It was my 7th and 8th days in the land of the cow bells, the last two days to savor the exhilarating experience of being in a land I didn’t imagine I’d step on, a year ago before that trip. Europe had always been a place of my dreams, yet I always thought it was somehow beyond reach. If someone had told me exactly a year before my trip, that I would someday find myself on a flight to the continent, I would just have smiled a sarcastic smile…wishful thinking. I might have also said I’ll be able to get there one day, but not this soon.
While I may not have had a grand tour of Europe, I believe that if one were to visit only one country, then this ought to be it, Switzerland. Bordered by Germany, France, Italy, Austria and the principality of Liechtenstein, and influenced by German, French and Italian cultures, plus a touch of its own, I think no other single country could represent such a large portion of the continent.
I started the day, again from my wife’s office at Altstetten. From there, instead of taking the train straight to the main station (the Hauptbahnhof), as I did in previous days, I took the bus to a nearby tram station at the Lindenplatz, and rode a tram from there to Bellevue. My objective for that morning was the ETH campus in Zurich. ETH or Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), is one of country’s prime universities, and it did in fact, have Albert Einstein as one of its students. To get to the campus, I took another tram from Bellevue, which traversed the Ramistrasse. This street could perhaps be called Zurich’s “University Alley”, since right beside the ETH is another school, the Universitat Zurich, and together they seem to dominate the street.
Unlike large universities in the Philippines, the ETH is not confined within a “compound”. Instead, the buildings of its different schools were scattered along the Ramistrasse, a public road with a significant volume of traffic. I was also able to go inside one of the buildings, and observe students reading or rushing down the hallways. There’s no guard to enforce “No ID, No Entry” here. Also, since the ETH campus sits on a hill, the back of the main building, which is open to the public, gives a good bird’s-eye panorma of Zurich.
From there, I took another tram to Central and had another cup of Starbucks, and again passed time strolling along the old town. My wife and I agreed to have lunch together, and so after a timecheck, I took off to the Hauptbanhof, for the train ride back to Altstetten, and join her for lunch at the Letzipark, a mall close to where she was working.
After lunch, I decided to make my way to the Rheinfall, Europe’s largest waterfall, along the river Rhine. The get to the falls, I took a train to Schaffhausen, one of the country’s northernmost cantons. People familiar with luxury watches may know this place due to its local watchmaker, IWC. Around an hour away by train from Zurich (more or less), Schaffhausen is mostly surrounded by Germany, only connected to the rest of Switzerland on its southern portion. Interestingly, I read from somewhere that Jose Rizal, yes our national hero, visited Schaffhausen for a while (and Geneva as well), while he was studying medicine in Germany.
I didn’t actually know how to get to the falls. My wife was there before with her workmates, and she just told me they took a train to Schaffhausen as a starting point, but from there details were sketchy. She couldn’t remember the exact route they took. Nevertheless, I trudged on, fearlessly relying on my sense of direction (which fails only a few times by the way).
After getting off at Schaffhausen, I decided to walk around the train station a bit, just to get to see the place, and then I saw on a bus stop that there is another stop on a place called Neuhausen-am-Rheinfall. Thinking I couldn’t go wrong by heading there (it already says Rheinfall after all), I waited for the bus for that route. By then I’m already very much comfortable reading their bus routes and schedules.
I got off the bus at Neuhausen-am-Rheinfall, and I was right, it was pretty close. Thankfully too, there were signs heading to the falls. It took a bit of a walk though, from the bus stop to the falls, but I didn’t mind.
You may have noticed in the picture above that there is a boat approaching the falls. Yes, that is actually a tourist boat that takes people into that rock in the middle that splits the falls into two. There’s a platform on top of that rock, for those who’d like to take a real close view.
After taking enough pictures of the falls, I crossed over by boat to the other side of the river, then headed back to Zurich, via train from a small station below Schloss Laufen. It then occured to me that my wife’s group must have gotten to the falls through this station. It was practically beside the falls already. I only learned about this station when I got there though.
It was very late in the afternoon when I got back to Zurich, where my wife and I joined her workmates for dinner at the Neiderdorf district, and that capped the day.
The next morning, after packing some of my stuff, we headed out to the Bahnhofstrasse (there’s also more about this area on part 4) to shop for some “pasalubong”, which is mandatory for any true blue Pinoy. After making sure we had all the items at hand, we then headed out to Uetliberg, for some viewing and late lunch.
Uetliberg, also known as the “Top of Zurich”, is the highest point within Zurich (obviously). It is a hill on the western side, overlooking the entire city, and on top are some communications towers, a recreational area, a restaurant, and a tower that serves as a viewing deck.
There were a lot of people when we got there, since the recreational area atop the hill is popular among runners, hikers, cyclists and of course, tourists. The restaurant there is popular among the locals as well. We actually went there for their cheese fondue, which I was told was sought after. It’s a “very swiss” meal-in-a-dish, which smells awful, but tastes wonderful, or so they say (much like Durian?). Unfortunately, we didn’t find it in their menu, and we learned later on that they only serve it in winter. (Which kind of baffles me, since they have cheese on all seasons, or maybe not?).
Disappointed at not getting my fondue, I looked for the next thing in the menu with the most cheese in it. I can’t remember what it’s called, but I settled for a fillet of chicken topped with a variety of melted cheese. The cheese topping was generous and true enough, it smelled like used, unwashed socks, but it tasted lovely.
After getting down from Uetliberg, we spent the remainder of the afternoon hearing mass at the church of Saint Antonius (this was Saturday, so that was an anticipated mass).
The following day was my flight out of Zurich, so we just spent the evening at the apartment, arranging all of my luggage.
I’ve been to a lot of places on those few fast-paced days, yet there was still so much more to see. I haven’t been to the eastern part of the country, to the places like St. Moritz and Davos. I haven’t seen the Zermatt (yikes!), and I have not ridden the Glacier Express, which winds through some of the most scenic places on the Alps. I haven’t been to their resort towns, like Interlaken, and I have missed other large cities like Basel and Laussane. And most of all, I haven’t had cheese fondue!
Yet even then, in no other time in my life have I seen so much, in 8 days. Switzerland is not the only other country I’ve been to, yet my experience on that trip is, so to speak, unparalleled. That is primarily why I can still write about it today, as if the trip just happened yesterday. Yes I still have the pictures, but what stuck with me more, is the memory of the experience.
And so before I left, I made a wish…that one day I will be back, to get my cheese fondue!
* Day 7 photos taken with my Nikon L3. Day 8 photos taken by my wife with her Sony DSC T300.
This trip was made May 2008.