Friday, December 11, 2009

Zurich, Switzerland & Salzburg, Austria

Hi guys. I'm writing about these two cities together because I went to them on the same trip. Adding pictures isn't working, so you'll have to look at my facebook pictures for now.

Thursday, December 3: evening flight from Madrid to Zurich.

It was really exciting because we didn't have to sleep in the Madrid Barajas airport like we usually do. Anyways, we arrived in Zurich, got some Swiss Francs from the ATM, and hopped onto the tram. We stayed with my friend Sima's friend Rosella's friends she met while they were traveling through the US. They had an apartment about 10 minutes outside of Zurich, so it was perfect.

Dec. 4:

We went up to the top of a scenic church in Zurich. On this delightful day (Dad - sarcasm sign!!), we realized that everything is crazy expensive in Zurich. Shopping was out. Window shopping even sucks when you know you can't afford the string that holds the buttons on the coats. Even the food - a tiny sandwich was like 30 francs. 1 franc = 1 US dollar. I was going to buy a watch, but even the cheapest watch would've forced me to graduate a year early from BU. Not happening. So, the four of us split a loaf of bread from a grocery store for lunch. We ate it outside on a park bench. It was cold, very cold. :-(

Later, we stopped in a cafe, and I spent about 10 francs on a cup of hot chocolate because I was shivering so much that I started to wonder what would happen if my internal organs froze. Does that happen before or after you turn blue? The hot chocolate was sort of like drinking a cup of truffles...really rich.

That night Casey wanted to go out for a cheese fondue dinner. Don't even get me started about how expensive that was. In any case, I don't usually like cheese, so I ordered something else...pasta, my favorite.

Later, we went to the main train station to catch our overnight train to Salzburg!!! The train was so exciting! I literally felt like I was on the train to Hogwarts. :-) It was kind of awesome. But the lady with the card of chocolate frogs wasn't there. The only bad part was the two Austrian girls in our compartment who wouldn't shut up. They literally talked from 2 am until 3:45 am. Seriously, people book night trains for a reason: to sleep! Ugh. Whatever.

Dec. 5:

We got to Salzburg around 5 am and walked to our hostel. We slept in their lobby until the desk opened. For lunch, I ate a chicken schnitzel sandwich. It was exciting...heehee. After that, the moment the four of us had been waiting for came: THE OFFICIAL SOUND OF MUSIC TOUR!!!!!  The tour bus picked us up at the hostel, and off we went!

We saw the front of the von Trapp house and the back. The two sides are actually different buildings. The back has the terrace and the lake where they canoe in the curtain clothes, and the front is where Julie Andrews runs in signing the confidence song, swinging her guitar case. We also saw the 16 going on 17 gazebo - it was locked because too many tourists tried to dance on the gazebo benches like they do in the movie, and one lady fell and broke her hip. So we danced outside of it instead. After that, we went up to some places with beautiful views of the Alps, and continued on to a town called Mondsee. Mondsee is where the St. Michael church is where they filmed the wedding scene. It was really beautiful, and it has a pink ceiling.

In Mondsee, we stopped in a little restaurant that sells apple strudel. Our tour guide said it was the best place to get it, and it was great. Returning to Salzburg, we decided to explore the Christmas markets. There's an odd tradition here each year on this weekend: boys dress up as demons and go around hitting people with sticks. Yeah I know it sounds odd, and it is. Festive though... ??

Freezing again, we found another tradition: Ghluwein. Ghluwein is Mulled Wine in English. It's hot wine mixed with apple cider and other spices. Pretty delicious. They also make a version with hot orange juice, apple cider, and spices. I don't really like wine, so I opted for the orange juice. I know, it's sort of disgraceful to still not like wine after being in Madrid all semester, but it just tastes awful. Que-ever, the orange juice was pretty awesome.

Dec. 6: Day two in Salzburg

We got up early and headed for the Mirabell Gardens (Mirabelgarten). This was another location for the filming of the greatest movie ever, The Sound of Music. They filmed the Do Re Mi song here. They used the fountain, the tunnel to run through, and the steps. Of course, being the fanatics that we are, we took pictures at all of these places. It was super awesome. I think the gardens would be really pretty during non-winter months. Even so, it was pretty as is.

After the gardens, we went to see Mozart's house. They had some great captions printed on the walls for us to read about his life and work. It was sort of a museum house - they had some original pages of his compositions on display. Speaking of Mozart, we bought Mozartkugel everywhere. It's delicious. It's a little chocolate sphere with 4 layers: chocolate, praline paste, chocolate, and green marzipan. Yum. We bought some for gifts, but had to keep buying more because we couldn't stop eating

Later that day, we went to see the Fortress of Salzburg. They painted it white (long, long ago) so that it would look more daunting to invaders. The roof has several different sections, and each is different. Each prince (prince i think) added on a new section and did the addition in the current style. On strangely shaped window is the chute that extends from one of the prince's toilets, out of the building, and into the city. Gross, I know.

In the Fortress, there was a great Marionette museum. They had puppets on display from everything: the Nutcracker, the Sound of Music, the Magic Flute, etc. The detail was fascinating. Loved it! The Fortress also had some really beautiful views of the Alps. Like seriously beautiful - go look at my facebook pictures.

Leaving the fortress, we went through the Christmas Market again. These markets are everywhere. We bought roasted almonds covered with sugar and cinnamon...yum! I bought popcorn too. Trust me, if it's there, I'll find it. From there, we went to Nonnberg Abbey. Our tour guide told us that the nuns sing around 5:15 pm, so we waited. It was too dark there, and all of our pictures are nothing but black rectangles. Eventually, we heard singing that we assumed was the nuns. We followed the sound of the voices in order to hear better. It turned out that it was actually a choir singing outside the cathedral back at the Christmas market. It was getting late, so we went to a kebab place to dinner and headed back to the hostel to wait for our train back to Zurich.

Dec. 7: 2nd day in Zurich
Zurich is totally non-touristy. While we waited for our train out of Austria, we looked up more things to do in Zurich. We ended up buying this thing called a Zurich card that gives you free admission to all museums and free public transportation. I'm really glad we got this card because the window shopping was getting really boring.

We went to three museums. On the 7th, we started at the Toy Museum. It turned out to be this tiny, intimate collection of porcelain dolls, trains, postcards, and a dollhouse. The dolls were beautiful. They even had a toy circus. The whole museum was sort of enchanting. I really enjoyed it. It was interesting to see how toys had so much detail and were made so well a bunch of years ago. The transition to a single colored piece of plastic as the model for a modern toy was also interesting, a bit sad. The dollhouse there reminded me a bit of the Thorn Miniature Rooms. :-)

After that, we went to the clock museum. The ground level floor is a watch store (yes, an expensive one), and the lower level has the museum. They had all sorts of time pieces: pots with holes where you measured time by the amount of water that flowed out, sun dials, etc. They even had a clock with ten hours instead of twelve. The curator told us it was from the French Revolution when they tried to switch to metric everything with everything in units of 10. Well, the ten hour day never caught on. It was too confusing. The clocks there were really incredible - intricate and artistic. A bunch of the clocks in the collection were owned by royalty.

From the clock museum, we went grocery shopping because we'd decided to make dinner for our hosts as a thank you. We make chicken and vegetables with chips and cheese. They brought a cake for dessert. Katie got sick, so we tried to her make pasta, but our four dear hosts laughed at us and told us we didn't know how to make pasta - probably because they're Italian. So they made the pasta for her. Dinner with them was fun :-) We had a great time staying with them; they have a cozy apartment. After dinner we played guitarhero.

Dec. 8: Last day in Zurich

At 10 am, we met Ulf at the main train station. The train station has a huge Christmas market. The tree there is covered in ornaments made exclusively of Swarovski crystals - beautiful!! The market sells pastries, sweaters, jewelry, mulled wine, etc. - all of it was crazy expensive, of course. The minimum sweater was about 300 francs. No, I didn't buy one.

We went with Ulf to the Swiss National Museum. It was great to see him! I haven't seen him in like 7 years, so it's been a while. He explained a bit about the education system, the military system, and Swiss history to us. He was really helpful at the museum because in addition to knowing a lot about the country, he could read the captions, which were mostly in German. In Swiss museums, it's common to find captions in German, French, Italian, and occasionally English. He explained to us that negotiation and neutrality are written into the Swiss Constitution, and as a result, people want Swiss bank accounts because the currency is so stable. He also told us that everything seemed so expensive to us because the starting, entry level salary there was about 90,000 francs/year. A high school teacher, starting out, would get about 125,000, and a professor would start at around 250,000 francs per year. income has only been negative this semester, so I'm not really in the same boat as

After the museum, we went out for lunch, back to the lake to take pictures, and then I headed for the airport because I had an earlier flight that everyone else. A few hours later, I got back to Madrid and ate dinner. The end. Thanks for reading all the way to the end of this long post.


  1. I'm so glad that you had this amazing experience! What a wonderful trip with beautiful scenery!
    Love, Mom

  2. Wow! Sounds like you had a great time. It's been a long time since you posted, and now I know why! Looking forward to seeing you soon!
    Are you done with your schoolwork in Madrid?
    Aunt Beth