European Rail Adventures: Zurich, Switzerland


So the story behind this little adventure is that my summer job afforded me one last wonderful benefit before leaving me on the doorstep of unemployment: a free First class European Rail Pass. Who could pass that up?! As it turns out, a lot of people, because “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. While the pass was completely free to me, I obviously had to get there, find places to stay and places to eat, etc. I also chose to visit places that generally do not require any additional reservation fees, unlike France or Spain.

But I’d say I did pretty well for myself. I started my journey off in Zurich, to visit some friends currently living there, and ease into my trip. Nothing beats being met a strange airport after a long overnight flight, by a familiar and friendly face. Thanks Kim and Erik! They showed me around, introduced me to their delightful cat Otis, and made my weekend stay as comfy as possible. On the Friday I arrived we walked around town and through narrow streets, with many medieval signs hanging over shop windows, and with swans feeding along the lake shore. We had a lot to catch up on as we lingered over Kim’s home-cooked dinner, and the day flew by before I eventually zonked out for the night.

View over Zurich from the University

View over Zurich from the University

Zurich was gloomy most of the time I was there, so we managed to find many indoor pursuits. Like visiting the vast Swiss National Museum; in 3 hours we barely saw half of it! Part of my education included learning that Switzerland has its own brand of the German language, which is spoken but not written. Other activities to avoid the gloomy weather included a visit to the Sprüngli cafe for a chocolate indulgence! We ordered hot chocolate, and I ordered a yummy mandarin and chocolate tart. Chocolate is a good antidote to jet-lag, whether or not it helps…

Indulgence at the fancy Sprungli cafe

Indulgence at the fancy Sprungli cafe

Knowing me rather well, my friends also suggested we attend a circus show that was in town that night. I am always up for that! The language doesn’t matter, circus is a joy that translates anywhere. Even attending church on Sunday was an experience; who knew you could find a charismatic church service in English in the middle of Zurich? My spirits were lifted, and I felt refreshed despite the jet-lag.

Taking a cruise on Lake Zurich

Taking a cruise on Lake Zurich

One more thing that I particularly wanted to accomplish in Zurich was a cruise on the serene Lake Zurich, which we managed to do on Sunday afternoon, enjoying some drinks and hoping the rain clouds would stay away. And they did for most of the afternoon! Zurich Film Festival was going on at the same time, and we lingered outside wondering if we might get a glimpse of Harrison Ford… alas, no celebrity sightings, so we relaxed in the evening with some ice cream by the lake instead.

The downtown area of Zurich by night

The downtown area of Zurich by night

The weekend was fantastic and I was sorry to leave, but my friends had to get back to work, and I needed to move on to the next destination. Austria! After a hurried farewell, I boarded the all-day train from Zurich to Vienna. I sat in business class, which apparently I shouldn’t have done so, but I wasn’t scolded and got a free coffee out of it. What a life! Onwards to Vienna…

Aboard the Railjet train in Business class

Aboard the Railjet train in Business class

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