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Zurich 15th-17th May

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The unexpected surprise with flying with an Arabic airline is that, of course, men get served first. More legroom than Qantas on Qatar Airlines, too, but 20 hours is still 20 hours, and it was a relief to hobble off at Zurich, knees aching, blood clots plotting.

As we were landing I was thinking, “Where’s the train-line that’s taking us to town?”. It’s underground, but odder than that. When you disembark you have to catch a train to the baggage carousel, a few minutes away. Then straight through Customs with no more than a cursory interview, no baggage check, and we were out and free to catch another (underground initially) train to Zurich.

I had played safe with the accommodation, booking a hotel close to the centre of everything. And it was. The river ran in front of the hotel, the main train station was 100 meters away, and the old town stroll started out at our doorstep.

Behind us every five minutes the bright red Polybahn climbed up the hill to the university. It came in very close to our hotel, and we decided we would have to try it out. We walked around the side of the hotel, looking for the entrance to the station. Not there. Round the back. Ooh.The Polybahn track went straight through the middle of the hotel, entering about first floor level. Back round the front, and you have to wonder how bad we are at observation. The Polybahn entrance was a fire-engine red double door, absolutely next door to our hotel entrance. You trip over the ticket machine on the way in.

Anyway, for CHF1.20 you can ride all of 30 seconds 100 meters uphill, and return within the half hour. Or walk…it takes 5 minutes.

And that’s probably the only cheap thing in Zurich. Keeping with the Polybahn theme….One way of looking at it is costs are all downhill from here, but its still a bit shocking. Admittedly the cakes we had with coffee were stunning, but coffee and cakes (at a very flash Café Sprugli) set us back well over $35. We went looking for a market, with the idea of buying our own picnic stuff and assembling it. Cheese, three slices of ham, some bread rolls and a few pieces of fruit etc were more than $50.  All nice food, of course, but…wow!

A couple of days later and we had worked out a better way of buying. The same picnic idea is quite acceptable via the CoOp Supermarkets. They have a lot of pre-prepared stuff, and good salad bars. They had a Spanish melon that smelt like passionfruit, was a bit bigger than a cricket ball, and was a honeydew color inside. But tasty.

Restaurant meals in der Schweiz were a mixed bag. I didn’t really have a memorable food experience. Yes, I had a pork hock, but soaked in plain old packet mix gravy. The fresh mixed salads (gemischte salade) are usually pretty good. Sylvia has spatzle, a sort of rough-cut noodle, but too floury, too dry and just too big a pile of it. She did have a spatzle dish which was ok, but was basically noodles piled in a plate and covered with melted cheese. Sort of nice, but hardly sophisticated food.

We went to an old-school restaurant jam-packed with tourists and a few locals. It was set up in an old barn-like beer hall, bizarrely decorated with weapons ranging from old bows and blunderbusses to a complete anti-aircraft gunnery. The meal I thought I was getting was a pork chop with roesti. Instead, I got the typical half-litre potato salad and approx 40 cm of grilled sausage coiled in what looked like the natural intestine shape. And packet gravy. The Japanese tourists gawped at their sausage on a stick…all half-metre of it,

I can’t really be bothered with the Swiss traditional dishes. Fondue. Are you serious? Raclette…the dish…is named after the cheese. What I’ve read is they heat up a block of cheese and scrape it onto your plate. Haven’t tried that one.

The other local dish that gets a lot of currency is chopped liver and roesti, and veal in mushroom cream sauce.

Roesti on paper sounds good, but so do hashbrowns, and you know how badly commercialized hash browns are. I figured the roesti would be like that. I saw a few go past, and they were different looking to what I expected, but I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything.

But the beer keeps me interested. We’ve tried quite a lot. Sylvia ordered a “three corn” beer that was tasty, and I’ve had a few different dark beers. Haven’t had a dud yet.

Zurich has the feel of a large country town. The cars drive quite slowly, and pedestrians have absolute right-of-way. You just step out and the cars stop….just. The old town is quite pretty in a modernized way, and in good shape. The river running through town and the attached lake are stunningly clear and clean, and a green, healthy-looking fast-flowing masterpiece.

This holiday is not a cathedral holiday…there won’t be much of that in Croatia….but we did wander into a couple here. As one of the touch-points for the 30 Year War, and home-base for anti-pope revolutionary Zwingli, the cathedrals in Zurich are quite modest in their decoration. Not for them the garish baroque monstrosities of the Catholic Church! The Munsterkirke has stunning stained glass windows that are simply thinly sliced and polished colored stones and crystals. Beautiful in a graceful, random way. Across the river in the Fraumunster are stained glass windows designed by Chagall. I didn’t get it. They looked to me like he didn’t understand stained glass, and basically had taken some line–art designs and splashed color throughout. One blue, one red and so on. Like…why was the devil completely blue? Answer: because so was the rest of that window. The red window was flowers.

The other thing this holiday in not is a Habsburg holiday. Except…I read that the original home castle, where it all started, is only 20 kilometres from Zurich. After 700 years of turmoil and border changes, the Habichtsburg is nowadays on Swiss soil. The Habsburg website directed me to Schloss Lenzerburg/ Schloss Habichtsburg.

So we caught the train, hiked a couple of kilometres to the castle, climbed 423 stone stairs, staggered up the castle roadway and crawled across the drawbridge.

500 stairs to the castle

But I fell for the old shared museum trick. Like Vienna, where there are 168 Wien Museums, there are four Schloss Aargau/Aargau Museum sites. 15 minutes into the visit I got that feeling….The castle we went to yes, was inhabited by one Frederick early on, but we were at the WRONG CASTLE!

We looked at what we would need to do to rectify things, and it was all too hard. But it was a nice castle, very Sovereign Hill with animations, light shows, kids classes living the life and so on.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

May 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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