WILDTHG TRAVEL

Why Zürich is totally underrated

by , on
Oct 8, 2018

When I visited Zürich two years ago from my base in Germany, I can’t say I was all that impressed with the city. Perhaps it was the rainy, cold gloom that had descended across all of Europe at that time, or the fact that when we went bar and restaurant hunting in the rather quiet and old neighborhood we were staying in, we were greeted with a lot of “closed” signs.

Fast forward two years, when I am calling Zürich home for a few months… and I really only have good things to say about this city! I have been here for a few weeks now and this place is nothing short of lovely. Here are are few things that I have enjoyed most about Zürich, and reasons it should have a spot on your Eurotrip list.

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Swiss people are friendly. 

Whether you are stopping to ask directions or purchase a Laugenbrötchen from a local bakery, you will find that in general, Swiss people are cute, friendly and overall cuddly – interacting with them is pleasant and you may just want to adopt some of them as your temporary grandparents. As with many European cities, I would say the English level is generally strong, but if you know a few words of German (Hochdeutsch is fine!), they will love you for trying.

It is very Instagrammable.

AKA, the modern way of saying it is simply a gorgeous city with lots of very aesthetically pleasing spots. Photographers love it, but even if you aren’t part of the Instagram game and don’t care to be, there are numerous spots around the city to enjoy a cup of coffee, glass of wine or good book with an absolutely stunning view.

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Altstadt walking into downtown, Zürich

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Amazing view of Zürich from Grossmünster Church tower 

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Sunrise on Bahnhofstrasse, downtown

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Early morning architecture strolls

There is a lot of nature.

The fact that downtown Zürich wraps around Lake Zürich automatically gives this city a very unique outdoorsy and water-based vibe. I love being around water and for those of you that miss beaches, oceans, rivers and lakes terribly when living in/visiting cities, Lake Zürich provides the perfect remedy. Swiss people have a strong reputation for loving the outdoors, which is evident by just how packed the waterfront is every evening, really rain or shine – but especially during the long sunny summer days and golden autumn evenings. Nature in Zürich isn’t only limited to the lakeside – there are many green parks throughout the city where you can go for a jog, do some yoga, or again park yourself on a bench with your journal or a good book.

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There are tons of swans in Lake Zürich at all times – if you want to see them up close, it is easy to get a big gathering if you throw them bits of bread from the shore! 

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Boats docked at golden hour

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Evening walks along the waterfront are one of my favorite parts about living in Zürich

It is an easy walking city.

 

Even though the city is relatively well-connected by public transport including trams and buses, walking throughout the city and from place to place (even if you have somewhere to be) is both convenient and pleasant. I have simply walked from my home to the Central Station several times, even though it takes 30-45 minutes, simply because it is such a nice walk! Pedestrians always have the right away on crosswalks and drivers are cognizant and courteous to let you cross. When the weather is nice, tons of people have the same idea, and you see more people walking or on bikes than on public transport.

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The food is delicious. 

While Swiss food is excellent (hello?!, land of CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE!!!), there are so many options if you’re not into more traditional German-esque fare (think sausage, spätzle, bread, cheese, etc.). Zürich offers quite a range of international cuisines and there are many hip restaurants downtown and slightly on the outskirts that seem to be open on weekends (even Sundays) and late into the evening. Even casual restaurants serve mouth-watering food; aka, you don’t have to worry about going hungry in this city, and you will likely love what you eat – it comes at a price though, so be prepared to spend a little more than you likely would at home. Plus, there are COOP, Migros and Denner stores all over the place that sell lovely fresh fruits, veggies, fresh bread and healthy pre-made meals (salads, etc.), fresh bakeries everywhere, and most importantly, LINDT is the mainstream chocolate option… it only gets BETTER from there *drool*. Don’t plan to go on a diet when you visit Zürich.

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Fresh salad, Mamarita pizza & wine at STRIPPED PIZZA

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If you are a Joe & The Juice lover (like me), you’ll be happy to find several locations downtown Zürich! 

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Gruyere is life, but there are so many more options… a beautiful breakfast assortment of cheeses from the Alps

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There is a lot to do.

If you get tired of long walks by the lakeside (or if the weather prevents these), there are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained during your time in Zürich. In my case, such activities revolve heavily around EATING, but there are many cultural and social things to keep you busy as well! Here are some favorite must-do’s:

  • Opera House/Theater – There are usually several shows going on throughout the season and if you are a culture-buff, you may enjoy catching one during your time in Zürich! See showtimes and book tickets here.
  • Take a boat ride on the Limmat – this website explains dates and times when you can take a cruise along the river and admire the buildings of the Altstadt, then continue onto the lake.
  • Relax your tired muscles in a thermal spa – Thermalbad & Spa Zürich (which was converted to a spa from an old brewery!) offers lovely hot baths and terrific views of the city; what else could we want?!
  • Go upwards for a bird’s eye view of Zürich – The most famous lookout spot for the best view of Zürich is the Felsenegg Peak, which can be reached by an equally aesthetic cable car ride. For great views of this beautiful city that don’t require as much of a trip or time commitment, you can simply climb to the top of Grossmünster Church (Karlsturm) (for 5 CHF per adult, 2 CHF for youth/children). The windows inside are also incredible (they are designed by German artist Sigmar Polke, who sliced semi-precious stones and put them together to form stunning stained glass-looking patterns) – unfortunately, photos are NOT allowed (and there is usually someone standing by to sternly remind unaware tourists of this rule), but the church sells postcards with beautiful professional photos of the windows for those interested. 
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    Views of Zürich from balconies atop Grossmünster Church

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    A fine sunny day in Zürich from Grossmünster tower

Have you been to Zürich? Let me know some of the reasons you enjoyed this city in the comments below!

How to ride the steepest funicular in all of Europe – Gelmerbahn

by , on
Oct 7, 2018

Set deep in the beautiful green canton of Bern, Switzerland, a little red train car chugs its way up and down a treacherously steep track – adventurous hikers can have the ride (and views!) of a lifetime on the one and only Gelmer Funicular (Gelmerbahn).

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The funicular was originally built in the 1920s to haul heavy materials and equipment up to the top of the mountain for the construction of the Gelmersee reservoir and dam. Now, the car shuttles 24 people each time, approximately 30 times per day, with the first ride up at 9:00AM and the last one down around 4:00PM (see the official schedule and book tickets here). The Gelmerbahn only runs in summer/autumn months, usually late May-late October.

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Alpine rail track

The ride takes 8-10 minutes one way (so the videos you have seen on Instagram making the ride look like an insanely fast rollercoaster are on hyper-speed!), and you have plenty of time to enjoy the breathtaking views of the valley and mountains. There is only a drop-down bar (think Ferris wheel style) to keep passengers safe, but the car neither jolts, tilts, nor goes fast enough to worry about safety.

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Once you reach the top, it is an absolute must to hike around the gorgeous turquoise lake (Gelmersee). This must be the Swiss-Banff equivalent; I swear, I have never seen water of such a stunning color. The hike around the lake takes approximately 2 hours, though if you are in the habit of pausing frequently or taking 23720 pictures (like me), you may want to allow yourself significant extra time, as this is not a place that you want to feel rushed. IMG_1293.JPG

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Some important facts and tips for your Gelmerbahn trip:

  • Book ahead of time; as there are only 24 seats available, each ride time fills quickly (arrive 15 min before ride time to exchange online tickets in office)
  • Plan as well as you can for how much time you would like to have at the top, hiking around the lake, etc. because you must stick to your pre-purchased ticket times; no exchanges
  • Bring layers, snacks, sturdy footwear, cameras
  • Hike around the entire lake takes 2+ hours; allow extra time for photos and picnic (I recommend going up for at least 4 hours if this is your type of thing and you love nature walks/being around beautiful lakes, and the weather is supposed to be decent)
  • Mornings=fewer tourists

How to get there:

By foot: if you are staying at the closely Handeck Hotel/Naturresort, you will only need to walk 5-10 min, either down the road, or over the hanging bridge (much more fun option) to get to the lower terminal of Gelmerbahn.

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By car: there is a parking lot out in the grass/meadow just down the road from the Gelmerbahn (follow signs)

By public transport: 5 min walk from nearby bus station Handegg, Gelmerbahn

EATING BRISBANE – Foodie Hotspots of Brisvegas

by , on
Feb 9, 2017

It’s a hot hot summer here in Brizzy and I’ve been roaming in search of even hotter eats. Tourist, yes-absolutely, but I’m not just settling for any fish n’ chips, people. I’ve done the research and tried the tucker around Brisvegas, and am bringing to you some of my faves. Whether you’re in search of a quick coffee, nice dinner or just to satisfy your sweet tooth, this list is a good place to start.

 

HARAJUKU GYOZA

If you are looking for a (slightly crazy) yum and fun restaurant where you can eat “little bundles of happy” (the famous gyoza), Harajuku is your spot. Modeled after a traditional Izakaya (old skool Japanese bar with food), Harajuku incorporates all things yum, fun, and happiness. The wait staff greets you with an enthusiastically happy greeting (war-cry?), and you will hear it if someone is having a birthday… so will the neighbors. Big appetite? No worries, as they say at Harajuku, if you are like the Japanese salaryman with “appetite big like Godzilla,” you are invited to order again and again, and share with a friend. J

Insider’s tip: all the gyoza are actually delicious- the lemongrass chicken is particularly flavorful, and you MUST, I repeat must, try the NUTELLA gyoza with vanilla ice cream. Whoever invented hot Nutella wrapped in dough is my hero.

 

ESPRESSO GARAGE

Sure, Brizzy isn’t quite as coffee-obsessed as Melbourne, but it does take its joe seriously. Aptly named Espresso Garage is a rustic hole in the wall serving up a variety of delicious coffees; a great place for your morning caffeine fix, and while there’s no room for seating inside, they have plenty of tables outside to relax and enjoy a snack. A plus: the food options, ranging from buttered raisin toast to “The Big Breakfast,” are oh so slightly-more reasonably-priced than what seems to be the typical for Aussie cities, so you’re not leaving with a hole in the wallet. EG is right in the heart of South Bank, nestled in between the vibrant and quaint Stanley Market and Little Stanley streets, and a 5 min walk from the South Bank boardwalk along the river.

Insider’s tip: (applicable to all Aussie coffee stop-offs)- if you order an “ice(d) coffee,” don’t go thinking pike place on ice; there is a 90% chance you’ll wind up with a dollop of ice cream in your joe. If you want to avoid this, just add “without ice cream, please” to your order – to be sure because hey, ya just never do know.

 

 

EDEN GARDEN INDIAN CUISINE

If you happen to be craving Indian and you are nearby South Bank, look no further than Eden Garden. I found this place by a rather circumstantial google search, and though there are many Indian restaurants throughout the CBD and even several in close proximity to Eden Garden, it was rated with the most stars, and the food was true to the ratings. Boasting delicious traditional “home cooked” style food, this place claims the “best naan in town” (they surely must have the most flavor options), and to top off the experience, is themed in a fun cricket décor, with cricket balls wedged into one entire wall of the restaurant.

Insider’s tip: try the veggie ‘chaat’ samosas, and the garlic naan!

 

POPOLO

This chic and fun Italian restaurant with a view of the Brisbane river lives up to its name; “Popolo” means people, and this place is all about friends, good food, and good vibes. A mix of indoor and outdoor seating creates a warm and friendly vibe, and creatively delicious Italian fare tops off a pleasant evening. Though an excellent place for people to come together, it is cozy to visit as a solo traveler and diner, and you will feel completely at ease. The menu strikes a balance between innovation and “the good stuff” that you know and love, and expect to find on a vaguely Italian menu.

Insider’s tip: for a simple dose of goodness, try the pumpkin ravioli!

 

DOUGHNUT TIME

Whether to stuff something sweet in the mouth of a whining toddler, impress a tinder date, post to your snap story or simply revel in the magical sugary overload that is Doughnut Time, this place is sweeping Oz – and it may not be a coincidence that they are serving up some of the easily most instagrammable bundles of sugar (and joy) in the nation (world?) Where do I even begin- there’s too much goodness here and in an effort to not get carried away, let’s stick to the basics. Amazing doughnuts, covered in deliciousness, with even more craziness materializing in the form of oreos, crumbles, sprinkles, M&Ms and other goodies atop these little monsters. You could probably close your eyes and play doughnut roulette and still walk away with a grin on your face. Don’t forget, D.T. does milkshakes as well! Sadly, I was informed that they stopped topping their shakes with mini doughnuts (sniff), but they still load them up with an excessive amount of sugary fun to get you through whatever it is prompted you to intentionally seek out that much sugar in the first place.

Insider’s tip: Don’t go too soon after dinner, so you can maybe order 2? … idk, you know the drill, people.

 

JIMMY’S ON THE MALL

If you get caught wandering Brisvegas well past sunset, or maybe even going for a late swim at Street Beach pools and you suddenly get hungry, what are you gonna do? Head on over to Jimmy’s on the Mall for your late night (or even early morning!) fix. I am actually not too well versed in the late night eats scene of Brisbane, but I was personally struggling to find a place to eat dinner one evening after I was told by restaurant after restaurant that they had long closed their kitchens or were only open until 10:00PM. A few places keep their doors propped until midnight, sure, but Jimmy’s? OPEN 24 HOURS!! This is no haphazard solution to your Thursday night drunchies, though; Jimmy’s is a lovely two story stand-alone restaurant in the middle of the Queen St. Mall, close to the heart of Brisbane’s CBD. Think comfort food, with a short but sweet menu offering a happy range of plain ol’ good tucker that will keep you happy and of course, save you from going to bed hungry!

 

So go on… start munching!!!

FRENCH FAIRYTALES – TOWNS IN FRANCE YOU MAY NOT HAVE EVEN HEARD OF… BUT NEED TO VISIT RIGHT NOW

by , on
Dec 25, 2016

While a trip to Paris is (understandably) on everyone’s travel and/or life bucket list, there are so many places in France to be explored that are far off the beaten path. Some of these are along the border between France and Germany, resulting in an interesting pattern of signage and nomenclature, for one thing, and a bit of confusion as to what language we should be speaking, on the part of local and tourist alike.

 

STRASBOURG

        

The capital of the Alsace region, Strasbourg is a must-see for all those traveling along the French-German border. Strasbourg retains an air of quaintness, while not being too small. You can explore this lovely city by foot (my preference,) by bike or even by river boat! There are many beautiful sights to see and/or photograph while exploring Strasbourg, so prepare to be inspired by its beauty. Plenty of shops are scattered throughout the city center, but the best area to explore if you only have a bit of time is La Petite France. Something you must see, but will also likely not miss, is Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg; this enormous 15th century cathedral towers above the central square, and offers an impressive view to those lucky enough to dine outside in the sunshine. A brief walk will take you to the Barrage Vauban, which is a dam built in the 17th century as a defensive work to protect the city, but now provides a perfectly-situated bridge, from which to enjoy a fantastic view of the city.

 

To stay: Mercure Hotel, La Petite France- situated in between the central train station and central Strasbourg, the hotel is convenient, easily reachable and a short walk from all the fun things J Breakfast is yummy as well, so if you wake up hungry and don’t feel like wandering yet, it is worth getting there, before (or after) your complementary welcome drink; I recommend trying the house made wine from the Alsace region.

 

To eat: Hotel Rohan – one of many lovely locales next to the cathedral, this boutique hotel fulfills most expectation of the term, with quirky décor and a similarly eclectic menu, of course combining French and German influences; one thing you will see repeatedly on most menus in the Alsace region is the Tarte Flambeé, an Alsacian/South German specialty that traditionally involves thinly-rolled dough, crème fraiche or fromage blanc and various toppings- to my confused American et. al friends, think along the lines of thin-crust pizza, or even flatbread, with 10X the deliciousness. I tried the warm goat cheese Tarte (with bacon and honey, if I remember correctly- amazing).

Jeff de Bruges- yes, it is Belgian. Yes, the chocolate is to die for. Stop by Jeff’s to create your own sample baggie from a delectable selection of gorgeously-handcrafted chocolates, or purchase a colorful, delicious souvenir for a loved one!

Le Kuhn- Playfully mixing French and German (already in its name!), this restaurant is nice for dinner, and again, conveniently close by. Here you will find the opportunity to sample from a variety of traditional Alsatian specialties, from meat, sauerkraut and potatoes, to Schnitzels, salads, and of course the beloved Tarte Flambeé.

 

COLMAR

   

I would have to say this is a place inevitably defined by an air of romance- Colmar feels small and can easily be explored by foot. While walking hand in hand with a loved one along the colorful, picturesque streets or even taking a boat ride along the river seems indeed quite popular, this is not to discourage the solo traveler! Grab an ice cream and your camera, and simply enjoy the feel of this cozy little town, which is indeed a welcome reprieve from some of the busier stops along your European travels. Tourist shops featuring trinkets from the Alsace region conceal themselves modestly amongst snack shops in bright yellow, pink and blue buildings, which I indeed unapologetically claimed as a photoshoot background- how could you not. If you only see ONE thing in Colmar, please make sure it is Rue de Poissonnerie in La Petite Venise- this is the insanely colorful and cute street, straight out of every fairytale that matters. If you can tear yourself away from this cuteness, go see Église Saint-Martin (St. Martin’s Church), a remarkable Gothic monument in the center of town. Everyone was very friendly in Colmar, but kept to themselves; many of course were tourists as well, but most coming only from as far away as Germany. I loved the vibe of Colmar, and while there is not an extensive amount of activities available, it is a perfect place to go for a few days to just relax and enjoy its effortless beauty and charm.

 

To stay: Romantik Hotel Le Maréchal – On Lauch river in the Petite Venise neighborhood of Colmar, this elegant hotel built in 1565 is only a 12 minute walk from Gare de Colmar train station. Again, perhaps this seems like a romantic snuggle haven for couples, and while it indeed does serve this purpose, it can also be an excellent getaway for the solo traveler looking to experience the antique side of Colmar. I would highly recommend the breakfast at this hotel; while it is not one of the cheapest, it serves a delightful variety of local favorites, specialties, along with coffees and champagnes to keep even the least of morning people happy.

 

To eat: Walk into the city center towards St. Martin’s Church and sit down at any of the cozy brasseries and restaurants, all offering delicious Alsatian favorites; I tried the Roesti dish at a Brasserie in central Colmar- this is a delicious dish with mixed meats, cheeses, onions and other things mixed and baked together and served in a hot iron skillet. After dinner, enjoy an espresso and dessert at one of the cafés near the river as the sun sets, or on your way back for the evening.

 

EGUISHEIM

    

This place is straight out of snow-white, I swear. Cobblestone streets, colorful houses (almost every single house), flowers on flowers on flowers, birds singing, and hardly anyone to be seen, let alone annoying tourists (am I an annoying tourist?… awkward.) Eguisheim is one of many small villages dotting the region of Alsace, near to Colmar; it just happens to be one of the best, however- certainly the prettiest, and if I haven’t yet convinced you of its charm, it is also one of the most famous places for winemaking in this region. 😉 Eguisheim is easily reachable from Colmar by car/taxi (about 10 min drive), and you can visit it for the perfect day trip; I was only there for a matter of hours, and even though I would have loved to stay longer, I already felt like I got to know a bit of this village’s lovely personality.

 

Favorite Wine-Tasting Venue: Joseph-Freudenreich – A bit smaller than some of the hyped-up wineries in Eguisheim, this venue is incredibly quaint and personal. Bring out your inner connoisseur to taste from a varied menu of locally made specialties, then sit in the sunshine surrounded by flowers and sip your carefully-selected Gewürztraminer or Pinot, even take some bottles home for an almost ridiculously-reasonable price.

To eat: Pop into any place along the narrow streets, they are all terribly precious and the food will be delicious, featuring local specialties! I chose a small restaurant with private terrace and (once again) had a warm goat cheese Tarte Flambeé, though with slightly different ingredients than some others I had tried.

 

I could have easily spent at least a week or two exploring many of the villages around Colmar, though don’t worry if you are a bit strapped for time- I visited all three of these destinations within a long weekend, and did not feel rushed. I cannot wait to go back!!