Saturday, November 17, 2012

Zurich for a Weekend


I woke up around 6 am and caught a 7 am bus to the train station, I then boarded a train to Kassel-Wilhelmschoehe where I had to change to a different train and go to Bassel (a city on he boarder between Switzerland and Germany, I changed trains here and was on my way to Zurich where in met Sascha at the train station.

He took me with him to his work (yup, he works at a Swiss bank) and I got to meet some of his collages and he even showed me inside the vault there where I could see and hold more than 60,000 dollars in gold in one hand!

He finished working around 5 or 6 PM and we left and went to his favorite coffee house / bar where we had about 5 beers each and then went to buy takeout Asian food and went home where I got to meet Maite and Alex his wife and son.

We had our dinner and more beers, of course, this happens every time I visit the Kolb family! Then more beers and more yet and finally I went to bed around 1 AM or so.


Alex and I shared a room and when he popped up from his crib at 8 AM or so he yelled "good morning" and I was up and moving. After a long night of drinking, I was moving a bit slow but I showered and Maite and I had coffee. Alex and I even had pancakes for breakfast!

After we got Alex dressed and ready for the day we went into the city by tram and walked around the old city. I never have a plan when I visit a city as you all know by now so it was just good to hang with my family, even if I haven't seen my cousin since I was four and I had never met his wife or four year old child. It was nice to just relax and not have to hurry around everywhere like I usually do when I visit a city and have to see it all in one day. 
We did some shopping and I bought my souvenirs and we had lunch, salad from a salad bar in q canteen inside a shopping mall, very European. Alex, of course, is infatuated with Thomas the train engine and wanted to go to all the toy stores but that's OK, I'm still a kid at heart and had fun playing too. And again, more walking in the city lead us to a few churches.

Finally we made our way back to the house and I nearly collapsed on the couch from drinking so much the night before then all the walking in the city.

Alex, Maite, and I just sat together to watch TV for a bit while we waited for Sascha to come home from work. Maite decided to make pasta bake for dinner so when Sascha arrive home we ate together near the TV

We watched some shows / movies and I had a drink or two then we all went to bed.


The day began with beer for breakfast with Sascha's 80+ year old friend and Alex back at the coffee shop from Thursday night. Maite met with us later and took Alex home and we then went to the Zurich Oktoberfest and I had one and a half mass' and a hexeln (pork knuckle.)After our drinking was done, we came home for a bit to sit and watch TV. 

I went with Maite to her friends' birthday party in a small town outside Zurich and we talked and had drinks there. It was a bit cliquey though and it made me uncomfortable because I didn't know anyone and everyone was in their own groups already. We wound up coming home earlier than planned because neither of us was really comfortable there. At least there was a really cute birthday cake! Then, after such a long day, it was bed time.


We originally planned to go to church in the morning, there's a German mass at 10 AM and an English one at 11 AM but we didn't make it because everyone was dragging a bit and Alex, as all kids are, was being a pain in the morning.

Instead, we had an easy morning in and later in the day, Maite, Alex, and I went into the city by tram and went to the train station where we went shopping. Like Germany, in Switzerland nearly everything is closed on Sunday but the train station is open so there are some open shops there.

We took a train from one of the smaller stops to the main station just so Alex could ride on a train then looked around and even stopped at a McDonald's so I could continue my mission to try a McChicken in every country.
We then walked back home alone the lake side and I was able to see the mountains, the lake, some sail boats and lots of people out for a Sunday stroll.

We decided to have cheese fondue for dinner, very Swiss apparently. It was yummy but a warning, it rips your stomach apart. I had to drink a lot of tea to settle it and get to bed.

I said my goodbyes to Sascha and finally went to bed, overall, it was quite a relaxed day.


I got up bright and early and had a coffee and left for the train station where I had to get a train home. There were a lot more switches on this train than the one to Switzerland but finally I arrived back in Paderborn around 4:30 PM and went straight to bed. All these trips have been tiring and I had work in the morning.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Göttingen: Another unplanned stop

Marilena and I woke up and got ready because it was her Oma’s birthday and we had to go to Kassel to celebrate with her family. I must have some really good timing though because I was also there for a visit for her Opa's birthday. Neither was planned in advance.

We had a small breakfast and hung out on the computer in front of the TV (like true youngins from our generation) with her roommate Roos (pronounced Rose) and Roos' boyfriend. After relaxation for a while, we drove to Kassel where we had Chinese food at a buffet.

Everyone was a bit surprised to see me so soon as I hadn’t seen them since 2007 the last time and now it was twice in one year! None the less I was warmly greeted with hugs and kisses though. After lunch we said our goodbyes and Marilena and I went to her parent’s house for a coffee. Of course, my favorite drooling cat was there too!

Then we went to see her horses and drop off some food and stuff for them. She has the same horses as the last time I was there, not that I expected her to have different horses really, just hadn't heard anything about them in a while.

It was getting late and we were a ways from the train station so Marilena drove me back and dropped me off, I hopped on a train to go home and was on my way. I had to make a change but my train was running a bit late, luckily the next train waited for us because I think the train I had to get on was the last one for the night.

The trip didn't take too long and I was in Paderborn again. I only had to wait for 6 minutes for the bus to take me home too! I spent a while on my computer and before I knew it the time was already past midnight and I went to bed.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Münich: Misconceptions on meeting places and a Free Walking Tour

Cori and I woke up around 10:30 AM and ate something quickly before going to the city for coffee and some shopping in what she called "asshole shops." These, to her, are the shops that every time you go in you wind up buying something. Of course, I didn't buy anything because I had no where to put it.

We tried to find the craft store in town that Andrew's mother suggested but had no luck so instead we went to a few other shops and stopped for more coffee / tea and then she took me to the train station.
I caught a train to Munich but there was construction on the track so I had to take a bus for part of the way. I knew that my host in Munich wouldn't be available to meet me until 6 PM so I decided to stop in another city on the way.

I decided to stop in Sternberg and sit by the Sternberger See (or lake) in the sun. What a beautiful view too! I found a museum in the town that was near the train station and detailed how the town came to be and the trade routes it created. Cool. I got to walk through a house that has been there since the 1400s!
After a few hours I hopped on a train to Munich again and when I arrived at the main station, I left and walked to Marienplatz where I was to meet my host.

I was there at about 5:30 PM and I stopped for a cola at a restaurant. I was supposed to meet my host at the Fischbrunne but with the construction in the square I couldn't see the fountain and I asked some people and was told that Mary's column was where I was supposed to be. Unfortunately, my host didn't get the same message as me and he also didn't have a cell phone. Inconvenient.

I waited until 8 PM at Mary's column and my host didn't contact me so I went and got a hotel for the night near the train station. I paid 44 € for a crappy, tiny room without a bathroom, I took a shower in the hallway where there was a common bathroom for the whole floor, and then went to bed.

I woke up on Saturday around 8 AM and went downstairs to have breakfast. Yes, the  one redeeming factor for this hotel was the inclusive breakfast. I had a typical German breakfast of rolls with different cheeses and meats with coffee / tea and juice. When I was finished I grabbed my bag from my room and went downstairs to check out. Luckily, I was able to leave my bag at the hotel while I went into the city which was also nice.

I left the hotel and went back to the Marienplatz to wait for my Munich Free Walking Tour to begin, I stopped for a cappuccino at a café and met a man and wife from Minnesota.

I then went to take my tour of Munich, the tour guide while a very nice guy is living in Munich because his girlfriend lives there yet he doesn’t speak German and doesn’t want to learn it either. I feel like the fact that he didn’t speak German really detracted from his tour of the city, none the less I did learn some things while on the tour and I even met a nice Chinese girl too.

After the tour I went back to the train station and grabbed my bag from the hotel. I hopped on a train and was on my way back home a day early.

My train was making a stop in Göttingen and so I decided I would see what Marilena had planned and if she wanted to meet up. She had a birthday party for a family friend to go to but she invited me so I got off my train in Kassel and took another train to meet her.

On this train I met a guy from Algeria who asked me for my email address so we exchanged emails and maybe I found a new pen pal.

Finally I got off the train and met Marilena outside, we went back to the house and had dinner and drinks and I saw her parents too. It got late and we had a long drive home so we drove back to her house in Göttingen and went to bed.

Things to see and do in Zürich

Of course it would be nice to see any and / or all of these sights but I'm going more to see my second cousin who I haven’t seen since I was four or five years old along with his wife and son who I have never met. It’s really cool to have family all over Europe!

Fluntern Cemetery – Like many disgruntled pacifists, Irish writer James Joyce took refuge in neutral Zürich during WWI - although he managed to distinguish himself from most by writing Ulysses, one of greatest pieces of world literature, while here. Joyce returned to the city just before his death in 1941 and is buried in Fluntern cemetery. There's a statue of Joyce on his grave, so you can't miss it. This is a lovely spot and while here, you could pop into Zürich's unusually pleasant zoo. Alternatively just wander up the Zúrichberg hill and gaze down on the city.

Schiffbau – Symbolic of the renaissance of once-industrial western Zürich is the Schiffbau. Once a mighty factory churning out lake steamers and, until 1992, turbine-engine parts, this enormous shell has been turned (at considerable cost) into the seat of the Schauspielhaus, a huge theatre, with three stages. It is worth just having a look inside. It is also home to a stylish restaurant (LaSalle), upstairs bar (Nietturm) and jazz den (Moods, see Live Music above).

James Joyce's Grave – One of the greatest works of English literature, James Joyce's Ulysses, was written in Zürich and its author is buried here. Irish Joyce was just one disgruntled intellectual - Lenin and Trotsky were others - who took refuge in this neutral city during WWI, and he finished his epic during wartime exile here (1915-19). He returned shortly before dying in January 1941 and his carefully tended grave is found in Fluntern Cemetery; take tram No 6 to Zoo.

Fraumünster – The 13th-century Fraumünster is renowned for its distinctive stained-glass windows, designed by the Russian-Jewish master Marc Chagall (1887–1985). He did a series of five windows in the choir-stalls area in 1971 and the rose window in the southern transept in 1978. The rose window in the northern transept is by Augusto Giacometti (1945).

Le Corbusier Pavilion & Heidi Weber museum – The last item designed by the iconoclastic Swiss-born (naturalised French) architect, looks like a Mondrian painting set in parkland. Completed after his death, it contains many of his architectural drawings, paintings, furniture and books – collected by fan and friend Heidi Weber.

Lindt & Sprüngli – The Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate factory is just south of the city centre. An inexpensive day can be spent with a free museum (English notes on request), free chocolate and a rather self-congratulatory film is screened, free. You can even get there on a free city bike. Opening times are irregular at best but everyone waits for chocolate.

Bahnhofstrasse – Elegant Bahnhofstrasse is simply perfect for window-shopping and affluent Züricher-watching. The bank vaults beneath the street are said to be crammed with gold and silver. Above ground, you'll find luxury shops selling the best Switzerland can offer - from watches and clocks to chocolates, furs, porcelain and fashion labels galore.

Kunsthaus – Zürich’s impressive Kunsthaus boasts a rich collection that includes Alberto Giacometti stick-figure sculptures, Monets, Van Goghs, Rodin sculptures and other 19th- and 20th-century art. Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler is also represented. The clumpy cement building itself is a bit of a horror.

St Peterskirche – From any position in the city, it’s hard to overlook the 13th-century tower of St Peterskirche. Its prominent clock face, 8.7m in diameter, is the largest in Europe. Inside, the choir stalls date from the 13th century but the bulk of the rest of the church is an 18th-century remake.

James Joyce Foundation – James Joyce spent much of WWI in Zürich and wrote Ulysses here. The James Joyce Foundation hosts regular public readings in English from Ulysses (5.30pm to 7pm Tuesday) and Finnegan’s Wake (7pm to 8.30pm Thursday).

Karlsturm – The firebrand preacher from the boondocks, Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531), began speaking out against the Catholic Church here in the 16th century, and thus brought the Reformation to Zürich. You can climb the southern tower, the Karlsturm.

Beyer Museum – A small museum chronicling the rise of timekeeping, from striated medieval candles to modern watches. It is inside a shop, whose display of precision time instruments is almost as extraordinary as the museum collection.

Migros Museum – A display of contemporary art, is one of two main museums in the converted Löwenbräu brewery, which also houses several galleries, a bookshop, a fitness centre and offices.

Schweizerisches Landesmuseum – A large cream cake of a museum. The permanent collection includes a tour through Swiss history, plus there are usually enticing special exhibitions.

GrossmünsterMore of Augusto Giacometti’s work is on show across the river in the twin-towered Grossmünster. Charlemagne founded this landmark cathedral in the 9th century.

Museum Für Gestaltung – Consistently impressive and wide-ranging, the exhibitions at the Museum für Gestaltung include anything from Bollywood to ‘short stories in photography’.

Cabaret Voltaire -- The birthplace of the Dada movement and it puts on exhibitions and shows, frequently with a dose of vitriolic social criticism.

Zoo Dolder – Up on the Zürichberg, has an expansive location, 1800 animals and a recreated rainforest. Take tram 6 to Zoo station.

Museum Rietberg – Set in three villas in a leafy park, the Museum Rietberg houses a fine collection of African, Oriental and ancient-American art.

Arboretum – Wander down the west bank of the lake in Old Town and the concrete walkways give way to parkland in the Arboretum.

Plakatraum – Draws on a huge archive of vintage tourism, Dada and other posters.

Kunsthalle Zürich – Features changing exhibitions of contemporary art.

Johann Jacobs Museum As addictive as the coffee to which it is devoted. The permanent collection includes everything from coffee pots to paintings of coffee houses.