Well, it turns out almost everything in Zürich is closed New Year’s Day. It makes sense, so I can’t blame stores for not opening. I made my way to town anyway because there was one thing I knew was open and I wanted to tour it anyway.
When I read that Zürich is home to one of the largest collections of succulent plants in the world, I added it to my list of things to see. It did not disappoint. Some of these could give Dr. Seuss some ideas on what otherworldly plants would look like. They are all in greenhouses sorted by continent. Free admission, but worth paying to see. (Don’t tell them it was my idea to charge a fee).
With all of the good shops closed for New Year’s, it was up to me to grab a few souvenirs and food for the next two days at the train station. The McDonald’s was open across the street, but I didn’t come to Europe to eat at McDonald’s. They do have a Swiss only McRaclette burger that both terrifies and intrigues me. I’ll think about it and maybe gab one another day.
I grabbed some excellent cheese, some other snacks, and a small bottle of Swiss wine and headed back to the hotel. I had to pack and prepare for my journey the next day to the borderland with Liechtenstein.
Does anyone know why flights from the US to Europe all seem to be overnight flights? Is it so, or is it just the cheap ones that I fly? I arrived at about 7:15am local time after a flight of about 7 hours. My inability to sleep on planes had me a bit groggy by then. Perhaps a New Year’s resolution I should make is to learn how.
I got through customs rather quickly, picked up my bag, and hit the tourist info office just outside baggage to get my Zürich Card, and stumbled out to find my hotel’s shuttle waiting. I’m getting all aces so far! We got to the hotel by 8:00am and that’s when I started getting the crappy cards. Check in is at 2:00pm, I know this, but you never know. About half the time I get into my room early. This time was not one of those times.
I had the option to leave my bags and head to town, but I was way to tired. I was fearful I’d hop on a train, fall asleep, and wake up in Poland. I’d love to go to Poland one day, but not by accident and without my luggage. I figured, I’d just wait. The hotel even said I could help myself to breakfast. I watched the cold rain melt the last evening’s snow.
I did get my room early, but it was about 12:30. I went straight to bed and slept until 6:00am the next day. I guess I wasted a whole day I could have spent in Zürich, but sleep is important and by sleeping straight through and getting on a normal schedule, I can usually avoid any serious jet-lag. If I had done this in my 20s, there is no way I would have slept. I’m 45 on Dec. 31st, so sleep was the smart play.
New Year’s Eve in Zürich was to be spent getting my bearings, having some Swiss food for lunch, checking out the Swiss National Museum, and maybe midnight fireworks.
My Biggest Fear: That my new larger suitcase will encourage me to buy too much stuff. Excess baggage fees.
Plans: Zürich for a few days over New Year’s, Lichtenstein for a day and a half, Vienna, maybe a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, back to Geneva. Probably too much rail travel, but it should be very scenic.
My one day in Geneva last month got my interest up in exploring more of Switzerland. I had a flight to Zürich booked in July and decided to use that to see a little of Central Europe by rail. I’m looking forward to eating Swiss food, sampling wines from the Prince of Lichtenstein’s vineyards, seeing Vienna, adding to my Euro coin collection, and just doing my usual nerdy museum visits. I found out they have an Esperanto museum in Vienna. I wish I spoke Esperanto, but that’s probably just me hoping it would be a cure for my lack of a second language. I do speak English, and that is probably as close to a world language as we have right now. I really lucked into being born in the time and place that I was.
Why did we go to Geneva? Well, I have never been to Switzerland so I was up for it, but the main reason we went is that it is near a town called Tolochenaz which so happens to be the burial place of Audrey Hepburn. One of our traveling party this trip is a HUGE fan. She pointed out it was only a few hours by train from Paris, so her husband and I figured this was a worthy side trip seeing as how we got to do lots of stuff we wanted to do on this trip.
We arrived late on a Saturday night with plans to get up the next day and head to the site of the pilgrimage. Our hotel was close to the train station and had everything we needed for a short stay. After checking in we went in search of food since we had skipped dinner while on the train. Not much open late in that part of Geneva so we ended up in an Irish bar not too far from the hotel.
I’d been snacking so I wasn’t hungry but decided to get a beer. The bar was filled with Americans and Irish but we found a spot and I headed to the bar, I ordered an Irish beer and the bartender, who was a Canadian, told me it was 9.70 Swiss francs. Now the Swiss franc is worth a little more than a US dollar. I’m not sure what beer costs where you live, but almost $10 is stadium pricing in the US. We will pay it, but grumble about it the whole time. I paid it and then tipped the bartender after having a small discussion on if that was the culture there or not. This was my first lesson on the cost of things in Switzerland.
Switzerland has a reputation for being a very nice place. When you say something is Swiss, quality comes to mind. Nobody uses the term “Swiss”, to talk about the shoddiness of the construction of their watch. Over the next 24 hours, we saw that all of this quality has a price. We went to a souvenir shop at the train station and the cheapest of the cheap Chinese made souvenirs all seemed to be about 10 francs. I’m a sucker of souvenirs, I buy them for myself and for friends and family, but Switzerland made that tough. I’m sure there are cheaper places to be in the country but I didn’t find them. I will do more research for a trip I am making back there over New Years.
We woke up Sunday and headed to the train station to head to Tolochenaz and see Ms. Hepburn’s final resting place. Buying a train ticket to Morges, the nearest town with a train station, was easy at the self serve kiosk at the station. After a scenic ride of about an hour through Geneva suburbs and vineyards, we arrived at Morges and grabbed a bus to Tolochenaz.
Pressed for time we just walked to the cemetery and paid our respects before we had to get a bus back to Morges and then a train back to Geneva. It being a Sunday, there were not as many buses and trains so we did not have time to see any other parts of Tolochenaz or Ms. Hepburn’s house.
Back in town we had some time to kill before the train and grabbed some lunch at a kebab place. It was pretty good and they had Swiss beer in a can for 4 francs! We ate and then after hitting a Kwik-E-Mart for a few souvenirs and snacks, grabbed the train back to Geneva.
One of our party was coming down with a head cold so we dropped her back off at the hotel to rest and decided to stroll for a bit though Geneva. Almost everything that was not at the train station was closed on Sundays, so we walked down towards the lake and the river to see the sights. We found and park with monuments to people and events that I was unfamiliar with, which doesn’t happen to often since I have a degree in history, but one can’t know everything, right?
While walking along the lake an checking out the Jet d’Eau, which is as advertised in French.
We were admiring an old boat moored by the lake and were approached by a friendly woman who began speaking to us in French. I stumbled through “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak French” in French and then she switched to perfect English and told us all about the old boat, She was French but lived most of her adult life in Geneva. We chatted for about an hour about the world, Switzerland, her love life and much, much more. We talked about travel and played a fun game where I told her where I was scheduled to go next and she told me why it was crap there!
I thanked her for her advice, but assured her that I would have to check those places out for myself. I’m hard headed like that. I took a great photo of her and my buddy.
We also met some very friendly swans.
The water of Lake Geneva was so clear you could even seen what they had thrown in it from the bridge, which was not much compared to what I would see back home.
We walked back to the hotel, grabbed our travel companion and took the train back to Paris.
After a car ride to the hotel by the airport, we grabbed a short night’s sleep and then boarded our flight in the AM back to the US. The plane hadn’t even left the gate and I was planning my next trip back to Europe.