On Monday afternoon, I began my grand solo journey throughout the edges of Switzerland. I began in Zurich, spent yesterday in Montreux, and am currently residing in Zermatt (aka the home of the Matterhorn-no, not the one in Disneyland). I’ll continue to St. Moritz tomorrow and end up back in Zurich Friday night before leaving to Barcelona for the weekend. But, since I haven’t gotten everywhere yet I’ll catch you up on this adventure so far.
On Monday I made my way relatively easily from Amsterdam to Zurich, aside from getting completely lost and confused by the trains and public transportation system (this is why I have to leave at least an hour or two ahead for things). I checked into my hostel and met a roommate from Michigan who was stopping in Zurich on her way to study in Italy. We shared adventures and it was quite nice to meet someone else who shared English as a first language-there was a huge culture language shock when I got to Switzerland, especially being on my own. Once I had settled in, I set out to explore the city with no agenda in mind, and it was quite blissful.
As I said in my last blog post, I couldn’t really tell you exactly where I went or what I saw because I was just sort of going with the flow and letting my feet and eyes guide me where they wanted. I saw the Grossmunster- a grand cathedral just a couple of blocks from my hostel, and other seemingly historical monuments. I walked back and forth across several bridges many times; several of the bridges were garnished with locks from wanderlusters and lovers past, and I cursed myself for not having a lock to leave my mark with. I wandered through dark alleyways and viewed brightly lit shops and sights, and suddenly found myself on the top of Zurich (or at least it seemed it). Platzspitz was the name of the park, and let me tell you that those nighttime views of the city were brilliant. I was in awe of the sights and afterwards found myself skipping and singing through the streets with the joyous wonder and excitement of a child who just found out they were going to Disneyland for the first time.
At this point I was beginning to grow hungry since I had skipped out on lunch due to the ridiculous prices of food in Switzerland. I wandered down this alleyway of food and found myself outside of a bar called the Bierhalle Wolf. After staring at the menu for a good 15 minutes and trying to figure out what it said and if it was worth it to go in, I decided to grow a pair and see what would happen. Luckily for me, the waitress who greeted me spoke English and led me to a table. There was live music playing and a good 15 other people enjoying food and drinks-including the group of 3 women next to me who were really enjoying their drinks. I ate my meal in peace, but definitely not quiet. I had rosti, a Swiss potato dish, with Swiss sausage and Swiss cheese (decided to go all out on the cultural front). It was served in a skillet and absolutely delicious. As I was getting up to pay and leave, one of the drunken women came over and asked me to have a drink with them. I tried to say no, but ended up getting hauled back to their table, where there were about 30 little empty shot bottles of Jager proudly displayed. One of the women coaxed me to follow her to the bar, and ordered me a Lamborghini. All of a sudden there was a glass in front of me and the bartender set it on fire and I was told to drink through a straw as she poured more liquid into it. I didn’t find out until later when I looked it up that a Lamborghini consists of Sambuca, Kahlua, baileys, and blue curacao-quite the strong concoction. Not to mention the fact that it was on fire. Although the drink had no effect on me or my actions, I ended up dancing with these crazy Swiss women and climbing on tables and making friends with strangers. I was especially giddy when they played American songs such as Time of My Life and YMCA, as I could actually sing along and not just try to mumble the repetitive chorus. I learned Swiss dances and songs, did the can-can, and had conversations in Spanish with strangers, and it was spectacular. What had started as a dinner for 1 ended with lots of memories and new friends who I am very thankful for. I walked home giddy as ever and turned in for the night to prepare for my morning journey to Montreux.
Now, if you know me well you’ll know that I’ve never been the best at public transportation, let alone in a foreign, non-English speaking country. What was supposed to be a two-hour train ride accidentally turned into a four-hour train ride when I missed my stop and ended up all the way in Geneva, on the border of France and Switzerland. Luckily, I was able to recover and see some nice views of Lake Geneva on my trip. As I couldn’t check into my hostel until 18:00, I took a leisurely stroll along the lake-for several hours. I would walk a bit, then I would just sit down and take everything in. The water was so clear and blue, and combined with some bright, blooming flowers and the mountains in the background, it was quite the picturesque sight. There were strange little colored, cauliflower-looking plants all along the shore which were quite pretty, in a weird way. There were also lots of plant-based gymnastics sculptures, as apparently Montreux is known for gymnastics.
After taking in as much of the beautiful Lake Geneva as I could, I checked in to my hostel and settled in to my 6-person dorm, where no one else showed up. I had the room to myself, reinforcing the whole “solo traveler” thing. I set out to get some food at a place that wouldn’t cost a fortune, and ended up at Café du Globe. Since Montreux is so close to France, the entire area speaks French. I attempted to use my one semester of the romance language, but apparently getting a B in a college French I class doesn’t get you very far. Luckily the madame who served me was understanding and we could get by on the little knowledge we had of each others languages. I ordered a horse steak (I know, I thought it was crazy too) which came with bread, salad, and genuine French fries, unlike the chips I’ve gotten used to. It was surprisingly all very delicious, although knowing that I was eating horse meat was rather off-putting and I don’t know that I would do it again anytime soon. I “merci-ed” the people in the restaurant and left to explore the city a bit more at night. I checked out the statue of Freddie Mercury that looks out over Lake Geneva towards his home and recording studio; there were different rainbow lights that lit up and flashed on the steps below the statue. Just as everything had looked so beautiful during the day, it was equally as enjoyable to look at at night. The way that all the lights reflected off of the surface of the water was truly something to see. I strolled back to my hostel, content and not wanting to leave this wondrous city, but also excited to embark to another foreign place.
This morning I took my time and walked more of the city in daylight, taking another look at Freddie Mercury’s statue before leaving (it’s easy to see why he fell in love with the place). After a couple more train mishaps, I happily made my way on up through the snowy mountains to Zermatt, where I plan to embrace the mountains and try not to freeze to death. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even try my hand at skiing the Swiss Alps…