lunes, 18 de febrero de 2013


I arrived to Zurich from Luzern in one of those sharp as only a Swiss clock can be trains, after having spend one day in this city that everybody says is the most beautiful from Switzerland.

The truth is that it is nice, and I really had a great time there with Patrick and his friends that I met some month ago in one Summer night in here, but once again: it looks (and feel) more like a village than like a city. The good news is that, due to its size, Luzern is very easy to visit. And my time there felt more like a relaxed day with friends walking around a city that could be my own, tasting cheese in the local market, talking about nothing in special and visiting exhibitions in the KKL (the modern art museum designed by Jean Nouvel), than a touristic day. The night I arrived we even went to a concert in Sedel, a former women jail converted in concerts house in the 80’s. This place is where the youth rebellion used to go and, although it lost a bit of its idealism, it's still the club where mums apparently don't want to let their kids go. Good thing mine was far away in Portugal!!! But because she reads this blog, and for everyone’s sake, I must say: nowadays Sedel is a place where concerts from Ska to Britpop go on and the night I was there it was totally calm and totally fun. It is a bit far away from city center (and like trains and buses, caps in Switzerland aren’t cheap) but it is totally worth it.

Another high moment was crossing the Chapel Bridge, the oldest wood bridge in Europe. It was built in 14th century as a protection for the city, but unfortunately the bridge I crossed in November is not the original one, since the ancient one burned down on 18th August 1993. Nevertheless, the authorities rebuild it very fast and the tower, used as oubliette, is still the original one. It's very amusing walking over the Chapel Bridge not only for it’s historical meaning but also because you can see about 100 pictures of life in the 12th century city of Luzern, some of them showing how the city used to be; almost like a Venice in Central Europe!

Next time I will be in Luzern has also to be in Summer, not only to take a dip in the swimming pools (in Luzern they have very similar swimming pools to the ones in Zurich, although they’re less) or in the lake, but also to ascend Mount Pilatus, the mountain overlooking the city. Its peak can be reached by the world's steepest cogwheel railway from Alpnachstad (that doesn’t operate in wintertime) or by cable-car and everyone says this trip is definitely a must do and that it gives you a good impression of a wild and rocky peak with a marvelous view to the "real" Alps.  Suggestive, isn’t it?!

viernes, 15 de febrero de 2013

Walking in a Winter Wonderland (Part II)

But the real Winter Wonderland is, of course, Switzerland, where I was last November. The idea behind this quick escape was simple: I had some spare time, found cheap flights with Swiss Air from Madrid to Genève, didn’t know the country and had some friends in different cities which I meant to visit for quite a while so… off I went.

The first day was spent visiting Genève, the second Luzern, the third Zurich and the last day the… United Nations, that is actually in a spare category. During the next couple of days I’ll post the pictures from the different cities I visited, starting from Zurich not only because of the pressure the friends I visited there are making (guilty as charged!) but also because it was the coziest I ever felt in a winter landscape. Specially in the afternoon we went to Péclard. That really felt as a Winter Wonderland, with the hot chocolate, the Christmas carols and the love of my friends: Judith and Sandro. Guys, I apologize for having taken so long to post the pictures and I’m really looking forward to visit you in the Summer, to see the light and bright side of this Zurich and… go down the river as you promised we would!

The night I arrived was received with the tastiest Fondue ever!

Hummmm, how creamy!!! And, as you can see by the picture above, served in the traditional way: with bread, pickles, little cherry tomatoes and corn cobs, white wine, tea and starch, to avoid the cheese from becoming thick.

The next morning, before we started trudging the city, we went to check the view from terrace of Judith and Sandro’s building. Amazing, almost 360º over Zurich, and what an amazing place to sunbath and to make barbecues in the Summer. Even if they didn’t promise me that we will swim down the river, just seeing this terrace and imagining the possibilities that it hides would already convinced to come back in a couple of months, when the weather will be better. 

What you see at the distance, looking almost like a greenhouse, is actually a swimming pool. Apparently Zurich is the city with more swimming pools in the entire world. These swimming pools are directly in the lake and in the river and when people dive, they’re actually diving into the lake or river. Nevertheless, due to the whole wooden structure they can also sunbath calmly and save their stuff in the specific dress rooms and… during the night, they can party in there. At night millions of light bulbs create the coolest environment to have some drinks and chat with your friends, while you have your feet inside the lake/river water. 

At one side the lake, at the other the river… and us in the middle!

Despite being the largest city in Switzerland, home of several important banks and companies, Zurich still has that little town charm. Especially during Christmas time. 

Inside Péclard. Next time you’ll be in Zurich take my advice and DON’T MISS IT. Apart from the fact that it is beautiful, one of those coffee shops from the old times, it has a huge variety of chocolates, cakes, teas and pastries and they’re all delicious. I must confess that I’m not a chocolate person, but being in Switzerland and not having chocolates seemed like a crime. So, when Judith and Sandro took me to Péclard, I decided to stop counting the calories of everything and taste it all with no regards nor regrets!

While we were waiting for our afternoon snack… Trying with my LOMO fish eye lens and the golden balls from the Christmas Tree that was next to us!

And now with Sandro as well…

Although Zurich is not a “tall” city (it barely has skyscrapers, nor a lot of buildings with towers), its tallest and older buildings are all together, almost if they were competing  (like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building). 

Oh boy, the sun goes down early in this part of Europe. Especially during this time of the year!

But I think that Zurich looks even more beautiful with all the little lights on. 

Mafie being silly in Zurich!

And Sandro and Judith also being silly in Zurich! 

There’s a bar on the top of that tower. But that isn’t the most interesting view from Zurich. The most interesting is the one we saw from the restaurant/bar/lounge of the Prime Tower, an office building that also houses a hotel and a privileged food and drink’s area on its 35th floor!

Do you want to guess what this is?!

I’ll let you know because I’m sure you’ll never ever guess it right. It is a Police Station! Cool, ahn?! 

The tram railways and the Hauptbahnhof at the distance. I loved the means of transportation in Zurich. Actually not only in Zurich! From Genève to Luzern, from Luzern to Zurich and from Zurich back to Genève I traveled with the SBB and they were incredible (and also incredibly expensive). Always arrived sharp, are clean and comfortable and the people that work in there are quite correct. Not super nice, but I actually prefer it this way… less talk and more efficiency. And, either we think about Swiss clocks, Swiss banks or Swiss trains, we always arrive to the same conclusion: they’re perfect! 

The Hauptbahnhof or Central Station.

The “Protective Angel" hangs over the travelers’ heads in the lobby of the Zurich Central Station. It’s a work from the artist Niki de Saint Phalle and, in my opinion, has the perfect name.  And although this angel isn’t quite my style, here you go a cool piece of information: it was inspired by Gaudi’s art. Cool, isn’t it?!

Having a Kir Royale while enjoying the night view from the 35th floor of the Prime Tower could have been the perfect way to end up this quick escape to Zurich… But, I couldn’t leave without seeing Les Halles. Because we were only a short walking distance way from it, after our cocktail in the Prime Tower Judith took me to see the funkiest and youngest place in all Zurich. We weren’t hungry not thirsty, but couldn’t miss the chance to visit this Bar-Tapas-Restaurant-Gourmet-Shop in the west part of city. It was definitely the cherry on the top of the cake and another reason to come back this Summer! 

jueves, 14 de febrero de 2013

Walking in a Winter Wonderland (Part I)

I could actually divide this post about Oviedo in different categories:
- According to the different kinds of sun light I witness in only 3 hours (at the begin it was almost raining, then it was raining, then the thick clouds went away and only the white and fluffy clouds stayed, afterwards the sun started playing peekaboo with me, then it was actually shinning up in the sky and surprisingly warm, and when I got back to my hotel room the sky was getting dark grey and I could barely see the snowed mountains that “frame” the city);
- According to the different types of architecture of the city because Oviedo has it all (there are glass balconies like in A Coruña, some more medieval made from wood like in Burgos, there are also art deco buildings, even a megalomaniac building from Calatrava, and there was a group of colorful “lego buildings” just in front of my hotel that really inspired me);
- Or even according to the different statues (they were so many and so different)…

But finally I decided to organize the pictures by order. From the begin until the end of my long work/fun day in Oviedo. Because the city has it all, I figured that if I just drop them by order you would actually have the sense of how it truly is, a pot-pourri from everything. I also decided to comment only some of them because I believe the rest are pretty self-explanatory and this way the post is not so heavy. Enjoy the ride in this wintry (and very complete) wonderland!  

 Statue number 1

 Statue number 2

Statue number 3 (from Botero). And counting…

According to the locals Asturias, the province where Oviedo is, has the most beautiful sights from the Santiago Path. And that is something that I’ll confirm you in a couple of months, since on March 24th  I´ll leave Madrid towards Asturias, this time around to walk the last 200 kms from the Path. I’m so so excited. They will be 9 days walking an average of 20 kms per day, but I don’t care. I really need this spiritual journey and to “live” more the deep Spain.

A statue that is also a homage to the travelers!

Apart from this megalomaniac building from Calatrava in the very center of the city, not far from Oviedo there’s an entire city projected by Oscar Niemeyer. What the authorities tried to do with these both was to replicate the model and the success that the construction of the Guggenheim in Bilbao represented to that city (exactly as in Valencia the authorities tried to do the same, using the Ciudad de las Artes as a “bait”,  and in Zaragoza they tried to do it with the Expo 2008 and the buildings from Zaha Adid among others renown architects). Nevertheless, in all those cities (Oviedo included) they failed! The projects were super expensive to the local authorities and to the Spanish government and they all have a much inferior occupation rate than the expected. A pity, actually! But, even if they’re not as used as it was expected, the buildings are there to be appreciated… and photographed! 

The already mentioned “lego buildings”!

Room with a view…

At the end of the day my hosts took me to dinner in a very typical restaurant. They had a lot of local products and they were all very delicious. Apparently, Asturias is the Spanish region with more restaurants and hotels with the quality certification stamp. Almost 1.500 establishments have this stamp!!! I’m sure the restaurant where we went was one of them because the food was great and the place very typical. 

So typical that in the floor they had sawdust, just like in the old times. Do you know why they have it?! Because in the old times, everyone used to drink the Sidra from the same glass. And in order to the diseases not to pass on, people used to leave a little bit of Sidra in the glass and through it to the floor making the alcohol pass by the side of the glass from which the former person drank, this way the “bugs” would be killed. If the floor didn’t have this sawdust and people constantly threw the drink there, it would be always wet and people might fall… and in that case the remedy would be worse than the disease, literally!

The snow on my way back…