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.
After my marathon sleep from the night before, I was ready to get an early start and see some of Zürich. My hotel was a short walk from a S-Bahn train station that would take to to the main train station in Zürich in about 15 mins. I can’t say enough good things about the Swiss trains and transport in general. It can be a bit pricey, like almost everything else in Switzerland, but if you get a Zürich Card transit is included.
Maybe it’s because I’ve only been in the big cities in Switzerland so far, but things seem to be VERY expensive. Here’s a good example: a baguette that cost 1 euro in Paris last month, 0.50 euro in Barcelona this month, was priced at 5 Swiss francs or about 4.20 euro here in Zürich. How is a man supposed live the lifestyle that he is accustomed to in Europe at such prices? I won’t complain too much since I really like it here. I got a great deal on the flight and hotels, but Barcelona gave me more bang for my buck.
The Zürich Hauptbahnhof has a tourist info office and was across from the Swiss National Museum, which was my main goal for the day. Anxious to make up for yesterday I got there very early. So early that nothing was open yet. It is a neat, old station.
I figured that heading down to the lake for some early morning photos would be cool. I grabbed a tram and rode down to the lake.
After taking in the sights, I took the tram back to the train station and dropped by the tourist office. I grabbed a few souvenirs and found out that most museums would be closed tomorrow not because it was New Year’s Day but because it was Monday. D’oh! If I had done some advance planning I’d have known this. Well, that was tomorrow, today the Swiss National Museum was open.
I know almost nothing of Swiss history, so anything I picked up here would be appreciated. Trying to cover thousands of years of the history of a place is not easy. After a few hours there, I came away with the idea that Switzerland is a lot like Canada. Canada kind of exists because a group of people are united in not wanting to be American. Switzerland is a lot like that in that they are more united by what they do not want to be than what they are. They have three national languages after all. (I don’t speak one of them. Sigh.) I need to get a good book on Swiss history and see if I can figure it out better.
I made reservations for lunch to have some Swiss food and it did not disappoint. I had a plate of cured meats and fondue. I’m not sure why I’m having chest pains today. It was a place called Swiss Chuchi and it was small, but packed. It had a line out the door when I left.
I wandered around the old part of town for a while with no real plan. I saw a cool sundial on the side of a building. I’ve never seen one on the side of a building like this.
I’m sure it would still work if they hadn’t built that building across the street that was throwing shade on it. How would they have known way back in the 18th Century?
My next plan was to visit the Pavillon Le Corbusier which is a museum to some of Le Corbusier’s works. The building was actually designed by him. It was not meant to be. It is being renovated. This info was news to me. None of the websites that I looked at mentioned that. Lucky for me, it is in a park on the lake so I got to see some fantastic views.
It was getting late in the afternoon, and despite the excessive amount of sleep i was starting to feel very tired. I decided to skip the fireworks by the lake at midnight and head back to the hotel. I grabbed some small bottles of Swiss wine at a shop along the way and celebrated early by watching Warner Bros. cartoons on German TV. It was a good night.
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.