We arrived in Frankfurt and had a brief layover. The airport was horrible. Strangely it was full of Middle Eastern people, all of which seemed to smoke. You could literally see smoke rising from the ground floor to the second level. It was almost impossible to breathe. Since we were there in 2007 smoking has been banned in that airport.
We took a short bus ride out to the tarmac to board our next flight to Zurich on Swiss Air. We left at 12:00 PM on June 9 on a short flight. It lasted about an hour and a half or so. The plane was tiny and was like a bullet. I don’t like the smaller planes, they shake like crazy and you think it’s just going to blow up in mid-air. It seemed like once we got up, we immediately were heading back down.
When we arrived in Zurich the shock of being in a foreign country really hit me. We had no clue what to do. We didn’t have any places to stay booked for the entire trip. I planned a lot of the activities and the cities we’d visit, but not where we’d stay. We had planned to camp as much as possible and I had an idea that there were campsites, but with no car, no map, and no clue, we had to figure things out as they arose. It made it stressful at times to wonder where we’d sleep each day. I felt like a homeless person. Since this trip I have planned in much more detail to take out the anxiety.
We arrived in Zurich in the afternoon, got our bags and got on the train to the city. We asked some lady at a desk where the campground was. She said we could walk straight out the station and turn right once we got to the lake and get on a bus. After a while we’d see a campground on the side of the road. So with our directions and bags we started walking.
Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world, and Zurich is one of the most expensive cities in the world. For the next few weeks we were going to find out just how expensive it would be. The city was very neat and clean, but really crowded. Their was some kind of festival or outdoor market taking place outside the train station. It was also kind of warm and we were carrying our backpacks down this busy street. I felt stupid, not only because we obviously looked like tourists, but also because I had no real clue where we were going.
We finally got to the lake and couldn’t figure out the buses, where to get tickets, or anything else of use. We wondered around for an hour and then I finally decided to ask somebody for help. We got on the bus and didn’t understand about paying. We had our bus/train passes which covered it, but we never showed it to anyone and nobody asked for money. I guess they assumed we were just stupid tourists.
We got off the bus where we were told to and found the campsite. It wasn’t what I expected. It was more of a fenced in plot of grass and the sites weren’t marked. It would be similar to camping in your backyard, with lots of other random people. This seemed to be a theme across Europe, with a few exceptions. For people that like camping so much I was envisioning more of how it is in American state or national parks. It worked well though for our needs.
The campground we stayed in was Campingplatz Seebucht by Zurichsee or Lake Zurich for English speakers. After we set up our tent we decided to go back into the main part of town and do some sightseeing. Now that we understood the buses we decided to get the next one back to town. Luckily buses come every few minutes and are always right on time. In 2 weeks in Switzerland there was never a bus or train that wasn’t exactly on time. The efficiency and organization was amazing. I couldn’t imagine that ever being the case in America. I recommend the Swiss come here and develop a mass transportation system like that for us.
When we got back to the area of the train station I needed to use the bathroom. We found a nice looking building in a park that was designated for the bathroom. This was my first experience with the rip-offness of Switzerland. It cost money to use the restroom! I had to go bad so I had no choice, but that was ridiculousness, and seemed to be the way it was in all parts of Europe.
We were only staying in Zurich for one day, so we had to see as much as we could as fast as we could. We wanted to see the Old Town area and the New Town Area. The name says it all. The Old Town was the older buildings, which included a lot of really extravagant Catholic Churches. Most of the man-made buildings I tend to look at are the churches. One thing I found interesting was that right next to a church was a strip club. The only reason I knew is because there were posters on the outside with pictures of the girls, naked. Not something you’d expect to see in the U.S.
To my surprise as we were walking around the old town we stumbled upon a church founded by Ulrich Zwingli, one of the first opponents to the Catholic Church and reformer in Switzerland. I had never heard of him until I started teaching history, so it was cool to see see a statue of him and his church. My intention of coming to Europe to learn about the places I taught was off to a good start. I had my first hand experience I had been looking for.
After checking out some of the other churches in the area we went to the newer part of town. Here we wondered around aimlessly looking at places our guide book recommended. I had the Frommer’s Switzerland book and tore out the pages I needed, what a dumb idea. I thought it would save space and weight, but it just ruined a good book.
We visited the quay districts of Zurich, specifically the Limmatquai in the center of the city. Some of the sites we saw during our time in Zurich included the Fraumunster, Lindenhof, Munsterhof, Rathaus, St. Peter's Church, and the Wasserkirche. Most of these were important buildings with neat architecture and churches.
It was interesting to see a lady letting her dog bathe in one of the trinktwassers though. They let dogs go everywhere. We saw them in restaurants, grocery stores, and anywhere else you could imagine. They also smoked everywhere. For a country of such fit and healthy people, lots of them smoked. I think the only place they didn’t smoke was in church, which probably explains why few went there.
After ordering the bratwurst we developed another great saying: “ziggen sie bratwurst.” It means nothing, but it’s what you say when you want a bratwurst. I don’t recommend actually using it, otherwise people will look at you like you’re an idiot. Everyone seemed to speak English anyway. The mustard was really good too. Better than what I’m used to.
It felt like I was in the 1980s. The hair, clothing, and body piercing made it seem like I was looking at people from a punk rock band. It wasn’t as bad as what I would eventually see in other cities and countries. Every young person had either their lip, eyebrow, or nose pierced. This was before it became popular in the U.S. a few years later. High tops, tight jeans, and weird mullet/spiked hair was common too. These people had no style, but everyone was skinny and tall. They all walked or rode bikes everywhere. It was a completely different lifestyle than what I am used to, but that’s the best part of traveling. Seeing how other people live and experiencing it with them.
Zurich seemed like a pretty quiet city, easily walkable, and very safe. I can see why Switzerland is consistently considered one of the best places in the world to live, and Zurich usually tops the list for best cities in the world. That pretty much sums up our first day in Switzerland. It was a great day with lots of new experiences. I had no clue what to expect, but it was off to a good start.