Right now I am completely exhausted, after spending all of
today trying to make the most out of the little time we were allotted in Switzerland…which
I guess is a good thing. Today, like just about every other day this trip, has
been awesome, and I regret that we will be leaving for France
in the morning. But here’s to the good time I had while I was here:
When we left our hotel in Venice,
little did we know that what was supposed to be a seven or eight hour bus ride
would turn out to last nearly twelve. Our pace from Italy
to the Swiss border was normal, with the obligatory longer-than-necessary pit
After a 30 minute layover at the border patrol station, we soon met thick
traffic at the foot of the Alps. Turns out that a
boulder had fallen and blocked the road that we were supposed to travel, so we
(and every other vehicle headed that direction) were sent on a detour that
added at least 2 hours to the trip. As you can imagine, the single-lane roads
that wind up through the mountains were not able to handle the increased flow
of traffic, so we drove stop-and-go for nearly an hour leading up to the climb
and continued our way at an average speed of around 20 mph. Once we cleared the
pass, it was smooth sailing until Zurich.
If this had been any other leg of the trip, I probably would have been a bit
more frustrated, but the fact that we were practically parked at the base of
the most breathtaking mountains I’ve ever seen made the experience quite
Chad chasing a swan in the Zurichsee
We rolled into Zurich
at , just in time to grab a
quick dinner and settle in to watch the USA/Italy World Cup match. I, along
with all the other folks on the trip, was disappointed with the outcome, but
I’m still riding on the outside chance we have of advancing to the next round.
After the game was over, we all headed out for a club called the AlpenRock
House, which turned out to be an awesome time. The whole while we were there,
the DJ played a mix of popular European techno and American hip-hop and rap, so
I pretty much danced nonstop from when we got there to when we left.
And now for today’s events: we had to wake up early for
music and art history lecture, which I had a hard time staying awake through.
Me captaining a paddle boat
After that, we took the bus into downtown Zurich
(about a 10 minute ride) to grab lunch before we hit the Kunsthaus. We decided
to mix it up a little bit for lunch by grabbing some kebabs. Unfortunately,
Swiss kebabs have nothing on Venetian kebabs. The Kunsthaus museum, which is
known for its collection of 19th century paintings and modern and conceptual
art, was another solid visit. I particularly enjoyed the many Monet, Cezanne,
and van Gogh paintings inside, as well as a temporary exhibit they were hosting
on optical illusions. Just outside of the museum, right in the center of the
sidewalk, is a reportedly famous public restroom housed inside walls made of
one-sided mirrors. From the outside, it is fully reflective, but when you go
inside, you feel as though you are sitting inside a glass box, which can be a
bit unnerving while you use the bathroom.
The London Philharmonic
I thought it was a very creative and
unique attraction, and it fit right in next to the Kunsthaus.
After leaving the museum, Dan and I walked down towards
Zurichsee, the lake that lies in the center of the city. Despite most of the
stores being closed for the day, the city was much alive. Perhaps most
interesting was seeing the Inline World Cup, a Tour de France-esque
rollerblading race through the streets of Zurich.
Everywhere we turned, there were people in colorful spandex suits and
helmets…it was certainly a spectacle. By chance, we ran into a few of the other
guys from the group who were swimming in the lake. I’ll spare the details for
now, but basically, a bet was made that one of the guys couldn’t swim across
the lake and back in less than an hour (it appeared to be about a three-quarter
mile swim each way).
Brian and I at AlpenRock
Money was put down, and next thing you know, three of the
guys were off and swimming in their boxers. Dan and I started walking around
the lake to meet them on the other side, just to make sure they really went the
whole distance. About halfway around the lake, we spotted a paddleboat rental
station and immediately decided to go for it. It cost 12 Swiss Francs (about $10)
for a half-hour, so at $5 a person, it was quite a deal. We took the boats out
to the middle of the lake to check in on our fearless swimmers. Though
fatigued, they all continued strong and made it to the other shore; however,
since none of them even dared to swim back to the other side, they lost the bet
while winning the satisfaction of conquering the alpine lake. After that
episode, we met up with the group for our fourth concert of the trip, a
performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The first piece they did was
a piano concerto of Mozart’s, followed by a symphony by some Russian composer
whose name is 15 letters long and utterly unpronounceable. I was really
impressed by not only the massive and full sound they produced, but also by the
technical accuracy they showed. With over 100 performers on stage, it’s easy to
see why I had goosebumps most of the time. It still comes in second behind the
Vivaldi concert in Venice, but I’ll
never forget seeing such a talented ensemble for their great performance.
Speaking of that, I am starting to create a list of “best
of’s,” listing the best meals, museums, concerts, clubs, and attractions
throughout the trip. I am hoping that this will allow me to remember all the
places we visit and, more importantly, the ones I really enjoyed visiting.
Tomorrow, we set off for Paris and our
final stop on the European tour. Although I am sad to be ending the traveling
portion, it will be really nice to settle down in Oxford
for an extended period and not have to live out of my suitcase. Don’t expect
many updates in the next 4 or 5 days, since I will be spending most of my free
time studying and working on my research paper (bleh). As I promised before,
when I get to Oxford, I will be
able to go back and post all of my pictures and fill in some of the gaps
between entries. I hope you all have enjoyed reading along with my travels, and
I will drop another line sometime in Paris!
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