Zurich/Luzern: Hit in the Head by Hail in a Heatwave

by Rachel on September 25, 2009

Zurich

I love Zurich, Luzern and nearly all things Swiss. However, I was hit in the head by a truly large – nearly golf ball sized – chunk-o-hail, and that after schvitzing through an 85-degree completely humid day. How fair is that?

We came to Zurich to see my Russian born cousin who is now a German citizen. Through the flexibility afforded to her with her EU passport she currently lives and works just outside of Zurich with her Russian now German husband, and her German now Swiss child. We stayed in downtown Zurich at the Hotel zum Storchen which sits just on the River Limmat, two short blocks from where the river opens out onto Lake Zurich. It was all quite lovely and terribly Swiss. If you’ve not been to Zurich it is clean, well ordered, pretty in a posh sort of way, and so expensive I started pining for the bargains on Rodeo Drive. In London these days an American ex-pat expects expensive digs and pricey food, but London is an absolute steal compared to 36 hours in Switzerland. It was hot and sticky and I must admit, an iced latte from the Zurich Starbucks was seriously calling my name (“R-A-C-H-E-L, come be refreshed…”). In I went, only to break the land speed record screeching my way out of the joint once I realized I was going to have to pay $8 bucks for the privilege. In point of fact in the summer of 2009 it cost 7.5 Swiss Francs for a tall Starbucks Latte. And the place was full. Have these people completely gone completely mad? Lattes are ludicrously expensive in the US at $3.50. For the cost of two Swiss Lattes I can do some serious damage at the DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) in Westwood, CA. Let’s keep our priorities straight people.

Looking down on Zurich

We took a peaceful cruise around Lake Zurich, gawked at the glorious Marc Chagall stained glass windows in the Fraumunster Abbey Church in the heart of Zurich, and climbed the 195 steps to the top of the Grossmunster Church (built in the 12th Century). I had to do some serious Zen breathing to make it up the nightmarishly narrow, winding, windowless, dank, dark steps. Our babysitter had a near panic attack and fled back to the vast outdoors to shake and hyperventilate in peace. I was quite proud to have talked myself into the climb. The view was great and the boys loved the entire experience. I must admit however that going down was far worse than going up. The steps themselves are just the right amount of too narrow while simultaneously being suck the air out of your chest steep, so that you spend the entire downward dimly lit journey certain that either you or your loved ones are soon going to lose their footing and plunge to their deaths. My kind of fun. I was thinking it would make a good replacement for my husband’s workouts on the Santa Monica stairs but I don’t think he could get even half of the acreage of his size 15 feet onto the steps.

After a great tourist day in Zurich we had a super Swiss Meal at a restaurant I would recommend to you except that the name has 17 letters, starts with a Z and has no vowels.

Picture perfect Luzern

My Russian relatives picked us up in a rented mini-van the next morning and took us on a day trip to Luzern. If you’ve ever been in any of those large format color photography shops that line the streets of American ski towns like Deer Valley, all of those insanely gorgeous Swiss shots are of Luzern. The place is stunning. We strolled. We ate expensive and tasty Swiss food along the gurgling river. We crossed over beautiful wooden bridges lined with flower boxes. We gazed at the cloud-covered Alps. We remarked on the fact that we hadn’t been in such warm humid weather since our ill-fated trip through the London Natural History Museum during the HURTWAVE.

Covered bridge, Luzern

My cousin wanted to show us the view from an old hotel that sits perched on a hilltop overlooking the city. Up we went, just a five-minute drive into the hills. We hopped out of the car to take in the view, and just as we did, the first thunder and lightening cracked overhead. It started to rain. The wind came up. The thunder and lightening cracked again. I was just about to say, no – SHRIEK, “perhaps we should all get back into the car,” when I was hit in the head – not by lightening – but by a massive chunk of hail. In seconds we were in the middle of the most intense storm we’ve ever experienced. There were moments when I was certain that the car windows were going to shatter from the sheer force of the hail. It thundered, ice crashed around us, it blew, the visibility went to zero, the baby let out her first and only wail of the entire day. Even my cousin, Russian born and impossible to fluster, looked ever so slightly troubled. And just as quickly as it had started, it was over. The sun came out. The clouds lifted. Little rainbows fluttered by. And so, our summer adventure continued.

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