Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Swiss Beat: New Years in Switzerland Part I: Zurich

Teil Ens: Zurich

The profile on my Twitter page reads “travel bandit.” Let me explain this if I haven’t already. Whenever I have the opportunity to travel, I try to take advantage. If I have a 3 or 4-day weekend, I’m packing and going. My thought process is that I'm creating travel out of an everyday schedule - and it feels like I'm practically stealing. That’s what “travel bandit” means. I also rob people on vacation, but that’s another story.

"Percy Jackson" in-flight movie? C'mon man.
I found out I miraculously had unused vacation days and was looking to go somewhere for New Year’s. I was talking with my usual travel companion/victim, Pete, and we thought about snowboarding in Tahoe. Turns out, going to SF and Tahoe for 5 days would cost comparatively to going to Switzerland. That’s crazy. So I threw out the idea of going to Switzerland.

Stop looking at me, swan!

This looks Swiss.
For many who grew up in Orange County, there’s a strange connection to Switzerland because of Disneyland’s Matterhorn Mountain. You see the tip of the mountain from the freeway, you’ve ridden the bobsleds countless times, you’ve eaten at the churro stand next to the ride, you’ve even memorized the ride’s security announcement in two languages: “Remain seated, please. Permanecer sentados, por favor.” The thought of snowboarding down the real Matterhorn was too good to pass up. Pete and I and two more friends crunched some numbers, and low and behold, we were going to get our hot chocolate on.

Just like Anaheim
Since it was relatively last minute, we were going to do everything as budget-friendly as possible. We would fly into Zurich, then train to Zermatt. Hotels in Zurich are strangely cheap, so that was easy. Zermatt, however, would prove to be a challenge. The entire town, which is only accessible via train – you can’t drive there, was booked according to the interwebs. So we used airbnb.com, which is where people rent out their own homes and apartments for people to stay. We found a small spot in Zermatt that turned out to be perfect – and at a great price. If you ever need a place to stay on a budget – try this dude, Simon Gerber.

Simon Gerber not pictured here.
Anyway, I flew into Zurich early in the morning, everyone else was going to get there in the late afternoon, so I had the day to myself. The first thing I noticed at the airport is the terminal tram, which has the sounds of farm animals and cows mooing. It’s fricking awesome!

When traveling in Switzerland, if you’re trying to save cash, public transportation is the way to go. No need for rental cars or taxis. Buses and trains will take you everywhere on the cheap, which pays off later when you realize a Big Mac meal at McDonalds will cost you around $14 US. Who drops that kind of coin at McDonalds outside of a family of 8? Now I’m not one to advocate hopping on trams and not paying, but no one ever checked the myriad tram tickets I purchased. I don’t know the punishment for stowaways, maybe it’s buying a Big Mac meal at McDonalds.

Toblerone McFlurry? Intriguing.
This totally looks like Europe. Wait a minute... 
Selfie Time! 

That's stuff in Zurich. Famous? Who knows?!
Zurich’s a cool town to stroll around, but you don’t need that much time. There’s a massive shopping at Bahnhofstrasse, which is a Euro version of 5th Avenue combined with South Coast Plaza. The best place to hang is Old Town, or Altstadt. The Limmat river cuts through the town into Lake Zurich. There’s a famous church, Grossmunster. I don’t know what makes it famous, but apparently it is. I signed the welcome book, so that makes it famous since I’m such a big deal! #Nope There’s another church called the Fraumunster that features stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. You can also catch some of Chagalls work at the Kunsthaus, not to be confused with Kunsthalle - both of which you should be careful about pronouncing.
I got mad hops in Bahnofstrasse. #AdvilTakenShortlyAfter

Something in Bahnofstrasse

Grossmunster. Those two punctuation dots are supposed to go over the "u."

Fancy #CuzTheresAnAngle
The Kunsthaus is my first European art museum, and it’s way sweet. I love strolling through museums but I’m very much a celebrity-boffer when it comes to art. It’s all about the big names for me since I don’t really understand what I’m looking at. If Picasso and Joe Schmo painted something that looked exactly the same, I’d only care about the Picasso. This being said, when I stroll through many American museums, I only see one or two Monets (my fave), Van Goghs, etc. The Kunsthaus, which no one confuses with the Louvre, had boatloads of all the big names – Picassos, Van Goghs, Monets, Miros, even a Warhol. The featured exhibit was for Edvard Munch, famous from “The Scream,” not to be confused with the movie where Drew Barrymore died in the first 10 minutes. I took a bunch of pictures with my iPhone and no one seemed to stop me. So that added to the coolness of the museum, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t kosher. Whatever, I’m a dumb American tourist.

Edvard Munch Selfie
Sketch of "The Scream"

I swear this is Iron Man.
I think I've been reading to much "GQ" - but I liked these.

I think all these paintings are upside down. There's a woman in the middle. Why are they all upside down, Kunsthaus?


I dig Picasso's autograph

Picasso is all up in this joint.


More Monet

Love Van Gogh's colors.
When everyone met up, we planned to head to Old Town, but got lost and ended up at Shamrock Irish Pub, which had trivia night. Let me tell you, we did not help America’s international reputation. Predicting that we would be horrible at Switzerland trivia, our team name was the “American Wankers.” We were terrible and the questions weren't even Swiss-centric but international. “Milwaukee Brewers” was an answer to one question so that was good. The owner saw how poorly we were doing, and even fed us some answers, but we were confused which questions the answers were for. Was Columbo the capital of Sri Lanka or the name of the rocket that went to the moon? (It’s Sri Lanka’s capital. Saturn 5 is the rocket. We know that now.) Any how, if the locals that were in the bar were curious about American knowledge or ethnocentrism, they got a most unfortunate answer: we’re wankers.

I feel so ignorant.

Open square in Old Town. Opera House is to the right. Clouds above. You're welcome.

I missed the zoo. :(

Drink/eat: Santa Lucia – Italian chain, delicious Zurich fish soup, very salty. Good carpaccio (is there bad carpaccio?). Too expensive for price. Poor service.


Shamrock Irish Pub – good curry meat pie, friendly clientele.
Pub fare.

Ahhh, look who's all tuckered out?
Obligatory Pete pass out pic. #WhatMyBlogDoesForReaders
Coming up next: Zermatt NYE celebration, snowboarding the Matterhorn, and T-bar hatred.

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