The town Michael lives in is called Olten. It is a small town that doesn’t show on google maps until you zoom in, but it is cute and welcoming and has it’s own bit of history. It is also relatively equidistant from Basel, Zurich, and Bern making it a central hub for commuting trains and an ideal location to live. Not to mention cheaper rent.
Our first day there was pretty much a lazy one, recovering from a long night out and nursing a individual hangovers. We meandering aimlessly throughout the town looking at the ‘famous’ sites of Olten. Their one famous bridge. Their one famous river. Their one famous house with a golden roof that shines sun into other peoples houses when it is sunny and creates a bit of small town controversy and gossip. Also making it the one famous house of Olten. I like this small town.
I’m glad it was a lazy day because Sundays in Europe suck as a traveler. Basically plan to do nothing or maybe have beer in the park and chill. Also the markets here close at 630 everyday and aren’t open at all on sundays. Can you imagine what that would be like in the states. Think Costco, Mayhem.
Denise had to write a 15 pg essay for a class, so for leaving the house so she could work we were rewarded with food! You win Pavlov. ANd not just take out, a special, from scratch, Swiss dish called,’Zürcher Geschnetzeltes’. Thank goodness for cut and paste 🙂 This delicious dish consists of thinly sliced veal in a mushroom cream sauce over a potato hash-brown kind of stuff. It reminded me kind of like a beef stroganoff my mom used to make. All I know is I could eat this for days. Tip of the hat to the chef, it was amazeballs.
Finishing our lazy day we shared a couple of bottles of wine chatted about our best means of transportation during our visit, watched a movie and called it a night. Not the movie we watched, but the Watchmen dubbed in Swiss German was quite entertaining for a bit.
Part of our conversation from the day before was what we were going to do about getting around Switzerland. It is an expensive country to begin with but the rail system really presses the bank. Getting from Basel to Olten had cost a lot more than what we expected after spending times on trains in two other countries. I can not recall exactly the price but I think for the two of us was about 70$ for the 30 minute ride. The same price for the all day regional pass for 5 people in Alcace France. We had 4 more days in Switzerland and still needed to get over to the other side of the country to meet up with some of Kristin’s friends. We needed to figure something out.
Michael and Denise had both looked onto a number of options for us to get around, but all of the train passes were still a few hundred dollars more than what we were wanting to spend. So we tried our luck and went to the station with Denise to figure out our best option by talking with the station office. By some strange act of Zeus, the rail company had a special on their passes starting that morning.
Like most countries or rail companies SBB offers a variety of passes for travelers, commuters and general citizens, but from what I could make out in the end, there are passes for swiss citizens and then passes for every one else. As a citizen passes are at reduced rates depending on what type you get and frequency of use; distance, for a month, a year, etc. Since Denise is a student her pass is basically free and Michael pays a flat rate once a year which seems like it would pay itself off quickly. The SBB site is pretty extensive and shows a number of options so make sure you know what your looking for and ask specific questions when talking to someone.
Anyways, the passes we ended up getting were a citizen only pass that for this special offer had been opened up for everyone and then reduced from 270 to 140 swiss francs. So to travel anywhere we please, for the 4 days we had left, put it around 150$ for us. The best thing about this pass, is it works for everything, bus, tram, train, boat, ferry, all of it. Lucky! Having a native speaker really helped too, but the attendants were extremely helpful and would have probably pointed out the best option for us in the end, either way, once again, thank you to Denise for the help.
Now with pass in hand and no limitations on where we can go we rode into to Zurich with Denise and split ways for a bit while she went to class. I found a new pair of shoes and immediately threw away the Pumas that had been killing my feet. We grabbed some pastries and a coffee and met back up with her 2 hours later to ride the tram around, cause we could. She showed us that you can see the University from almost everywhere in the city 😉
I don’t know if it is me, but you hear a lot about Zurich as being a financial capital and you would assume it would be a large city. It isn’t. Ends up most of the cities in switzerland are relatively smaller than many other European cities by comparison. I can’t speak or all of Switzerland so take this with a grain of salt, this is only through interpretation.
We met Michael for lunch for the most expensive dönar you could ever buy, for around 11 francs. Then decided since we could, we would tour the city by boat and after ride on to Bern to explore that town for the rest of the day 🙂
Bern is a city names after bears. They have bear beer, bear wine, bear fountains and you guessed it, live bears in their very own bear park. When we arrived at the station the first thing Denise wanted to show us the parliament building. For some reason it is one of the main sites to see in Bern. Unexpectedly on this day was a festival called Alpabfahrt (I had to look it up). It means bringing the cows home. Basically every year the cows spend 100 days of summer in the alps grazing on grass and mountain herbs. This is all they eat. As they are milked at altitude the milk is made into mountain cheese. In the fall, always in september, the cows are brought down from the alps to spend the winter in the safety of the farms. All over Switzerland 10s of thousands of cows are paraded into town wearing gigantic traditional bells by farmers also sporting traditional attire. In the square they show the livestock off, and parade them around, sample cheeses and milks, play games and drink beer.
We played a game that involves a stump, a rock hammer and a nail for each person. I cant’t remember what it is called but ironically I was talking to Michael about it the day before. Drinking game involves taking turns hitting the nail in with the smallest part of the hammer, last one to finish buys the next round of drinks. Kristin was doing horribly and won in the end, of course.
After the cows, we went down to check out the bear park and then back up to get groceries and head home for another delicious dinner. Roclette. Another traditional meal in Switzerland that requires a two level griddle: you cook all your ingredients on top and on the bottom, underneath, cook your cheese in a tiny cooking tray. It is hard to explain but it is focused around the cheese of course, you can put whatever you like in it: bacon, sausage, veggies, pickles, anything! Again, it was delicious. Now I have to get my own Roclette cooking thingy.
Full of cheese and another day down we watched another movie to appease our cheese coma and called it a night. Tomorrow we adventure on our own. Michael left us a key and now that we had free reign to go anywhere we liked in all of switzerland we decided to head to Lucern to check out the famous bridge there and walk the city for a bit.