was closed.

(To be continued….)

Un saludo,


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