I finally have some time to write an update of our fast paced lives as I am on the train to Fribourg for a weekend with some French friends. There is so much that has happened since we last wrote that it is hard to know where to start. The most exciting is that I went skiing! You may ask, what’s the excitement? Its Switzerland after all. While those living here might be used to being able to ski during all the months of the year, for me it was a totally new and fascinating experience. It actually wasn’t in Switzerland, I went to the Chamonix region, to a little town called St. Gervais to visit a friend who lives at the base of Mt. Blanc. We woke up early, packed our gear into the car, and drove 10/15 min as far as we could get up the mountains. Then we slung our skiis and snow boots on our backs and starting hiking. After a short hike, we reached the much awaited snow! There we changed our gear, put on our boots and skiis (a special type that allows your foot to lift out of the bearing as you walk), and started our treck up the mountain. We were essentially walking up the regular ski hills that were not operating anymore. There was such a difference! It is a whole new experience to walk up a ski hill slowly, taking the time to breathe in the beauty of the scenery around you, instead of whizzing down at breathtaking speeds. The forest was alive with the life and sounds of spring mixed with the regular beat of our skiis taking step after step. After climbing around 1000 m vertically, we arrived at the top of the ski lift. For those of you who ski, you will know that there is often a net just before the end of the ski lift to catch all those who are too eager to exit the lift properly. We decided to have lunch there, and thus spent a blissful hour suspended in a sort of hammock above the Alps. The panoramic view was absolutely incredible! We were literally on top of the world! Skiing down was another experience unto itself. I think I can safely say that I have never skied in as heavy snow as that day. It was interesting to note that there were even some areas that we had skied over that morning, which already by the afternoon were brown with mud. What a day! Was fur ein Wochenende!
One of the only things I regret from this exchange was that we have hardly spent any time in Zurich. Overall in the semester, Hanna and I were counting that we have spent in total only 2 or 3 weekends in Zurich! There was always something going on outside the city/country, and thus we are both eager to explore the wonders of Zurich in the summer, when it looks more like the picture on the right v.s. our experience so far (left).
But let us recount some of our experiences about Switzerland as a whole. There are some things that strike you about Zurich, or Switzerland as a whole. For one, it is by far not as multi-cultural as Toronto. Another thing that strikes you is the famous punctuality of the Swiss. While I believed this was more of a stereotype before coming, it’s for sure by far the most orderly society I have ever lived in. Just yesterday, I had to calculate at what time I should leave one place the next day to get to a meeting, and just by plugging the information into Google Maps, I was able to get accurate information about which streetcars to take from where, when. The impressive part was that the next day, following the directions, I arrived within the minute to my destination. There is a placard inside each streetcar which announces the next couple of stations, how long it will take to get there, (continually updated with traffic information), and what the next connections are from the upcoming station. I could go on and on about the stellar performance of the public transport here, but it does have one slight downside. The drivers will never wait for you. In Toronto, if the driver sees you running for the bus, waving at him frantically, he will more often than not wait for you. The one downside of this punctuality is that here they are less understanding. Another phenomenal thing here is the sheer number of street cleaners. A whole army of personnel with brooms, vacuum cars, etc. are on patrol around the city at all hours, ready to pounce on any garbage you happen to let drop.
Another super exciting thing since I last wrote is that Bassem came to visit me! We had been planning the entire trip for a couple weeks, and I was excited to get a whiff of my Canadian life again. We spent an absolutely beautiful day all around Zurich bathed in sunshine for the first time in a long time. It was so warm that we decided to rent a paddle boat and paddle out into the middle of the Zurich Lake! What bliss! The Alps rising majestically above the clouds on one side, and the medieval towers of Zurich rising up on the other. We were so busy soaking up the sunshine and view, that we didn’t notice until almost too late that a big ferry boat was bearing down on us. It honked its horn at us, but we couldn’t get out of the way fast enough, so it ended up coming close enough to us that we were able to push ourselves off it as it came by. Some adrenalin to brighten up our day. The next day we had decided to visit Lausanne, a beautiful city in the French part of Switzerland. Now Bassem told me that a friend of his — a guy named Mat Callagher, a British man studying hospitality in Zurich who had worked with him in Dubai — was coming to Zurich for a couple days just to spend time with him. So he told me to organize all our events for three. I tried to pry Bassem about this friend and all I got was that he was supposedly just as crazy as me and that we would get along well. So we went to the airport to pick up this mysterious friend of his before we set off for Lausanne. We walked into the airport, and Bassem got a call from Leyla. I asked Bassem if I could say some words to Leyla on the phone, and Bassem said “no” and put the phone down. I asked him why he wouldn’t let me talk to her, and Bassem said, “Because she’s right here!” I turned around, and there was the mysterious Matt Callagher in person! Leyla Beriker! What a perfect surprise! We ended up spending a night in Lausanne, followed by 2 days around Zurich, and a beautiful day hiking around Zug, a tiny, adorable city (village) not far from Zurich.
Love to you all from Fribourg!