My trip to Zürich was more of a catch-up time with old friends that I met through Couchsurfing back in 2013. I didn’t really go to “tourist attractions” and I got this feeling that Zürich is not the kind of place for mainstream tourists anyway, if you know what I mean! It feels much more peaceful and quiet – compared to Paris and Amsterdam, for instance. To me, Zürich is more or less like Stockholm, only that it’s more hilly and it has a huge lake instead of a sea.
Natali, my host in Zürich, picked me up at the bus station when I arrived from Paris in the morning. It was so great to see her again! I met her the first time in Bali, when I hosted her for 2 weeks. She immediately took me to this supermarket called Migros to buy ingredients to make raclette at home!
Raclette is a semi-hard cow’s milk Swiss cheese that is most commonly used for melting. It’s also a Swiss dish based on heating the cheese and scraping off the melted part.
We drove to her apartment at Schaffhausestrasse in Opfikon, a municipality in the Swiss canton of Zürich. It’s a nice area a bit away from Zürich downtown… and what I mean with ‘away from downtown’ is just like 15-minute drive. It’s not like in Jakarta, for example, if you live away from downtown then it means you have to spend like 1-2 hours driving to go back home 😀
I met Carlos, Natali’s husband, in their apartment. I knew him the first time when they visited me in Bangkok in 2015. Carlos is from Mexico and the two met when Natali was traveling to his home country and he was her Couchsurfing host! They fell in love with each other and finally got married after dating for some time. They decided to live in Zürich for now but will probably move to Mexico sometime in the future.
I was so excited to learn that Natali was 5-month pregnant! Now that I’m writing this blog post, she had delivered the baby and the next time I meet Natali and Carlos, I’ll be meeting Leonel David, too! ♥
My first day in Zürich was spent to have a long conversation with them. We watched some movies and Natali’s mom came in the afternoon to bring some pumpkin soup… yum! Later in the evening, Natali invited me to hit downtown as she wanted to buy some Christmas decoration items. Unfortunately, the shops had not started selling them yet as it was still mid-October. Natali then took me to Zürich Hauptbahnhof – or Zürich HB.
Zürich HB is the main/central station in the city. It’s the largest railway station in Switzerland and also one of the busiest railway stations in the world for serving up to 2,915 trains per day! The station has several levels and a shopping mall called ShopVille..
At ShopVille, Natali showed me Sprüngli, a confiserie selling Luxemburgerli and other sweets.
Sprüngli is a Swiss luxury confectionery manufacturer founded in 1836 when Rudolf Sprüngli bought a confectioner’s shop in Zürich. He started producing chocolates, but long story short, the chocolate-producing branch of the business split off and now operates independently as Lindt & Sprüngli.
Now I believe that you have heard of the famous Lindt chocolates, right? Sprüngli itself has about 19 retail outlets, and some of them also include restaurants. Rumour has it that one of the restaurants is a place for single young men to attract wealthy older women since the spot is popular for elderly ladies of Zürich’s upper class to hang out and meet each other. Interesting, eh?
Anyway, this Sprüngli shop got me attracted right away and I bought 10 pieces of Luxemburgerli to bring home for dessert after dinner.
Luxemburgerli is the small version of macaron, but it’s more smoothly shaped, I would say. It is now Sprüngli’s flagship product.
And we finally had the raclette for dinner! Natali had this special griller for raclette, where we could melt the cheese and grill bacon and banana at the same time. We ate them with boiled potatoes and cucumbers. Super delicious 🙂
I spent the next day not doing anything but updating my 77 Days of Euro Trip diary and secured bus and flight tickets for the next 9 countries that I would be visiting after Switzerland. That day I was actually having hesitations whether or not I should go to that many countries – cause you know, it could be tiring to move around so much! But I’m glad that I decided to just do it!!!
As Natali was working during the day, Carlos took me to the city to explore around a bit. Before we left the apartment, he cooked Mexican food for our lunch! He made mole, which is a tortilla with chicken and mole sauce (where he mixed chocolate in it!) and then we ate it with avocado and cream cheese. It was super interesting for me as it was completely new for my Indonesian tongue that’s definitely not familiar with any flavour combinations from Latin America!
So we went to downtown on Carlos’ motorbike! I literally didn’t expect that I would be on a motorbike in Europe – it was so much fun, haha! 😀 I wasn’t the one driving of course. Carlos told me that it’s very different, driving in Switzerland and driving in Mexico. He had to be so careful not to break any law cause cameras are everywhere around the corners, watching how every vehicle is moving on the streets. If you ever get fined… dude, it will cost a fortune! I think I understand what he means, though. I’m sure Mexico is pretty much like Indonesia when it comes to traffic 🙂
One of the places we went to was Orell Füssli, a bookstore, cause Carlos needed to buy a book for his German classes. Yes, he had been studying German after moving to Zürich. Oh, and speaking about languages, did I mention that Natali is a prodigy when it comes to learning foreign languages? So she speaks 4 languages fluently: German (it’s her mother tongue as she’s from Zürich, the German-speaking part of Switzerland), Serbian (as she’s half-Serbian), English (she only learned it for 3 months in Australia), and Spanish (she learned it by the time she was traveling to Latin America and she could speak so well after several months). She speaks in Spanish with Carlos, too. I just don’t know how she managed to do that! Some people are just so gifted.
Carlos showed me around and one of the places I remember was Bahnhofstrasse.
Bahnhofstrasse is Zürich’s main downtown street and one of the world’s most expensive and exclusive shopping avenues. Back in 2011, it was the most expensive street for retail property in Europe!
On the way home, I saw Lake Zürich – it was so huge and beautiful! It was also nice to see the colourful houses on the hill side. We didn’t stop cause I would go there the next day anyway with another friend, so we went straight back home. On the way, we passed a Thai restaurant on the side of the street which is called Thai Positive Eating. Wow 😀
I had a meeting with another old friend from Couchsurfing, Daniel. The appointment was for 12PM noon. I left Natali and Carlos’ apartment at 11-something AM and went to Post Finance bank branch nearby to exchange 50 Euros. Deducted by 2 CHF for exchange fee, I received 51.30 CHF.
To compare currency rates, I normally use XE.com app.
I went to Opfikon train station afterwards and purchased the 1-Day Pass for 13.60 CHF. I really liked Swiss transportation ticket machine. It’s quite easy to understand. Bear in mind, though, that many stations don’t have anyone working there. So if you may want to search for information in the internet, instead.
You can find a lot of information on how to get around Zürich here.
The train came exactly at 11:59AM as scheduled and I found a seat in the second class coach. It took me only 11 minutes (3 stops) to reach Zürich HB. I bought some sandwich made of rice, salmon, and seaweed (something like onigiri) from a minimarket named Coop. It was… alright The taste was not bad but the thing is that it was still a bit too frozen so I did not enjoy munching the rice at all, haha. But anyway. It was only 6-something CHF, so well.
I went upstairs to find the “blue fat angel” as this was the meeting point for me and my friend. I tried to find Wi-Fi in that area, in case Dani sent a message, but I could not get the internet connection. The station Wi-Fi required me to have a number where they could send the verification code, and I didn’t have an active number. The Wi-Fis from restaurants around could be connected but somehow just didn’t work. Oh well. However, it was no problem at all since Dani arrived very on time, exactly at 12, with his bike. Hahah, crazy Switzerland. Trains and humans are both super punctual… 😀
The blue fat angel I mentioned before is L’ange Protecteur, an artwork by Niki de Saint Phalle, a French-American sculptor, painter, and filmmaker. A critic has said, “The French-born, American-raised artist is one of the most significant female and feminist artists of the 20th century, and one of the few to receive recognition in the male-dominated art world during her lifetime.”
It was great to meet Dani again! It had been almost 4 years since I hosted him in Bali. He invited me to take a tram to reach this hilly area where ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) is located. It was not very high, but it was pretty good to see the city view. So basically the tram we took went up and down (back and forth), similar to the tram going to the Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. But this one is definitely not as high.
After enjoying the view and took some photos, we went down again with the tram and Dani took me to visit Altstadt.
Altstadt is the German word for “old town”. A lot of cities in Europe have their own old town area, for example Gamla Stan in Stockholm and the one in Tallinn, Estonia.
We went to one place in Altstadt where they sell sweets, and Dani bought snacks for us. I chose an Opera Cake for myself… or at least it was something similar to Opera Cake 🙂 The name of the cake shop is Äss-Bar ( 😀 ) Dani told me this place is students’ favourite as they sell affordable sweets.
Since it started to rain a bit and I suddenly felt like having a coffee, we stopped at a café just in front of the Äss-Bar, and this place is called Café Henrici. They had very friendly waiter with funny moustache, I even asked Dani if it was real, haha! I ordered a cup of Cappuccino, and Dani ordered something which tasted very interesting (and it cost 7 CHF haha!).
We shared a lot about our travel experiences while we were staying at this café. It was funny to hear Dani’s stories when she was in Southeast Asia & Pacific back in 2012-2013! Yep, he was traveling for 8 months to several countries: Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and India.
After the rain stopped, we continued walking around Altstadt and visited Dani’s friend who works in a shop for Dada art. Dani’s friend has a girlfriend from Berlin who was also visiting him that time. They explained to me a bit about Dadaism, which… I would say I don’t really understand to be honest 😀
Dadaism is basically a concept, or an idea, or even a perspective, where anything could be considered as art. At the same time, it is also an anti-art. According to our beloved Wikipedia, Dadaism was an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century, with early centers in Zürich, New York, and Paris. You may find more details here.
We ate our sweets in the Dada shop, and then we said goodbye to Dani’s friends, continued our walking trip. We visited a church, and then stopped for a while somewhere, where we saw this talented busker playing violin and made really good performance. We then walked along the Lake Zürich side and enjoyed the view of the swimming ducks and swans, and the people feeding them. It was so cute as there was this one type of duck, black coloured, and they always dived into the water.
We went through many yellow and orange trees (I mean, the leaves). Finally I really felt that it was autumn, man! So pretty. Dani even took me some red leaves for me to keep, even though I secretly threw them away later on… oops, if you read this, Dani, I’m sorry haha! 😀
We reached an area where it was very similar to Christiania in Copenhagen. This place is called Rote Fabrik. It was not big compared to Christiania, but I could see a lot of graffiti there. I almost saw nobody there actually.
Rote Fabrik, or translates to “red factory”, is a former factory in Zürich that is now used as a music venue and cultural centre. It’s basically a place where people can take drugs and all. Shady side of Zürich, haha 😀
We spent some time there sitting on a bench by the lake, eating M&M’s, and then made a plan to have dinner together. We got separated as Dani went home with his bike, while I took tram no. 7 back to the Zürich HB, and tram no. 17 to reach his apartment area, which was Bernoulli-Häuser.
We went to a supermarket to buy the ingredients to make fondue, and I was so amazed to see that this supermarket had a machine where the customers could just process the payment by themselves, acting as the cashier! OMG. I helped Dani a little bit to get all the items scanned (with the barcode, of course). There was literally no real human cashier there! I was wondering how it would to have a cashier-less supermarket in Indonesia, hmm…
Fondue is a Swiss condiment of melted cheese served in a communal pot over a portable stove heated with a candle or spirit lamp, and eaten by dipping bread into the cheese using long-stemmed forks.
Dani lives with many other people in this flat, which has a very interesting system. So he pays the room rent and then an extra 150 CHF for some other facilities or services. He and his flat mates have to take turns to cook for the others, and they even have the schedule sticked to the fridge. The flat has so many common rooms: library, office, living room, breakfast kitchen, evening kitchen, and all.
Dani cooked the fondue and we ate it with 2 of his flat mates. Fondue was great, but I think I like raclette more. It was kind boring after a while to just eat bread dipped in hot cheese all the time. But Dani told me that actually we could also eat it with potatoes or other vegetables. This time we only had the bread, though. One of his flatmates brought a liquor and she told us some Swiss people like to dip the bread to this liquor first and then into the cheese pot. I tried it, but I really didn’t like it. It’s this kind of liquor similar to vodka, and I hate vodka, so yeah 🙂 I prefer to have the bread without the liquor.
After the dinner, Dani showed me the rooftop of his apartment. Damn, this flat even has a meeting room with projectors, speakers, and all. Pretty cool, especially if you’re a student, man. This gives me an idea of building a kos-kosan like this in Yogyakarta. What do you think? 😀
We spent some time relaxing at the library area, and Dani checked his app to see how I can go back to Natali & Carlos’ place. Later on, he walked with me to the nearest train station where I finally took a direct train to Glattbrugg, another train station near their apartment.
Finally, it was my last day in Zürich. I went to Zürich HB again, utilising my 1-Day Pass that I bought the day before. It was valid for 24 hours. I took the train at 10:59AM from Opfikon. I bought Ethiopian coffee at a bazaar in the station hall for Natali and Carlos and 2 fridge magnets for myself. The fridge magnets cost me 18 CHF, f*cking expensive!!! In fact, they were the most expensive magnets I bought in Europe. The ones from the other countries generally cost much less.
I went back and just spent my last day being a couch potato, preparing myself for another overnight bus to Prague. I had dinner with Natali and we talked a lot about life… It’s amazing to see how a lot of things can change in ourselves in just a couple of years. Later in the evening, Carlos took me to the bus station and dropped me there. See you two again, lovely couple! ♥
So that was my personal Couchsurfing experience in Zürich 😀 From getting invited for a motorbike ride around the city to trying out a self-service cashier machine in a supermarket… I’ve done them!
What about you? Have you been to Switzerland? Or have you tried Couchsurfing? Do you have any personal experience that you would like to share here? 🙂