Our train leaves Geneva at 09.42, so we enjoyed a good lie in at Jen’s friends central apartment. With high ceilings and shuttered windows the place had a real European quirkiness about it, and Laura had done an excellent job with the decor. She’s been here for the past 6 years working as a PA, and it was interesting to hear that Geneva suffers from the same sense of transience as Oxford. The walk down to the station took around 15 minutes, and we were soon on our way to Zürich in a corner seat of another double decker train. The views were spectacular, vineyards and mountains, farmlands and lakes which stretched as far as the eye could see, I found it difficult to focus on my book when the world outside was so distracting. I would certainly add Lausanne to my list of places to visit one summer, and a driving holiday in this area is still very much on my list. The journey from Geneva took less than two hours meaning we were soon out in the Swiss sunshine again, finding our way to the Old Town and the City Backpacker hostel where a private room and roof terrace awaited us. Having stayed in dorms earlier in the year I decided I’d had enough of making my own bed and being woken up by everyone during the night, however a private room is altogether more civilised! The beds were made up, we had towels included, and the receptionist even lent us padlocks for our luggage. Excellent. I’m travelling in a new way for me this time, instead of rushing to fit everything in (we could have taken an earlier train, bringing us here in time for breakfast and a walking tour for example) this is a more meandering trip, soaking up the atmosphere and just taking everything slowly. We left our bags at the hostel and headed out to find a restaurant Jen had read about, Titbits. If you’re ever in Zürich I recommend it; its sort of a buffet scenario, where your plate is weighed at the end to determine the price. Everything was vegetarian and deliciously fresh, with a very Indian influence to the spices and flavours. The place was decorated in Moroccan blue, with intricate paper all along one wall, and lots of low square seating. Really quirky, and completely delicious! Ein große hunger frightened off we spent the next two hours walking around the lake enjoying the autumn colours and wildlife, including Lizzie the lizard, who was making a break for it across the path away from the lawnmower. Run Lizzie run! I hope I live by water like this one day, the place must be wonderful in summer; with jettys for swimming, water slides, boat trips and everything else you can imagine. It really encourages an active outdoor lifestyle, not to mention the perfect park for dog walks…bliss!!
We were staying in the middle of the red light district, which led to some interesting shops and window displays scattered about. Prostitution is apparently legal in Switzerland, so that’s something to ponder on. The other shops were mainly independent boutiques and workshops making wares from scratch. Street level windows shone onto benches and machinery obviously creating the products then sold on the shop floor upstairs. Quite a surprise to then sweep your eyes to the next window and see a carrot vibrator dressed up for Halloween…!
After so much excitement it was time for a recharge. Jen hadn’t slept much the night before so we had a siesta and planned our journey for the next day. If you’re planning to travel around Europe like this I really recommend https://uk.voyages-sncf.com/en/pass/interrail-passes it cost us around £190 for 5 days of travel (they don’t have to be 5 consecutive days) almost anywhere in Europe. By the time you’ve hired a car, paid for fuel and parking etc that’s much more than £190×2 so this was a good deal for us. You get given a little log which you fill in with the date you’re traveling and the stations you’re travelling from/to, then the conductor stamps it with the date and voila. Apparently if you return your log to the company at the end you get a prize, so that’s intriguing. The ticket also comes with a really handy app (available offline) which shows you all the different route options you have to get between destinations. I was really keen to take the long route to Munich, which involved 5 changes including a 40 minute boat journey. But looking at the weather we opted for the more sensible early train which will get us there directly with no changes. >sigh< sometimes it’s so boring being sensible.
Tomorrow was another day though and this one wasn’t over yet! With rumbling tummys we ventured out into the night, turned left and walked for around 20 minutes until it became apparent that this led to a residential district with nothing to see and sod all to eat. There was one quirky place which offered tables in old cable cars, but Jen pointed out that once the novelty wore off there probably wasn’t much atmosphere going on. So it was time for an about turn, back the way we came. Decided upon Italian food the first place we came across was called La Pasta…sounds positive! Sadly it’s one of the highest rated restaurants on trip advisor and therefore obviously fully booked. Boo. Round the corner though there was a lovely candlelit place with a good number of free tables and a cheeky waiter. Perfect! How do the Italians make something as simple as pasta with tomato sauce and basil taste so utterly divine? I savoured every mouthful, and in the spirit of our chilled out travelling we stayed there for hours, enjoying three courses at a snails pace with an exquisit bottle of red wine. But, exquisit comes at a price…140euros to be exact. Ouch!! That’s half the budget on one meal…oops!
Having only just recovered from Sunday’s hangover Jen wasn’t overly keen on discovering the bars of Zürich, and having just spent €70 on dinner I was inclined to concur! We headed back to the hostel (turned out to be just around the corner!) and enjoyed the view from the roof before it was time for showers and bed before midnight…what a pair of Cinderella’s.
Overnight thunder and lightning swept over the city, keeping me awake for a good few hours. I love listening to the rain, but I wasn’t much looking forward to being outside in it!! The bad weather is forecast to last the week though so best to suck it up and get on with it, at least this time I was prepared unlike in Budapest where I had leaky shoes and no hood to my coat! We’d read that the oldest coffee house in Zürich was not far from our hostel, so this seemed like a natural place to head for breakfast. Talk about a grotto! The downstairs is a chocolate shop, filled with pastries, cakes and truffles. Then upstairs a decadent grand cafe awaits you, with plush red seats and a ceiling full of fairy light covered twigs. I felt a bit like I’d entered Professor Trewlawnys tower. Pèclard was also very much in favour of skipping the spooktacular decorations in favour of more festive ones. Bleugh!! Jen and I settled into the corner, and were once again amazed as a charming waitress who looked about 16 came and translated the menu for us in perfect English before speaking in German with another group and French with another. I couldn’t even remember ein Kaffee mit Milch bitte. For shame! I wouldn’t have had a clue how to order French toast though so I suppose even if I’d remembered the coffee bit I’d have soon fallen at the next hurdle. Our tour guide (we’ll get to him in a bit) later said that even those who speak fluent German struggle with Swiss German, as it’s so different. So, even though I’m sure I’d have reacted exactly the same in Hannover, I’m gonna claim that as my excuse. Swiss German, yeah. Anyway, the food was delicious, the coffee divine and the atmosphere really unique. Get yourself there if ever you’re in the area!
One of my favourite discoveries when travelling has been a free walking tour. They’re often run by students on a tip basis, so it’s a really good way to discover a little history and some recommendations on places to eat and drink. In Zürich the tour leaves at 11am from Paradeplatz behind Fraumünster. Our guide was Luca, a student originally from Italy, near Milan. Tours teach you to see things you’d have otherwise walked right by, like this archway for example which was used to measure ladies skirts back in the day. If your skirt was wider than the door you weren’t allowed to enter Fraumünster, a strictly Protestant church. Who knew?!
Luca pointed out ruins of the old town which were found when excavating a basement, explained why women are so revered in Zürich (they saved the town from invasion by dressing up as an army whilst all the men were away fighting another war) and also explained a little about the history of Switzerland, and how things like the multitude of languages and boarders work. We explored both sides of the river, climbed up to the best vantage point to see the city and generally felt like we could leave Zürich having learned a little something. One of the best insider tips he gave us though was Äss Bar, a tiny cafe close to our hostel. Äss Bar’s USP is that everything there is ‘fresh from yesterday’. They visit other bakeries and shops, collecting any unused merchandise and then sell it in their shop for a fraction of the price. The result? Cheap food in Zürich (7francs for 2 sandwiches and 2 cakes!!), and you feel like you’re doing your bit to combat waste you probably hadn’t even previously thought about. Not bad.
The bells were tolling 1 o clock so we once again found ourselves on board a train, single decker this time, bound for Munich. It’s really only going to be a sleep stop there for me to catch up with my friend Krissi and finally see her new house! So far the journey from Switzerland to Germany has been far flatter, with more tall pine trees than tall mountains. The perpetual grey and seemingly never ending fields of apples are probably adding to the less inspirational feel compared with yesterday, but still it’s been a good opportunity to catch up with blogs! I hope you think so too!
Till next time!