Archive for Switzerland

Zurich part three

Markéta can’t believe that there are so many bikes in Zurich. I can’t believe that so many of them are not locked.
Help yourself!

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Zurich part two

Fun in Zurich

So of course, eventually we arrived in Zurich and had a great time.

The weather was a little better than on my last visit, but even so, it still rained quite a lot. Zurich is a pretty enough city. It was nice staying with Katie who of course lives in the suburbs, which I had not seen before, and which probably have better architecture and are more interesting than the centre. Very very different from anything I have ever seen before.

We had fun on Friday just wandering around the city and looking at the shops. They have a fantastic department store there called Globus. One of the many Globus shops in ZurichWe don’t have anything like this in Prague, which is a pity in one sense. It is a paradise of consumption, which everything that you might want to buy centrally located in one place. Beautiful food including things that are nigh on impossible to get in Prague, or at least not in a single, conveniently located place. Lobster, seven different kinds of prawns, Moreton bay bugs, and a fantastic selection of wine and cheeses. Now that the French and Belgian grocerers (Delvita and Carrefour) have abandoned Prague to the Germans and the English, it’s almost impossible to buy nice wine unless you make a special trip to a specialist wine shop. In addition, Globus has a huge selection of clothing and home furnishings.

The only snag is the eyewatering prices, but I’m not sure if they are a result of the goods being in this particular shop, or simply because they are in Switzerland, where absolutely everything is unbelievably expensive (or at least seems unbelievably expensive to us).

Its was nice waking along the main street in Zurich knowing that stored in vaults beneath our feet were millions of bars of gold bullion. Young Turnbull seemed to like this – he was twitching a lot while we were in this area – perhaps pointing to a future as a successful financier, dentist, or gold smugger.

In Switzerland you can buy things that you can’t get in Prague. Marketa is very excited because she now has a new herb called Lemon Verbena. I actually like this one too as it tastes great in cold drinks.

But otherwise, I don’t think we could ever imagine living there. It’s nice and pretty and clean and organised. But perhaps a bit too clean and organised for us. It’s not that we like mess that much, but we do sometime park our car facing in the wrong direction, and we couldn’t cope with the recycling nazis they have there.

We’re back home now, and enjoying summer. We’re done a lot of work in the Mill lately including totally stripping the ground floor of everything including most of the walls and about a foot of earth from the floor. Now we are sitting in the garden waiting for the plasterers to come and make a few more habitable rooms for us including (yay!) a bathroom, and maybe even a sauna.

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Zurich or bust

European Route Signs

I was about write an update about our trip to Switzerland, but found that I had been beaten to it by Kate who has already summarised our weekend perfectly . . . here

What else?

Well, the trip there was interesting. We use a website called www.viamichelin.com when driving around Europe as it gives you great directions. According to their calculations the trip was supposed to take us about 6.5 hours. We know from experience that the times they give are calculated for someone driving a Ferrari at the maximum speed limit, with no breaks and no traffic and who doesn’t get lost twice. As usual it took us a bit longer . . .

The German autobahns are a great idea in theory – beautiful roads, and you can drive as fast as you want. Sadly though on Friday, they didn’t work perfectly for us. We have a very nice, but quite old, Renault which is quite happy cruising at between 120 and 130 kph. (130 kph is the speed limit here in Czech). At speeds beyond that though it develops an unfortunate shake. So on Friday, from Nuremberg to Stuttgart, what should have been a smooth drive became problematic as we had to choose between the slow lane (which was full of trucks) doing 80kph and the fast lane full of Porsches doing 160kph. Trying to travel at 130 just didn’t fit.

Europe has a great system which allocates numbers to the main routes across Europe. These routes are signposted in most countries and so you can just follow the signs irrespective of which country you are in. It really is a brilliant system. We travelled to Zurich on Route 50 and then turned left onto Route 41.

There are only two European counties who refuse to cooperate with this system; The UK (of course – they never cooperate with anything European) and oddly enough Germany. They did occasionally stick a token E50 sign on some of their motorway signs, but never it seems at junctions. Very inefficient and unGerman. Which, to cut long story short, is why we got lost (twice)

More about our trip and some photos later.

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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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