Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Zurich, the Dream...

It's now been almost two months since I was in Zurich. I'm excited to write about my experience before the memories fade away... Arriving in Zurich felt like a dream. The colors were intense, but muted. The silent landscape felt remote and fascinating.

I spent four days there with an old roommate and friend of mine from Boston (Mia), and her boyfriend (Nicolas). It was wonderful to visit them. They are probably the most loving people I know, and are excellent hosts. Upon arrival, I was handed a tasty Swiss beer.

The next day we went out to the city center for a view of Limmatquai Street and the Limmat River. Zurich has to be the most beautiful city I've ever been to. The gorgeous architecture, snow-capped Alps, crystal-clear rivers and immaculately clean streets were shocking, especially after what I witnessed in India and parts of Southeast Asia.

Nic, Mia and me
We went to a big flea market outside an elementary school. It's a cool hang-out spot during the weekends (both day and night). One night we played petanque (kind of like bocce ball) on the gravel parking lot. It must have been the thing to do because there were a bunch of other people playing as well.

We ate delicious bratwursts!

Looking at the photo below, I remember how tired I was of wearing the same pair of jeans, shirt, shoes and jacket that I'd been wearing for the past five months straight.

Mia and I happened to have matching watches! 
Nic and Mia really like table tennis. They took me to another park/hangout spot with permanent ping pong tables. We brought rackets and balls, but it was too windy to get a good game in.

I was impressed with all of the graphic design in Zurich. I don't know exactly what the ad below says (free trip to Tampa, Florida?), but I saw it all around the city and I thought it was funny.

I "rented" one of the city's free bikes for a couple days and we rode around town. The bike was really perfect. It had a basket and the lock was built onto the wheel, so I didn't have to worry about carrying it around or losing it.

We bought some groceries and had a BBQ on the porch.

Nic's cheese-stuffed mushrooms.
Meat and potatoes.
Manning the grill.
A special treat: bananas with melted chocolate!
So easy.
One night after going out, we stopped by the corner store to get a late-night snack. I was surprised to find that after a certain hour (midnight?), the frozen foods and some other random assortment of foods are off limits! We squeezed a frozen pizza through the crack in the door, but when we tried to buy it at the counter, we were denied. Maybe this is how the city keeps its residents looking so good...

Mia and I biked to the old town, stopping at the lake for a couple photos.

Unexpected McDonald's ad on the tram.

I really enjoyed the fact that there aren't many skyscrapers (or even tall buildings) in Zurich, even though it's the largest city in Switzerland (364,500 people in the city proper). It made the city feel a lot smaller than it actually was.

One ugly duckling amongst wild white swans.

Vespa gang, or is Zurich just this cool?
This would be a nice street to live on...
Mia taught me how to cook her special spaghetti bolognese. She's half Italian, meaning: it was tasty!

A nice romantic evening...

We had a movie night: 21 Jump Street. It gave me a little taste of America.

... with gourmet movie snacks.

Mia took me to experience one of her favorite activities, recycling! You sort the glass by color: brown, white and green. Breaking glass has never been so much fun.

The public transportation in Zurich is efficient, clean and safe, but expensive. We rode trams and buses when we weren't biking. I really liked the sign below. In addition to not smoking, you are not allowed to saw the seats or put your feet up when you have rollerblades on.

Mia took me to her shared studio space in what felt like the countryside.

Happy to be wearing something other than jeans!

We went to a really amazing spot by the river where the city hangs out during the summer.

Graffiti felt a bit out-of-place in spotless Zurich.
It's a swimming area. Those bars (below) catch people after they've gone off the diving board and are floating downstream. From there, you can climb back up to the deck area.

View from the other side:

Here's the diving board:

Unfortunately it was too cold to swim so no one was around.

Nic's friend designed these cool stickers.

Mia taught me a great card game that used poker hands, but I forget what it's called.

Cute, huh!
We met Nic at a really old, cool bar called Olé Olé. We also went to the Mars Bar, and then to see a band at another venue, but I don't remember the name of it. It was a fun night out, but like London and Bucharest, everyone smokes inside! I could handle it for a night, but I can't imagine living in a city where smoking indoors is legal. I don't think I'd go out much.

Mia is a photographer, and decided to use me as a model for a new idea she had. I used to model for her a lot in Boston when she was studying at the New England School of Photography. The photo shoot brought me back to those good old days. Here's one of the shots:

We got delicious burritos for our last meal in Zurich.

It was really sad to say goodbye to Mia. I hope I can see her again soon.

From the train window...
Taken at the airport on my way out...
I had a great time in Zurich, mostly because I visited Mia and Nic. I'm not sure what I would have done on my own there. It seems like it might be tricky to meet people, but then again I'm sure there are hostels in the city where you could meet other travelers.

It's a very beautiful city, but it comes at a significant price. Eating out is for the rich, which is why Mia, Nic and I ended up cooking most of our meals at home. I think if you live in the city, you make good wages, but for tourists, everything is disproportionately overpriced (at least American tourists).

Zurich is consistently rated as one of the most livable cities in the world, and I can see why. Life's necessities seem easy to attain: healthcare, education, public transportation, infrastructure, safety, etc. Also, Switzerland's unemployment rate is around 3%, which is one of the lowest in the world.

Thanks for showing me around your gorgeous city, Mia and Nic. I miss you and hope to see you again soon!