Northern Switzerland

When we were in Turkey last week, I met a Swiss couple at Nemrut and told them excitedly that I was heading to their country on Friday for the first time. I said regretfully that I only had time to see Zurich and Basel, and their immediate and humorless response was: “That is not Switzerland”. And while there are no alps around here, there are lots of Swiss people…and that makes it pretty Swiss to us. Even though we’ve only been here about 48 hours there have been more than enough reasons for us to coin the phrase “to be Swissed”, which means to do be chastised or put in your place by a person of Swiss origin because of your inefficiency or your inability to follow Swiss rules. An example where we were Swissed was when we went to buy train tickets from Zurich airport to the city centre. The lady at the counter said, “That will be 10 francs 80…will you be going anywhere else in Switzerland?” Michael quite thoughtlessly said no, that that was all for now…so when I asked her a minute later, “Oh by the way, we are going to Basel tomorrow, can we have the train timetable?” She immediately frowned and tutted, “That is why I asked you if you were going anywhere else,” sighed at our inefficiency and handed over the timetable in a bad spirit. “You can book the ticket today as well if you like”, she added in a crisp tone, but because we had just been Swissed we decided it was best for us to move on and waste any more of her valuable time.

So, to be back to the title of my post. I say ‘Northern Switzerland’ meaning Zurich and Basel, the two main cities in the north of the country, to be more precise in keeping with the spirit of the country. We arrived in Zurich late in the day and were pretty damn tired and in serious need of sleep…so it was good timing to arrive on the biggest night of the year to date: Switzerland vs South Korea at WM2006. It made the city centre pretty lively in fact, so there was a great atmosphere for us to enjoy some much needed non-Turkish pasta at The Spaghetti Factory on Niederdorfstrasse which is a really cool paved ‘Eat Street’. The pasta was fantastic and not too expensive – a rarity in Switzerland. We also bought a few bars of Lindt and enjoyed chocolate for the first time in a while since chocolate in Turkey tastes kind of wrong. Following on from the World Cup match however, I didn’t appreciate being taken for a Korean the next morning and having a drunk Swiss guy rub his belly in my face to indicate his victorious feelings about the football match.

It was nice to see a familiar face again in Basel; someone I hadn’t seen for about two years. She is also the reason we decided to stop in Switzerland and take advantage of the stopover in Zurich. Ingrid was one of my linguistics lecturers at Sydney Uni over a couple of years, and I was also a (bad!?) research assistant to at one point. So now we’re staying with her in her roomy apartment in Basel, being entertained by the antics of her super-bright 3 year old daughter Ava, having delicious home-cooked meals, and really enjoying being in Basel which is a pretty and laid-back town. We spent much of today sitting on the bank of the Rhine River watching people float down the river, eating the best ice-cream ever (Movenpick at Marktplatz – 3.50 for a massive scoop of deliciousness) and I also visited the best modern art museum ever: the Tinguely Museum. Jean Tinguely created some seriously whacky moving sculptures and I felt like a kid again going through and activating everything and making the junk machines move. It reminded me of my childhood spent dismantling cheap plastic toys and taking out the motor to create battery operated tin-foil boats that we put in our dirty swimming pool.

Tomorrow we fly to London and spend 11 hours there before taking an overnight flight to Bangkok. We’ve decided not to travel in Thailand because we’re both a bit over backpacking…so we’re going to stay in Khao Lak and do volunteer work for a couple of weeks. But more about that in my next post.

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