In the morning I rushed to the station, and ended up waiting 45 minutes for my late train to Milano. As I sat on the cold tile floors I glanced up and saw a beautiful (stunning even) Italian women decked out in what had to be Prada. She was running like mad in her stiletto heels and skinny little skirt after her train which seemed to be leaving any second. I smirked, heard the ticking and looked up onto the board to finally see my platform number. I ran down the busy platform (with everyone else) and hopped on the train to find my seat occupied. I argued with the lady for about 5 minutes until she got her husbands ticket (and proof) that it was in fact hers. I was confused until I asked where this train was headed and 10 people said “Roma”. Shit, my heart jumped, I ran outside and saw that I had gotten on the wrong train and as the train next to me started to whistle and slowly move down the track I screamed at the top of my lungs. That was my train to Milano, I ran after the train and hopped on just at the last possible moment, heroic indeed. Flustered and emotionally exhausted I found my seat and crashed for the next hour when we arrived in Bologna. I slapped myself awake and stared out into the busy crowd at the central station and caught a glimpse of a lovely character. A nun, who looked about 120 years old was PLAYING with her false teeth. Both of them, in the air, and laughing. How gross yet entirely brilliant that sight was (pictures were not taken as the train started to move, damn).
Arriving in Milano I grabbed the train to Zurich without freaking out or messing up. About one hour into the trip I had another freak out when I noticed I was the only person in my entire train car, and the Italian conductor had left the train with his luggage. My heart burned and I freaked out. Had I missed my city again? Not possible. I hopped out and asked if this train was going to Zurich and the guy outside said yes. Then it all made sense to me. They were removing the front of the train and adding more cars as we were officially in Switzerland (Chiasso to be exact). What a relief. I sat back down and read for the next few hours as the train nestled through the Swiss countryside (lakes, mountains, cliffs, waterfalls…stunning everything). I sat beside a lovely old nun from Berlin, a fashion photographer from Milano and “the crazy batty man who mans the food cart”. He claims to know every language in Europe, even Latin (and pig Latin I presume).
Arriving in Zurich 10 minutes late (what at a Swiss clockwork disappointment) I ran to the board to discover that the next train to St. Gallen left in 15 minutes. I ran to the pay phone and gave my friend a ring telling her when I would arrive. I hopped onto my train, once again just as it was about to blast off and slouched in the closest seat I could find. I had traveled for a total of just over 8 hours today! I scratched my back a few times as I noticed itch and realized that the skin all over my back was peeling. For the first time in my life, I was shedding. That is what 4 months of constant sun exposure will do. REMINDER; exfoliate ASAP.
I arrived at the train station to find my friend Damaris who walked me through the city center to her boyfriends superb penthouse apartment where I was given a bottle of the local brew called St.Gallen Klosterbrau and just chilled out before dinner. This guy is an authentic Swiss Banker, has a cool cat apartment full of gadgets like snowboards that have neon lights inside (a modern lamp I’d say), plasma TV, surround sound, nestle instant coffee machine (they are like 800 dollars in Canada right now) and the coolest of them all…a carbonation machine, apparently everyone carbonates their own water here. He told me that his dad is the CEO of Europe’s largest Hops trading company. So his dad buys and sells Noble hops around the world and sells it to Breweries. How cool is that. Dinner consisted of home made Swiss Rosti and sausage. We chatted for a while and attempted to do my laundry downstairs with little luck. Shiza became our new favorite joke word and then we were off to bed.
The heart of the Swiss breakfast consists of an assortment of Lindtt quality chocolates (and nothing more). Damaris and I set our sites on a road trip to one of the most famous country’s in the world which not surprisingly holds two world records. It is the smallest country in the world (1) and is the worlds largest producer of dentures/false teeth (2). If that doesn’t sound like a party I don’t know what does. We hopped into her wee Euro-car and dropped by the “gas station” to fill up with petro before driving to the capital of Lichtenstein, Valduz. I like to emphasize that Swiss gas stations are not typical. You walk inside and it’s like a normal sized grocery store, with its own bakery, wine shop, produce department and magazine display among other things. I spotted my first pack of Ricolas beside the various gum and Lindtt chocolate bars which was a thrill.
Driving to the “smallest country in the world” took a total of about 30 minutes. On the way we passed Switzerland’s largest lake (which you can pan over and see Germany at the far end) and listened to incredible German hip hop. The mountains surely are everywhere and I have a great love for all of the luminous dairy cows (sweet chocolate cream). The country is only 62 square miles and has a population of 33,145 people according to Lonely Planets up to the minute website stats. The capital is so small it made me laugh. We got a bit irritated as we looked all over the place for signs to get to the castle which apparently has amazing views over the city and river. We could see it from bellow so just started to drive up the incredibly nauseating winding streets. Cute little Swiss houses and churches were spotted along the mountain side. We asked a few old ladies where the castle was but there directions sucked (apparently they were born before the castle was built NOTE the castle is Medieval). We were frustrated and decided to leave the crap little country and get back into Switzerland which took a total of 10 minutes. We drove south to the city of Chur (where Damaris is from) and had a wild and crazy shopping spree where I bought a jacket, shirt and sweater. We found a nice little restaurant where I ordered Calanda Braw Panache offen which is beer with lemonade (my new favorite drink). My entree was a plate full of Schweinsrahmschnitzel, Nuden grner salat (Veal escalope with cream sauce, noodles and salad). The highlight of Chur was the little liquor shop we found. The place is full of little casks of home made whiskey and a wall full of about 100 different home made liquors and grappas. I took an ample number of pictures and then we hopped back in the car for our drive back to St.Gallen. We popped into a huge supermarket where I gawked at the amazing array of food (why is it that supermarkets excite me so?). My favorite part of the market was the cheese shop where they had over 20 kinds of Gruyer. I tried three of them and opted for the most expensive, 15 year cave aged. It is so stellar I cannot explain in words.
I spent the greater part of the entire afternoon on facebook adding all of my thousands of pictures to the home computer and throwing them with much glee onto bookface for the world to see. I insisted I make dinner for the three of us tonight and prepared another Italian meal of Tomato’s and Buffalo mozzarella with balsamic vinegar and olive oil AND spaghetti with pesto cream, sun dried tomatoes and chicken. The two of “those Swiss people” insisted we have their favorite drink which consisted of about 5 ounces of Jagermeister and a can of Red Bulll. Shockingly wonderful, however I don’t know if you could technically “pair” it with our meal. We watched Cocktail with Tom Cruise as it was on in English and then spent the dark hours of the night watching Kill Bill and drinking beer with lemonade. I snacked on my Lindtt chocolate hazelnut bar, the ever surprising random purchase of incredibly expensive Swiss mousse chocolate bar and a few Toblarones. Perfection in Switzerland.
I woke up to a Swiss thunderstorm at 6am and spent the next few hours reading my plethora of facebook emails which made me happy. Then it hit me like a pile of bricks, like someone had tripped me. I almost cried realizing I was leaving this “care free lifestyle of adventure and solo contemplation” to return back to Canada, to the normal, usual routine of school. I had to bite my lip from crying. I was overcome with emotions, all the stuff I had seen and done, I was addicted to travel, somewhat of a junkie and I am scared there may not be TA (travelers anonymous) groups for the tourist who needs a hit or fix. I spent an hour or so going through my many albums from Spain through to Norway and Germany. Doing a photo show of all the places I have been made me happy and helped me realize how blessed I am that I was able to do this fantastic trip. I have decided not to think about having to leave until the time comes. Enjoy things as you are here, then rip the “band aid” off on the plane home. Glum but great I guess.
In the afternoon I took a nice hot bath. Being out of the “hostel scene” has been nice as baths are a luxury (as is privacy). The three of us walked into town and went into a couple bakeries so I could take some pictures and into the public Saturday food market. There are Swiss flags everywhere as “Nations Day” is on the 30th (the equivalent of Canada day). I am excited as I will be in the capital (Bern) when the national holiday festivities begin. We walked to the famous St.Gallen Cathedral which I believe is just over 300 years old and gawked at the incredible white, green and gold interior. I was forced (by my two Swiss German companions) to join in on a guided historical tour of the cathedral. I sat for about 30 minutes listening to this loud fat Swiss man spitting into the air with much vigor as he yammered on in German and I just nodded as if I knew what he was saying. We came back to the apartment and I decided to use my Gruyere and made a cream and garlic fondue sauce and smothered freshly cooked penne. Two beers later I was content in the belly and my mind.
This evening we met up with twelve of Andreas’ friends at a local Swiss restaurant that serves “all you can eat Swiss Fondue Chinoise”. We drove out of the province of St.Gallen into the province of Appenseller which is full of winding roads and many dairy cows. The Swiss fondue experience was interesting, and heightened by the interesting company and the cigarette smoke they brought with them to the table. A fat Swiss guy sat across from me and he was hilarious, he didn’t speak a lick of English and just gave me thumbs up. I believe he smoked 12 cigarettes in two hours. Sitting with a fondue fork in one hand I prepared myself for an unlimited feeding spree. A few more of their friends joined the table before the food was brought out. A group of them looked like members of Blur and the weirdest of them all was clearly the “clown” of them all, telling jokes all night and laughing like a dog through a Christmas cracker. His hair was perfectly created. I think he actually uses protractors and rulers to shave his side burns and goatee. For 28 Swiss francs you receive the following; unlimited french fries and croquettes, a hot pot under a burner filled with broth for cooking slices of beef, pork or chicken. Plates of many steamed vegetables, a huge plate of assorted fruits (in which I stuck mainly to melon and orange) and the best part of the meal are the various sauces you can dip everything in. We had a selection of six which were located in little holders surrounding the hot pot. My favorite was the garlic aoli, bbq and cucumber mayonnaise. The entire meal these Swiss folks laughed at my attempt to speak Swiss German. The room was full of roaring laughter until it got even louder; when the first shot of Appenseller was bought for moi. I had come back from the washroom and noticed a shot of some dark brown liquid, gave it a smell and almost fell over. It is the alcoholic specialty of the region and tastes a lot like Jagermeister but a lot sweeter. Once I had had my first rancid shot the entire room laughed at my response. I cant remember to much after that, other than the fact that I believe each of the twelve Swiss folks bought me a shot of that insane alchy. The last thing I recall from my farewell dinner in St.Gallen: jumping out of the restaurant and hopping over the fence, trying to jump onto a dairy cow. Dairy cows don’t ride well, I proved that tonight.
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