Switzerland Travel Blog› entry 24 of 26 › view all entries
I left Rome early in the morning. I woke up Titto, who works the night shift at the hostel, who was sleeping in the lobby. “Vina! You didn’t tell me you were leaving this early! Don’t leave until I get back!” He told me and rushed out the door, leaving the hostel unattended while I brushed my teeth. Five minutes later Titto came back with a cappuccino and croissant in hand. “I didn’t want you to be hungry when you arrive in Paris.” Titto explained, handing me the breakfast. He carried my suitcase down the stairs and hugged me goodbye and kissed me on both cheeks. ‘Omg’ I thought; ‘When the hotel staff is hugging you goodbye, you know you’ve been there too long.’
Maybe I was in Rome a little too long, but I really had a great time. In retrospect I could have divided my time more reasonably. I had an extensive list of things that I was so excited to see, and I exhausted myself seeing them all in the first three days. Seeing Saint Peters, climbing to the top, seeing where the Popes are buried and visiting the Vatican museum and the gardens was probably not necessary to do all in one day. After three days of extreme sight-seeing I started to relax a little. I met many other travelers in my hostel to wander around with, which I was grateful for, especially for going out at night to spots like the Trevi fountain or the Spanish Steps.
Everyone told me that I would meet people to travel with, which I didn’t really believe, but ‘everyone’ was right. The first night in Rome I went to the Spanish steps with a huge group of travelers, all around my age, from all over the world. Although I was initially very nervous to travel by myself, I am really glad that I did. Before embarking on my journey, my friend Matt told me ‘maybe you’ll find yourself’, which we laughed about, but I really did discover things about myself on my solo trip. For example, I have a better sense of direction and can read maps better than I ever knew. One great thing about being alone is that you’re forced to be assertive and meet people. I have to give a shout out to Nick and John, from Yorkshire (yeah like the pudding) with whom I shared a hilarious day exploring Rome. We went to the ‘Time Elevator’, be sure to catch that if you’re in town. It was wonderful to be with native English speakers, although many other times my Spanish and French knowledge came in handy. If I hadn’t been by myself I wouldn’t have been as motivated to meet people, and I would have missed out on meeting some really fun and interesting people.
So anyway -
I arrived in Paris on the 5th, a bit overwhelmed about what to do with myself for 10 whole days. My new hostel in considerably more modern, larger and just all around better, but it is harder to meet people. On my first day I went to the Centre Pompidou, which is a Contemporary Art Museum, but also a giant complex with several things to see and do. The museum was really great, I got completely lost in the giant galleries, I just wandered around in an amazed oblivion. It wasn’t until I saw the skyline from a balcony in the museum that I remembered that I was in Paris. Unfortunately my camera broke somehow, and I lost all of my pictures. My sadistic camera completely failed me, I am still mourning the loss of all the pictures it deleted and future pictures that I now won’t have the opportunity to take. That evening I met up with a friend I met while studying in France last summer, Samy, and caught up with him.
The next day I wandered around Paris in the rain, in an absolute state of ecstasy. I’d only seen rain once in the last 10 weeks, for a 15min flash storm outside of Delphi, and I surprised myself by how much I missed it. While everyone else put on jackets and headed for shelter I wore my tank top and tried to catch as much of it as I could.
I got in contact with my Dad, who was in Switzerland climbing the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. He successfully and safely climbed the mountain, earlier than scheduled, so he still had a few extra days in Europe. I invited him to Paris, and he in turn invited me to Switzerland, so I jumped at the opportunity and hopped on the next train to Lucerne, Switzerland. That’s another advantage of traveling solo, you can hop a train whenever you want. I asked Dad what the weather was like, so I could pack accordingly. I don’t know why I asked, I only had summer clothes. Dad responded – it’s really warm, in the 70s and 80s. I almost laughed. 70 degrees was about 30 degrees less than I was used to. I was going to freeze. Dad said: “Don’t worry, we have an extra rain jacket you can wear, and don’t worry about bringing your ice axe, we’ve got plenty of those too.” Oh Dad…you and your mountain climbing humor.
I’d always been a little jealous of my little brother Pete, who got to go to Switzerland when he was younger. He described to me the feeling of arriving in Switzerland after a long, miserable train ride. “The air tastes like altoids.” He’d said, concluding with his signature phrase, ‘You don’t even know dude.’
When I crossed the border from France into Switzerland, I was blown away not by the minty fresh mountain air, but by the unbelievable sights of rolling green hills littered with charming cottages and sheep. In the background of these heavenly fields lie grandiose mountains, and above them, clear blue skies and impossibly white fluffy clouds. After spending my summer at dusty archeological sites, Switzerland was a lush green paradise.
From Paris I rode the train to Basel, where I had an hour before my next train. I was elated when three people spoke to me in German. Finally, somewhere I fit in! In Greece, Greeks would take one look at my sun bleached hair and speak to me in English. In Rome in August, everyone is a tourist, and although I try to look inconspicuous, my ‘American face’ as someone called it, gives me away. Even in Paris, when I would speak in French, my terrible accent would give me away and most people would respond in English. So when three people in the train station mistook me for middle European I was so happy, but upset that I don’t speak one word of German, so I couldn’t respond. From Basel I took another train to Lucerne, where I met my Dad and his friend Mr. Thomas. They met me at the train station; I was so excited to be with family.
We first walked to the hotel to drop off my backpack. Dad ‘hoped this hotel would be ok’, which made me laugh. Compared to my hostel in Rome, this place was a palace. It was right downtown, so we wandered around. First we went to see the famous Lion Monument, which is a statue carved right into the living rock. The statue is of a dying Lion, who has been speared in the back. It is one of the most convincingly painful and sad statues I’ve ever seen. In fact, I heard it referred to as the saddest piece of rock in the world. It was dedicated by the French in honor of the 800 Swiss guards who died defending Louis XIV.
We also walked along the beautiful Lake Lucerne and checked out some of the boats. The glassy water reflects the open blue sky. The air smells so fresh and clean. In case Lucerne couldn’t get any more perfect, there were swans everywhere. It was unbelievable. We checked out a few cathedrals and walked up to the old city wall, which you could still climb up and walk along. The views from up on the wall were breathtaking. I hope I’m not annoying anyone with my incessant ranting of the beauty of Switzerland, but the pictures don’t even do it justice. Dad and Mr. Thomas were still completely exhausted from climbing the Matterhorn, and hadn’t acclimated to the time change. We stopped to get a coffee and they fell asleep. I learned to carry my book around with me to stay occupied during nap times. That night we had a nice dinner in a 500 year old building. To them this was really old. After being in Greece, this seemed pretty new to me.
The next morning we took a ferry around Lake Lucerne. We stopped at a small village on the lake and hiked around for an hour. The village had a train that went up the mountain. It was a very picturesque village. I wouldn’t mind living there. We had lunch and then hopped back on the ferry and returned to Lucerne. Back in Lucerne, Mr. Thomas went to mass at a beautiful cathedral and Dad and I went to a modern art gallery that boasted over 100 works by Picasso. It was a nice gallery. We went for dinner to a small restaurant that had a particularly frightening mural on the front of the building of ghoulish characters. Mr. Thomas read to us about some of the history of Lucerne. It was a lovely evening.
We took a morning train from Lucerne to Zurich. We stayed in a hotel by the airport so that Dad and Mr. Thomas could catch their early morning flight. After checking in we took a train to the city. Zurich was beautiful, a peaceful river flows through the city, the water is so clear, only polluted by the white downy swan feathers. There were numerous things to see, I was particularly interested in seeing the archeological museum. It took us awhile to find. The museum was connected to the university, which had a really beautiful campus. At the museum I was shocked to find only plaster casts of art works. The visiting exhibit was a selection of casts of Assyrian relief sculptures, which were interesting. The really interesting part was the basement, which was basically a warehouse of plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculpture. It was interesting to see everything I had studied in one big room. I had a great time telling Dad and Mr. Thomas about my favorite works. They were still tired from their mountain climb, and ended up falling asleep in lobby while I explored the second and third floors where they had casts of the Elgin Marbles and the Doryphoros.
After I’d had my fun in the plaster cast museum and Dad and Mr. Thomas awoke from their naps, we went to check out a particular cathedral of interest because of it had stained glass windows created by Marc Chagall. We had dinner in town and then headed back to the hotel pretty early. Dad and Mr. Thomas had to retire early so that they could wake up at 4am for their early flight home. They didn’t like my suggestion of just staying out all night. Our hotel had those special beds that you can elevate the head or knees. I was in heaven. All my life I’ve been seeing commercials for those beds and it was the one thing missing from my life. I didn’t even want to leave the hotel, I just wanted to stay in and adjust the bed.
I had a relaxing shopping day; I even bought myself a new dress. My train left at about 6pm and went directly to Paris. I checked back into my hostel in Paris prepared for my final week in Europe. Switzerland was incredible, I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to go there and visit my Dad.