Crossing over to the E-side

If some time ago I was fiercely defending “real” books and protesting against E-readers and the unnecessary use of technology, I can now finally say that I get it. I get it, okay? They are amazing. E-readers and E-books are amazing.

I mean, sure, they don’t smell like heaven and you can’t feel the soft texture of the paper as you flip it or leave subtle messages on borrowed books, hoping that sometime, someone will read them and it will brighten their day…but they are awesome. Now why don’t you all join hands and sing an ode to technology while I tell you what caused this sudden change of heart.

The real great thing about Switzerland is the amount of free stuff you can get – beside all the free food samples, that is. Maybe I should start with the funny story in which my mother started searching in a seemingly abandoned box, got about five coat-hangers out of it and casually walked away as I watch completely horrified. Apparently, as she explained later, stores give out their old coat-hangers for anyone to have.  The Swiss also offer free books from time in time, if you are in the right place. Free books, if you can imagine. Free. No charge. Books. Mind-blowing.

But now to get to the point, the Swiss also lend digital books, and for 5 francs people like me get to experience the wonder of E-readers for two short weeks, after which the happy bubble bursts and you realize it was all a dream. Like that dream in which you suddenly have an incredibly cute puppy that you can train and pet and love…and then you wake up and he’s gone. Except in my case I could actually buy the puppy if it weren’t so damn expensive.

So anyway, I got this baby from the library and for a while it is all mine (yes, altruism has never been one of my strong points) and I am going to make the most of it. Since I’ve been very lazy lately as far as reading is concerned (shocking, I know – I love reading!), I managed to collect quite an impressive number of titles on my to-read list and I am now ready and excited to check some of them off. Hooray for books!

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A city overlooking the Alps. Today we’re visiting…

I have been putting this off for too long, so here goes: this is the first out of a series of city introductions, so to speak. I will be talking about – and showing photos of cities that I have visited and liked and which I am sure you will like too. There won’t be any short posts here, so put your reading glasses on (I mean, if you need them) and get on with it! 

I’m starting with a place I’ve seen about three weeks ago but was too lazy to write about:

Luzern (or Lucerne or Lucerna or..Lozärn? For a country with 4 official languages, I guess it’s normal for every city to have at least two versions of its name) is a rather large city in central Switzerland – in the German speaking part, that is. It’s also the capital of the canton of Lucerne, so I’d say it has a pretty major importance.

A bridge over the Reuss River

As for things worth seeing, probably the most iconic place here is the Kapellbrücke – a bridge built in 1333 (or a long, long time ago, for those of you who aren’t very good with numbers and/or history) to somehow fight off enemies. How a bridge would do that is beyond me. What makes it so special are the paintings on the inside – triangular depictions of  scenes in Swiss history – with subtitles, too! However, about 600 years later, it gave everyone a lot of trouble as it caught fire and a large part of it had to be replaced; as for the paintings, an even larger part vanished into thin air. Literally.

Die Kapellbrücke

 Apparently that happened because someone could’t help having a quick smoke on a wooden bridge.

Off we go now, to the second worth-seeing thing on the list – Das Löwendenkmal – The lion monument. Pour yourself a cup of whatever and relax – this is a long story and it goes like this:

Traditionally, a Swiss regiment served  as part of the Royal Household of France. During the French Revolution, King Louis XVI and his family were forced to move from the Palace of Versailles to the Tuileries Palace in Paris. They soon realized that was no proper place for a king – or safe for that matter and soon got him out of there too, so that when the men with the guns besieged the Tuileries palace – suprise! The king was nowhere to be found.

That, however, didn’t stop the revolutionaries from beating the shit out of the Swiss guards that loyally stayed behind, because, well, it was a revolution – blood, fight, stuff. Some years later,  Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, an officer of the guards driven by guilt for having spent that terrible day on leave, leisurely strolling through Lucerne decided to do something to always remember people of that day.

Thus, a beautiful lion monument was born, dedicated to “the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss”: Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti

The Alps

Of course, I’ve written about all those things while avoiding the elephant in the room – the lake, that is. Vierwaldstätterseeas it is called, is simply put, a weirdly shaped lake shared by four Swiss cantons. Also, it has birds, which erm…I don’t like. I have been trying to find some literary reference to it that could help make my job of describing it easier, but…

Next morning we left in the train for Switzerland, and reached Lucerne about ten o’clock at night. The first discovery I made was that the beauty of the lake had not been exaggerated.

Mark Twain, “A tramp abroad”

Well, maybe I didn’t try that hard.

And finally, if you happen to be in Lucerne, I recommend taking a short trip to Mount Pilatus, the pride and joy of the locals, so I’ve been told. I didn’t do that, however, the internet says you should and has some pretty good arguments. Firstly, the view is amazing, but then again it is a mountain, and mountains often have amazing views.

Mt.Pilatus

Secondly, if you decide to hike to the top, there are several trails that take you deep into the awesomeness of the Swiss forests, but if not, just go for the Pilatusbahn, which is, oh you know, just the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. Not only that, but the line still uses the original rack rails that are now over 100 years old.

While they may seem ancient, don’t worry! They are dealing with the rails wearing out, by simply turning them over. Which I find slightly worrying. And, brace yourselves, because I saved the best for last. There are legends that say that there is a dragon living on the mountain. A dragon. How about that!

So I think that is about all. You’ve had a mini-virtual-tour through Luzern, which you hopefully enjoyed. There is, of course, much more to be said, for instance about the churches – if you’re into that kind of things, or the small antiquities shops or about the Altstadt in general, which should be the number one destination, no matter which city you are visiting – in case you don’t know, that is the historical center, often the (only) most beautiful part

A glimpse of the Altstadt

KKL - Culture and Convention Centre Lucerne, home of one of the finest concert halls in the world

But I am going to stop here. Thank you for reading and any kind of feedback will be much appreciated – you know, for future reference!

Disclaimer: I really suck at history and while Wikipedia was certainly helpful, there’s a limit to what it can do. I made a lot of effort to take things out of there and write them here more plainly but I am really sorry if I misinterpreted the stuff I read. So don’t take them for granted and feel free to correct me if necessary.

A comparative study of a Swiss flea-market

or THE ZÜRICH FLOHMARKT

I love flea-markets. Well…I should probably admit to myself that what I actually like is a more… romanticised version of flea-markets: the kind that sells amazing, pretty things that don’t even remotely resemble junk, at incredibly low prices. It’s this kind of place I often dream about at night – and when I do, I always end up getting more things that I can carry and I have to leave some behind, which makes me sad. But I digress. 

After getting off the train and meeting with Sebastián, a newly acquired friend from Argentina and fellow photographer, we made our way to Helvetiaplatz, the place of a weekly Flohmarkt, apparently the biggest in Zürich. I don’t know why, but I was somehow expecting a very large outdoor store with shiny things neatly arranged on shelves. It wasn’t like that.

It was chaotic, random, a bit kitschy and with so many chainsaws waiting to be sold that it made you think twice about how peaceful the Swiss really are. And to top it off, given the numbers of Italians that I could hear all around me, it felt just like being in Italy. Obviously, they were the only ones loudly advertising their products: “Eee, signorina, nur-ah zwanzig-ah Fraaanken!

It’s difficult to describe the place,which is why I’m grateful for the numerous visual evidence – but what I am going to do is compare it with the flea-market in my home town. You see, here I actually had more fun taking pictures of everything than looking for things to buy, which is absolutely not the way you do it in Romania.

First of all, no person in their right mind would bring a camera to a Romanian flea-market, unless they are looking for an exciting way to commit suicide. Secondly, you must keep in mind at all times that you are not there for a leisure stroll – you have to be quick. Hastily search through a pile, find nothing, move on, no eye contact and most importantly no emotions – you do not want to show how excited you are about that pair of pants because that makes you vulnerable to being ripped off.

For instance, when I’d go thrifting with one of my best friends we’d have this code: if something was really nice and worth buying, we’d shrug our shoulders and just give a short “hm” which sounded like “Yeah, it’s fine if you don’t have anything better to spend your money on”. In reality that actually meant “Holy shit that is amazing buy it buy it buy it!”.

And lastly, if you want to haggle about the price of an item, you would have to be good. Really good. Negotiating there is not for the faint of heart.

In Switzerland, though, things are different; easier, one might say. After seeing a pen than I really liked and asking the vendor how much it cost, I was already making strategies to help me get a lower price. It only took the moment between hearing the price and taking one more look at the object to see if it’s really worth it, to make the man hurriedly throw a better offer on the table. Yes, it was that easy.

But in general everyone seemed laid back, and there to have a good time. They left us alone, slightly amused by those lunatics going around photographing everything, except for two ladies (or maybe it was the same one who felt the need to make herself clear) who admonished me for not asking before taking a picture. And then stating that I have to have permission from the organizer of the market in order to do that. Which was bullshit, obviously. She was probably Italian.

All in all, I saw the most adorable things – pretty tea cups, old photographs, postcards written in every language possible, hundred-years-old newspapers, pretty boxes, pretty bottles, pretty frames, old cameras – and had an amazing time! I uploaded more photos, including some of cute bikes, my newest obsession,  on Flickr, so go take it look at them!

And if you are wondering if I bought anything, aber natürlich!


Because tea and tea-related items are awesome.

Not because it is pink.