Zurich, Switzerland – Day 1

I am taking a Social Studies class for my engineering degree that takes us to Switzerland, Italy and the French Riviera!  As preparation for the trip we had to read Dante’s the Divine Comedy and watch a couple of Italian movies.  We also need to keep a journal and write a paper when we get back – researching whatever questions we came up with on the trip.  So I am keeping all my thoughts, hopefully, on my blog.

I have to start by saying that I am impressed with my classmates.  I was a little nervous about the fact that its a college crowd – 18 and 19 year olds loose in Europe.  I was further concerned how I would fit in.  But my fellow Vermont Technical college guys and girls are hardy, Vermont country types.  We might not be the book-smartiest of the crowd or the artsiest, but we are handy and hardworking.  The guys always help unload the bags, they hold doors, and are really considerate.  We are mostly all attending Vermont Tech in some engineering or construction capacity, and we all turn to look at equipment and tractors as they pass by or inspect construction zones or just be interested in those things in general.  It’s funny to me, too, that I haven’t heard anybody say anything about shopping – most people were excited about the lakes and mountains and such.  I feel like we are all very similar types of people and that goes a long way to making us all feel at home with each other.

Yesterday, we departed Boston and flew into Zurich, Switzerland.  Interesting enough, Switzerland doesn’t have an official capital city, but Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and could be considered the business capital. We met up with our tour guide, Frank, and with very little persuasion from Professor Strokanov, he took us on a walking tour of Zurich – even though that wasn’t on the itinerary.  It was really neat to see Lake Zurich where so many of my friends have participated in marathon swims.  I was sad to not be swimming, myself as it was about 70 degrees yesterday!  Walking through the city was spectacular and Frank, our tour guide is so knowledgeable about so many things.  I don’t know enough about architecture to describe the different styles of it that we’ve seen, but the churches in particular are fascinating to me.  Throughout the city, special care was taken to make everything look beautiful – doorways were decorated and ornate either with woodworking or metalworking or even just phrases in German or maybe other languages.  Flower boxes were everywhere, too – there were some really, really small flower boxes!  It was almost like any opportunity to add flowers was seized with gusto.  Beauty is such an easy part of a society to discard because of time and cost, but I am just really appreciative of a people who invest in expressing beauty.

Most of everything was in German (even my Google home page!), and I don’t know German – but so far everyone is very kind and accommodating and friendly so I don’t feel intimidated by the language barrier.  I appreciate the way people dress.  In general, it seems that people dress in Europe not to make radical statements but to represent themselves well.  It’s a refreshing contrast when you see so many Americans wearing pajama bottoms in public.  I didn’t see one pair of pajama bottoms in Zurich.

I had espresso for the first time in my life!  It was so dark and thick and rich and good.  It’s amazing!  I can’t wait until Italy – I’ve heard fantastic things about the cappucino!  At first, I missed my large cup of coffee, but after sipping the espresso … I’m not sure I can go back to having so much water in my coffee.

After leaving Zurich we arrived at the hotel in Emmetten – the landscape is breathtaking. I am just enchanted by Switzerland.  It’s so moving with all it’s mountains and lakes.  We had dinner – a wonderful three course traditional meal.  And breakfast this morning included the most fantastic homemade bread.  The food has been so good!  I am excited to try something new at every meal.

We went for a walk last night up the hill outside the hotel and watched the sunset.  There is a beautiful church and the bells toll so sweetly every quarter hour.  It was a long dusk – the kind that lets your eyes slowly warm to every single color so gently that you don’t even realize that anything is changing until it is too dark to see.

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