*Important note* – as is common, I am posting blogs about this latest trip at a slight delay. Doing so always feels preferable to lugging a laptop around on trains, planes, and buses while on the road. But a lot of terrible things have transpired since I stepped off the airplane and arrived home, and I don’t want to downplay that. I live in a country that just annihilated my right to bodily autonomy and critical healthcare. One that ignores what science says about when “personhood” truly begins, that will serve as a catalyst for religion-driven restrictions on birth control, medical treatment after a miscarriage, and other civil rights. I will always be vehemently pro-choice. Abortion care is healthcare, and an absolute right. Privacy, and the privilege to make healthcare decisions with ONLY a person’s doctor is, also, a right. I will scream this into the void until I am blue in the face. If I have readers who disagree, it’s even more important that you know the beliefs of the person behind this writing. I am disgusted, broken, and deeply angry. At the end of this post, and all future posts related to this trip, I will list a few resources in desperate need of donations and volunteers. To all those facing painful and unfair circumstances right now because of this, I’m so sorry.
Our trip to Switzerland was initially set for 2020. I craved the vast mountain ranges and idyllic hiking that I’d read about for so long. Then of course, the world came grinding to a halt. In 2021, the staggered reopening of European countries came too late for our trip. We were ecstatic to finally touch down in Switzerland this year, largely following our original itinerary. The plan is to make a circle that starts and ends in Zurich and travel by train using the Swiss Rail Pass. I HIGHLY recommend this pass for anybody spending more than a few days in the country – it’s a fabulous deal that also provides discounts on tourist attractions and museums.
I had a completely different expectation of Zurich than I experienced when we arrived. I thought that it would be large and sprawling – that kind of stressful metropolitan vibe I tend to avoid when I travel (I live in NYC and crave the inverse). But I felt an almost immediate calm upon arriving in Zurich, a quaint and cobblestone-lined city with an abundance of tree canopy. We arrived too early to check into our hotel, so sleep-deprived we started to wander with no particular direction, choosing to turn down a street simply because it looked inviting. Strategically placed benches let us rest in quiet spots where birds chirped aggressively by our ears. A rich blue canal cut through the buildings of downtown, which made the city look like a mix of Venice and Paris with a bit of Amsterdam thrown in. Before we knew it, we’d walked 12,000 steps in every direction, including a few impossibly steep and narrow side streets, past houses with colorful shutters and a consistently fresh breeze.
By the evening, the streets would open with buzzing energy. Restaurant workers rushed to line the sidewalks with small tables, which often spanned the space of several buildings. After squeezing in a nap, we grabbed a table at our hotel’s dinner spot, Swiss Chuchi. Having been in Switzerland for less than 12 hours, I was already fiending for fondue. We inhaled a bubbling pot of extra tangy cheese that was as soothing and hearty as we’d hoped for. A rich chocolate fondue for dessert followed (off-menu…be sure to ask) with a plate of sweet bites of fruit. Pure joy. The night ended with a quick rooftop drink at “Nest” just before they closed (though people here eat late, bars tend to shut early), followed by a waterside beer that was purchased from a newsstand nearby and consumed on a bench with a view of the sunset. I was already trying to learn enough German to order a drink without slipping back into English, but that was a tall order for a jetlagged brain. To complicate things, Switzerland has several national languages. Depending on where you are in the country, you might see menus in German or French.
The next day we walked even further, up the watch tower at the Grossmunster Church, and all around the town until it felt like it had been memorized. Zurich had greenery everywhere – on balconies, all over rooftops, and on every corner. Stores often close for extended employee lunch breaks (2 hours) in the middle of the day, an initially frustrating discovery that I grew to respect. That would simply never happen back home.
That night we grabbed cocktails at the Old Crow, voted one of the best bars in Europe. It’s a hole-in-the-wall on an unassuming street that’s set back from the main bustle of town. They have over 12,000 spirits available, including rare and unusual bottles. Our cocktails were true works of art and deeply unusual – Japanese whiskey with yuzu sake and a dash of soy sauce, mezcal with a chili-honey syrup and Frangelico. We buzzed into the evening and floated home on a cloud of bitters.
The next day we would set off for St. Moritz, leaving behind an unexpectedly striking and approachable city for our first taste of the mountains. I was already starting to move slower, feel more “here”. The transition is never as quick as it once was, but I can feel it coming.
Resources for donating $$, volunteering, and/or obtaining reproductive assistance nationwide: