Part 3 – Passing Through Switzerland
I took some local trains to get from Mulhouse to Basal and then Basal to Zurich. Mulhouse was quite but Basal was a hive of activity. The local trains were really cool. I saw locals going about their business and seeing where they lived. It was picturesque. Any postcard I’ve ever seen of Switzerland and this was the view I was seeing from the train.
So I arrived in Zurich with no problems. Zurich was different to how I imagined. I imagined it to be a sleepy place with nothing much going on. Not that I had put much thought into it. I just figured that any place in Switzerland is going to be quiet with lovely scenery. I was wrong about the quiet part.
I arrived on Saturday evening. It was already getting quite busy with people ready for a night out. I had booked a room in a hostel to stay in. The hostel was located in the hub of nightlife in Zurich. It was buzzing. There were bars and restaurants open until late and it was noisy. Before retiring for the night I did go out to look for a bite to eat. It was about 8:30pm and I was walking through some side streets to see what was there. It got emptier until I saw a cinema at the end of one of the streets. I started walking towards it before I realized there were five women dressed in not very much standing on the street. “They’re prostitutes right?” I asked myself. It as early and the sun was still up so I really wasn’t expecting this. It then occurred to me that I had no idea what the laws on prostitution were in Switzerland. It’s not something you really research before going somewhere, unless you’re a sex tourist or going to the Netherlands where, for want of a better term, it’s a tourist attraction.
Another thing I hadn’t thought about were smoking laws. There was an ashtray in my hostel room. Does this mean I can smoke in there? I guess it does, otherwise why would they put an ashtray there. And usually hostels/hotels make it very clear that it’s No Smoking with signs everywhere. Here there were none. Again, something else I hadn’t thought about. Smoking laws haven’t been around as long as prostitution laws though, but these were both things I started to think about whenever I reached a new country on the trip.
I arrived at the cinema and there was a Swiss film on, in German and no subtitles, so I passed. I found a slice of pizza to eat and then felt too tired to do anything else so went back to my room and went to bed. I couldn’t sleep straight away so did some reading, all the while hearing the noise from outside. I didn’t sleep well, not because of the noise, that doesn’t bother me, but the quality of the bed does bother me. I woke up a couple of times and each time there was still some noise coming from outside, so I guess it goes on pretty late.
I set off early. Everything was closed. Then I realized it was Sunday morning. It meant I had the streets pretty much to myself. I had all day to explore Zurich before my overnight train to Vienna.
Zurich is a quaint place with many fountains. I had a map that had a walking route on it. The route takes you down one side of the stream down to the lake, across the stream and then back up the other side. I decided to follow this route. Along the way I started to see some Marching Bands comprised of young teenagers. I saw one band, then another, and then more and more. There were about a dozen of them, and that’s a lot of people, and kids at that. There was a contest of some sort on, I guess. I remember being in a youth orchestra when I played cello and this reminded me of the atmosphere I was in back then, and that that must be what it was like for them.
Along the way I saw the largest clock face on a church in the world and the second largest in Europe, the largest in Europe being in a train station. The clock is pretty big. If you can see it from anywhere in Zurich, you can tell the time.
I didn’t want to leave without taking the tram so I searched for a place to travel to. I decided to go to the University. I came this decision simply because I want to see the environment in which people study at different Universities. The Uni of Zurich is pretty impressive. A lovely large main building and some nice facilities. How do I know this? I sneaked in. Well, there wasn’t anyone to sneak pass, but I don’t think I should have been there. The reason I got in so deep was because I saw a sign that pointed the way to a conference on “Animal Law and Ethics” and thought “that’s interesting!”. I followed the arrows through a very empty campus until I got to the lecture hall door. There was a table with name tags all in rows and columns. I obviously didn’t have a name tag there, but no one stopped me from going in. There was no lecture happening at that moment but people were sitting about as if waiting for one to begin. The screen had the end slide of another lecture that probably just ended. Looked like I was there for a tea break. I walked into the hall and sat down near the back and waited. Then a lecture started.
There were 4 lectures in total that I saw, many more lectures were held over the weekend and I caught the tail end of it. The first lecture was most interesting was by Raj Panjwani who talked about Animal Law and also labeling of food and other products in India. All food must have a colour label that indicated whether a product has animal products in them or not. I have never heard of these labels but I’m interested to find out more.
People there had been invited from the US, France, India, and other countries. Some where students of the University. Someone approached me and asked me where I was from and assumed I was studying Animal Law in the UK. When I told him I had just wandered in off the street he didn’t feel like talking to me anymore.
Of a all the of things that one might do whilst on holiday, this is probably not even on the list. I totally stumbled upon it and it was surreal but quite cool.
I took a look around after the conference finished and then went to the railway station to wait for the sleeper train to Vienna. I wandered into a pub near the station. I knew that it was the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final, but I didn’t know who was playing. I did know that Nadal had been knocked out, that had happened before I left London. I was surprised find Murray Vs. Federer. Right then I wondered what the atmosphere must have been like in any pub in the UK showing the tennis and I compared it to the relative calm of where I was in Switzerland. There were no calls of “COME ON MURRAY!” where I was. All there was, was some random people sitting around drinking and casually watching the big screen.
After the tennis finished I still had a few hours to wait before the overnight train. I spent it wandering around the train station. Underneath the grandeur of the ground floor, the basement was new with walls made mainly of glass. There was a waiting room down there so I sat in there for a while as well. Then I boarded the train and saw where I was going to spend the night. A cabin with 6 seats, 3 facing forward facing 3 facing backwards. I was first in, and then in order of appearance: a single woman, about 18 years old, commuting, looked like a student. Two men, friends, travelling around Europe. A man and woman, a couple, also on travels. It wasn’t the best night sleep but it saved me paying for a night in a hotel/hostel/flat/room.
More about that journey and my visit to Vienna next time. I fucking loved Vienna.