Zurich

30 07 2007

Zurich will feature strongly in my memories of this trip – (sadly) it was the departure point for my travel-buddy Gerry, (thankfully) a chance to chill-out and ‘recharge the batteries’ after the pace from Holland to Switzerland, and (happily) a reunion with a couple of wonderful friends of mine, and the making of a few more.

The day after our arrival, the weather improved considerably, and we ventured out for a shopping mission for Gerry, who had been given a list of things to return home with by his wife Shoko (part of the ‘two weeks of fun in Europe without me’ agreement, I suspect). The previous night’s advice from Alex proved very handy for tracking down the desired goods (and more), and everything was taken care of in plenty of time to get Gerry packed and off to the airport.

I always find the endings of these things a bit anti-climactic, and so it was with Gerry’s departure. We’d had a really fantastic road-trip holiday, covering six countries and 1400 km together, with lots of great memories and experiences, and it all ended with a ‘Thanks mate – take it easy, I’ll see you later’. Not much more to say, I guess. Nothing at all, actually – Gerry, if you’re reading this, thanks mate – take it easy, I’ll see you later!

The following day I was met by both of my lovely Zurich friends – Erika & Alexandra – and we went for lunch at a nice traditional Swiss restaurant. I had the Züri Gschnetzlets (I think), which is classic Zurich cuisine, and enjoyed every mouthful. This was followed by more friend-meeting and sightseeing, and then a rush to catch the last tram (yes, Tokyo isn’t the only city afflicted with this mega-hassle).

As previously mentioned, the girls were both in the middle of their final exam week, so my timing couldn’t really have been worse – but they really bent over backwards to make me feel welcome in town, and gave me much more time than they should have to show me around and help me enjoy Zurich fully. All thanks to them, I got to see Zurich from the lookout on the top of the local mountains, and enjoy a great lunch by the lakeside. Thanks again, girls!

My two lovely hosts, Erika & Alexandra. Yes, life was tough in Zurich… 😉
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I also met a guy named Simon Gerber, a friend of Alex’s, whom she referred to as ‘the bike guy’ – and she wasn’t kidding. Simon has the distinction of riding a bicycle solo from Switzerland to the Northernmost tip of Norway (‘Nordcup’), a very remote and inhospitable place, and back again at the age of 19 (!) – a distance of almost 10,000km. He is also a remarkably friendly and interesting person, who invited me over to his place, cooked dinner for me, gave me a presentation of his journey, some tips and advice, and put me onto a great bike shop in Zurich (Stolz). Brilliant! Hope to see you on the road one day, Simon.

Simon, the bike he rode, and a photo he sent me of Nordcup
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Zurich itself has a lot of charm, with loads of attractive old buildings and churches to be seen along the river and lakeside. The area around the lake in particular is magnificent, and I found myself down on its shores many times during my short stay. I wound up camping right at the waters edge on my final night in town, where the clouds decided to give me a little farewell dousing overnight.

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Am I the only one who finds the hot-dog guy disturbing?
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My days in Zurich culminated in being the guest of honor at a dinner at Alex’s family home. Erika picked me up by car and drove me to Alex’s place up in the hills behind Zurich, where I met her parents, brother & his girlfriend, and was later joined by Valentine. A feast of steak, scalloped potatoes, salad and bread, topped off with an excellent Spanish red (Rioja), coffee and dessert – fantastic! Thanks once again to the Ochsenbein family – I really appreciate your warmth and hospitality. Thanks also to Erika for driving all the way to come and get me, and to Valentine for taking me back to the hotel.

Life is certainly better with friends. Young, smart & beautiful friends don’t hurt either… (sorry Gerry!) 20070616-zurich_trio.jpg
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