Day 1: Pittsburgh (PIT) ─ Paris (CDG) ─ Zurich (ZRH)
Day 2: Conference. Lake Zurich boat tour.
Day 3: Conference. Dolderbahn.
Day 4: Conference
Day 5: Geneva
Day 6: Fly back to Pittsburgh
I was lucky to have this opportunity of visiting Zurich pretty much for free. I am not sure if I would ever come here if it were not for a free trip. It’s a city that’s not so tempting to me and yet very expensive.
Due to the conference and trip schedule, I didn’t get much time to explore the city or take many pictures. A two-day stay is probably enough for exploring most highlights the city has to offer. With limited time and budget, one day would allow you to cover the most important spots. The downtown area is small and very walkable.
The common spoken language in Zurich is Swiss German and the official language is standard German. English and French are also widely spoken.
Pricey City 傻眼的物價
Fiends and travel guides warned me about Zurich being the most expensive city in the world. And yet my eyes still widened at times when I saw the total of a dinner bill or a price tag of some sandwich in a fridge of a supermarket. When I made this trip, the exchange rate between Swiss Franc and USD was about 1:1.2. Things would still seem pricey to me if those numbers were in U.S. dollars instead of Swiss Franc. A simple dinner of one sausage and some hash brown without any drink is not worth 20 dollars.
An American expat told us that locals often do their grocery shopping on weekends in France or Germany to stock up discount groceries. The steep discounts are apparently worth the drive.
Impressive Public Transportation 十分優秀的大眾運輸
這一趟最印象深刻的大概是瑞士的大眾運輸。蘇黎世的大眾交通運輸系統叫ZVV (Zürcher Verkehrsverbund, Zürich transportation network)，包括公車、電車、纜車、船和輕軌電車，我們搭到的幾路輕軌電車都十分乾淨，電車廣播會告訴你即將到站的站名和下一站，車上的小螢幕除了顯示接下來的幾站之外，還會告訴你大概的車程以及每一站可以轉程的其他公車或電車，如果知道目的地和大概的時間，只要不恍神，要迷路還蠻難的。
We all have a six-day all-in-one Swiss Pass so I didn’t look into tickets and pricing of the public transportation here. My Swiss Pass included a start day, last day and a serial number. I had to sign and filled out my name, country of residence, and passport number. The fine print at the bottom said “only valid with your passport” but you don’t need to show your passport just to take a bus. Maybe they randomly check on a cross-country train?
Swiss Pass is an all-in-one pass that allows you to take all kinds of transportation from a bus to a boat. It also includes free admission to 470 museums in Switzerland. More information and other types of tickets, such as a family pass and a Swiss card, can be found on Swiss Travel System’s website. Their ticketfinder can help you decide which type of ticket to get.
The best way to get from the airport to your hotel is probably taking a train and then transferring to a bus or a trolleybus. Supposedly taxi is very expensive. The starting price is 6 CHF. From the airport to our hotel–a less than 20 minutes, about 11 km ride–would cost about 40 CHF.
To me the most impressive part about this trip was the incredibly convenient and punctual public transportation. The public transportation system in Zurich is called ZVV (Zürcher Verkehrsverbund, Zürich transportation network.) ZVV includes buses, trolleybuses, trams, boats and cable cars. On a trolleybus, its broadcasting and small screens tell you what the following stops are and what’s more, approximate travel time between two stops. They also tell you buses or trolleybuses that are available for transfer at each stop. It’s pretty hard to get lost.
瑞士人理論上很守時，這一趟搭公車火車的經驗完全沒有挑戰這個刻板印象，電車真的蠻準時，去日內瓦的這天，火車也十分準時。當瑞士人自己在網站說Swiss Travel System是 “Regular, reliable timetables with coordinated connections linking more than 150 public transport services”，真的沒在騙人。
Conference participants signed up for a day trip to different places in Switzerland. Most of the tours started at the main train station. A girl in our group wanted to go meet up with her friends after the tour and then get back to Zurich on her own. To be safe, she wanted to check the timetable so that she can plan ahead. She walked to the information desk and explained her situation to this woman. The information desk told her to catch any train that heads to this direction. Apparently they weren’t on the same page. Finally the information desk staffer was like, all right, let me check, 5:05, 5:25, 5:45… The train comes every 20 minutes. No wonder the information desk lady was confused when my friend wanted to know the exact times. She was right. Just go to the platform and wait. This cross-country train comes more often than most of the Pittsburgh buses and some of the buses in Taipei. And these trains are probably never late.
The Swiss Travel System said on their website that they offer “regular, reliable timetables with coordinated connections linking more than 150 public transport services.” I have no doubt about that statement at all.
我們住的飯店是Crown Plaza Zurich，在市中心的西北邊，一個晚上大概要將近兩百瑞士法郎，房間超級小，兩張床快要併在一起，下床跨一步就是霧面玻璃門的廁所，還好我跟同房剛認識的同團美國女生變好朋友，不然這麼小的房間真的很尷尬。
We stayed in Crown Plaza Zurich, which is located in the Northwest of downtown Zurich. The hotel was included in the conference registration fee. I didn’t know how much it cost. A night at the Crown Plaza Zurich is close to 200 CHF.
Our room was tiny. The two beds were so close that my roommate and I practically slept together. A bathroom was about one step away from that bed on the right. Luckily my roommate–whom I just met–and I became really good friends. Otherwise it would have been really awkward staying together for five nights in a tiny room with a bathroom whose glass door never fully shuts.
The breakfast at Crown Plaza offered a great variety and was pretty good. After we found out that the conference never prepared enough food to feed more than 1,000 people, I gorged on breakfast every morning.
- Zurich Highlights: One Area, One Street, and Three Churches
- Zurich: Lake Zurich
- Zurich: Dolderbahn and Adlisberg Hill
- Zurich Delicacies: Luxemburgerli and Chocolate
- Zurich: Fondue and Rösti