After three odd months dossing around Asia, I have to admit I was a teensy bit reluctant to leave my comfort zone. Asia is intoxicating to me because it is often ramshackle, sometimes hectic, and at others so chilled it’s ridiculous and all the time vibrant because it is a world a little less surface-perfect than the country I hail from.
Was I really leaving my beloved Asia behind? As Damien and I ascended the escalator to Phaya Thai station to catch the train to Bangkok airport I remarked, “you know, in a few days all of our time in Asia is going to feel like so long ago”. I think we both sighed a little at this thought as we knew it to be true. As we travelled around Asia we had several times remarked that our three weeks in Northern Europe at the beginning of the year felt like so long ago.
And as I sit at our little table outside our trusty caravan at Camp Smlednik, in Slovenia, it is indeed true. A little over three weeks in Europe and I already find it hard to imagine that less than a month ago we were in Asia! All that life we left behind is still going on as usual in the heat and the humidity, and here we are in Slovenia, smack bang in the middle of this big continent we call Europe.
We were both wondering whether we would suffer from culture shock making the transition from Bangkok to Zurich. A well founded pondering as it turned out: you can’t come across two more disparate cities if you tried! Bangkok is a massive, sprawling mish-mash of buildings and humanity that laughs at order and tranquility. Zurich on the other hand is all about efficiency, order, old world charm and stunning natural beauty all set to the beat of a contented heart.
We were both totally unprepared for just how stunning Zurich is as a city! But more about that in a bit. When we hit Switzerland it was early in the morning and we needed to catch the train and the bus to find the home of Santosh, an Indian ex-pat who has been living and working in Zurich for about a decade now. I met Santosh through the Globalfreeloaders site (which we have had other great successes with in Norway) and he kindly said we could stay at his home for the two nights we had planned in Zurich before heading off to Hamburg in Germany.
Santosh lives a little out of Zurich in a village called Sellenburen. On our way there we immediately noticed how quiet and calm the city felt as people road their bikes, or walked through the streets to get to work. The bus ride out to Sellenburen was so pretty. We wound our way through the leafy suburbs and gawped at how beautiful everything looked. As we drove through one particular area I commented on how nice the homes looked and we both grinned as Damien said that maybe Santosh had a very nice home too!
Santosh was waiting for us as we arrived in Sellenburen. His unit was set up on a little hill just opposite when we alighted from the bus. He waved down to us from his balcony and in my very best German I yelled out a happy, “guten morgan!”. After a brief chat and introductions, Santosh gave us a quick rundown on all we should need to know to get us through the day in his home, and he was off to work. He left late that day, just so he could wait to let us in. The kindness of strangers!
We were both jet lagged and I was still sick with a cold I had acquired at the end of our time in Bangers, so we elected to stay indoors and watch Game of Thrones on Santosh’s mega flat screen. By 6 pm we were both struggling to keep our eyes open so we left a note for Santosh and apologised for going to bed without seeing him. We must have been tired as it does not get dark until about 11 pm at night and the sun is up again in the wee hours of the morning, and we slept right through.
Although it was the weekend, Santosh had to work so after a good chat in the morning he set off again and we made our way into the city. We just loved Zurich! Damien has even made the bold statement a number of times that it rivals Paris in his heart as his favourite city. Apparently, Paris still comes up trumps but Zurich is up there!
We spent a lovely morning strolling the old town and enjoying the first good coffee I had had in a while. Unfortunately, Asia is a bit hit and miss in this department (more miss than hit, I might add)! We marvelled at the architecture of the Fraumunster, a 13th century cathedral with its unique stained glass windows. We had both finished reading Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth when we were in Asia and it has peaked an interest in both of us for cathedral architecture and construction. The Fraumunster was our first experience of this on our trip and we were suitably impressed!
It is fair to say that part of what made Zurich so charming is the buildings and streets of the old town, with the canal that runs through it. But the city’s setting is breathtaking. Lake Zurich is magnificent with the Alps in the background. We went on a boat tour and drank in the sights as they floated on by. It was a gorgeous hot and sunny day and all the locals were out making the most of it. Along the banks of the lake were numerous public bathing areas, and people we swimming and relaxing by the water. The homes along the banks were also grand and elevated Zurich to a city dripping in style and panache.
Unfortunately for us we were flying out to Hamburg the next day. We would have dearly loved to have stayed much longer in Zurich and see what else Switzerland has to offer. We were both convinced that we would simply adore the rest of Switzerland if Zurich is anything to go by! Sadly, we had to depart. Happily though, Sanotsh asked us to come and visit again. We eagerly accepted and said that we would return before our flight out of Zurich to America to spend some more time in Switzerland. Santosh said he would hopefully not be working and would like to take us around to some sights. Thank you Santosh! We cannot wait!