Thursday, July 14, 2016

One Day More

Thanks to our generous hosts who offered us a ride to the train station, we were able to return the car (the car rental agency was within a short walk of their house), and then spend an extra hour in our comfy little apartment updating the blog. We had managed to repack back to our two backpacks, a day pack and one tote bag of snacks, so that each of us only had two items to carry, we were ready to be carless and carefree travelers once again. When Heidi dropped us at the train station and started to pull away, Greg’s face went white with horror as he reached into his pocket and realized we had not returned the key to her. He thrust his backpack at me and took off running after her and to my delight and surprise, he caught her before she left the parking lot. Needing to induce some calm after that frantic panic, we grabbed a mini bottle of wine and can of beer for the train to go along with our snacks. Our train to Zurich had one transfer but the first 45 minutes was on a train where reservations were not possible. We quickly learned that when reservations are not possible on a train it is probably very popular. Your ticket allows you to ride but maybe not to sit down. We found all the seats in the back two cars taken and various folks sitting on the floor in the aisles. Rather than attempt to squeeze past the overflowing passengers and search other cars for a seat, we wedged ourselves in the passage between the two cars near the WC, and stood surfing the bumps and turns of the train for nearly an hour until our transfer stop came up. Luckily we could peek out the side window and get glimpses of beautiful Bodensee to help distract us from our less than ideal ride.

Once on our second train (where we had reserved seats), we cracked open our lukewarm drinks and made a meal of some leftover dried fruit and nuts from our Appenzell breakfast buffet, as well as some local chips that Regula had gifted us, and we may have had an apple to round out that paltry feast but it felt so good to be sitting in comfort, that we didn’t mind our meager lunch. Back in Zurich we caught the S7 to a different hotel than the one we had stayed at the day we flew in, yet our room was very similar, white, clean, and simple.

Though tired from our travels we wanted one more great Swiss meal and a chance to explore the city in the sun. A few weeks ago when we had arrived, our first exploration of Zurich was a soggy cold adventure. However this time, there was a heat wave. The sun beat down on us as we slogged our way back to the S7. From the central station, we journeyed through the sweltering streets stopping to get me a mint lemonade solely because I could see it had ice in it. (I think it had 3 pieces of ice, which by European standards is quite generous). Then we were on to our dinner destination, which we had selected because I really wanted to experience the Swiss fondue tradition. We learned in Appenzell, as we had searched for a similar meal that fondue is a winter food. Fondue cellars close up in the summer. Makes sense, hot cheese bubbling in front of you in a pot is warming, who wants that in the summer? The answer, tourists and that included us. In Zurich, an international city where every kind of food is available, they also cater to tourists with their traditional food choices and that means there were several places that would offer fondue even during a heat wave. We chose the place that was reviewed best by locals and tourists alike and we even made a reservation because we heard it could be packed being a tiny place with only 14 tables.

We arrived early in the dinner hour and were given a tiny booth next to the air conditioner/fan that they had brought in to attempt to cool the tiny restaurant; obviously this was a prime spot! The restaurant quickly filled with a large group of Japanese businessmen who ordered every drink on the menu containing ice to attempt to cool down from the warm weather. We enjoyed watching the young waitresses work hard to fill the continuing requests from this large party as the chef toiled to fill their excessive orders in the back. The point person in this group, perhaps the one with the best English, kept returning to the waitress every 2-3 minutes to order more food. I heard him ask at one point when she seemed shocked that he had ordered salads, appetizers, Raclette plates and fondue for each person in the party, “Too much food?” “Yes! I think so,” she replied. It seemed to us that our dinner companions didn’t realize how filling a meal cheese fondue could be. As we melted from the heat over our delicious pot of cheese served with crusty bread, jacket potatoes, pickles and pearl onions, we were constantly entertained by the people watching this group offered. Toward the end of our meal, we were not surprised to hear when a third round of gin drinks were ordered by the big group that the waitress informed them they could have the gin but the restaurant had run out of ice!

We traipsed out into the slightly cooler city streets after dinner to walk along the riverfront all the way to the lake to contemplate the city at night. As it was getting late and our flight home was the following day, we headed back to the S7, which was running less frequently (either because it was Sunday or because it was late, we weren’t sure) and waited patiently for our ride home.

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