Over Switzerland and the Alps

Old Bridge of Luzerne

Achieving a dream, across Switzerland I discovered a land I had in my mind for long time. I miss Geneva, but travelled across Lausanne, Bern, Luzern, Basel and end up partying in Zurich.

09/08

Wake up in Milan. Breakfast in the way to the train station and here comes the stress. At the amazing fascist train station of Milan there was a huge queue to get the train tickets. I just had 20 minutes to be on my train and with the Interrail pass I couldn’t get my ticket in the automatic machines. It would have been faster that way. The train of my friend was leaving 10 minutes before mine. She had to leave and my stress kept my mind away of the fact that it might be a long time from now that we meet again.

After a long cosy hug, she left and I came back to the queue. I get my train ticket just 5 minutes before the departure of the train. More than enough! The travel was comfortable and the landscape better and better as we get across the Alps. Tunnels and viaduct were one after the other. Huge trees al around and big mountains and not to forget the clouds and could weather. We were in the Swiss Alps. I stope in Brig as first stop in Switzerland. There I catch a train to Bern. This train was an Intercity train, less fancy, but much better than any of the trains of the same category in Spain, France or Italy.

Anecdote

At the train from Brig to Bern I was traveling with my backpack in the seat next to me.

Photo with my backpack.

I normally seat where seats are face to face with or without table. I like this place as it is where you can meet more people. However, this time I was on my own. In the upper flor of the train, next to me, in the other side of the corridor, there was a couple chatting and using their Mobil phone. The train was almost empty.

When we arrived to Bern I get my backpack on my back and walk downstairs to exit the train. Just in the stairs the guy seated next to me, tall, pale skin and blond hair stopped me.

“Hi Rodrigo” he said to me.

I was impressed, how did this guy knew me? Have we met before? I answered back with my best poker face not to show how confuse I was. “Hi”

He introduced himself and ask me about my trip to Australia. Then I realize that he has checked my website on the ride. We talked about this adventure while we get down from the train. He even asked me where I was about to stay in Bern. I wonder if he was about to offer me an accommodation. Anyway, I had a couchsurfer waiting for me.

Bern

I get to Bern a couple of hours before my appointment with my couchsurfer host. Load with my backpack I decided to go for a walk on the city to see a bit of it. Bern city centre is enough small that I get to visit it all even the interior of the cathedral in that time. I was dressed to a warm sunny weather and here it was cold and it even started raining after a while. “Welcome to winter!” I thought.

City Centre of Bern

Old town of Bern

Malwina, my host is originally from Poland. She picked me up at the train station and after buying some stuffs at the supermarket she took me to her place.

It happens that in Switzerland they have to main supermarket companies, Coop and Migros. If you are a real Swiss you just go to one of those grocery stores. The others are no national so are unquestionable. But really surprise me that even if the price and the products are almost the same, each citizen grow up going to Coop or to Migros and you can distinguish families according to where they do the grocery.

At home we had dinner and chat about architecture, as Malwina is as well an architect, about Switzerland, and Poland. She recommends me a couple of places to visit en bith counties and she told me what was to be a Polish intern in a Swiss architectural studio.

After the nice dinner, we went to bed.

10/08

Lausanne

I woke up with a little headache and feeling pain in my throat. I was getting seek. Getting cold and wet the previous day had its consequences. However, a little pain is not going to ruin my day, not at the beginning of my trip. I had a shower, some cookies and fruit to breakfast and I went to the city centre of Bern with Malwina. She had to work and I decided to go visiting Lausanne. The time forecast predicted sun there and rain and clouds for Bern.

This time in the train I had not the chance to talk with no one. As I was feeling sick I tried to rest a bit more, but the landscape attracted me so much.

Lausanne is a city in the lake Leman in the boarder with France next to Genève and in front of the French city of Neuvecelle. It’s a small city with no more than 150k inhabitants. The city is located in a hill in front of the lake so the streets are sometimes quite steep. It’s not much of a challenge, but it’s not what I will recommend you if you have a headache.

At the central square there is a market and a great building which hosts the public library and several science museums. The building itself appealed me so I came in. the building is distributed by a great main staircase that traverse the building from the front to the rear of the building crossing the patio in the middle. From these stairs in every floor there is a different museum or the library. All of them arranged by sections. From the top of the stair there is a nice view downwards.

Library of Lausanne

Library of Lausanne

From here I went uphill and what would you say I found on the hill in the city centre? Yes, a church. The cathedral of Lausanne and a nice panorama view from some kind of wall. I thought is part of an ancient defensive wall but now is more a panorama garden.

Panorama of Lausanne

Panorama of Lausanne

I was walking really slow that day, I could feel how fast I run out of energy and had to do everything slower. At the church I stopped for a while and admire the sculpture in the “solarium” they have on one side. If you have a look to the windows here, they are prepared to recover energy from the sun.

From now on, the way was downhill to the lake. I cross the city through the more commercial streets. It was full of activity. It is evident that people likes to go for a walk on sunny warm days. I wonder how it is in winter time. Also, the city was full of tourist or where them immigrants from all Europe? I could hear Spanish, Italian, English, a melting pot of languages. Well, they were both, Immigrants and tourist. Most of the times it was easy to distinguish one from the other.

Gardens of Lausanne

Gardens of Lausanne

Across several gardens I got to the lakeside with some food I bought in a supermarket. Switzerland is expensive I can tell that. One salad a sandwich and some juice around 10 Euros.

At the lakeside I sat next to the exit of the sailboats at the shade. Watching people picnicking and others amusing themselves in their boats. I thought that someday, probably not far from now I have to improve my sailing skills to go sailing. I even suggest myself to go asking someone in the shipyard if I could come on board with them and help him on the boat. If I hadn’t got this pain on my head and I had felt much more awake and not this lack of energy I would have done it. Next time might be.

Shipyard of Lausanne

Shipyard of Lausanne

As the city wasn’t a big thing and I wasn’t feeling good I just rested watching the activity in the lakeside.

On my way back to the train station I took the way through the Olympic Games Museum. Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games were taking place at the time I passed by, and you can feel it on the Museum. They were even recording the name of Rio de Janeiro in the stairs.

Stairs of the Olympic Games Mussem

Stairs of the Olympic Games Mussem

Around the Museum there is a wonderful open space perfect to chill out. I didn’t. The heat of the sun on my head was making me feel worst.

On the train back to Bern I slept and when I woke up at Bern I felt a bit better. In Bern I went again for a day walk. Here, as the forecast predicted, it was mostly clouded and raining from time to time. But when the sun shined the panorama was beautiful.

Panorama of Bern

Panorama of Bern

That night when Malwina catch me up we went to the supermarket to buy the necessary vegetables to prepare a Pisto. I wanted to grate her for been so kind hosting me. The Pisto was good regarding that we couldn’t find everything.

Even if I was tired I couldn’t sleep until late. There was something happening with my body. I did my best as next they I had to wake up early to go visiting Luzern before getting to Basel.

11/08

I woke up almost recovered of my sickness. No headache, no feeling uncomfortable on my throat. What I did was to cover myself all night even if I was feeling hot. Sweeting while sleeping helped me.

In the morning I went to the top of the Church of Bern before getting my train to Luzerne. The panorama from there is worth the visit. Unfortunately, some areas were close as they were under restoration.

Panorama of Bern from the tower

Panorama of Bern from the tower

Luzerne

The day was shining in Luzerne and since I get out from the modern train station I felt radiant. Everything was colourful and I could feel something positive all around.

Luzerne is a city in the lakeside of a lake named before the city. It is located in the German area of Switzerland and is almost the same side of Lausanne. However, this city looks more modern at the time that it had more historical remains. At least that was my first impression.

Next to the train station there is a modern building that is the Art Museum. In front of both buildings there is an esplanade that ends in the lake with the city centre at the other side of the bridge.

Something that made my visit to Luzerne particular is that I did it all carrying my backpack. I tried to drop it at one of the storage at the train station but they were all taken and after almost 45 minutes waiting I decided to carry it on with me not to waste more time at the train station.

To get to the other side I crossed the old wood bridge with the stone tower. I think this is the main picture of Luzerne. A bridge with colour flowers in both sides that shine with the reflection of the light over the blue lake. The swans and duck make the picture even more fantastic.

Timber Bridge of Luzerne

Bridge of Luzerne

In the city centre I did a circular tour counter clockwise starting with the Cathedral and then to the garden of the Lion Carved on the Rock. This Lion is a memorial to the Swiss soldiers that died at the French court of Louis XVI when the French revolution took place. During this period, it seems that 40 000 Swiss soldiers were fighting under other countries or states banners. This regiments were named the Swiss mercenaries.

Cathedral of Luzerne

Cathedral of Luzerne

Lion Memorial

Lion Memorial

Luzerne is more a flat city however it has some hills. They are not as high neither the streets as steep as those of Lausanne, though. However, the city walls and the defensive towers of the ancient Luzerne where on top of one of them. I was feeling good so loaded with my 13kg backpack I went up to the top of the wall and the first tower and the second, and the third. As I was enjoying very much all the exercise I was doing up steep narrow stairs encountering people and for sure the panoramas from the top I even climb the forth tower. It was worth doing it.

Panorama of Luzerne

Panorama of Luzerne

Back to the ground to the lake level I just get myself lost walking in the city centre. Most of the buildings here are historical and they are decorated with paintings on the walls. It would be like graffitis but from the XVI or XVII century. The show some of the traditions of the local people at that time.

The lakeside was full of activity. There was a lot of people, mostly tourist walking along the lake, others having a drink or grabbing a bite at the terraces. There were also those who played music or entertained the kids with foam bubbles to get some cash in reward. As the day was sunny and I was feeling great but tired I went to the nearest supermarket where I bought myself a Sandwich and a drink. This time I manage to spend no more than 7 Euros. I’m improving my skills here.

Luzerne lakeside

Luzerne lakeside

I sat down in the esplanade in front of the Art museum and the train station watching once more the boats, the people and the swans.

Old Bridge of Luzerne

Old Bridge of Luzerne

At about 17:00 I get on the train on my way to Basel where my second couchsurfer host met me at the train station.

Basel

Once in Basel I encounter Jenni, my new host. She is a Swiss journalist who studied and grew and now works in Switzerland. However, whenever she can she likes to go travelling. This time there weren’t many conversations about architectural technical topics. This time we talked more about art, history and Swiss topics.

With her I learnt how Switzerland is organised by Cantons and how laws and taxes are different regarding the different Cantons. Also she told me about Switzerland politics in the world and the Swiss army.

Most of the people thinks that Switzerland has no army, and theoretically it is like that. However, every citizen has to make a military service just in case. The idea is that every Swiss citizen should be ready to defend their country in case of an attack at the time they preserve their neutrality not having a regular army as the other countries.

After dropping my backpack and having a shower Jenni took me for a walk to the city centre. Basel is a bit bigger than the previous cities I’ve been in Switzerland, but still a small one. The city is divided by the Rhine river. Both sides where protected with a city wall that doesn’t exist anymore. On one side of the river, where there is the city centre, there were most of the churches and the houses of the noble and wealthy citizens of Basel. In the other side lived the people that give services and worked for the high-class.

After a fast view of the city we stopped for a hamburger next to the river and we went to an open air concert of African music in a platform over the river. It was full of people. Regarding Jenni, that was normal as normally there is not much to do in Basel, so whenever there is an activity, everyone goes there.

12/08

We woke up early next morning. As Jenni let me stay at her place while she was at work I took my time to look for accommodation by couchsurfing, hostels and others for the rest of my trip.

Finding accommodation

It takes a lot of time to improvise while travelling as must hostels gets full and prices rise. I found that sometimes if you book a room for the same or the next day in booking or any other web sometimes you find price reductions.

Regarding couchsurfing I found that it is much harder to travel as a male than as a female. Unfortunately for me I found that there are a lot of male host that only accept females. Why? You get your conclusions. I realised that as they only have references of female surfers. I tried asking them to host me as well with a nice request as I do always. Most of them just answer “I can’t host you” in a short message if they answer you.

After sending several requests and checking some hostels I went out for a walk in Basel.

Basel is much a modern city full of modern architecture and it is where architects such as Herzog and de Meuron are based. Next to Jenni’s home is their railway Switchtower.

Rail Switchtower

Rail Switchtower

Following the railways, I get to the Central train station which is connected to the core of the city by a commercial street full of life from noon till late afternoon. I passed by a church now transform into the Museum fur Geschichte and followed the main street to the Rathaus, the City Hall.

Rothaus Basel

Rothaus Basel

I decided to get a bit lost in town and I get to Basel Munster, Basel Cathedral with twin spires and the museum of Culture.

Behind this ecclesiastic building there is a panorama view of the river. In this river as in most of the rivers here you can swim. What people does is the jump in the water with a hermetic bag with all their belongings and get out of the river a couple of metres down the river. You just need to let free yourself to the stream.

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Panorama of the Rin

I crossed the river to the “poor” side of the city. There I had a snack. As everything is so expensive here I end up having a burger in McDonalds. I must admit it. It’s being really long time I regret going to McDonald, Burger King. In terms of fast food I just accept Kebab and nice sandwiches.

In this side you might find the church of St. Clara and a nice garden nearby which name I never knew. The time was perfect to chill out in one of the terraces nearby if you can afford their prices. Also they were preparing some kind of concert in one side of it. Probably something for the night. Today is Friday!

I keep my walk until the next bridge down the river. Back on the side of the city centre, at the right there is the Studio of Herzog and de Meuron and a little forward, one of the old entrance to the old town.

Old Entrance to Basel

Old Entrance Tower to Basel

I followed what was supposed to be the wall of the city linking all the gates of the city. In my way I came by the university and the university hospital. Both seemed to me so modern. Although the buildings were in the city centre, they were barely new. It could be seen how this area was regenerating itself little by little.

I get to the synagogue of the city in what I considered was the Jewish area as nearby was the Jewish museum as well.

From this area I went back to the city centre to visit the church of St. Leonard where was the hot Pokemon point of the city. Again a square full of people looking to their electronic devices talking between them from time to time. This point is in a hill in the city centre. If from here you go to the rathaus you may pass by a couple of picturesque narrow steep streets.

Back down I pass by the church of St. Elizabeth which tower you can visit for free. However you are invited to drop some tip, which I did. I get to the top 5 minutes before o’clock and waited at the clock work to the time the bells toll. I almost forget about it but I saw a mother and a daughter waiting for it and I simply join them.

Next to this church is a sculpture of Richard Serra. One of my favourite sculptures due to how he works with the corten steel to modify the environment. One of his games is to open and constrict your surrounding while you walk across his sculptures.

Panorama of Basel

Panorama of Basel

In the way back to meet Jenni I passed by the supermarket to buy whatever was necessary to prepare that night some fajitas and guacamole to thank her for hosting me. We ate at her terrace and I’m happy she did like my cooking.

We had a beautiful night watching the stars and talking about the neighbourhood, Swiss people, my favourite topic, travels among others.

As she was working next day early morning, after dinning we went to bed.

13/08

Once again we wake up early. Jenni left the apartment at 7:00. Once again I took my chance to answer some Couchsurfing declinations and confirmations as well as confirming some hostels.

Thanks to the fact that a friend will join me at Munich and she would take care of the accommodation there, finding something for Stuttgart was ok by now.

Once everything ready I load my backpack and went to the train station to catch next train to Zurich.

Zurich

The train to Zurich was full of people disguised. The girls next to me were dressed like pink bunnies as the ones from Playboy. Another group was more like heavy rock. At Zurich that Saturday was about to take place one of the greatest Street Parades of Europe.

Once in the train station of Zurich you can have a preview of how crazy was about to be the afternoon. I went to drop my backpack in a locker at the train station, and surprisingly I get to store it in less time than the time I’d been waiting in Luzerne.

Light, I went to visit the main spots of the city before attending to the inevitable Street Parade. From the train station the first stop is the castle nearby.

Schweizerisches Nationalmuseum

Schweizerisches Nationalmuseum

On the other side of the Limmat river you have the city centre where I went for a walk around the city on the streets I could and to visit some of its churches and the main tower. As it’s coming to be a habitude, I went to its top to have a panoramic view of the city.

From there to the lake everything was occupied by the young and no so young people waiting for the party.

 

Panorama of Zurich

Panorama of Zurich

Before getting to Zurich everyone told me about how snob was the city and the people that lives in it. They told me that as you approach to the city you can see more and more expensive cars. Also that a casual way of dressing will be out of place as everyone there is dressed as fancy as they can. One way or another, I had a completely different impression.

Parade dresscode

Parade dresscode

Once back to the ground, I decide to join the party. I went to where the parade was coming. I found a nice place surrounded by nice people who were getting drunk little by little. As you can imagine that gave place to a couple of anecdotes that I’m not going to publish here. Maybe I can tell you some if we meet on the way.

Zurich Street Parade 2016

Zurich Street Parade 2016

Meeting People - Street Parade Zurich

Meeting People – Street Parade Zurich

I really had fun at the party and meet a bunch of people. Unfortunately, I had to leave before the party get to its climax, as I had to get to Stuttgart where I was about to spend my night.

I get late to Stuttgart so I simply walked to the train station to the hostel I was staying at and rest after a warm shower.

Switzerland has been a magnificent experience Let’s see what is awaiting me in Germany.

4 Comment

  1. andreas says: Reply

    4 shure you can stay with us 🙂
    maybe the next time if you are in Switzerland.

    best regards
    andreas

  2. Carmen says: Reply

    Its a shame what you tell about CS requests, hope you have more luck with that the rest of the trip.Im willing you tell us that couple of anecdotes with the street parade! Málaga miss you,take care! 🙂

    1. Rodrigo says: Reply

      Yes, It’s a pity! The important thing is to meet the appropriate Couchsurfers. It’s just a matter of paying more attention to their profiles. I also miss you and Malaga, but just from time to time.

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