Monday, July 26, 2010

Weekend in Switzerland

This past weekend, I went to Switzerland to visit my cousin in Luzern. Despite the colder weather (air conditioning compared to Spain), it was an amazing trip and definitely one of the coolest things that I have been able to do all summer. Right after getting off the train from the Zurich airport (flughafen) to Luzern, we headed over to one of the town's hang-out places, the Black Sheep. It is especially packed on Thursday nights because of their 2 for 1 special. The music was a good mix of European, German, and American dance songs, but also included one Arash song.

On Friday, 23 July, the Blue Balls music festival began. Music groups from all over the world come to Luzern to perform and although you need extra tickets to get to the really cool people like James Morrison, 15 CHF (about $15 USD) will get you entrance to the Schweizerhof Hotel's concert hall and ferrying across Lake Luzern from one concert hot-spot to the other. Friday night, at the orange Pavilion built in 1908, a Belgian group called Selah Sue played - they were pretty good and Sue was only 21 years old. After this concert, we went over to the Schweizerhof to see a funk band called Juan Rozoff play. They were pretty good and the concert hall in the hotel is about 100-120 years old too.
We had more time on Saturday to visit the town of Luzern. We walked by the lake into the town to see the Panorama, painted within four months in1881 about the Franco-Prussian war and the troops from the armies as they passed through Switzerland. It places the viewer in the center of the 10-meter high painting and uses props and set pieces coming out of the painting, giving it a 3D feeling. Because there are also background sounds, it really places the viewer in the middle of the scene and is pretty impressive. The tickets for the Panorama and the Glacier Park can be combined so after the Panorama, we walked through part of the Old City and went to the Glacier Park. The Park has a lot of really interesting rock formations made by the glaciers. There are also very cool gardens with a tower and view of Luzern as well as a house of mirrors modeled after a section of La Alhambra in Spain.

From the gardens, the statue of the dying lion in the cliff is visible. The lion has a spear sticking out of his side as he lays down on a shield depicting the fleur-de-lis of the French monarchy. Behind him, there is a Swiss shield, too. The statue is a memorial to the approximately 750 Swiss Guards that died during the French Revolution. It's another very impressive piece of art in Luzern. After this area of Luzern, we made our way across the old wooden bridges for which the canton is known to go to the wall surrounding the old part of the city. Given that I like to climb every single watchtower available, we climbed all the way to the top of this watchtower in the Alps. The view was amazing. Additionally, the Swiss Air Force was doing an airshow and given the close proximity of their base to Luzern, we got an awesome view of the fighter planes from the tower. The old city has also preserved many of the buildings there for centuries. In one plaza, old slaughterhouses with intricately painted facades still stand. Bay windows on building around this time were also a symbol of wealth.

Before heading out to more concerts at Schweizerhof, we went to this really cool lounge on the top floor of a building with a flat roof that extended straight out over the plaza by the lake. The roof is even flexible so that it can bend about 25 centimeters on each side. After taking break here looking out at the lake, we headed back to the apartment to make a good Persian meal (morghe-za'afron va polo) and play a game of billiards while the rice was cooking. It was the first time in about 3 months that I have had tadigh (the "bottom of the pot," the best part of the cooked rice). After dinner, we met up with my cousin's friends, hung out for a while, then the group of us headed back by the lake over to the Schweizerhof. That night, there was a rock band playing (I think named Sorgente, but not sure). They had a good, strong rock sound and the concert hall was even more crowded than the first night. When their show ended, the group of us went over to Roadhouse, another popular hang-out spot for the younger people in Luzern. It was a lot of fun with a pretty good mix of music from the 1950s/1960s USA rock music to modern European and American dance/pop hits.

Unfortunately, the Study Abroad office thinks that missing days/weeks of work and class is a bad thing so even though I did not want to leave Switzerland, I returned to Madrid on Sunday, taking the scenic train ride from Luzern back to the Zurich airport. While waiting for the flight, one elderly Spanish man started speaking with me (en español, por supuesto) and told me that I already knew Spanish well enough and asked why I wanted to learn more. He also asked me if I knew that Obama had Swiss ancestry and how great Obama is. Despite the short time that I was in Luzern, it was one of the coolest things that I have been able to do this summer and I would love to go back.


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