Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Goodbye Switzerland

The time has finally come to leave Switzerland. It has been an epic year, I've seen beautiful Switzerland (amongst other countries) and have met really great people. As with ever when moving into a flat with random strangers, you never know how it will turn out. I was fortunate enough to find myself in an apartment full of cheery people (with equally sociable neighbours), with whom I became great friends over the period of one year.

Boat trip on Lake Lugano.

I spent my last day in Switzerland in Lugano with two good friends, which is in the Italian-speaking part of the country. With a Mediterranean climate and surrounded by mountains and lakes – indeed like many Swiss towns – it made a nice way to round off the exchange year.

Lugano is situated in Tecino, the predominantly Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland.

Swiss towns and cities, due to their small size, tend not offer many sights to see, but you'll often find a lake to see! We took a boat trip on Lake Lugano and spent the rest of the time eating. A very laid-back place and many houses along the lake looked completely cut off from the outside world. Sublime...

The sleepy streets of Lugano.

I'm now on my way back home, taking my time by hopping off the train in Paris for two nights. It's been sad to leave Zurich, but I also am looking forward to going back to Aberdeen and studying properly for once – and not like an exchange student! I want to thank everyone in Zurich who made my time as special as it was, I'll miss everyone. And I want to thank YOU too for reading these blog posts. I hope I didn't waffle on too much.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Zurich Street Parade

Who'd have thought? The world's largest, and perhaps wildest, outdoor techno parade in Zurich; a relatively quiet and small city in one of Europe's most conservative countries. Famous DJs from both Switzerland and abroad held sets in the parade, which started at 1pm and went on well into the night.

The parade's moving stages are called 'love mobiles'.

950,000 people took part in the free festival this year, including me and two good friends. Many of the other festival-goers were dressed in crazy costumes, some much more revealing than others. Indeed, skimpy outfits were the norm and seemed to not just be limited to girls, a few older gentlemen could also be seen sporting little more than leather hot-pants, unfortunately.

Each moving 'love mobile' had their own DJ, all of whom playing better techno music than the last.

Not only were the streets teeming with ravers, loads of yachts and boats covered the lake, gathering closest to Utoquai bridge, part of the parade's route. In the hot August Sun, there would have been nothing better than cooling off in the water whilst listening to the music. Shame I can't quite afford a nice yacht in Zurich just yet...

All ages could be found at the parade, some enjoying the music more than others.

From the hotel balconies lining the streets, dressed-up dancers could even be seen making the most of their prime position. I did however also notice some older hotel guests, seeming as though they weren't originally aware of the huge techno extravaganza taking place, looking on uncomfortably in bemusement. A hilarious sight to behold!

Lake Zurich bustling with yachts of techno enthusiasts.

The hot Sun combined with the music and only drinking beer was not particularly conducive to keeping you fit. Nevertheless we spent a good eight hours there and I now have the buzz to go again next year! Maybe next time I'll wear a costume myself, although perhaps I'd best avoid the more skimpy of costumes...

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Alp Horns, Cow Bells And Yodelling

The 1st of August was the Swiss National Holiday. All across Switzerland people celebrated the founding of the Helvetic Confederation. Zurich, which usually is adorned by Swiss flags anyway, showed its national and cantonal colours even more proudly yesterday.

The 26 cantons of Zurich represented in the parade.

A parade made its way along the Bahnhofstrasse, showcasing stereotypical Swiss types – donning traditional dress and brandishing cow bells and alp horns. Aesthetically, the parade was beautiful indeed, although acoustically less so - a brash mix of trumpets and eccentric yodelling.

Alp horns are quite unwieldy instruments.

At the end of the parade, a stage, equipped with the biggest flag I have ever seen in my life, was the scene of a speech, a rifle-fire salute, flag juggling, alp horn playing and yodelling extravaganza. With so many national symbols, I thought it might have been uncomfortable, as a foreigner, being there. Thankfully, the event was completely free of politics and tourists were very much made to feel welcome.

The stage at Bürkliplatz.

The Swiss are quite keen when it comes to fireworks. I can only really make a comparison to the 5th November in the UK (Guy Fawkes night), but there were much more explosions to be heard over the skies of Zurich last night than I've ever heard back at home. Although this might have something to do with the cheap price of fireworks – and the ease of access to them here – despite the earlier, not-unconcerning exploits a Swiss friend told me he got up to as a teenager...