Saturday, April 12, 2014

Visiting Family in Zürich, Switzerland!

To those of you who take time out of your day to read about my travels, I apologize for having not posted in a while.

Spring break in Italy with my mom was a dream, and I still had one more stop before returning to Vienna: Zürich, Switzerland. I visited a cousin that I hadn't seen in years - Cousin Sandy.

The train ride from Venice to Zürich was truly eventful. I took a train to Milan from Venice on Friday, the 14th. Little did I know, the railway workers in Milan were on strike when I arrived. Luckily, I was still able to board the train, but it was nearly impossible to find a seat and a place for my luggage. The train was extra crowded because most riders were being rerouted due to the strike, and most of them were on this one train en route to Zürich. I attempted to claim a seat about three times before being kicked in between two cars. In the midst of craziness, I noticed a woman near the front of the car with a cello. She was also kicked in between two cars and was muttering to herself in Italian that she was worried about her instrument. Once the train ride started, I asked her if she spoke English, and I told her that I used to play the cello. She spoke English very well, and we talked for a solid twenty minutes about music. It turned out that she was from Milan and was an international musician. She knew of Chicago and of course Muti at the CSO. I was glad we became close because she soon became my translator. When the conductor came around to collect tickets, I was unaware that I need a reservation. It was no problem because I had money with me, but the conductor did not speak English well. He told me that a reservation from Milan to Zürich cost eleven thousand euros. Shocked, the woman came to my rescue and clarified the price to be eleven euros. Phew.

After about an hour, I was able to get a seat when the cars cleared at the Italy/ Switzerland border. The next interesting encounter came when the border patrol was going through the train. Since we had just come from Italy, the two men spoke to me in Italian. I was able to get by with simple answers. Then, they saw my US passport and attempted to speak their best English. Finally, they noticed my Austrian visa and switched to Swiss German. Three languages in about four minutes. My brain got a workout.

The scenery was my favorite thing about the entire ride. Below are photos I snapped on my phone as we wove through the mountains.

The gorgeous view of the mountain from the train window
More mountains
Milan to Zürich - the best scenery
I arrived in Zürich safe and sound in the afternoon and had a wonderful reunion with Sandy at the train station. Although we'd met each other many years ago, she still felt like a very familiar face since we're family. We took the tram back to her apartment so I could drop off my luggage and meet her husband, Bob. The weather was pleasant, so we took a stroll along the water (Lake Zürich and the Limmat). She lived about five minutes from the water which was awesome. We hit the Altstadt after some time, and we went to the Church of St. Peter where Sandy's musical, Judah Judah, was performed in 2009. We also went to the Grossmünster and Lindenhof to get a nice view of the city.

The afternoon in the Altstadt
The view of Zürich from Lindenhof
Men playing life sized chess at Lindenhof
When we returned to the apartment, Bob had cooked a delicious Shabbat dinner. We ate and then went to the Friday night service at their synagogue. It was fun attending a service in Swiss German and in Hebrew. After the service, we skyped my dad and Sandy's sister, Daryl, who lives in New Jersey. It made me so happy to connect with so many family members at once!

On Saturday, Sandy made a delicious breakfast and I went off to explore some of Zürich. I ended up taking the same walk along the water and going through the Altstadt. When I returned to the apartment, we stopped by her work, the Zürich Chamber Orchestra, had lunch, and then went to the Kunsthaus Zürich. We saw Van Gogh, Chagall, Der Blaue Reiter, and more. It was a wonderful rainy afternoon spent with art.

The neighborhood
Boats on Lake Zürich
A swan relaxing on the water
The Altstadt is hilly
Spring in Zürich
Kunsthaus Zürich
Saturday night we went out for dinner at a great Mexican restaurant, and then came home to relax. Sandy found a couple of home videos. Milton, her father, had a film camera and spent time converting the film videos to DVD. We watched about two hours worth of the videos and it was incredible. We tried to find images of my great-grandma Sophie (Sandy's aunt or great-aunt, I don't remember exactly). We didn't find her, but the earliest shots were from the 1940s, and I "met" a few family members such as my great-great or great-grandma Hanna (again, I don't remember the exact relation). Watching the old videos was so cool!

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend an orchestra concert at Tonhalle. Not only was it a breathtaking venue, but I had a wonderful seat, and it felt so good to spent some quality time with live classical music. After the concert, I took the tram to Paradeplatz and walked along Bahnhofstraße to see all of the high-end stores. I also encountered a Sprüngli (the chocolate shop in Zürich). I had no choice but to go in the shop and buy myself a selection of chocolates. I purchased a caramel chocolate, a pistachio chocolate, a chili whiskey chocolate, an orange chocolate, a dark chocolate truffle, and a hazelnut chocolate. My mouth is watering just typing this. My favorite was the chili whiskey chocolate because it was the perfect combination of something spicy and sweet. After enjoying the chocolates on a bench next to the water, I visited the Landesmuseum,  which is the Swiss National Museum.

After the museum, I took a long walk back to the apartment and we had dinner. There was time to kill before my train ride back to Vienna, so we watched Judah Judah as well (the musical I mentioned before). Then, Sandy and Bob dropped me off at the train station and I was on my way home. It was a wonderful weekend spent with family!

Cousin Bob

Cousin Sandy