After a London-style New Year’s celebration, replete with fireworks and Leicester Square shenanigans, Sharel and I ventured onto Zurich. Switzerland was my idea. From the time I was in fifth grade and read Sharon Creech’s “Bloomability,” detailing the trials and tribulations of an American girl in a Swiss boarding school, I had expended all my energy (and soon to be finances) on designing a vacation in the glorious state of neutrality.
Sharel, perhaps because she too was an avid elementary school reader, indulged my Swiss passion and boarded the British Airways flight to Zurich. Honestly, what could be a better way to ring in the New Year than a trip to the Toblerone factory, a stroll down the fashion mecca– Bahnhofstrasse, and a fondue dinner at the Swiss Pot?
Now there were several indications that Zurich was not a college student’s town, but the two of us dismissed them at first. To begin, we flew out of London City Airport, the only London airport actually located in the middle of the city. It is a business-class airport with complementary champagne, cheese, and crackers. In fact, Sharel and I were the only two people on our flight not in suits or heels. At the time we reasoned, though, that we were only flying from London City because it was the cheapest Swiss flight we could find. Oh, the irony.
Upon landing, we were greeted by some of the most disheartening price tags girls on a budget can tolerate. As a Starbucks-specific addict, I needed a latte– and I needed it immediately. Running, not walking, towards the airport Starbucks I was at a loss for words when I encountered the cost. For a grande (or medium), I would have to part with 7.40 Swiss francs, which is roughly the equivalent to a $7. With thoughts of cardboard box-filled futures, I purchased the latte– promising myself that this would have to sustain me for the length of my stay in the land of bankers and their billionaire brides.
Once we had exited the airport, caffeinated and 7.40 francs poorer, we ventured to our hotel. Yes, you read correctly. The few hostels that existed in Zurich were as expensive as the hotels, and so Sharel and I reasoned that are finances would be better spent on a hotel with greater security and overall cleanliness. For a mere 110 francs per night, we could enjoy the wonders of Zurich (and even the five star Michelin restaurant on the ground floor).
However when we arrived at our hotel, we noticed the streets were deserted. Serene, quite, even calming– but noticeably empty. The Christmas lights, still on display all around the city, created a somewhat magical aura. And with little human distraction around, we were able to soak in the beauty around us. In those moments, I was reminded why I had endeavored to turn my “Bloomability” dream into a reality.
This momentary magic was interrupted by the dinner costs, though. The cheapest menus we could find still demanded a minimum of 26 francs per person, and for that staggering number we could only order a basic garden salad with a slice of avocado. Well whatever Toblerone dreams I had quickly vanished. I could not afford to eat lettuce, let alone fancy Swiss delicacies. If I was lucky, I might even lose some weight on this trip.
The one affordable option we had available to us was to walk. And as a traveler-in-training, I have learned that some of the most valuable experiences require the least amount of money. Soaking in the night skyline, staring at the reflection of the city in the water, and strolling past churches older than the United States are all wonderful ways to take in a city that one can otherwise not afford to enjoy.
Also, as per Sharel’s suggestion, we found the closest available grocery store and stocked up on produce, nuts, and dried fruit. We weren’t willing to spend another 26 francs on a garden salad, but we were ready to spend 7 francs on the ingredients needed to create our own salad– replete with craisins, cashews, and gorgonzola cheese. For the remainder of the trip, Sharel and I continued to track down the closest available grocery store and to purchase the necessary food items needed to sustain us. Both our bank accounts and our parents were appreciative of this sort of consideration.
When our days in Zurich came to their surprisingly swift conclusion, Sharel and I determined to return to Zurich again– but only once we had wedded nice Jewish bankers willing to fund out fashion and foodie expeditions.