Tuesday, October 09, 2018

A Day In Milan

 When I was in Zurich last month, I had a day free on the schedule.  I decided that I was due for an adventure.  So I looked on the map to places I haven't been to yet, and saw that Italy was not that far away.

So I booked a train to Milan - as one does.

Turns out I could only get on an early morning train, so at 6:30am I pulled out of the Zurich Hauptbahnhof and took the leisurely 3.5 hour train ride south to Milan.

At first I thought going there was a big mistake, as the beginning of the trip seemed like a comedy of errors:

  • I had to fend off my pre-booked seat from a cranky old lady
  • My breakfast sandwich had pickles on it
  • At the Italian border someone from my car was arrested by authorities and taken off the train forcibly in handcuffs.
  • When I arrived in Milan my cell phone (which, being GoogleFi should have international roaming), stopped communicating and lost all cell signal.
  • The wifi in the Milan station requires a text message verification to get connected, which is impossible when one doesn't have cell signal.
  • I was depending on Google Maps for navigation, so I had no idea what subway train to get on.
  • The toilets, which cost money in Italy (despite being super disgusting) wouldn't accept by Euro, so no comfort stop for me.
  • I finally got cell signal again by rebooting my phone.  Train station wifi didn't work anyway.
  • Finally figured out the subway, and went to machine to get tickets, which promptly ate my 10 Euro note.
  • Managed to talk to attendant to rescue note.
  • Finally got subway tickets, and was on my way.
Three stops later, I arrived at the Duomo Cathedral.
The moment I walked into the square I knew I had made the right decision to visit.

The square was classic Italian... pigeons, old ornate architecture, Moroccan hustlers taking pictures of people holding pigeons... classic!

I stopped to take in the scenery, and to take some photos with my Hulk action figure (as one does) in front of the cathedral.  Ended up looking like this:

I then stated walking around the city, along old streets, and the old ornate archtecture.

This is a mall.  Yep, a mall. Called the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

This is the central ceiling of the mall.

So after this I decided to do some geocaching.  I got so involved in that I forgot to take a lot of photos... so you're going to have to trust me.  I ended up walking 9 miles, found 7 caches, and checked out some more of the streets, and an awesome castle in a park.

When it got close to supper time I stopped off at a restuarant with seating on the street, and had myself some pasta.

On the way back to the subway I followed an Oompa oompa band... as one does.

Then at 7:30 I got back on the train and headed off to Zurich.

My issues were not over tho.... on the way back we stopped just across the Italian border.  I asked why, and was told there was a fire in a tunnel ahead.  I may have misheard what the attendant said tho as 15 minute later the tracks were clear... however we lacked a Swiss train driver, so we waited another 30 minutes before we were able to move again.

So just before midnight I crashed into my hotel room and fell asleep.  Milan was tiring, tested by patience at times, but man, what a nice town.

Friday, October 05, 2018

A Day In Lucerne

A few months ago I was on a work trip to Switzerland.  I had a couple off days, so I decided to spend one of them checking out Lucerne.

This is a few moments that happened during that day.

Lucerne is a relatively short 45 minute train ride away from Zurich.  I took my time to get there, and spent the morning around the lake, and playing with the local swans.

After lunch I headed over to check out some of the history of this ancient town.  Starting with the Lion of Lucerne.  The lion is a relief carved in stone, with a nice pond in front of it.  It was carved in 1820, and is a monument to a massacre of Swiss troops during the French revolution in 1792.
Lucerne is infected with a lot of tour busses, and therefore crowds.   I spent a good 30 minutes at the monument, during which time 4 busses of tourists came thru.  Bus tours are the worst.

However they didn't keep me from finding my first geocache of my trip. I don't cache much anymore, but when I am at a cool location like this I get inspired to pull out the Geocaching app and see what is near by.  In this case there was a cache in the woods right at the edge of the monument.
After communing with the lion, I walked along the Musegg wall, which is a section of wall from medieval times, 1386.  This is the thing I love about Europe - nothing in North America is anywhere near this old.
The far end of the wall leads to a walk along the Reuss River, and more of the ancient architecture of the town.
I found a nice place along the river to grab a beer, sit back, and enjoy the town as it past me by.  Highly relaxing way to go - I recommend it as a strategy.

Shortly after I finished by beer and started walking again I came across a street performer, doing street performer things.
I then crossed Kappelbrucke, and spotted this perfectly lit tourist posing for her friend.  I sniped a photo.  This isn't remarkable in any way except it serves as a reminder that shortly afterwards I became a Lucerne Tourist Attraction.
So as I was coming off Kappelbrucke, I noticed a bunch of chinese tourists taking photos.  They were all excited, as chinese tourists tend to be.  One of them, an older gentleman, aimed his camera at me,  so I waved at him,  One of the ladies then aimed his camera at me, so I waved again. (I'm friendly like that.)

I went to walk past them, but they waved me over.  Before I knew it I was a part of a large group photo of tourists.  Then they switched out and I was included in another photo.  Finally I had my photo taken with the  gentleman who first took my picture.

There was much laughing, and good times.  I seemed to be a hit.  I just imagine that family talking about that large Swiss man they met, not knowing I am a fraud (from a Swiss perspective - I am legitimately large).

So back to Kappelbrucke.  In english it is known as Chapel Bridge.  It is a rather long wooden pedestrian bridge  - seveal hundred feet across the Ruess River.  Along the way are dozens of religious themed paintings so passerby's will spend time contemplating their eternal souls whilst they cross the river.

Now its a tourist attraction.  Mind you, a very pretty one.

Around this time a co-worker, who went off on a hike that day, was passing thru Lucerne on his way back to Zurich, so he stopped by and we spend some time exploring the city together.  Joel is the photographer in this photo.
Shortly after that we headed off for supper, then got on a train back to Zurich.

Lucerne is a nice town, and I hope to make it back here some day.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

The One About The Swiss Swan

So there I was in Lucerne Switzerland, walking along Lake Lucerne, singing Lucerne In The Sky With Diamonds, and giggling to myself at the clever, clever pun (internally laughing.  Outwardly I was stoic, I didn't want to appear too jolly in front of the Swiss).

When out of the corner of my eye I spotted a majestic swan, swanning out in the middle of the lake.  I sat down on the bank, and started taking his picture.  Suddenly he started swimming slowly towards me.
He slid up right beside me.  I kept taking photos the whole time.  He seemed as happy as a clam, or a swan, or a swan clam, whatever combination denotes super happy fun times in the animal kingdom.

He mugged for the camera, turning his head this way, and that way.   At one point in time I was going to ask him to do duck lips, but then I realized that was likely racist and culturally insensitive in the avian world, so I didn't.
 All was good until I zoomed my camera in to get an extreme closeup.  As my lens extended outwards, the white beast began to hiss.  He was having none of his extreme closeups (what a diva!)

I spoke sternly, and told him that if he wanted this model shoot to continue he would have to behave himself, learn some manners, and generally be civil.  Otherwise it wasn't worth the money I was getting paid (to be fair we were both just working for exposure).

Eventually he calmed down, and I clocked in this masterful (if I do say so myself), portrait.

After that, Mr "I don't like closeups", swam away.  He left so quickly he didn't leave any contact information for me to send his prints, so I hope he gets the chance to read this post.
Until then, this image will be the last memory I had of the time that I shot a Swan up close in Lucerne.

Wordless Wednesday


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What the What?

The following surreal moment is based on a true story that happened while returning to my hotel from a restaurant in Zurich.

Picture, if you will, walking thru a back street in a European town.
It is dark and stormy.

You hear operatic singing in the distance.
You keep walking, and see a light glowing in a park.

You go to investigate, as one does.
The singing gets louder - there is a violin playing.

As you get closer still you see a 20-something girl walking around
She is singing opera while constructing a green-house looking structure

The violin player plays on from the darkness.
The girl sings and constructs.

She stops.
Spoken word springs forth from the structure.

More lights come on.
It is all bright and weird.
Culture shock ensues.

Makes me question exactly what was put into my Hooters burger.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

When In Zurich, Eat as the Zurichians Do.

They say that when one is traveling in foreign countries, one way to absorb the local culture is to eat the foods that the locals eat.

I am currently in Zurich Switzerland for work.  It is supper time and I got a little peckish, so I looked on Google Maps to see what was available on a Sunday night around my hotel, and picked a restaurant that we don't have in the town I live in.

Hooters!

If it helps, my burger did have Swiss cheese on it.

Interestingly enough Google Maps describes the place as "Chain grill known for wings and waitresses."   Really good description, I must say.

Also, tasty burgers.

Ain't cultural exchanges wonderful?