I’m leaving Switzerland!!

Ok, so this was a super last minute decision. I don’t think I’ve blogged about this before, but basically my contract with the IOC ends in a few days’ time. I was on a 5-month contract with the Olympic Studies Centre, and originally I was really happy with the arrangement because it gave me a feel for the organization and a bit of time to look for a full-time job to kick-start my career in sports.

Andddd the job has been great :) I learned a lot and was able to experience what working in Europe is like (Camp Europe 2010 in Germany doesn’t really count I suppose..). I was really lucky compared to most “foreigners” looking for employment in Switzerland – The IOC provided me with a studio, lunch vouchers, health and accident insurance (which can be upwards of 400 chf/month), etc etc.

Since I have to vacate my apartment just days after my contract expires, I figured I had three options: 1) Go home, 2) Find a place to stay in Switzerland while I look for something here, or 3) Travel Eastern Europe for a couple of weeks until I figure things out. I was really really close to going with option #3 (I even had all the flights/bus rides figured out), but just last week I decided it would be much easier, and I would probably be much happier too, if I just went home.

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A weekend in Prague

I took my first day of holiday to spend a “long” weekend in Prague. I’ve wanted to go for a long time now, even more so every time a friend tells me about how gorgeous the city is.  The flight was reasonably priced (240Sfr roundtrip), so after thinking for a week or two I decided to go ahead with it. Similar to Dublin, I originally booked a room at a hostel but then decided to stay more comfortably at a hotel instead. I stayed at Vintage Design Hotel Sax, a cute boutique hotel that I highly recommend to anyone wanting to stay at somewhere inexpensive, clean and located conveniently.

Prague is a very walkable city. I lived west of the Vltava River, and it took less than 15 minutes to get to any of the bridges. Charles Bridge is in a class of its own. I spent 30 minutes walking across the bridge, when a normal un-distracted person would probably take 3. The views are stunning!

East of the river

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Basel Herbstmesse 2012

The Basel Herbstmesse is an annual two-and-a-half week festival that also happens to be the largest and oldest amusement fair in Switzerland. This year, it ran from October 27th – November 11th. This celebration of the fall season goes back 500+ years and is an event that the locals, and even people coming from nearby Germany, look forward to every year. It’s suitable for people of all ages, kids especially love it! Since I’m in Switzerland this year, might as well see what it’s like right? So on the first Friday of this month, I took the train to Basel after work and stayed over at Amrutha’s place so we could explore the city for the whole day on Saturday.

The city centre fair is huuuge! I was really impressed. The festival is organized into eight “sections” – Kasernenareal, Messeplatz, Rosentalanlage, Messehalle, Münsterplatz, Petersplatz, Barfüsserplatz, and Claraplatz. All the locations are accessible by tram, but since the festival is PACKED, at times we found exploring by foot a lot more convenient. Anyway, there’s lots to do, buy and soo much to eat!! Honestly if you plan on going, go with an empty stomach cuz there are so many traditional Swiss snacks to try. A bit expensive, but it’s Switzerland..

This was the first section we visited

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A Dublin excursion

One of my fave pastimes is going on kayak.com to check out cheap flights. Sad, I know. But in October I saw a relatively cheap flight to Dublin. For only 150SFr roundtrip, that would normally be a steal.. but the problem was that I didn’t have any holidays left (I’ll be taking it in December for an extended Christmas break), so I basically only had one full day in the city. So… To book or not to book!?!

I thought about it for a couple of weeks… bit the bullet and purchased the flight. This definitely won’t be my last time in the Ireland/UK area, but I had no idea when the next time would be.. So whatever. It wasn’t ridiculously expensive to go for the weekend, so I decided for it. And I have absolutely no regrets! Carpe diem.

I originally booked a dorm room at a hostel in the city centre, but after thinking.. and thinking.. I basically arrive late at night on Friday and leave super early on Sunday morning, so I wanted to stay somewhere comfortable where I have my own space y’know? It’s not like I can’t afford booking a hotel anyway, so I decided to stay close to the airport so it’d be convenient to take my 6:30am flight on Sunday.

So on the Saturday, my itinerary was paaaacked because I basically had to do 3-4 days worth of touristy activities in a day. I got the adult rambler pass (€6.50), which basically gives you unlimited travel for the day. I (wrongly) read online that you can purchase the day pass when you get on the bus, but that’s not true.. and because of that I had to pay an extra one-way fare -.- So if you know you’re going to be taking a lot of transport, make sure you get the pass before you get into the city, preferably at the airport.

My first stop was the Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison turned museum. It’s one of the most visited sites in Dublin because of its historical significance in Irish independence. I took the bus from Aston Quay.. it took about 10 mins? The bus didn’t indicate the stops so I went a bit too far and had to walk back. If you’re uncertain at all just ask the bus driver, and I’m sure he/she could help you.

This is the entrance of the jail. Entrance was only €2 for students, with a 1-hr guided tour included. Our guide was very professional and I learned a lot during the tour

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Crystal hunting in Innsbruck

This was my second consecutive weekend of travel, which I was TOTALLY excited for. I can’t can’t can’t believe I had my GA pass for so long (11 months now!) and didn’t take advantage of it to the fullest. Obviously I still saved loads of money though, cuz if you average it out, the pass costs about 200SFr/month.. You have to pay for it upfront, which is a bit hefty, but if you calculate it by month and usage blah blah then it really is worth the 2400SFr price tag. Even back in Toronto, if you get a monthly TTC pass it costs at least $100. So 200SFr for unlimited travel in a COUNTRY?? Totally worth every penny. Or centime. Whatever.

So when I was still in school, I normally spent at least 300SFr of travel each month. Plus I made a lot of trips to the airport this year (holy crap, thinking back.. it was a lot!!! England, Spain, Turkey, Russia, Poland, Iceland, etc etc).. and without the pass, each trip costs something like 40SFr. Very expensive.

But STILL. I really wish I did more trips around Switzerland and to some of our border countries. Oh well :( I think it mostly had to do with the fact that Jacky was in Leysin and I went up to see him nearly every weekend. Oh the things we do for love.

Anyway. Maria and I visited Vienna in the summer of 2010 and we LOVED the city!! The people were gracious, the shopping was wonderful, and there was just so much to do/see. I’ve always wanted to go back to Austria because I know there’s loads to do in the country besides the capital. So when I realized that a round-trip train ride to Innsbruck would only cost us 50SFr, I totally jumped onto the opportunity!!!

I emailed my friend Amrutha to see if she was interested, since she has a GA pass also and lives closer to Innsbruck than I do (she lives in Basel, the Swiss German part of the country, hence closer to Austria). She was excited about the idea so that was it!!

Because we lived in opposite ends of the country, we met in Zurich and boarded the train to Innsbruck. The train ride was really comfortable and didn’t feel long at all. In fact, going to Zurich felt like more of a drag.. For me, the entire trip took about 5.5 hours from my apartment to the Innsbruck hauptbahnhof (main train station). Amrutha booked a room at the Ibis Hotel and it was SO convenient.. like the hotel was actually connected to the train station.  Yay for us.

The moment you step out of the station, it’s like.. woow. Unlike (most of) the Lake Geneva area, you are actually so close to the mountains. They make an amazing backdrop in photos.

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