June 28, 2011
A weekend in Switzerland

If I had to describe Switzerland in one word after our weekend trip, it’d have to be “expensive”. One would think that switching over to a more forgiving currency (the Swiss franc and the US dollar are almost one to one) is better, but the Swiss take prices to a whole new level. Shortly after arriving in Basel, we decided to forgo local cuisine and just get some McDonalds nearby.

However, even McDonalds gave us some culture shock. The standard meal, a medium Big Mac with fries and a coke, costs a whopping 12 FRANCS. This is approximately 14 dollars. In addition, McDonalds in Switzerland are serious business. They’re incredibly clean and dare I say… elegant? The McDonalds in Zurich had three floors to explore, all of them very chic and comfortable. The third floor had a Playstation 3 for your entertainment. The restrooms are secured by a number code, which you have to get from the employees.

I guess all of that money has to go somewhere.

Basel is a very charming city, and the first thing that caught my attention was their bright red town hall. It’s so iconic it’s often the subject of their postcards, and who can blame them? The building is actually a lovely Renaissance palace, and while one can take a tour of the courtyard, it is still in use today. We saw a couple of people swimming (or rather, being taken by the current) in the Rhine, which runs right through the middle of the city. I may come back before the summer is over and take a dip, but it wasn’t nearly hot enough to do so when we went.

A day and too many francs later, we checked out of our hostel and took a morning train to Zurich. If in Zurich, a boat trip along Lake Zurich is an absolute must. The lake and its shores are absolutely beautiful, and one can see the Alps far off in the horizon.

After a day of sightseeing (and a disappointing amount of confectionaries), we headed back to the train station. We tend to have incredibly good luck, and were pulled into some sort of football (yes, I call it football, get over it) celebration. We were handed a free T-shirt, flag, and baseball cap, and gathered around the crowd to cheer.

To cheer for what, you may ask?

We weren’t really sure. But hey, free swag and cute football players!

It wasn’t until I got home that I did a little bit of research to see what exactly we had gotten into. Switzerland had just finished playing Spain in the Under 21 European Championship. They lost, apparently, but that didn’t stop the people in Zurich from cheering for their team.

Speaking of soccer, tomorrow I will apparently play with my lab group against other teams in the chemistry department. Then, Dr. Grosdemange invited us to have dinner at her house. Tomorrow should be fun!