Geneva Back To Zürich

I spent my last part of a day in Geneva buying the last of the souvenirs and finishing up the postcards for the people back home. The main post office in Geneva is pretty amazing, not Barcelona post office amazing, but amazing. It also has a tourism office there which is very convenient.

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If you got a postcard from me, it went in there. Die Post! Die!
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Like all of Europe, the old look was right on time.

I grabbed a few souvenirs along the shops lining the street and was VERY tempted to get a Geneva only Geneva themed Swatch at the Swatch store. Very tempted. I already have two watches, so I passed. I to this day feel regret. I’m going to have to go back and make it right.

I hopped on the train for the approximately two-hour trip back to Zürich from where I was flying back and took in the amazing scenery that I missed on the trip there due to darkness. The lakes and mountains along with the odd castle along the way make for a beautiful journey. I could really go to Switzerland and do nothing but ride the trains the whole time and still be pretty happy with the trip.

We rolled pass vineyards that I was sure were responsible for the wines I had on this trip to Geneva and the last one. Vineyard-to-table-to-my liver. We don’t many Swiss wines here in the United States and get none out in the hinterlands where I am based so I drank my fill while I was there. They were quite good.

About an hour from Zürich something happened on this trip that hadn’t happened to me yet on any Swiss (or French, or Austrian for that matter) train: a delay. I kind of smelled something burning and figured I was maybe having a stroke. I was fine with that if it was, Switzerland is probably a great place to have one if you must. Soon a few conductors walked through hurriedly with radios speaking into them in German. It was at that moment I realized it was not a stroke, but that was also the moment I had wished I had learned the phrase “abandon train” in German. I don’t normally follow crowds, but when I’m somewhere that I do not speak the language, I figure that it is safer to than not. Everybody else was cool and stayed put, so I did to.

They did make an announcement in English apologizing for the delay. They never said what the issue was, but we were delayed for a little over and hour. If we had been delayed in the countryside, it would have been better since I could have soaked in the views. We were delayed on a siding just outside a train station and the scenery was much more industrial and railroady.

We got to Zürich eventually and I hopped another train and a shuttle bus to my hotel. I spent the evening repacking for the trip home and drinking the last of my recently purchased Swiss wine and cheese. I miss them both so much.

 

Geneva! Again!

Two months before this trip to Europe I was on another trip to Europe and my traveling partners and I spent some time in Geneva. I saw enough on that trip to know that I wanted to go back at some point. Since I was going to me in the country anyway, I figured I could spend a day there and see a few things that I wasn’t able to on that trip. On that trip we spent a full day in Geneva on a Sunday and almost everything was closed. This time, I made sure to travel to the city on a Sunday and have my full day there be a Monday.

I left my hotel after breakfast and decided to head to the old city and visit St. Pierre Cathedral. I’m a sucker for old churches, or old things in general, and figured on this chilly winter day, that being inside as much as possible would be a good idea. How chilly was it? It was so chilly that someone on the second floor of a building was storing their produce on the window sill.

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Nature is the original refrigeration
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St Pierre Cathedral

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The inside of the cathedral was large and impressive and built in a mix of styles. It was historic due to John Calvin being here and during the Reformation in the 16th Century. I know very little about the Reformation and didn’t do any homework in advance so perhaps much was lost on me as I walked around it. There is a museum of the Reformation nearby, but I was more interested in what was below this building: Site Archéologique de la Cathédrale.

You go down some stairs and discovered beneath the cathedral during renovations were two earlier Christian cathedrals, parts of the old Roman city, and even burials from before the Romans showed up. It was really cool. They had an English audio guide and cool displays that helped you visualize what it was you were seeing and walking through. I love museums like this, they are a great reminder that you are the end result of thousands of years of civilization.

After touring the ruins under the cathedral, I decided to wander through the old city a bit to work my way down to a street I saw on a map my first trip. There was nothing really remarkable to me about the street except its name:

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Since December 31st is my birthday, I figured that there were only so many chances I’ll get in my life to photo this street sign. I should have brought some tools and “liberated” it. Then again, while everything in Switzerland is top-notch, I didn’t want to gamble on their prisons following that trend. Maybe one will show up on eBay one day.

This awesomely named street came to an end (or maybe started, depending on which way you are going. Life is about 90% perspective, am I right?) right on the lake. What I have always thought of as Lake Geneva, is actually Lac Léman. Maybe it has two names, but since I’m in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (I also learned that Geneva was once in France), I feel like I can call it Lac Léman and not be too pretentious. Besides the very nice park along the lake, Lac Léman is famous for the Jet d’Eau.

Hey, they aren’t getting fancy with the name it just sounds fancy to Americans because it is in French; “Jet d’Eau” means “water jet”. It is as described, a giant fountain of water shooting up out of the lake. You can walk out towards it and I’m sure during the summer the mists from it are quite refreshing. Since I was here in January, I passed on the mists and admired it from afar.

It was while admiring the jet, that I noticed a great many water birds swimming around the docks. I saw quite a few birds I haven’t seen before but one stood out more than the others.

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ElvisBowie Duck

This little guy or girl with the blue/gray beak and great feathers. He was the only of his type among many more ducks, swans, and other larger swimming birds. Despite it being smaller than all the others, it didn’t seem to get pushed around like some of the others were by a few of the larger birds.

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ElvisBowie Duck next to a regular sized duck for comparison

Imagine his size next to one of the swans there. It was really small.

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Yummy slime at the bottom of the lake!

The internet failed me once again and I was not able to identify what kind it was, so I came to the conclusion that it was a new species. Since I saw it on Jan. 8th which is both Elvis and David Bowie’s birthday, I named it the ElvisBowie duck. It is now my favorite bird, besides fried chicken. If you make it to Lac Léman, keep an eye out for it or any others like it. As far as I know, it is the only one.

I grabbed a water taxi to cross the lake to do some souvenir shopping, and hit a great food store where I grabbed some amazing cheese, cured meats, and Swiss wine for dinner. I must have eaten about five pounds of cheese in the days I spent in Switzerland and will not feel bad at all when I have my first heart attack. It was worth it.

 

Vienna to Geneva By Rail

My quick day in Geneva a few months before had taught me that most of the town is closed on Sundays so planning a full day of train travel on a Sunday seemed to be a good idea. It would be a long day, but only required one train change in Zürich so I booked it.

One of the great things about rail in Europe is how easy it is to get from place to place. That can be a hassle when everyone else takes advantage of it at the same time. I’m not sure if it was the holiday, the weekend, or both, but it seemed like all of Austria chose to travel that Sunday via ÖBB second class rail. I got a reserved seat so there wasn’t any fear I wouldn’t be able to travel, the real issue is a lack of space for luggage bigger than a carry-on.

The train I was on from Vienna to Zürich had started the morning in Budapest and was pretty full by the time I hopped on board. I was lucky to find a place for my suitcase, but others down the line were not so lucky.

The ride through Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland was insanely scenic like before. It almost made up for the length of the trip and the crowded cars. I saw many places I’d like to explore more on a future trip.

The train was comfortable and on time, but by the time I got to Zürich I was sick of being around so many people. The Swiss Rail app has a great feature where you can see how crowded each train is by class, and I was seeing second class of my train to Geneva was pretty full. Feeling very much that I wanted some room away from the crowd, I gave in to a moment of weakness and upgraded to first class via the app while en route to Zürich. I also switched to a later train at the same time. No mad dash to find the right platform, plus since I’d spent quite a bit of time at the main station there a week before, I knew I could grab some provisions.

The quick ride from Zürich to Geneva was much less crowded in first class. I got lucky because at one stop in the trip they made the announcement that several cars of the train would not be making the rest of the journey. Of course I was on one of them. The luck came with me not having my headphones in when they made the announcement, so I had time to grab my suitcase ad relocate to the part of the train that was going to keep going.

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Much more legroom and much less people in first class.

I arrived on time and walked to two blocks from the station to my hotel. After a good night’s sleep, I’d be ready to explore Geneva on a Monday when things would actually be open this time!

In the future, I may plan to go ahead and pay for first class in advance if I am traveling with a large suitcase. Either that, or use the service that some railroads in Europe have where they will ship your luggage in advance.

Zürich Day Drei

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).

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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.

Zürich Day Ein

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.