Sunday, October 7, 2007

October 6-7

The last remnants of summer are fading away. The trees are changing colors and the evenings are becoming cooler. I've always loved the smell of autumn. Something about the earthy aroma is very comforting to me. It's grape and pear season now, so I've been buying them often at the grocery store. I've also many new stands popping up to sell roasted chestnuts. It makes me miss the smell of Bavarian roasted almonds in shopping malls. I've always associated that smell with Christmas shopping.
Yesterday, I took my first trip in Europe that I had planned myself. I decided that I wanted to go to Rhine Falls before it started to get too cold, so I just went. Rhine Falls is the largest plain waterfall in Europe. It is near the small town of Schaffhausen in the Swiss-German part, not too far from Zurich. I invited a couple friends and the three of us headed out early in the morning. We arrived in Schaffhausen around 11 am, and hiked 3 km to Scholss Laufen, a castle on a cliff above the falls. We had brought sandwiches and ate together outside the castle. The walk along the river through the trees in their fall glory was very pleasant.
The Rhine Falls are not very tall but quite wide. For one Franc, spectators could get very close to the falls. It was amazing. The shear amount of energy stored in that water was breathtaking. I was also amazed at the fact that the turbulence in the water seemed to subside shortly after the falls. The water not too far downstream seemed quite placid in comparison to the falls. Rainbows could be seen in the spray. There was also a lookout in the middle of the river, that could be reached by tour boats. We opted not to take the boat.
After taking a great many pictures, we took a train to Winterthur. This train was small, more like a metro. At Winterthur we got on a larger train to go to Zurich. It was actually a double-decker train, and we sat on the upper deck.
When we arrived in Zurich, we really had no real plans, which I was surprisingly comfortable with. We had a few suggestions from guide books and other travelers, and a few vague ideas about what we wanted to see, but for the most part we just went exploring. We did not have a map outside of my travel guide, and this was not a particularly great map. We searched in several of the train stations, but never did succeed in finding a free map of Zurich. One of my travelling companions tried taking a picture of a map on the wall, and using his camera to zoom in as we were searching for places, but this was not particularly useful.
In Zurich we visited two churches, Grossmunster and Fraumunster. At Grossmunster, a cathedral, we paid 2 francs to climb the 188 stairs to the tower. The view was amazing; we could see the whole city. Zurich is much flatter than Lausanne, so I think this might have been the highest point in the city.
Fraumunster was just across the river from Grossmunster. In my opinion Fraumunster was the more beautiful of the two. There was a smaller room attached to the main sanctuary that looked like it might be a chapel of sorts for smaller ceremonies. New stained-glass windows were recently put into this room, but photography was not allowed. The windows were beautiful. They were quite a different style than the stained-glass windows that I'm used to. The sections were less defined, and the colors blended together more. They made me think of a watercolor painting made of glass. The ceiling in this room was also beautiful. It was very high and painted white with colored stars. It sounds tacky, but it was actually very beautiful.
After visiting the churches, we went in search of some interesting streets we had read about. One was defined as "Tacky" and the other as "Funky." The tacky street sure was tacky, but also very fun. It reminded me a lot of State Street in Madison, WI. There were many kebabs and other cheap food stands, as well as bookstores, a world market, and other fun holes in the walls. I was mildly disappointed in the funky street. There wasn't a lot of action, but it was 6:00 in the evening. I think if we had been there later, or not on a Sunday, there would have been a bit more action.
After eating calzones at a snack stand, the three of us found the train station and headed back home. It was a very fun day, and it was great to get to know a couple people better, but I sure was tired when I got home. I promptly kicked off my boots, drank some water, brushed my teeth, and headed to bed.

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