Sunday, October 28, 2007

Guten Tag, take two...

Okay, so NOW we're speaking German.

Friday I walked out into a beautiful day in Zurich, I decided to get my sunglasses, just in case. I stopped for a pastry from a stand on the street in front of Globus (which always appeared to be a home decor store/wine bar, but now I know it's a department store with their home decor and restaurant on the first floor. 2chf pastries have proved to be some of the best food purchases I could make in Zurich. "You like this one! You'll buy another tomorrow!" The funny man behind the counter told me. And I walked over the quay quite happy with myself, pastry in hand and sun on my face. The ticket booth for boat rides wasn't open yet, so I wandered through the farmer's market across the street for a bit. The boats aren't running in their usual frequency this time of year. There was only one long round trip scheduled for the day. My options were a lunch time hour long cruise in the third of the lake closest to Zurich, take the 2 hour ride to Rapperswil at the top of the lake and basically coming right back (they stopped there only for 5 or 10 minutes) for another 2 hour boat ride, or I could take the 2 hour boat ride there and find a train back. I opted for this choice so I could explore Rapperswil a little. I had a little time before departure so I went back to the hotel (grabbing some take-away lunch at Tidbits again) to charge my phone a bit and let CF know what I was planning.

When I went out again the sun wasn't shining so much, oh well. My boat left right on time, everything is on time here, and off we went. It was warm inside the boat, I had a cup of tea, it was very pleasant. But you know me, I had to get outside and take some pictures. I made a couple laps around the boat snapping away. And then had to come back inside, my fingers were freezing! When I knew we'd be getting to our destination soon I went back outside. I could see Rapperswil coming closer, oh, look at the castle up on the hill! As we pulled up I realized the hill wasn't all that tall and you're practically at the castle when you arrive. But what a beautiful little town! I climbed up to the top of the castle and looked down on to the grapevines and rose gardens. Rapperswil is known at the Swiss City of Roses. The boat's horn sounded and a good chunk of my fellow passengers started their journey home, but I was not quite alone, the Brit family I had been riding near was still with me, as well as a handful of other more quiet travelers. I could see the train station right when I arrived so I knew I'd make it home okay.

Rapperswil was very lovely. It almost seemed like a little Tuscan villa with it's stone walls and the rows of vines. The sun was shining here, I could finally feel the warmth on my face. I actually put on the sunglasses, and then I laughed at my reflection... sunglasses, trench coat, camera... I looked like some sort of private investigator! I saw a couple different wedding parties near the church, not sure if they were churning out weddings or if one was just there taking photos. Everyone looked so happy! At one point when I was in the rose gardens, closer down to the water, I heard this clumsy slapping sound. I got the witness the hilarious event of the overfed swans trying to take flight. They started flapping their wings and basically running on the water until they could get going fast enough. The sound of their webbed feet flopping against the water surface makes me laugh so hard to just remembering it. They took turns, one at a time, knowing what a big effort this was. One of them actually went through most of the steps but then either didn't make it or decided that he was actually quite happy in the water, he never took to the air. He snapped his beak at a duck near where he landed, I think he was saying, "I meant to do that."

Eventually I decided to get on a train back home and found myself riding with the twenty somethings, maybe heading into Zurich for a Friday night on the town. The train ride was only a quarter of the length of the boat ride, and had some nice sights to offer as well. Sort of reminded me of driving up to Tahoe. I got home with just enough time to dress up a bit for the nice dinner CF and I had planned. I actually braved the cold in a skirt! I got on a tram that I thought was heading towards the main station, but alas I found myself going the wrong direction so I got off at the next stop and walked back to Bellevue and tried again. Later I was complaining about hating the trams in Zurich and CF pointed out that loving the NY subways but withholding that affection from the clean, scheduled and on-time, and mostly just perfect trams here was silly. But really I do love all cities with such good coverage of public transportation (oh, this reminds me of a funny exchange between CF and a coworker, I'll have to tell that store sometime). Eventually we met up at the main station and got our train up the mountain to Uetliberg. We arrived 20 minutes later and just about everyone who had was still on board scurried up a dirt path and staircase, a sign posted said "This way to the Top of Zurich." Everyone excitedly hurrying up into the dark reminded me of a fairy tale in a way, it sort of seemed like the twelve dancing princesses (Fairytale Theater anyone?).

There were several paths through the trees, this must be a great place for hiking and getting some crisp fresh air. If I had brought athletic shoes with me I would have been sorry I had never been up there during the day. Even at night the view was incredible. We were further away from the city center than I had expected. The huge landmarks I had been navigating with and never that far away from were suddenly so tiny below me. The hotel was very trendy looking, and the couples dining at the restaurant were all very posh. This was an interesting place to get to try, and a good way to welcome CF to his vacation. I finally had the traditional "Zurich style veal," figured I should try it while I still had the chance. It was quite good, it was served in small pieces mixed with mushrooms and a creamy gravy sauce. There was a cute little dog with the couple at the table next to us, he kept sniffing at my purse, he knew there was chocolate in there.

Eventually we headed back down into the city, I was beginning to wonder what I had been thinking wearing a skirt in this weather. But we got home and packed up as much as possible, and finally adjusted to European time, we settled down for a short night of sleep. Our train left at 8am Saturday morning. We had to be up early. I loved the cozy seats on the train. We were traveling in first class, with assigned seats, tons of legroom and a great reclining chair. Can I please take this train home to the States instead of the crowded dirty airplane? Pretty please? We had to change trains at one point. With twenty minutes between them we should have just waited but instead we went and looked for some lunch. We both got some money (goodbye Swiss franks) and food... and oops, sort of got separated. We ended up running around the platform trying to find our coach, I was just about ready to fall over when we finally found our seats. And then the train didn't leave for at least another five minutes! Oh well. This train wasn't quite as comfy but it was still very nice. And it quickly took us the rest of the way to Cologne (Köln).

The Dom (cathedral) is right outside the train station. It doesn't look real! It really does look like a matte painting. We were considering walking to our hotel, but it wasn't quite clear how to go, we gave in and took a 5 euro taxi ride, and later found out it would have been easy but we would have ended up rolling our suitcases over cobblestones so I feel good about the taxi ride. We checked in, laughed about our slightly cheesy hotel looking like a cruise ship, rested up and headed back out. I was amazed how many tourists (still not many speaking English, but more of them were) are here in Cologne. We made a quick visit to the overly crowded Chocolate Museum before heading to a bierhaus that Dan had read about online.

It quickly became clear just why we had stopped in Köln, they have their own type of beer here. It's called Kölsh and like Champagne, it's only really Kölsh if it's made here. Gee, wonder why CF chose this city for our one-night stop in Germany. We took a seat at a little table with high stools, the waiter asked us in German if we wanted two Kölshes (don't know if that's the plural) and CF nodded. I was amazed that he had known just what we wanted, but that was when CF spilled the beans about the beer. It's all it would have been acceptable to order here. And they were serving it out of barrels! Into this .2 litre glasses, less than half a pint, which later they would serve from a special carrying contraption that held the cylinders in a circle with two tiers. How clever! They have to keep bringing them because they're smaller, so the made a way to carry lots of them at a time. And they used it for pouring the beers too, turning the circle of glasses as the beer poured from the barrel. The bar filled up, we had arrived just in time, we got quite a show, the waiter brought us more and more beers, making a tally on CF's coaster. This was great fun. We text messaged some of our friends at home, letting them know where we are and that we would miss them at Homecoming (but as RS pointed out, not really). I could have sat there all night but eventually we decided to go see more of the city and paid our bill, 10 glasses of Kölsh was 14,50, not bad at all!

While walking down a street that was incredibly full of people, like a claustrophobic Times Square, we were basically hit in the face with the smell of liquorice. I found the source, it was being pumped into the air from a cart selling candy. So mom, we found you some new Anis candies and if we can resist them all month they will be coming home to you. We ended up getting dinner from the place next door to where we were drinking. We had hack-steaks, hamburgers pretty much. They were sort of spiced and maybe had breadcrumbs in them, they were served with grilled onions and were delicious. "I'm sooooo happy right now," we both proclaimed. Cheap and wonderful street food was definitely the thing that Zurich was hurting for the most. I guess that's what happens when everyone is too well off! We also had enormous cones of pommes frites. We stood outside at a high table and ate our delicious meal. I was so happy just to be outside and not mind the temperature, it was cold, sure, but at last I wasn't freezing. We wandered around for a while, went back to the Dom to take some photos, and headed back to the hotel. We decided to have a little more beer, the first place we tried was across the street from our hotel. We went through a revolving door into the most smoke filled room I have ever seen. Plus there was no way we were finding a seat there. So we settled for the hotel bar, had our nightcap and headed to bed early. Cologne turned out to be more than worth the stop!

This morning we ordered room service, it'll probably be the only place we can on this trip. They brought us coffee, bread, cheese, and hard boiled eggs hiding under specially folded napkins. We think it was only 3,50 euros but I'll believe it when I see it on the bill. We're taking a slow morning, but CF got bored and went out walking without me. I'd better get a shower and get packed up. We're leaving our bags with the hotel and headed out for lunch at a very popular place so we need to get there early. Then our train headed to Amsterdam around 3pm. Don't know what to expect there with the internet... so I apologize if you don't hear from me again for a while. It's going to be a wonderful adventure.

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