Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Neutral, and On Time

After 5 days in hectic Hong Kong, our brief respite in Switzerland was much needed and quite welcomed.  In contrast to Hong Kong's crowded, busy efficiency, Switzerland had a slower pace, and a polite but unfriendly efficiency.  It was clean, it was quiet, and it was so damn picturesque.  Andy and I, hilarious individuals that we are, made plenty of jokes about neutrality and timeliness. 

Getting to Switzerland was one of the least fun plane rides we had on the whole trip.  We left at 11pm or so, after a full day of touristing at the Big Buddha, and with no shower. Before boarding the plane, I was already feeling fairly ill, probably from eating cold spring rolls. And the plane was crowded. Poor Andy's legs, from hip to knee, is precisely the distance from his seat back to the one in front of him, and he found himself in a plane seat with one of those stupid boxes in the foot space. The food was only okay, and the movie selection was disappointing. Swiss Air definitely didn't win us over in the 13 hours during which we were a captive audience. 

Arriving in Zurich at 6am, we had a few hours to kill before we met up with Andy's sister-in-law to get keys and directions to her apartment. So we got train tickets and went into Zurich city for a look around.  Our first impression of Zurich was that it was nearly empty (it was still very early, though), very cold, and very expensive - before lunch, on the first day, we spent about AU$100. Yikes!  But it was also very pretty.  There is a river running through the city.

With old churches on either side.

And lots of pretty swans.
But it lacked a vibrancy, and we weren't immediately taken with Zurich (though, after visiting on a Saturday at lunch time, I realise this is probably because of our timing).  We did poke through a local market, with loads of exciting produce - mushrooms, artichokes, berries, apples, pears, potatoes... But we were pretty happy to meet up with Andy's sister-in-law at lunch time and head back to her place in St Gallen for long showers, laundry, and resting.

And, although we did plenty of stuff while we were in Switzerland, my lasting impression is the restfulness.  We cooked at Andy's brother's apartment most nights, which was a nice break after restaurant-eating for so many days in a row in Hong Kong. We dawdled through parks and grocery stores, and old towns, and churches. We spent lots of time in markets (which are set up 4 or 5 days a week in St Gallen, I think).

St Gallen, although a smaller city, was more appealing to us than Zurich.  It has a giant, old cathedral.

And a funny story about how the site was chosen. So the legend goes, as we heard it, a drunken Irish priest called Gallus was tramping through Switzerland when he fell. A bear came to his aid, and Gallus took this as a sign from God - so decided to build a church on the site.

St Gallen's old city has heaps of cool old oriel windows.

There was also So Much Fruit around the town, growing in people's yards, in parks, along the sidewalks...

And we stumbled upon a little community compost pit, which was adorable and awesome.

We caught a tiny tram up a hill, and had a look around some manmade lakes.

But the best part about being on the hill was the views over the little city. 

Soon, I'll tell you about the day trip we took along the Rhine, and the other day trip we took up an Alp.  But for now, here's one last photo of Switzerland's quaintness.


Kari said...

Switzerland is very high on my list of places I'd like to go - soon! - and you have certainly confirmed that it deserves to be there. Nice to hear that the stereotypes about order and efficiency are accurate too :)

Nadine said...

that looks so restful, the kind of place i would like to live. so cute too!

Susan said...

I've been to Switzerland once, a long time ago. We went to Basel. I remember it begin very cold. It does strike me as a restful kind of place.

Hannah said...

It is a sign of how exhausted I am right now that I got to the end of your post and became wildly excited about how close you got to an elephant.

And then my eyes adjusted.

I'm disappointed on so many levels right now.

Theresa said...

Well, I can see your confusion, Hannah, since grazing elephants are one of Switzerland's most defining characteristics ;) Get some sleep!

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