Sunday, November 13, 2005
Switzerland - first step was getting there...
I took off to Switzerland about noon on Friday. I had been told that it shouldn't take more than 6-7 hours. However, I was paranoid of the unrest in France so I decided to go to Germany (Trier --> Mannheim --> and down) for a safer journey. The thought was nice but the details were a mess. The short of it is that it took me 11 hours to make it to Luzern, Switzerland, because much of my back-roads train schedule was cancelled or modified before it was all over. Not to prolong this too much, but I was fine through Trier and then was snagged in Saarbrucken. I had asked a guy who seemed to know what he was doing what to do as we were coming into Saarbrucken; I knew I needed to change trains. Come to find out, he was a history professor (focusing on Jewish Studies) at the University of Trier and spoke both fluent English and German so he was a huge help. He was trying to get to Mannheim as well but our train was cancelled. He handled me completely so I took him for coffee while we waited for the next train and then we spent about 2 hours together talking about amazing things in terms of the various isolation and discrimation experiences Jew have experienced over the years in Europe. This spun into a conversation about the EU and about whether or not Turkey should be admitted. This led to a fundamental question about how culture is defined and how societies can create environments where culture is either affirmed or obliterated. I wish I could give you all the details but it's way to deep. The fact is, by taking a chance to ask, "Do you speak English?" I got some help, made a friend, and learned a lot.
When I got to Luzern, it was about 10 p.m. I had a hotel picked out via the internet and struck off to find it based on the directions on their web site. Well, again, it was 10 p.m. and I was tired and had trouble finding it. So, I stopped at a little hotel up a walkway, asked if they would give me a "last minute" rate which was 77 Swiss Franks (probably 60 Euro), and took a chance. The room was small, but it was clean and comfortable. The next morning I woke up, noticed that instead of windows, I had doors. I opened the doors to look out across the lake at Mt. Pilatus (the picture above) and then panned my camera to the right and the left to see the other views above. To say the least, for 60 Euro, I thought I found heaven.