Day 9 continued - Zurich, Switzerland
When we got to Zurich, we got off the train and went down under to wait for Simone. Unfortunately, after a half an hour (we originally said 5:30 so we thought perhaps she couldn't get off work earlier) we were still waiting. We went off to explore and found out we had been waiting at a half-way crossing tunnel rather than the main station, so we gathered ourselves up and moved to the main station. Simone wasn't there, but showed up about 10 minutes later - having gone back home to get her cell phone since we didn't show up. Success.
Our friend, Simone, lived in Portland for a year as a nanny for a family with twins. Another friend of ours from church delivered diapers in bulk to families with twins, and got to talking with Simone, who said she was looking for a ride to church, as her host family didn't attend. We ended up taking Simone to church with us for about 6 months. We have kept in touch through Christmas letters and Facebook ever since. She is currently living in Zurich in her parent's apartment, but will be moving out in a few weeks to a place with friends. Her parents are on vacation in Canada right now, so we are staying in their room while the kids are taking over the floor in the living room. Simone's brother and sister live there too.
After putting our bags down in Simone's family apartment and getting our bearings, we took off to explore our surroundings. We walked the waterfront park to the Horn (point) where they had a giant movie screen that is out over the water and they put up with hydraulics when it's time to show the movie. The people sit in stadium seats along the shore. They show different movies every night, but unfortunately tonight's and tomorrow's movies are not kid-appropriate, so we decided to forgo that experience. We took the water taxi back to town, then ate at a restaurant with traditional Swiss food. I tried the alpine macaroni and cheese with stewed apples on the side, Jim and Zach had winerschnitzel, and Noah had "the best hotdog I've ever had" - with Rosti on the side. Our running joke has been that there are water fillers at every square running constantly, but you have to pay a lot for bottled water (or smallish drinks) when going to a restaurant. The boys ordered milk, and Noah's came warm. Zach ordered hot milk (for fun) and it was steamed. Zach drank Noah's and I drank Zach's (they didn't like what they'd gotten). Noah said he's going to be glad to get back to cold skim milk at home that he can drink as much as he wants. I reminded them that the Swiss milk makes great chocolate and yogurt - better than at home. Everything has its tradeoffs.
Day 10 - Zurich, Switzerland
We were slow getting out the door this morning. We had a couple of pastries left over from yesterday, so I cut those up to share, and we popped down the street to the bakery(!) and picked up some fresh bread. Simone added some yogurt and cheeses and we had plenty for breakfast. The weather held out for us - it was cool and mostly sunny.
We walked through old town, stopping in the Grossminster and Frauminster churches. They were decidedly less ornate than the ones we saw in Italy - the Protestants having removed most of the ornamentation in favor of simplicity. My impression of Zurich was that I kept forgetting I was in Switzerland - actually thinking I was in Germany. The ornamentation was gone off the houses too - It was very old-European, but the people and punctual transportation reminded me I was in Switzerland (we couldn't see the alps for the clouds or that would have helped too). We stopped at the COOP (Noah pronounced it "koop", which we all adopted) and picked up some bratwurst and cervelas (short stubby Swiss wurst) to grill for lunch.
Our afternoon was a "typical" free-day for the Swiss - they call it a "braetle". We took the bus to the top of the hill above the city and walked a solar system wanderweg (trail - literal translation "wander way"). The solar system trail had stone markers with the sun and planets in relative sizes and relative distances apart along the pathway. It was pretty cool, and a good way to get perspective on them. We collected sticks along the trail and stopped about two thirds of the way along the trail to build a fire at a fire spot. The boys sharpened some sticks with…what else...a Swiss Army Knife…so we could spear our brats and cook them over the fire. We rounded out the meal with leftover breakfast bread, carrots, and nectarines, then finished up with some Swiss Chocolate . The trail continued on through fields and past cows and ended at a gondola which we took down to catch the train back to town. It's all part of the Swiss transportation network. We almost missed the gondola as we were standing looking at the one at the bottom of the hill when Noah realized there was probably one already loading at the top of the hill - he was right - we got on just before the doors closed.
Jim wanted to ride the water taxi again, so we took a half-hour ride around the lake just for fun (and get that value out of our pass). On the way home we stopped at a cool toy store and a chocolate shop. I could get used to living here.
Simone made us salad and pasta for dinner while the boys challenged her brother to Xbox basketball. We reluctantly packed up our bags for the last time. It was a wonderful end to a wonderful vacation - spending time with a family and getting to experience another aspect of life abroad. The boys loved the family cat - reminding them of getting back to their own cat (and dog) tomorrow.
Day 11 - Flying Home
We had to leave early for the airport (and we had just enough Swiss Francs for the bus/train), so we skipped the bakery much to the disappointment of all. Zachary didn't want to go - he didn't want the vacation to end. We shouldered our packs and hopped for the last time on the bus, then train to the airport, accompanied by Simone, who graciously guided us up to passport control where she had to stay behind. Jim used what little Francs we had left to buy us some final vanilla filled croissants while I checked us in at the gate. It was much more secure going back than coming in. TSA in the Zurich airport had their own passport/baggage security checkpoint where they grilled us about what we had done and about our luggage.
The flight from Zurich to Atlanta was long - 4 movies later we still weren't there, and it was mid-day so we weren't tired enough to sleep. I picked up a headache on the flight, and by the time we arrived my head felt like it was going to split open. I took some Advil as soon as we landed and though it was rough going through the airport, I was feeling much better within the hour. Atlanta passport control was a breeze - no lines and more than enough staff to get us all through quickly. The boys made a friend in the airport and talked his ear off waiting for the flight, while I worked on pictures. As the boys boarded the plane, the flight attendant asked where we had been backpacking and what place he liked best (our backpacks were our only luggage). Noah replied that everywhere had it's good things - Italy was fun for swimming and Switzerland for chocolate.
Our flight to Portland was long. They showed a movie that we saw on our first flight. Jim and I snoozed and read while the boys played games on the iPod. As we were landing, Noah asked me, "Mom, are we going to go back to Switzerland next summer?"I guess after all, it turned out to be fun.
When we got home, our cat Pooh Bear was beside himself with happiness. He wouldn't stop talking to us and giving us "kitty hugs". The kids went to sleep as soon as we got home, but Jim and I drove over to pick up Ozzie from Brad and Sue. Ozzie was glad to be home too (though we could tell he had a really good time with them, as he was just as happy to hang out with them). Jim and I emptied all the suitcases onto the dining room table (and the clothes to the washer), and sorted the mail before bed. It's always good to be back in your own bed.