Fall Vacation '16 (Part 3): Zurich
I have been saying for years that I should pay a visit to my first cousin once removed, My-Phuong, in Switzerland. Wow that was a mouthful. In Vietnamese culture, she's my 'aunt' because she's my dad's first cousin, but since we are a lot closer in age than she is with my dad, I consider her more a cousin than an aunt.
We booked a flight from CDG to Zurich early in the morning to give us more time to explore Switzerland. I was really looking forward to adding another stamp to our passport but they didn't for our hour and 15 minute flight.
Our currency exchange during our stay was 1 USD = .97522 Swiss Franc.
Even though Nick and I flew into Zurich, we were actually flying out of Geneva which is about a three hour train ride from Zurich. With My-Phuong's help, she was able to calculate that Nick and I would save a lot more money by getting the Swiss Rail pass since we wanted to visit a few other places during our short visit. Unlike NYC and Paris, passengers are able to hop on the train without scanning their pass because the Swiss trains actually have a person walking around checking passes. Unfortunately that also means that passengers without valid passes are given a ticket and the ticket is 70 francs. Over the next two days, we will get checked at least once each day, so it's very sporadic when they do decide to check.
One of the recommendations that My-Phuong told us about was this sausage place called Sternen Grill that I wasn't too excited for because I don't care for sausages. You know a place is good when there is a line out the door in the middle of day during a weekday.
These sausages were amazing!! Nick and I both got the St. Galler and dang they were good. They were still hot and perfect in this weather. Unfortunately, Nick and I didn't get any bread or sauce for the sausages which MP said would've complimented the sausages really well. These sausages were 12.50 francs each and I'm glad they didn't disappoint.
I was planning on meeting my California friend now living in Zurich with her husband, Nicole, when my data decided to leave me hanging without much warning. Luckily for me, Nicole had sent me directions of the stops I needed to take from Sternen Grill to her beauty salon and even took a picture for reference before my data ran out. I was frantically scrimmaging around for free WiFi as Nick was muttering that he told me so. Luckily, with Nicole's address and handy picture, we had a general idea of where we needed to go and we found her!
I haven't seen her for, at least, six years when we used to go to school together. Even back then, we had talked about visiting family and possibly living in Switzerland and here we are now doing everything we had talked about six years ago! Crazy how time flies and crazy how things just fall into place. Even though it was a quick visit, it was so great to see her and to hear that she is loving living in Switzerland.
Both MP and Nicole recommended Nick and I go to Lindenhof and for some reason, I thought Lindenhof was the Roman steps. We kept walking and I kept sending pictures over to MP asking if we were close.
After a good 20 minutes of walking around and confusing MP asking if we were at the 'steps', we finally found Lindenhof! We just had to walk up the hill, unfortunately still no 'steps' were to be found. And after doing research, I found out that Lindenhof used to be where the Romans had one of their forts at. Still not sure why I thought some famous 'steps' were involved.
For dinner, MP made reservations at Zeughauskeller for some traditional Swiss food.
Unfortunately, since the ambience is not as kid-friendly at the restaurant, Long stayed home with Sarah. The history of Zeughasukeller is that it was built in 1487 before Christopher Columbus even discovered America. It was a place where armaments and weapons of war were stored. Nowadays the weapons are used as decorations for the restaurant.
The menu has lots of options but Nick and I only got what MP recommended, why try something else when we were here for good authentic Swiss food. I got the Kalbsgeschnetzeltes nach Zurcher Art which is veal and mushrooms in a white-wine sauce with rosti (Swiss style hash browns). Nick got the Cordon bleu which was tender pork filled with ham and spicy Gruyere cheese with rosti. MP got the Geschnetzelte Kalbsleber which is fresh veal liver with rosti.
Wednesday, November 2nd
I woke up this morning feeling really congested. I think it was due to us sleeping with the windows open and then me sleeping with wet hair.
Even though I wasn't feeling too great, I still wanted to spend as much time with this little cutie before she was off to school.
Prior to our visit, MP asked what I wanted to see and I said Swiss Alps if weather permitted. Luckily for us weather permitted so MP and Long took screenshots of the trains that we needed to take in order to get there.
The overall trip to get from Zurich to Alpnachstad was an hour and half with a train transfer at Lucerne. It was a little confusing once we hopped on the train from Lucerne to Alpnachstad but this really nice gentleman literally just had us follow him to the next train since that was also the train he needed.
Mount Pilatus is the northernmost branch of the Swiss Alps.
Mount Pilatus is known for having the World's Steepest Cogwheel Railway with a gradient average at 38% and steepest at 48%. With our Swiss pass, we were able to purchase our cogwheel tickets at a discount. I forget how much of a discount we received but it was around 72 francs for the two of us.
Prior to boarding, I had noticed that there was a group of older Swiss individuals carrying their musical instruments and figured they were the band that plays on top of the mountain.
Little did we know, they were going to give Nick and I the full Swiss experience on our trip up the mountain. It was honestly one of the highlights of our trip.
Nick and I weren't planning on venturing out and doing a lot of climbing but we thought to ourselves, when will we be back to experience this?
Nick and I are afraid of heights, I would say he's worst than I am, but when we were climbing down for the dragon's path (drachenweg), I was terrified. I actually sat on the steps and slowly climbed down.
Since not a lot of people were around and it was too foggy to really see much, we decided to not take the dragon's path as it would've been a 30 minute walk. Also we didn't want to be on the news as the two Americans that got lost on Mount Pilatus.
We started taking the other trails that were shorter in duration and not in caves and such.
This was at the top of Oberhaupt. This trail wasn't bad at all and took about 10 minutes.
Since the trail to get to Esel was only 10 minutes also, Nick and I decided to do this trail. This trail was steeper than Oberhaupt and higher in altitude and Nick and I literally sat on a makeshift bench for a good few minutes before continuing.
Before heading back down, our fellow cogwheel friends were playing.
One of the two reasons why we stopped at Lucerne was for the Lion Monument. The Lion Monument is a dying lion carved in sandstone rock to commemorate the mercenary soldiers who lost their lives serving King Louis XVI during the French Revolution.
The top curves out Helvetiorum Fidei Ac Virtuti which is Latin for 'To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss'.
Our next and last stop in Lucerne was to visit the Chapel Bridge.
Lucerne is divided into the Old Town and New Town by the Reuss river and the two districts are connected by the Chapel Bridge. The Chapel Bridge is also one of the oldest covered wooden bridge that dates back to the year 1332 with paintings on the ceiling which I obviously didn't know about until I starting writing this blog. Therefore, I don't have any pictures of the paintings on the ceiling.
As we were heading back to MP and Long's place, my google was very glitchy. To the point where Nick and I thought we had taken the wrong train and were going the opposite way. Luckily, we took the right train and made it back safe and sound to Zurich.
For dinner, MP and Long took us to Mamma-Mia for some Swiss style pizza. Nick got the pizza ai funghi e prosciutto della spalla which is shoulder ham with mushrooms and mozzarella. I got the Mamma Mia which is veal with mozzarella and basil.
I want to thank MP and Long for their hospitality while we were there visiting Switzerland. They made sure we were well feed and well taken care of. I wished Nick and I had spent more time there but I'm positive we will be back soon to check out their new home. Plus I will get to see them later in the month when they go to Disney World. It is never a 'goodbye' but a 'see you later'.