Thursday, August 17, 2017

Honeymoon Day 3: A quiet Zurich New Years Day

Honeymoon Day 3: A quiet Zurich New Years Day

"Happy Neujahr!"

We were up bright and early at 6:30am as we couldn't sleep due to the jet lag (thus, acclimatizing in Europe rather than in super-special-make-every-moment-count locations later in the trip like Seychelles or South Africa). While Michal continued to nap, I headed up to the pool on the roof of the Swissotel Zurich which was super nice. A very friendly attendant fellow at the Spa/Pool was helpful and showed me around the facilities. He was trying to explain one portion in the sauna area... "What do you call this... a... 'damp sauna'"?! haha. He was referring to the Steam Room. Haha. We wandered around there a bit and I started to suspect that there were not separate mens and womens facilities there... men and women together here, I guess?! More on that later.

The pool had a glorious view of Oerlikon, and a hot tub up there too which was super awesome and nice with the cold, chilly weather outside. I swam for a bit and warmed up in the hot tub and it was all super nice after a late flight the night before and our late evening New Years Eve party and wandering outside in the chilly Swiss winter weather.

I then went to check out the (presumably, co-ed?) spa. There certainly didn't appear to be a "Men's" or a "Women's" door, so I just wandered into the place the attendant had toured me around. First stop was the "Damp Sauna" (aka "Steam Room"), which had a warm seat in it you could relax on. That was pretty nice. I then thought, "Hey, let's try the dry sauna now, why not..." and I headed over there. I walked in to a bit of a surprise. Um... nude lady. My first thought was, "My, that's a LOT of tattoos." A hilarious sign outside the sauna essentially said "Take your pants off", and clarified that no towels, shoes, or clothes were allowed in this very clearly co-ed area. My next thought, "I am so not in America right now." But, as the phrase goes, "when in Rome", so I dropped my drawers and walked in like I knew what I was doing. I walked into the sauna and the very tattooed German lady in there saw me walk in and just swiftly and firmly nodded, very curt, and very intent. It was SO funny, and, again, SO not America. My next thought was, "Thank you for not staring at my crotch." This reminded me a bit of my train of thought when I went to a (albeit, all-male) bath house in Japan... "it's not weird to anyone else in there, it's only unusual to you because you come from a prudish culture where nudity makes everyone nervous."

I sat there for a bit in absolute utter silence and after a short while figured it was time to put on some damn pants and go wake up Michal and go explore Zurich. I had a quick shower and then we decided to go head out to Zurich HB (the main station). We arrived at Zurich HB and the first thing we saw there.... Confiserie Sprüngli!!!!!!!!!!!! This is a famed chocolate and pastry shop that I WAS SO INSANELY EXCITED ABOUT, and I didn't expect it to be open on New Years Day as most things were supposed to be closed that day. That was SOOOO awesome. I got a hot chocolate that was soooo good. It was rich, but not sweet. Michal got a sort of cold chocolate version of the same thing I got, and we got a magnificent apricot pastry too. They also gave us an insanely tasty and glorious Macaron for free by Sprüngli called Luxemburgerli. You may have heard of "Sprüngli" on the packet of Lindt chocolate (also called Lindt & Sprüngli). This place looked so damn epic and I was so psyched to go and buy everything.

Ohhhhhhhh man!!!!!!!!
This was SO GOOD

Some friends had told us that Läderach was actually their favourite chocolate place in Switzerland. Amazingly the Läderach shop was also open in the Zurich HB station in New Years Day so I bought some truffles there to try throughout the day.

Laderach had a lot of these flat chocolate blocks
Chocolate Swiss Army Knife!

Next we went for a wander down the main street in downtown Zurich, called Bahnhofstrasse. Most shops were closed on Jan 1st, but it was still cool to wander and to see how the town had been decorated for the Christmas season.

Cool Christmas lights hanging everywhere
We wandered more and eventually ended up at our lunch spot, a place that had come pretty highly recommended called Haus Hiltl. It is apparently the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world. Everything they sell is vegetarian, so they had some big wins for us like Rosti (without its usual bacon addition)! They also had something called "Züri-Gschnätzlets", which a friend had said I had to try as it is a Swiss-German tradition in Zurich -- this was of course a vegetarian edition of it. They had lots of interesting-looking Indian food as very tasty tap water! The place was just OK, I liked the general idea of it, but the food wasn't THAT great and it was insanely expensive. You paid per weight so my single plate of food was $40. Ouch! It was fun to go to a place that is sort of an institution, but WOW it was pricey and I wouldn't say it was really worth it.

"Fetch it yourself"
The coolest thing about Haul Hiltl is that it was a very creative space, and encouraged creativity. Here are some kids taking a break from lunch and being encouraged to make some art with erasable markers on the clear stairway glass
Lots of interesting options, all vegetarian

$40 lunch! Oof!
After paying a bazillion dollars for a mediocre lunch (but, damn good tap water! Like, seriously!) we wandered further throughout town, past where the festivities were the night before and into the "Old Town" area. We saw our favourite shop from Paris, the homewares store called "Pylones" which is amazing and has crazy and awesome eclectic stuff. 

Some fancy watches in shops along the walk

This is where we got our Raclette and potatoes the night before!
Funny warm seats at Starbucks
"Hansel und Gretel"

Next stop was a place that Lausch recommended called Cafe (Conditorei) Schober, a famous cafe that has been in Zurich forever and was beautifully and magically decorated for the holidays. It was super cool to go there and it was packed! I got a Tarte Citron and Michal got a huge meringue ("It's large!" warned the server when we didn't seem like we were going to only order that one item and share it). I also got a... Cafe Shakkerato... my favourite coffee drink from Italy!! Couldn't believe it was on the menu! Conditorei Schober had some awesome Christmas decorations up.

"It's large"
Super nice decorations
Our awesome place to sit

That was gooooooooood

Having a good time
After chillin' for a while there, the jet lag started to hit us at about 3:30pm so we decided to ditch the (new) plan we had come up with in the morning to continue to a German Beer Hall for beer and sausages. That would have been a fun dinner plan but we were too tired so we headed back to the hotel instead. This time we took the tram back to Oerlikon and went back to the hotel to sleep. Vacation mode, already :) We had a nap for several hours and woke up feeling more like human beings again. We freshened up by going to the pool (and not to the co-ed sauna this time). The view of Zurich from the pool was awesome and we really enjoyed seeing that chilly weather from inside in a warm pool.

Getting tired...
Back to Zurich Oerlikon station
The lobby of the Swissotel Zurich

Our room was decorated so nicely with all these cool heart designs and flowers

More chocolate!!!!!
After the pool we were tired again so we had a short nap and then watched Legally Blond on BBC. I was hoping my favourite BBC show, Gogglebox, might randomly come onto the TV but Legally Blond was as good as we were going to get if we wanted something in English. We flipped through the channels a lot to try to find something as good as the comedy show the night before in German, but not as much luck with good German TV on as the night before. Once we were a bit more awake (at about 11:45pm! Darn you jet lag!) we headed across the road to the only food that was easily accessible and still open... yep... Zurich McDonalds. This was actually quite awesome as we got to try some of the super unexpected things on the menu. I ordered something called a Chicken Tasty (which we swiftly renamed the "Chicken Un-tasty"). We got some "Rosti Fries" which were weird and super fun. "Would you like the yoghurt-pepper sauce?" "Why, yes!" hahaha. We also tried a Coca-Light (aka a European Diet Coke) and the thing I was really excited to try, a Sundae Cailler. Cailler is the chocolate factory we will visit later in the week to make our own truffles. 

Glad we got in before this place was "Geschlossen"!
One of our favorite moments of the night (and perhaps the whole trip) was how mad the lady taking orders at McDonald's got if people didn't follow the rules. Some dude came in and was waiting for his order, leaning too close to the counter. She stared him down for a moment and then spoke up, "If you step back a few steps, you will see your number on the screen when your meal is ready." (I.e., "Please step back from the counter and stay behind the damn line!") We had unknowingly just made it to McD's before the last orders were taken at EXACTLY midnight. The food was still coming out but the store was officially closed while we were waiting for our stuff to come out. Hungry young folks kept trying to come to the front door and come in and so she said in a stern voice, "Geschlossen!" ("Finished!" i.e. "Closed!") We had made it just in time and also thankfully not suffered the wrath of the fierce rule-oriented server girl. It was hilarious and awesome to experience though, and adding our new favourite phrase "Geschlossen!" to our favourite word from the night before ("Glühwein"), was a very enjoyable experience.

We paid a shocking $16 for one McDonald's meal to share (MAN I forgot how expensive Switzerland is!), enjoyed our Rosti fries with weird sauce and did our best to enjoy the Chicken Un-tasty, and headed back to our hotel across the road. Awesome times. I'm so glad we did that rather than going to some steak restaurant or something else we had considered. So awesome. Back to the room we went, where I broke into the Laderach truffles and enjoyed the heck out of the whisky one, which was so smooth and the flavour of whisky was not overpowering at all. We packed up our stuff and went to sleep, ready for our Eurail train ride the next morning.

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