Der Schweiz – Switzerland – Uncomfortably Serene

I think this is the last trip I’m taking with PM2AM Student Trips. I’m a little weary of the long, detour-filled bus rides and time limits. I mean, it’s been good while it’s lasted; I’ve seen Paris, Münich and now a little chunk of Switzerland for ridiculously cheap, but now I’m over it. Unless something really special pops up (like the Scandinavia trip that I unfortunately missed out on in favour for Switzerland… and saving 150 Euros) then I reckon I’m going to be charting my own course from now on.

It’s a lot easier that way. Maybe not simpler. But easier.

Anyway, Saturday saw me end up in Switzerland, the country famous for it’s mountains, precision engineering and ridiculously expensive everything. With a goal of seeing some snow-capped peaks and breathing the fresh air, I took the student bus trip on Friday night… after a visit to Mannheim’s party central.

IMG_20151023_223030308If I may digress from the main story for a minute, I do have to mention how much I loved seeing Mannheim come alive on Friday night. “Nachtwandel”, a yearly event sort of like a mini-Adelaide Fringe, set off everyone’s party senses, and so the Jungbusch district suddenly flooded with people. Mannheimers of all stripes (but particularly “lads”) stormed the streets to listen to jazz in back alleys, eat Iranian delicacies in parking lots and, most importantly, drink lots of beer and Jägermeister.

The Jungbusch district is definitely going through a phase of gentrification and hipsterisation. In little stores off the main road you can find hip bike stores and printing presses, along with bars, playgrounds and art galleries all thrown into the mix. I see the area becoming a centre for this sort of bohemian lifestyle in the near future.

Mannheim definitely impressed on that night. Instead of concrete and gas clouds we got art, colour and life. Hell yeah, ‘Heim.


Falls

Our first stop was Rhine Falls, just out of Germany and just North of Zürich. The early morning arrival shocked all of our bodily systems into awakening, a lot of us grumbling throughout the wake-up.

Rhine Falls through the lens of a terrible camera phone.
Rhine Falls through the lens of a terrible camera phone.

The falls themselves are beautiful; not too big, but still impressive. Crashing down into nearly crystal clear, emerald water, the falls are surround by a red and orange Swiss townscape that impressed me even more than the running water. There’s just something about Switzerland’s clean cut, Thomas the Tank Engine world aesthetic that just seems pleasant and peaceful.

We only stayed at the falls long enough to take photos and have a breather (though my phone didn’t allow for any sort of quality because of the level of light in the early morning), and so in less than an hour we were on hour way to Zürich. Honestly though, this is definitely enough time to site-see here, though it would be nice to walk around the nature that surrounds the falls for some time at least.


Zürich

I don’t think any of our group new exactly what to think about Zürich when we arrived. No one had any real plans, or idea of what the city would really be like, and so we were all a little disappointed to find it a rather quiet and slow place.

Zürichsee in the morning.
Zürichsee in the morning.

Our welcome to the city was beautiful. We watched the sunrise over a misty lake, boats bobbing on the surface and clouds moving by slowly. All of us took turns snapping away with our phone cameras before moving on to explore a little market nearby. Of course, none of us could buy anything, one, because we had none of the proper currency, and two, because Switzerland is EXPENSIVE. Even with mountains and unbeatable quality of life, I don’t want to live in a world where I have to spend 20 Australian Dollars for a very sub-par meal at McDonalds.

But Zürich is pretty though. Despite the air of upper-class slowness and boredom that we couldn’t overcome (at least after being in Amsterdam and Paris), the city really grew on me throughout the day. We explored some of the sites, like the university tower, a couple of the churches (I’m churched out at this stage of my Euro-trip) and the Autumnal streets in general.

Joan Miró
Joan Miró

After a couple hours though we were bored. There was just not that much to sink our teeth into. I left the group to venture out on my own, eventually finding myself in the Kunsthaus art gallery of Zürich. I stayed there for a couple hours, falling in love with Miró (who I’d, honestly, never heard of before) and appreciating the crassness of John Waters. Who doesn’t love a bit of vulgarity now and then? In the end though, I was completely overwhelmed by all the beautiful things in that gallery and had to leave. My brain was melting. I love art and all that, but I’d need multiple days to appreciate everything there as much as it deserves!

Zürichsee in the evening.
Zürichsee in the evening.

By the end of the daylight hours everyone was pretty beat and ready to get back on the bus. In fact, I’ve never seen them so keen to return. I did take this time though to just appreciate the serenity of it. The clouds had cleared, revealing a ring of Alps that absolutely blew me away. Living in Australia, I’d never seen anything like it. Even from so far away I thought it was one of the most beautiful sites I’d seen here yet. Here is the church of nature, why do we feel the need to build giant monuments ourselves when they’re already there?


Lucerne

The biggest bummer of this trip was our really restricted time in Lucerne. Instead of splitting the time between the two cities evenly, someone decided it would be a better idea to give us only two hours in Lucerne, after the sun went down no less. The barely-visible outlines of mountains all around us really bothered me, as I knew that if we’d arrived just a few hours earlier we would have seen a spectacle like I’d never experienced before.

Oh well. At least we saw the Lion.

The Lion of Lucerne
The Lion of Lucerne

The Löwendenkmal (the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world) is really impressive, I’ll give it that. The statue of the wounded lion carved into the side of a rocky face and surrounded by an artificial pool was very regal and grand. It’s a beautiful artwork that seems to be Lucerne’s main draw, apart from the charming wooden Kapellbrücke. It was nice to walk out on this famous landmark, but in the middle of the night with no real view apart from the colours of the city, it just felt like another bridge. Eh.

I’d definitely love to come back to Switzerland for another daytrip sometime, though I dread to think the price of dinner or hostels. Maybe I’ll just mosey on down to Salzburg instead and get my mountain fix there. Just maybe not with another student organisation this time…

When I was 12 my dad gave me a Victorinox army knife because I wasn’t a child anymore. Now, living alone on the other side of the world, I was able to buy my own Swiss knife in Switzerland itself. Maybe this marks a point where I can actually call myself an adult. Maybe I don’t need the silly token, but still, it’s something.

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