We think we have mastered European electricity so we can convert the juice from 220 to 110 and safely run our computers. We also have mastered the telephone connections, but we probably will choose to plug our computers into ethernet connections at internet cafes, because the hotels charge exorbitantly Escalator from below for telephone service. We are in Europe for a total of three months plus a week, so we have not yet cashed in our Eurail passes.
What a great train station! We had accumulated a list of questions so we started by returning to the information centers in the Hauptbahnhof (main train station). We learned that our Eurail pass is good for three months and not 90 days, so we can redeem it Wednesday and still get back to Zurich on the pass for our flight home in December. We learned that reservations are not needed for short runs but are desired for international trains. We learned the location of a coin-op laundry, and we found the post office where we mailed some packages.
We also learned that not all the tourist information is on display in the racks. The attendant disappeared into the back room and returned with hotel guides for specific cities; and when we stopped at a Best Western hotel the desk clerk opened a large cupboard and found us their European guide. A friend has recommended Best Western hotels, especially in the smaller cities. After studying some other hotel guides, we have decided to stay in Zurich until Friday and then head for Innsbruck. Meanwhile we intend to make our first train excursion on Wednesday, to Luzern. Race car sculpture
But back to the Hauptbahnhof. The ground level is like an immense aircraft hangar, with shops around the sides and a huge open central area. Sometimes they have rock concerts on stages erected in this area. Today we were directed below, and we discovered that the Hauptbahnhof houses a complete underground city, with supermarkets, restaurants, shoe repair, fine wines and single malts, clothing, electronics, lockers, books, magazines and newspapers in many languages, waiting rooms, showers, etc. If you think a train station should have it, the Zurich Hauptbahnhof probably does. We didn't explore it all, it is so huge. We did observe an area with Italian stores and restaurants; Italian is one of the Swiss languages.
You have your choice of escalators - some go up one floor, others go up two floors. The sides are in plastic, lit by blue neon, so you can see the works; the elevators are set slantwise, a rather artistic touch, and beautifully engineered. We took a picture of the insides. This may be the only photo of escalator works you may ever see. Unless you want us to take more. Largest in Europe
Zurich residents favor dogs on leashes. We imagine these are apartment dogs, who never see the open fields, but do their business in the park and go shopping with their owners. We did see one poodle being fed a pretzel.
We continued our walk through the shopping areas. We knew that the stores would be closed in the afternoon -- the Monday after the second weekend in September is Knabenschiessen, a local holiday. But many of the stores were closed all day. Anyhow we had a great walk. We passed through the older part of Zurich, with buildings dating back as much as 700 years, and narrow winding cobblestone streets. We found some really interesting stores: one had shelves and shelves of antique maps, another was all cashmere, one had museum quality French style furniture and clocks, sculpted and gilded and lacquered. There were plenty of art galleries, along with a framing store and a bookbindery. We didn't take time to walk every block, but it's clear you can buy anything you want in Zurich.
We've also enclosed photos of the sculpture of the old thirties' racing car and of St. Peter's clock, the largest outdoor clock in Europe.
We crossed the Rathausbrucke to the Limmat-Quai and found the travel book store, where we hoped to buy the Thomas Cook railway timetable, but it was Downtown Zurich closed. We may not really need the timetable, anyway. The east bank of the Limmat is crowded with more stores and restaurants. The weather is beautiful and everyone sits in the outdoor cafes to smoke and drink a coffee or a beer or whatever and watch the people walking buy watching them sitting there watching.
We located the laundry and deciphered the rules, which buttons to push, how many coins are needed, etc. They have soap and fabric softener for sale in a coin-operated machine.
Switzerland is a very good country to start with in Europe. Everything is so well-regulated -- just like a good Swiss watch! And of course, everything works as it was designed. Although the population is only about half a million, the city seems as cosmopolitan as you could possibly imagine. While we have seen some slums, they are to be found in every city. In Zurich we got the impression that there are more middle-class and wealthy people than elsewhere. The buildings are maintained, restored, and occupied by thriving concerns.
People look healthy and well dressed. There are few beggars. The Swiss love mechanical things and keep them in very good repair. While some American cities have electric trolleys on rail lines, in Zurich the undercarriages and wheels of the trolleys are kept clean.