All Across the Land

SWITZERLAND

Laax

Lac Neuchâtel

Sierre

Photo courtesy of Adam

Zermatt

Etzel

Rhine Falls

Zürich

My Village

Not Pictured: Basel, Einsiedeln, Luzern, Rapperswil

ITALY

Pidemont

Milan

Como

Cinque Terre

SPAIN

Granada

Not Pictured: Cadíz, Madrid, Seville

ENGLAND

Manchester

Cambridge

 

IRELAND

Dublin

Belfast

Not Pictured: Galway

 

SCOTLAND

Edinburgh

 

PORTUGAL

Lisbon

 

Photo Courtesy of Adam

Porches

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

GERMANY

Munich

 

TURKEY

Istanbul

 

FRANCE

Paris

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

AUSTRIA

Vienna

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

There it is. Ten countries in eleven months. At least thirty cities within those countries. I may have had some really tough days in there, when I seriously questioned the sanity in choosing this job, but in the end, it was worth it. Absolutely, one hundred percent. Look at all I’ve done.

Tearing Up Zürich and Istancool

I’m warning you now, this post is excessively long. You might have to take a breather halfway through.

As I’ve stated an over-abundance of times, I was looking forward to Courtney’s arrival since, oh, about February. I was so eager to seeing her, catch up, and speak in 25% movie quotes, 30% inside jokes, 25% song, and 20% normal conversation (really only for the benefit of others). Needless to say I was a bit hyper-aware on Monday morning before her arrival, just out-of-my-mind-excited to see her. I’m pretty sure I was pacing at one point.

Courtney and I sitting by the Limmat River

Monday was an easy day as Courtney was still a little sleepy from her travels. After an afternoon nap and a quick shower we headed back into town to check out Zürich. Both of us had prepared for a week of celebrating with food and drink. We were equally prepared to (over)indulge in some of the best foods and spirits (though, I assure you, not to excess [Mom and Dad]). Court and I grabbed a kebab at my favorite joint in the Niederdorf and walked down the Limmat River taking in the charm of the city. The rest of the afternoon and evening was filled with delicious wine at the Jules Verne Panorama Bar, a yummy vegetarian (as if she is still doing that whole thing…) dinner at Hiltl, and drinks at Rimini. The latter is one of my favorite places to go and is normally a men’s bathhouse during the warmer days. At night it turns into a trendy hangout. As it’s become much cooler they covered the outdoor deck with a large canopy, rugs, old velvet couches, antique artifacts, and a startling amount of “stuffed” animals. It basically looks like the coolest, blast-from-the-past, grandparents home. EVER.

Mmmmm, liquid diet.

Tuesday was another relatively low-key day. We slept in, a far too infrequent indulgence for me, and generally lazed (yes, I made up that word) about the house. I rarely have the opportunity to hang at the house without the family there and enjoy some tranquility, so it was great to have a long breakfast without having to worry about anyone else. And if I wanted to watch episodes Sex and the City while I sipped my coffee, then so be it. After a lunch here in my village we made our way back to Zürich, but not without a little exercise first. Naturally we were running a bit late and really wanted to catch the train leaving at 40 past the hour. In order to make said train we had to run uphill. No way was I going to let Courtney get out of here without experiencing my almost-weekly routine of cutting it close. With the backpack (for Istanbul) shifting from side-to-side as I hauled my body uphill, Courtney and I skidded into the station just in time to buy a ticket and hop on the zug. Of course we had a shiny, glistening glow to accompany us all the way in. Once we arrived in town we headed to the Kunsthaus Museum to ponder art, basically get all cultured and stuff. Afterward it was more shopping and checking out some of my favorite spots. We then headed with Adam and my friend Andrew, who moved back to the States on Wednesday, to one of my favorite eateries, Lily’s. Asian noodles coated our bellies before we scooted over to Les Halles for a beer. Following with the pattern, this is one of my favorite bars; eclectic, warm, and best of all, cheap.

Wednesday we were Turkey bound! I was so excited to see Jill. I have really missed having her here and I was eager to catch up and hang out. Courtney and I wandered a little this day but the best part was going out for mezze that night for dinner. These are side dishes accompanied by a plentiful amount of bread. Yum yum yum.

The Istaklal, a crazy-busy street in Istanbul

Courtney and I at our first dinner in Istanbul

Fooooooood. A man at a nearby table asked if I was American, because who else would take pictures of their food?

Thursday we hit it hard. Despite the persistent rain and modicum of confusion with the public transport, we arrived in the Old Town to check out some historic sites. We started at the Blue Mosque, which was my first mosque experience. After removing our shoes we headed inside to check out this magnificent structure. The inside tiles are simply stunning, as is the hovering dome. The low-hanging lights create a warm interior and the overall effect is that of a serene place of worship. We crossed the outdoor gardens to AyaSofya, another impressive and mind-numbingly stunning sight. The inside is positively massive, filled with domes and arches. The varying tile and mosaic work is incredible, as are the giant screens of Qu’ran scripture. I was so impressed with this house of prayer that once was a church and then later became a mosque. We needed a quick bite before heading to the Topkapi Palace and decided on Turkish k. These aren’t like the scrumptous wraps found here, but the place we stumbled upon had fantastic fare. After stuffing ourselves silly we went to the Palace. Again, a place rife with history we walked around the palace grounds and enjoyed delving into a past neither of us were familiar with. The Harem, the relics (including the supposed staff of Moses and skull of John the Baptist) and the jewels were impressive. That night we went to dinner with Jill and called it a relatively early evening as we had another day of running around.

The Blue Mosque

Courtney and I in AyaSofya

Courtney doing her Turkey thing in front of the Blue Mosque

Inside the Harem at Topkapi Palace

Friday was again soaked with rain, but that didn’t stop us from getting out and exploring. We headed to the Grand Bazaar to see what kind of booty we could come home with. After several bouts of bartering, Courtney and I managed to acquire scarves, sunglasses, a pair of slippers, and a pillow case (the last one’s weird I know, but I just want to be prepared for my future sofa). A tiring shopping trip like that led us to our next destination, a Hamam, or Turkish bath. While a little unusual, it was a cultural experience I wanted to try. After shedding our clothes we made our way to the bath. Here we were “taken care of” by the staff. After a little time laying on a marble slab in a sauna-like room we were prepared to be massaged. A lovely (read: gruff), young (read: old as sin), woman (maybe in a former life?) ordered us around as she scrubbed and soaped our bodies. Dead skin and grime were removed before we were allowed to soak in a hot tub. You can then lay around in the lounge, pass out on a couch, and spend as much time relaxing as you wish. Overall, I’m glad for the experience, but wish it would have been a little more authentic. This hamam catered to tourists and it was evident in their care. Next stop: ASIA! Court and I hopped on a ferry and crossed over to the Asian side. Here, we had our most inauthentic meal, consisting of a cheeseburger, fries, and (sort-of) durum kebab. As we headed back to the ferries I was hit by the overwhelming incredibility of the city. With the call to prayer ringing out over the speakers several times throughout the day combined with the low clouds and rain, the city took on a haunted feel that was like nothing I had experienced before. We cruised back to the European side and got ready at Jill’s apartment for a night on the town!

Courtney jumping into Asia!

Turkish coffee

Jumping back on the ferry to Europe

We needed to look our best before hitting the streets so we went to Babyface, a salon the girls frequent, to get our hair did. We all got a blow-out, in which they simply wash your hair and blow dry it, a procedure that can go for an absurd amount of money, but here cost only about $7. Never in my life has my hair been so glossy and shiny; it was basically a reflective surface. With the humidity and rain during the week my hair was getting to be so big it could have used it’s own seat on an airplane. Now, though, it looked pageant-worthy, without the Texas-size volume. One step outside, however, and the ends quickly started curling and Courtney and I were sporting a Brady family look. Our group of five then headed to dinner and out for a few drinks. At least it started out as harmless as that. Somehow there managed to be a couple altercations with some locals, which are harmless enough so I won’t even get into them, as well as several drinks at a bar, which made for an extremely late night-early morning combination. Court and I got about 1 hour of sleep before it was time to make our way back to Switzerland. Perhaps the roughest plane journey I have ever taken.

Jillatinous and Switter! Reunited with our glossy "Babyface" hair

Saturday required a nap. After a snooze we packed up and made our way back into town. Courtney, Adam, Nick, and I went to dinner at Zeughauskeller for a traditional (i.e., heavy, and nap-inducing) meal. It was so, so good, though. Plus, I felt Courtney needed to have a proper Swiss meal. A couple of drinks at La Stanza, and we were ready to call it a night.

Sunday we had to head to the airport and say our “See you later’s.” I was certainly sad to see her go, but saved my tears for when she had already gone through security. The week flew by, as I knew it would, since I was looking forward to it so much. But, it’s only two short months until I go home, and there’s quite a bit for me to look forward to in these final weeks.

Courtney Lynn, I had such a great time. Thanks for making this one of my very favorite weeks here!