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Travel break part six: Zurich II: Electric Boogaloo

Nov 19, 2006 • Karen

Today was the day I inadvertently walked all the way down a mountain.

I dragged my self and my suitcase a second time from Zurich Hauptbahnhof to the same hostel I'd stayed in five days previously. I got in early, so the rooms weren't ready for me to move in. Fortunately, however, the guy at the desk said I could leave my stuff in the office and come back before noon to get my key. Thus, I was able to walk around a small park on Lake Zurich (which turned out to have a small aviary of tropical birds, for some reason) and then aimlessly cruise around the city in random trams instead of waiting for two hours for people to check out.

After I finally moved my stuff in and ate yet another jam sandwich (my lunch diet during the whole trip), I decided to take the train up to Uetliweg, a large hill/mountain overlooking the city of Zurich. The view at the top, looking down on green fields and adorable farmhouses on one side and the city and lake on the other, was of course amazing. Unfortunately, I'd run out of space on my camera in Bern, so I don't have any pictures.

Uetliweg is covered in several walking paths, which intersect train stops on occasion. One of these paths is called "Planeteweg"--starting at the sun, there are markers for each of the planets at proportionate distances. (Pluto is not just included--because of its weird orbit, it has *three* markers, at apogee, perigee, and average distance!) Unfortunately, for some reason (in German, of course) the Planet path was closed when I was there. Nevertheless, I thought it would be nice to take a walk through the woods and admire the fall colors and pine trees. So I set off on one of the paths, which was supposed to intersect with a train station in about a half-hour or so.

While I was on the path, I was joined by this elderly German lady who I guess wanted somebody to walk with. Okay. As we walked along in the leaves, she asked why I was in Zurich and where else I had been and how Copenhagen was and my age and my family and whatnot. She spoke English, but I couldn't always understand what she was saying--I think I mostly guessed correctly.

After a while, we reached an intersection with another path, where there was a water fountain and a playground covered in raucous children. I was pretty sure we ought to take the left fork. My companion, however, was convinced that we should go right, for reasons unknown to me. I eventually gave in, figuring that she could at least read German--she probably knew better than I where to go. Right?

Two other times I similarly withdrew my judgment--even once when I could *see* a parking lot through the trees, suggesting the presence of a station. I couldn't just *leave*--that would be rude! So we walked, and walked, and walked...

Eventually we found ourselves off the whole trail system altogether--dumped off unceremoniously on the side of an unlabeled road with lots of speeding cars and no bus stops. There was nothing to do but continue walking down the hill on the sidewalk, in the hopes that something recognizable was closer to our front than our back.

Eventually, thank the Lord, we reached a tram station. The very end of the line. God it felt good to sit down. The constant downhill march wreaked havoc with my knees and my right hip. For several days afterward they didn't feel right. I can only imagine how the 62-year-old woman felt. But it was the path she chose...

Lesson: Don't trust old German women with directions?

After resting my legs for a while, I then walked around Bahnhofstrasse, the trendy shopping street on the other side of the river from my hostel. I stopped in a fancy-schmancy Swiss chocolate store, Sprungli, because I'd heard they were good. They *were* good--even when full of people, the store smelled delicious. I asked to sample one of these strange confections they had that looked like a miniature hamburger, and the lady gave it to me for free! It turned out to be made out of a meringue-type thing, with gooey chocolate stuff in the middle. Mmm. I looked at some of their boxes of chocolates and whatnot, but their prices were through the roof. I felt a little bad about sampling without getting anything...but what can you do?

This was my final full day in Switzerland, and I wanted to make it special. After days and days of jam sandwiches and pasta, I was prepared to forgo my general rule of never spending more than $10 on a meal and splurge my 20 remaining francs on dinner. Thus, I had planned to go to the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe, Hiltl. The restaurant was located near Bahnhofstrasse, so after leaving Sprungli I decided to go visit it early and take a look at the menu. I found an English copy of their *lunch* menu--and was promptly blown away. 23,- CHF for curry? I mean, I'm sure it's damn good curry, but... ?!

So Hiltl, despite its historic qualities, was out of the question. My next candidate for dinner, after stopping back at the hostel for a bit of a rest, was another vegetarian restaurant down Niederdorfstrasse called Pot Au Vert that looked cute. But when I arrived around 5:45, they weren't open yet and their menu was nearly as expensive. Boo that.

Zurich is not as bad as Copenhagen, but it is still an expensive city. Expect to spend $20 on dinner--even without drinks. Blargh.

I ended up going to the ZicZac Rock Café, an American-themed restaurant connected to a "Rock Hostel" where each of the rooms is band-themed. Ridiculous? Quite possibly. The interior was completely kitschy--a fake ten-foot Statue of Liberty on the bar, guitars and gold records hanging on the walls, a rotating Lego globe... The rock music blasting out of the speakers would've been too loud for most folks, but I wasn't trying to hold a conversation with anyone and their choice of music (The Who, U2, Led Zeppelin, Heart, etc) was pretty good.

Attempting to stay true to my previous vegetarian intentions, I ordered a veggie burger. It turned out to look more like a veggie chicken patty than anything else--it was made out of mostly potatoes, along with some peas and carrots. Still tasty, though. I don't think I realized how hungry I was until the waiter set the gigantic plate down in front of me. Salad, fries, burger--I nearly cleaned the damn thing. Maybe it's silly, going to an American-themed restaurant when you're a tourist in a foreign country. But I wasn't a tourist, really. I was a financially-disadvantaged student who had been living on freaking jam sandwiches for a week, and pasta for three months. I missed actual American food, dammit!

After dinner, after I'd digested a bit, I went to McDonald's for dessert. I'd seen signs for tiramisu (tiramisu? at McDonald's??) and I was morbidly curious. It was...about what you'd expect it to be like. Creamy, not terrible, but not tiramisu.

And off I went the next morning at 4 AM to the train station, then the airport, back to Copenhagen. The third week of the travel break I spent with my Dad visiting the National Museet, eating a three-hour traditional Danish lunch at Det Lille Apotek, and various other obligatory touristy things that I'd not gotten around to doing during my time here. So that's my story.