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Last updated : Nov 2009
Chapter 56: In der Schweiz
Pros: friendly people, good food, breathtaking view, striking sceneries
Cons: expensive city

Zurich / Interlaken, Switzerland

Friday, Oct 01, 2004 11:36

The rain was still coming down when Jonas picked me up at the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof on Sunday. He had big news - he might be able to study in Berlin instead of Erfurt. The downside was that he'd probably only be able to spend one night with Christian, and then he'd have to jet back up to Berlin to sort out his uni situation. The drive to Wetzikon (outside Zurich) was straightforward thanks to some online directions, and it took us maybe three hours to make the trip. Christian, his wife Brigitte, and his son Beni welcomed us into their home with open arms, and we all sat down to a delicious dinner of Swiss cheeses, bread, meats, potatoes, veggies, and wine. It was great catching up with Christian and hearing about his trip through Vietnam (he went there after we split in Cambodia). He also showed us the home videos from his trip; he's been spending huge amounts of time editing them together, and they looked incredible. It was funny seeing myself on tape from the various treks we made... I feel like I looked like a different person in every shot. Seeing all those sights again made brought back that heartache for Asia in a big way. Fortunately there was enough space in the Rohrbach house that night; the family's Chilean exchange student was out of the house for the week, so Jonas and I were able to share her futon.

Jonas announced after breakfast that he'd have to return to Germany that afternoon. I was bummed out because I wanted to spend more time with him, but I was excited about his potential opportunity as well. Christian and I mulled over our options. Originally we'd planned to go up to their cottage in the mountains for a couple of nights, but the weather was still grim, so we decided to ride with Jonas up to Schaffhausen on the Swiss-German border, and explore the city and the Rheinfall waterfall.

When we left in Jonas' car at noon, I caught my first glimpse of the Swiss Alps out the back window. The sight was breathtaking, and I couldn't stop staring. Christian and I said sad "goodbye"s to Jonas in Schaffhausen, and then walked around in the drizzle for a few hours checking out the medieval sights. The old munster was blocky and imposing, and the painted houses were cool, but the best part was the "munat" fort tower above the town, which offered a panoramic lookout over the countryside. After a few hours we bought bus tickets and rode a few miles to the Rheinfall - Europe's largest waterfall. The height wasn't so great, and the appearance reminded me a bit of the Don Det waterfall in Laos... but the volume of water churning through the falls was impressive, and the scenery was striking, especially with a stone castle perched over the falls. We took the bus back to Schaffhausen, and had coffee in a little shop where Christian introduced me to a special Swiss dessert: vermicelli, a squiggly nutty sugar and cream treat that looks like noodles and tastes like yum. We took the train to Wintertur,paused briefly so I could buy cold medicine and see the town, and then took two more commuter trains back to Wetzikon. Brigitte made some delicious rosti (swiss grated potato & cheese dish) for dinner, and then we relaxed for the evening.

Tuesday I joined Christian on the morning train to Zurich, and spent the day wandering around the city in a daze (that would be the Pretuval cold medicine doing its work). It was also surreal being surrounded by Swiss-German speakers; I felt like I was in a parallel universe where the language sounded vaguely familiar, but garbled through distortion filters. Weird. Everything in Switzerland is shockingly expensive. Especially the restaurants, where a main course generally runs 25 Swiss francs (US$20). I browsed some book & music stores, considered seeing "Open Water," walked through the cathedral, and ate a US$10 chicken ceasar salad from McDonald's. The Niederdorf (old town) area of Zurich was really nice - more cobblestone streets and medieval buildings and specialty stores. Back at the train station I spent a few hours online and then bought some expensive chocolates to bring back for Christian and his family. That night I sorted out my next few days, made arrangements to meet my friends Conny and Herbert in Lucerne on Friday, and enjoyed another home-cooked meal with the Rohrbachs.

I was sad to leave Christian again on Wednesday morning; it was really great seeing him again, but I didn't want to impose on his family any longer, so I got on a train to Interlaken. The second leg of the journey (The Golden Pass, from Lucerne to Interlaken) was stunningly gorgeous. Snow-capped mountains, blue lakes, deep green forests... Switzerland was just as beautiful as I'd heard. When I got to Interlaken around 2, I followed the signs and maps to Balmer's Jugendherberge - a sprawling, several-building rustic alpine-style hostel.

I checked in but couldn't get into my room until 4, due to the annoying 9:30-4 lockout policy. It's the first time in one year of traveling that I'd run across one of those. So I sat in the lounge and watched "Fight Club" for a couple of hours before leaving my stuff in the room and going back downtown. The main tourist center of Interlaken took a little while to find, and then I couldn't locate any reasonably-priced restaurants... so I went to the Migros store and bought a picnic dinner of a sandwich and wine and chocolate. Interlaken is a cool town that reminds me a lot of Queenstown in New Zealand. I think it's the similar scenery and the backpacker / adventure sports vibe. While eating dinner, I forgot that you're not supposed to mix cold medicine and alcohol, so I was pretty loopy when I got back to the hostel. I watched part of some bad Denzel Washington movie, chatted with some random hostel guests, and then slept by 11.

I still wasn't feeling great yesterday, so instead of hiking or glacier walking or canyoning, I basically sat around in city parks and playgrounds reading "Running With Scissors." Once I started it was impossible to put it down. At the COOP store (Migros' competition), I bought a salad, sandwich, pasta, wine, and leberkuchen, and munched on those things during the day and night. An easy day, all told. It's hard not to enjoy the Swiss Alps, though - even with a cold!

Today I'm lounging around Interlaken this morning, and this evening I'm meeting my friends Conny and Schurti in Lucerne. I'll stay with them for a few nights, and then I need to decide: north to Scandinavia/Amsterdam/Cologne? Or east to Krakow/Prague/Vienna? Stay tuned...