Magit words rang true – Switzerland is one very expensive country. In searching for accommodation, we quickly realised this was going to be a costly detour.
But, so be it; we had been reminded of late, that this a not ‘if only…’ tour; we don’t want to end up back in Australia saying “If only we’d gone there, seen that, done that…”
We stretch our budget to $150 a night. For Zürich, that’s still on the cheap side. However, Casa Heindrich, turns out to be a lovely place to stay. The young woman (wow, I feel old using age as an adjective), also sorts us out with a parking permit for the car. Our room comes with a little kitchenette. This will be very useful; we are going to be doing a lot of eating in!
Our daily luxury is purchasing coffee, the CPI spikes to AUS$5.40 each. It’s good coffee but small cups! Magit was right – just being here costs you money. We check-out the prices in McDonalds, always a good benchmak, AUS $12 for a Big Mac. I couldn’t actually tell you how much one is in Australia, I’m guessing around $5? Can one of you closet MacD addicts report back?
It’s about a 2km walk into the centre of town. Walking shoes on and umbrella in hand we set off to explore Zürich (the umbrella was acquired by Don in Istanbul, but that’s another story!). My pangs of guilt for the forgetful tourist are long gone, the umbrella has come in handy of late.
The old parts of Zürich display a majestic city dripping in wealth. Grand boulevards lined with every designer brand you can think off. The luxury retail market is dominated by watches; Rolex, Rado, Tag Heuer are well know names. Then there are the even more prestigious; Patek Philip, Chopard or Blancpain (never heard of the later, but they’ve been making watches since 1735).
OK, we know the swiss are famous for watches, but how many watches can you sell in a day? Alongside the designer watch shops are designer chocolates. But, the best find of the day was Calanda beer, so of course Don had to sample it.
We decide we should educate ourselves in the Swiss cultural heritage and visit the Swiss National Museum. It was also pouring with rain and it was a good place to stay dry. We manage to fill in a few hours learning about Swiss history. I’d always thought the swiss had it easy, playing the neutrality card in every war; not so. Basically, they managed to alienate themselves from both sides!
As we are leaving Zürich we asked a local policeman; there are several conducting some sort of spot check in our street – “do we need a Vignette?” To which he replies “yes”. It was a slightly longer conversation in pigeon english/french, but I won’t bore you with the details.
We had been mislead in Austria, as we had asked about the Vignette just before the border. When driving is Switzerland you need a Vignette to drive on the national roads, it’s almost impossible to avoid driving on the national roads. A Vignette is simply a road tax. You buy a sticker and place it on your windshield. The cost a Vignette is SF$40 (AUS$50), they are valid for a year, but are non transferable (impossible to peel off).
Great, we need one for 5-6 days, We might be back, but we will be in a different car. The risk of not buying one and getting a fine is SF$100. We buy a Vignette before we leave Zürich.