Zurich, and some skiing at Laax

(Alex)

We hadn’t been skiing in a couple of years, and so while it was only for a weekend both of us were super excited to be going to Switzerland to see a bit of snow. We booked flights to Zurich a couple of weeks out, crossed our fingers for some nice weather, and flew out after work on a Friday afternoon.

One of our mates from back home in Auckland lives in Zurich now, which made pretty much everything about the trip so much easier than usual. It meant we had a local guide to the city, his couch to sleep on, didn’t have to worry about finding a nice place to eat or anything like that – it was great. Proper intrepid travel is obviously a great experience, but it is nice to just have everything arranged for you every now and again. After dropping our gear off at his place, we went out and had several more beers than was perhaps prudent given our 5am start the next morning.

Predictably, waking up was quite rough. However it is pretty hard to not be in a good mood on a snow day, and after we acquired coffee and croissants and found our seats on the train I began to feel quite good, or at least less like I was dying. Also, public transport in Switzerland is amazing – it runs perfectly on time, obviously, but it is also just so much nicer than we’ve experienced anywhere else in the world.

The first part of our trip took us south-east from Zurich, along the southern banks of the lake, and the sun rose not long after we left. This was great, because the views we were treated to were stunning – pretty fields and quaint little houses, pine-covered hills and huge cliffs dropping down into the water.  I instantly become slightly envious of our friend, getting to live in such a place. Switzerland is insanely beautiful.

At Chur we changed to a bus and wound up into the hills towards Laax, the field we’d be skiing for the day. Compared to what we were used to from back home in New Zealand, Laax is huge – 235km of piste, and a skiable area more than 6 times bigger than Turoa (our local field). We hired our boots and skis/board (B skis, I board) and set off enjoy it all.

It was epic. I’ll stop there and leave it to the photos below to convey the experience, other than to say I’m going to try my hardest to never leave it so long between ski trips again.

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As a brief aside, I might mention here that Switzerland can be a very expensive place to visit. We knew this already of course, but it was highlighted again when we tried to find a table for lunch at a restaurant up the mountain. While we were waiting B snuck a look at a menu, and single plate of simple pasta (which seemed to be the main thing to get) cost about CHF50 (roughly NZ$75/£35)! They were booked out, thankfully, so we avoided the slightly awkward situation of walking out after having been seated. We ended up eating at a canteen further down, which came to about CHF40 for the two of us. My advice? Pack sandwiches from home, if you can.

Other than that – the day was perfect. Nearly bluebird conditions, heaps of powder and not too many people. It’ll be hard to beat.

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On Sunday we had basically the whole day free to do some sightseeing, and so we were led around Zurich on little informal tour.

We started off with some breakfast at Cafe Odeon, slightly notable for being a favourite haunt of a number of notable figures in the past – Albert Einstein, Mussolini, Lenin and Trotsky are just a few people known to have frequented Odeon, though presumably not all together. The food was simple but delicious, although a fairly light breakfast for three did come to a fairly heavy NZ$135.

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After that we wandered around the edge of the lake and up into a bit of the old town for a view. Everything was super clean, and very pretty – again, I felt a little jealous of my mate getting to live there. London, for all it’s amazing virtues (I do think it is still the best city in the world), is not a place many people would call particularly clean.

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 From there, our walk went along the river for a while. Apparently in the summer this is an awesome place to hang out, which I could definitely imagine it being – though it was a bit quiet in the winter, there were a heap of bars and little parks along the way.

Eventually we cut away from the river and headed through some much more hipster areas towards what is the tallest building in Switzerland, the Prime Tower. This turned out to be quite a nice little spot – the Clouds Kitchen on the top floor is free to go up to, and has excellent views out over Zurich. They also didn’t appear to have any problem with us buying just a coffee each (at CHF 5 apiece, though it did come with a bit of biscotti) and lingering over them for a while. Check it out if you’re ever in the area and looking for a seat with a view.

And after that, we were out of time. We went back to the apartment, grabbed our gear and caught the train back out to the airport (train arrived and departed the station perfectly on time, I was pleased to see).

Zurich is a great place. It feels surprisingly small and compact, and also has a lot more culture than I was expecting given it’s reputation as a bit of a clinical financial centre. We shall certainly be coming back for more visits in the near future, and hopefully some more snow next winter.

Until next time,

B & A

PS – we looked very hard, but did not manage to find Roger Federer during our trip. Next time….

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