I wake up after finally going back to sleep and look outside to see that it is pouring. Now I don’t mean just a bit of rain, it is actually bucketing down. It looks quite bleak. I have breakfast and try to decide what I might do for the day. I’m tempted to sit in my room all day and not venture out. I figure that would be a stupid thing to do, so I ask at reception what kind of tours I could do. They give me a heap of brochures and I decide that I will go on a trolley car and train ride.
The hotel book the trip for me and I am advised it starts at 12pm. I get the directions and head off. I am heading to Milan tomorrow by trainand have booked my ticket online. I have to validate it at the train terminal so figure I should try and do this while I am waiting for the tour. I don’t know that international travellers would be able to find their way around Melbourne or Sydney train terminals as easily as I have been able to do so far on this trip. They really do cater for visitors to their cities.
I go to the information centre and get my ticket validated. The man is extremely helpful. He advises me that the train will depart from platform 5 or 6 tomorrow and to just check the boards when I arrive in the morning. He also advises me that the train will depart on time, don’t be late!
I head off in the rain to where my tour is supposed to start.
I am early so head to Starbucks to wait and have a cup of tea. It is cold. I really miss just being able to put the kettle on myself and have a cup of tea when I like, but this is how it is travelling.
You need a code to use the bathroom, so if you’re ever in Zurich on a bus tour and have to wait at the Starbucks nearby, the code is 1110. They give it to anyone who asks, so no idea why the door isn’t just open.
There is a front part which is undercover on the trolley car and a back part that is undercover, but has plastic fold up and down window shutters. It has been raining so all the seats are wet. The driver of the trolley car, pulling all the plastic down to shut the back part in. He is quite grumpy. The couple in front of me ask him if he has a cloth to dry the seats. He turns to them and says, in somewhat understandable English, I have two hands, you see them one, two. I am doing the window, I will wipe the seat when I am finished, ok? The lady tells him that she was offering to wipe the seats for him. He just shook his head and gave her a filthy look. I said nothing. All the seats inside are full, so there are no options but to wait for the back section. He closes all the openings and proceeds to wipe the seats with a piece of paper towel. I don’t think one bit of paper towel was going to work somehow, but again, i said nothing. He finishes with the piece of paper towel and turns to the lady in front who had offered to dry the seats, and says see! All finished! Ok, maybe he had a dry seat up the front part of the trolley, but these were no mean dry. I found myself a seat and used my scarf to dry the seat properly. When I had finished and the seat was dry, a huge amount of rain dropped from the sky. I noticed a couple in the front of the trolley get off, so I thought my options might be better going inside where there was at least no chance of rain coming in from the sides. Someone else could now utilise my now dry seat.
The seat I sat in was only a one person seat and there was another one similar on the opposite side of the trolley car. There was a man sitting alone in that seat. He was probably mid 70s. He asked me where I was from and I told him. He said, ahhh beautiful place. We struck up a conversation and he was from America, Hollywood in fact. I got the impression that he was a well to do man, but he didn’t disclose much more than he was from Hollywood. He travels alone now as his wife is in a nursing home. He had planned to visit a friend in Zurich, but when he rang her she told him she had swine flu. So he figured a trolley car ride would be a better option.
The trolley car filled up and we headed off. I didn’t have much faith in the driver but again, when in a foreign country and you are doing touristy things, you sometimes have to close your eyes and hope for the best.
He took us all through the new and old parts of Zurich. It is very pretty. The old part has so much history. The new part, wow, there is money there. The tourguide audio tells me that 70% of Zurich people don’t own their own homes or apartments and they rent. Most are owned by commercial companies, banks etc and the government own some as well. I don’t think this meant public housing like I know it, but I’m not totally sure. A lot of younger people are moving out of Zurich to greenspaces. The tour lasts for about 2 hours with a couple of stops of 10 and 15 minutes along the way. The tour takes us into the Zurich hills and it is here you see where the really wealthy live. Well i assume they are really wealthy as the houses are spectacular and quite spacious with a lot of land around them.
We drop off those passengers who have paid to go on a river cruise. I decided against this because of the rain, instead opting for a train ride to the top of Zurich. Assuming, incorrectly, that it would be a guided tour.
The driver gets to the train station and says those going on train ride get off here. Ok, i get off here. I ask him where is the train ride starting from, he tells me left, left, down, left. I assume he is telling me that’s where I will meet the tour guide. Again, I assumed incorrectly. There is another couple asking the same questions as myself. When I repeated to him left, left, down, left they seemed to think I had a good understanding of where to go so they told me they would follow me. I had become a tour guide in a strange city to strangers.
We found the train platform where our train was departing and it was just a passenger train that would take us to the top of Zurich for us to explore around the area. This wasn’t a guided tour at all. Oh well, we would make the most of it. It turns out that the couple I had hooked up with where originally from Hong Kong but had been living in Canada for over 30 years. They were a lovely couple. They told me I was very brave to be travelling on my own. I didn’t see it as a brave thing. They said I seemed to have a good understanding of how things worked. I told them when travelling on your own you didn’t have much option but to find places yourself and get there. I said it was a lot different these days with the internet at your finger tips, mobile phones when you get in trouble etc.
We went up to the top of Zurich and it was quite foggy along the way. When we got to the top, we established that the restaurant was closed on Mondays and you guessed it today was Monday. The train only leaves every half an hour. There was a lookout tower you could climb but considering the rain and fog I figured there wouldn’t be much point. I told the coupld that I was heading back as there was no point in me going to the tower. They said they would come with me. So we headed back into Zurich. The trip lasted about 20 minutes. We establish on the way that he was a Physiotherapist and she was a retired nurse. I would suggest they were probably late 50s but it is difficult for me to tell the age of Asian people.
We get back into Zurich and I say goodbye to them. They thank me for my company and showing them where to catch the train. It wasn’t planned, it was more luck we found it.
I am starving and wanting something hot to eat. I walk around the station for probably half an hour and see lots of places where I can buy a sandwich or a roll, but I want something hot. I look for a toilet to use and see a sign that says WC, I figure this will be the place to go. On my arrival at said WC I note that it is called Mc Clean. Now this has absolutely nothing to do with McDonalds. It costs 2 euro to use McClean and 10 euro to use the shower facilities at McClean. I opt for the 2 euro version as I don’t need a shower. It is like a beauty parlour. There are mirrors and tables set up for you to do your makeup, it smells lovely in there, with a variety of different soaps to choose from. All I want to do is use the loo. Before I enter I take a photo of McClean, but the lady at the paying desk tells me it is forbidden. No idea why, but I obey her directions. I don’t know that it was worth 2 euro to pee but my bladder appreciated it.
As I leave McClean i notice another food area and venture in. As I’m walking through I notice here you can get some pasta and figure this would be a good option for my hungry stomach. I then hear someone saying hello! Hello! I don’t bother to look around as I’m in a strange city knowing not a soul, and assuming no one would be yelling hello at me. Again hear hello! Hello! I look around and sure enough there is my fellow train journey friends. I hadn’t established names with them, so they didn’t know to yell out my name. I probably would have even answered to Benedict! They beckon me over and invite me to sit with them to have something to eat. I tell them i wand something hot and they tell me that the soup is delicious. So soup it is, it is a thick vegetable soup with some kind of meat in it. I have stopped trying to ascertain what meat i am eating as I’m content in the perhaps misbelieve that I am eating cow or sheep or pig. Being in a foreign country however, I’m not exactly sure that is what is being served up. What I don’t know won’t hurt me I figure. It is then we exchange names. He is Ben (doubt he would have been Ben at birth, but Ben it is) and she is Olen (at least I think that’s how you spell it, that’s how she said it). They tell me they are thinking about going to Lucerne tomorrow and are deciding whether to go on an organised bus tour. The tour is with the same company that we just experienced the pour service so they are unsure. I tell them that when we finish eating I can show them where to go and find out about prices and things for the train. They tell me this would be a much better option as the bus tour you are locked in to being there for 6 hours of free time and if you don’t like it you won’t be able to come back until the bus is ready to depart.
We finish our meal and they now know a lot more about me as they grilled me. It was nice to have a conversation with someone. I think I would have told them anything just to converse in English.
We head upstairs to the booking area. I knew where this was as I had discovered it the day before when I needed to get my ticket validated. There is a sculpture that hangs from the ceiling of the Zurich train terminal. No idea what she is supposed to represent, but I think she is fantastic. She reminds me of myself a little. Large, colourful and out there for all to see. They have a map of Zurich, but I have a better one that I got at the station the day before, so I show them where I got the map from. It clearly shows the sculpture on the map so it’s a good landmark to find your way around the station. They again tell me I am very clever to know so much. I show them how to take a ticket to get service. Don’t they have all these kind of things in Canada? Surely, I am not the only tourist that can work these things out. We wait our turn. I say we as they asked me to stay with them and help them. I oblige, I have nowhere else to be and i feel important. Out turn arrives and it ends up that I do the talking. Don’t know how this happened, but ask away I did. I find out that it will cost 43 euro each for them to travel to Lucerne tomorrow. The trains leave every half hour starting at 4 minutes past the hour. The bus trip was going to cost them 58 euro each. They think I have got them some kind of miraculous bargain. I remind them that this has nothing to do with me,, just the way the fare is structured. They still think i am some miracle worker. They pay their money and get given their tickets. They ask me to establish that they can come back from Lucerne at any time. Even though I know the answer to this question, I ask it for them, just so they can get the person on the other side of the glass to advise them. I don’t know how they have travelled part way round the world. I gather they had everything organised for them by a travel agent. They had previously been on a cruise before ending up in Zurich. I think their Zurich leg was the only part of their journey not organised for them by someone else. But as I ended up organising some of that for them, i guess that previous statement is redundant. It is now starting to get dark and I tell them that I really need to get back to my hotel now as I don’t want to be travelling too much in the dark. Ben agrees and shakes my hand and tells me to take care. Olen gives me a hug and thanks me so much for being their unofficial tour guide in Zurich. What a funny day I had. Strange even.
I head back to my hotel and decide what I’m going to have for dinner. I decide I’m going to take something back to the hotel and eat in my room. When I get off the train there is a place that makes fresh dough pretzels. I decide Im going to have one of these. There is another stall that sells cooked spare ribs. So I buy two of these. All thats missing is the beer! And I could be a real man, beer, beef and pretzels!
I head back to the hotel and watch some TV. There is English TV in my hotel and I watch a couple of very poorly acted tv soapies. One is coronoation street. My god it is woeful acting, but my god I loved every minute of it. I was instantly totally engrossed in the comings and goings of the inhabitants of coronoation street. Then there was another which name escapes me. Equally as appalling, equally as engrossing.
Then there was show on that I so hope we get in Australia at some stage. It was called Golden Balls. It was tacky, pitted human against human but I loved it! There are 4 contestants, and each get given golden balls, inside the balls are different amounts of cash. They have to then either tell the truth or bluff to their opponents as to what the amount of money is. There are also killer balls. It is then up the other contestants to decide who they will eliminate from the round. Each contestant has to decide who they want to eliminate based on the arguments put before them. This continues for the next round and then the game changes a bit in the 3rd round, where there are extra balla put in and the final two contestants play off. They each have to convince the other that they will split the money at the end, when in fact they have a split or steal ball to choose from. I sat there and after only one episode was quite excited at the prospect of both guys splitting the money. Off camera each contestant tells what they will do and one cow of a woman said she was going to steal the money. Yet on camera she was convincing them that she would split the money. She got eliminated thank fully. One guy said his wife would kill him if he didn’t steal the money as he had been burnt in a previous round. He said off camera he was prepared for his wife’s wrath but he was going to split. Thankfully it got down to the two guys and both said they would split. I had my fingers crossed that they were both telling the truth. The moment arrived when they had to reveal their choices and both men showed split balls. This meant they would each take home 20 thousand pounds. The man who was still to face his wife had tears in his eyes and sais that he was so proud that the other guy hadn’t lied to him. It was a great show, I loved it. I imagine it would wear thing quite quickly, but for a one off episode I loved it. The host of the show’s name was Jasper Carrot. I think I prefer Benedict to going through life as Jasper Carrot.
I sit back and eat my pretzel and beef rib, thoroughly enjoying both. I then head to bed. I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow and Im quite excited.