Dan and Ian Wander Europe: Switzerland!

I dropped my phone onto wet ground last night. An hour or so later, the screen began to turn purple. This morning, the purple was going to black. Within the next hour the screen will no longer function at all. Within the next two business days, I’ll have a replacement of the exact same model and colour (who said warranties were a waste of money?), but I’m still melancholy at watching it slowly die. I mean, we made it through Europe together, it shouldn’t end like this. Bizarre sentimental attachment to inanimate objects: this is how my brain works. I’m just glad to have not gone full-blown hoarder yet.

Right, yes, Dan and Ian Wander Europe. Where was I.

There is still a staggering amount of world I haven’t seen. And thus each window I have to take a trip becomes a struggle over where to go: do I go somewhere entirely new, see things I’ve never seen, seek out new adventures? Or do I return to somewhere I’ve been and loved and want to see again? A day will come when I visit London for the last time but it’s a terrible thought and a moment I’m not exactly racing to meet.

So for this trip, I went for a hybrid. London, Paris, Rome and Florence were all old friends, even if I hadn’t seen them in nearly 20 years. But from Venice on, I picked out new places to go, including two new countries. The first? Switzerland, a country that had had my curiosity for some time.

Zurich: where the party at?

Our train from Italy never quite managed to get up to full speed, given the mountainous terrain it had to navigate. Switzerland swiftly reminded me of parts of British Columbia: all forests, mountains and lakes with cities crammed in between said lakes and mountains wherever possible.

Now this trip had one major difference over past vacations of mine: a lack of swimming. The vast majority of my trips over the past decade have involved at least some scuba diving, or at least some quality lake-time on a summer houseboating weekend. I haven’t been diving since Hawaii, 2011. I haven’t been to a lake since the summer of that year. Despite having spent the previous day in flooded Venice, I was feeling a distinct urge to be in a large body of water. And now here I was in lake country.

Anyway. Upon arriving in Zurich, we made our way to our hostel with aid from several passers-by. The Swiss people were already making us feel quite welcome. We discovered that the very night of our arrival there was a pub crawl sponsored by the hostel. Ian was waffling on the notion, but I thought this was the clear way to get drinks and meet people, something we (particularly Ian) had previously considered a priority. But in any event, first we set out to explore the surrounding area: Ian wanted to pop into the local supermarket (as he often did), and there was an amusingly vandalized traffic sign we wanted to grab a picture of.

We did not expect to spend two hours searching for it. Only to discover it was only five minutes’ walk from the hostel and we’d passed it without knowing.

No entry, GHOSTS.
Worth it.

By the time we returned we were too late to get dinner at the hostel bar and too late to make the pub crawl. Slightly dejected, we settled into the hostel’s large common room to have a few drinks and access some sweet, sweet internet. Ian did up a quick sketch in his sketchbook, announcing that we were Dan and Ian, and we liked meeting people but were terrible at introducing ourselves. Did this ploy have a hint of desperation? Maybe. Did it work regardless?

Thank god for the one other guy at the table who didn't speak German.
BOOM! New friends!

Did it ever. And so we achieved exactly what we were looking for: drinks and meeting people, at a fraction of the cost with none of that pesky “walking” stuff. And zero douchebags. Huzzah! Now… what to do with our one full day in the city…

Lucerne!

We tried asking friends for Zurich tips over Facebook. The overwhelming response was suggestions of stuff to do in Lucerne instead. Which, I felt at first, was nice and all but wasn’t really what we’d asked. However, it did turn out to be the exact right advice, as Lucerne is everything that’s great about Switzerland.

There’s old town, with it’s quaint medieval look, historic bridge and great shops and restaurants. Including one where we finally acquired my primary objective for this leg of the trip: cheese fondue. A cheese fondue with bits of bacon in the cheese. God bless Switzerland. There was the Lucerne lion, a famous carving in the wall of a mountain.

The Lucerne Lion in all his splendour.
The Lucerne Lion in all his splendour.

There was the vast lake. Still no swimming, but it’s for the best: we dipped our feet in the glacier-fed river coming from the lake and mother of GOD it was cold. Even for us Canadians it was bloody freezing.

Lucerne was gorgeous, and I only wish we’d had more time to enjoy it before we had to return to Zurich, find dinner near the hostel and meet up with some of our new friends again.

And find out that the hostel had a pool, a pool that I never managed to track down. Blast it all.

Next time: Belgium! Beers! Belfries! BRUGES.

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