Switzerland – an Interesting Country

Ahoj Everyone!

I've received a few complaints about lack of communication, so I guess it must be time for another newsletter.

 

Switzerland was wonderful. Just like the postcards and Julie Andrews said it would be! I survived with only minor injuries.

Memorable moments:

  • Cars actually stopping at pedestrian crossings. This caused us all considerable confusion, and on a number of occasions we were standing on the side of the road talking and it took us a while to realise that drivers had voluntarily stopped and were in fact waiting for us to cross.
  • Everything is unbelievably expensive by any standard. Taking into account that our “standard” is the Czech Crown, they were doubly unbelievable. This problem was ameliorated slightly by the wise Czech tradition of taking as many groceries and as much beer as possible with us. (We were still drinking 12Kc Czech beers by the end of the trip :) However we still had some interesting moments in the supermarket debating whether or not we could actually afford a 120Kc loaf of bread.
  • Swiss people are like Germans, but less weird and a lot friendlier. They continually appeared astounded at the sight of 25 Czech people (and one New Zealander) zooming past them on roller blades.
  • The Swiss have wonderful skating and cycle paths everywhere – except once you actually enter a town of any size, where they simply disappear. This created some amusing (cobblestones) and scary (motorway off-ramps) moments. There were also some nasty scrapes and grazes, and I managed to hit a car. I didn't damage it, but if I had, it would have served him right for thoughtlessly parking at the bottom of a very steep hill.
  • I also have an enduring mental picture of one of the guys on the trip who, realising that he wasn't going to be able to stop in time, chose diving head first into a hedge over crossing a busy motorway at high speed. Luckily it was quite a big hedge so it absorbed the impact (and him) well – leaving just his feet sticking out.
  • I thought there were supposed to be a lot of banks in Switzerland, and it's true, there are. Oddly though, there are even more sex shops, topless nightclubs, and brothels. I guess this is so that repressed bankers have something to do in the evening? In Zurich particularly, every second retail establishment seemed to have a picture of naked women in the window.
  • Skating across borders. Our record for a day was four countries (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and Liechtenstein) and maybe five or six borders. Border guards seem bemused by the fact that you are entering their country on skates and simply wave you though. This probably explains how Osama bin Laden travels from country to country without detection.
  • Liechtenstein. It's an attractive enough place, but the truth is that there is absolutely nothing to do there, apart from standing there and saying “Hey, I'm in Liechtenstein”. It is also possible to buy postcards to send to your friends so that they too will know that you've been to Liechtenstein. On the positive side, I can now say I have travelled extensively throughout the country – I was there for almost half an hour!

I've attached a map showing the route we skated – which will probably be completely meaningless if you don't know your Swiss geography, but maybe interesting if you do. A few other random photos as well, including the ČSAD bus that was our home away from home for the trip.

Anyway, I'm back in Prague and not planning any more big trips until the ski season. It is apparently possible to go on a guided cross-country skiing expedition in Lapland. It's quite expensive, but I really really really want to do it, as the skiing will be fantastic, (and maybe I'll get to meet some of the dancers too!). So I am busy saving my pennies.

I am also now the proud owner of a bike, so we've been doing lots of weekend trips around the Czech Republic.

It must be a sign of age, but bikes have sure changed a lot since I was young. I paid quite a lot of money (9,000 Kc) for my bike as various people spent a lot of time convincing me that a cheap bike would be a false economy. So now I have a “Forever” brand bicycle (What a wonderful communist name!). Notwithstanding this, it seems to weigh about 1 kg, is happy negotiating river beds and large rocks and (except on the steepest hills) moves along incredibly fast without me having to make more than the most minimal effort.

I'm very pleased with my purchase and have already done 500km. I know this, because it has an odometer. What will they think of next!

Yes, OK, you're right, I have finally reached the “baffled by modern technology” phase. It must be time for me to start looking around for a nice retirement home.

Anyway, I'm still alive, still having a great time, and no I'm not bored yet.

 

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