Lucerne & Zürich, Switzerland
Our goal was to drive to Lucerne, which we did and we parked in the first spot we found. Unfortunately the area we stopped in turned out to be the commercial area, which we soon discovered was quite boring as we walked around the plain town. We took the opportunity to do some grocery shopping though, as today was the first day supermarkets had been open in five days because of Easter and we were running very low on supplies. With that done we jumped back in the car to look for the old town.
It was easy enough to find, and thankfully much more pleasant to stroll around. We walked along the river for a while, admired a covered bridge that was apparently a major tourist attraction, and ambled down streets lined with beautiful old buildings. That was about it. We didn't see any reason to stay in Lucerne any longer than an hour, so we left and headed for Zurich.
We now have a plan when heading to big cities. We tell the sat nav to take us to a caravan park and obediently follow the directions given. If we decide we don't really want to stay there, we just park a couple of streets away from the entrance. There is always a bus stop going into town, plus plenty of other tourists to ask for assistance if needed. It's great. And that's just what we did in Zurich. We located the caravan park, then parked a bit down the road, slightly closer to the city and near a huge lake. The views across the water to the city were an unexpected bonus. There was a large open space across the road, so we spent the afternoon kicking a soccer ball around (they don't sell AFL balls in Europe) and taking it easy by the lake.
The next day it rained. A lot. Until we arrived back at the van, which was when the sun came out. Typical.
From our perfect parking spot we could jump straight on the bus that took us to the centre of Zurich. We didn't realise how close we were to the city until we arrived in the middle of it five minutes later. We could have walked (except for the rain).
We meandered up Bahnhofstrasse, one of those expensive streets with all the big clothing labels, which sustained our attention for all of five minutes. Bahnhofstrasse, funnily enough, leads to the bahnhof, or train station, where we were heading so we could pick up a map from the tourist office. When we arrived we found a small food market set up inside the train station. That was when I lost Danny. Fresh produce, bakery items, hot food, sweet food - it was actually really good. Half an hour later I managed to drag him away after only buying a pastry each.
Danny wanted to check out the west side of the city, thinking it was a bohemian area full of quirky cafes. We headed over there, only to discover that it was the red light district, where nearly every shop was a strip club. We quickly walked the other way, over to the east side of the river and through the old town. The old town was nice but not as appealing as other cities we had visited in Switzerland (the rain didn't help us in forming positive impressions of the place). We walked past a few churches, along the river, then over to the Kunsthaus (museum). At the last minute Danny decided he wanted to save his money and just walk around the city instead, so I entered the museum alone. For free. Today, for some unknown reason, entry was complimentary. Danny's loss. I skipped most the Renaissance works and made a beeline for the 20th century pieces. It wasn't a huge museum but it was engaging nonetheless. It was made even smaller by the fact that several rooms were closed in preparation for the next exhibition, including a couple of rooms I was hoping to see, which was a bit of a let down.
I walked back along the river (through rain and hail), past a church that advertised the largest tower clock face in Europe (it didn't appear to be that big) before hitting a supermarket for a late lunch. The supermarket contained a buffet of hot and cold foods, which to me was a fantastic idea. I helped myself to a serving of lasagna and sat outside the entrance, devouring the delicious meal. It had been a while since I had eaten lasagna. And I don't think I had ever eaten it on the street.
I followed the lake back to the car, saving myself a bus fare. Danny was already there, just as drenched as I was. (This was the moment the sun came out). He had spent his afternoon at an indoor cactus farm, displaying mostly miniature and smaller-sized cacti. He was quite pleased with this find in Zurich. After changing out of our wet clothes, Danny cooked us dinner: veggies with mashed potato. This was the first time he had cooked mash on the trip and it was a fabulous addition to his repertoire of cheap and easy meals. We also drank a Swiss Merlot - quite nice, easy drinking. Wine, like everything else in Switzerland, was really expensive (compared to neighbouring countries) and to find a bottle under €10 was almost impossible. Which I guess was no different to Australia, but our travels through Western Europe had changed our expectations.
The next morning I made pancakes for breakfast, served with lemon and sugar. Given that we didn't have a mixing bowl or a whisk, I think I did pretty well. The lemon (bought from a local supermarket) was the best lemon we had ever tasted, which is weird to say about a lemon but it was true. It somehow had a better flavour than regular lemons.
We drove to Rhine falls, just north of Zurich. To reach the falls we had to drive through a tiny principality of Germany, and on both the entrance and exit to this principality there were border checks. On our way out of “Germany” they pulled us over, asked us a dozen questions and took our passports away for examination. This was our first difficult border check in mainland Europe. They eventually decided we weren't dangerous and let us go.
The falls were supposedly the biggest waterfalls in Europe in terms of total volume of water. They were not high at all, although they appeared fairly wide. The word that comes to mind is underwhelming. We did not believe the "biggest in Europe" claim and left slightly disappointed.