Thursday, August 01, 2013

Zurich

 We're packing up to leave for Iceland early Friday morning, so I'm making a vacationy photo-dump blog post for the sake of continuity (which is something I value highly in my nearly-eight-year-old journal/blog.) Our visit to Zurich was pretty awesome. I could see myself living here, even if the Swiss do adhere to a lot of rules that my unrefined American manners occasionally stumble over, and even if you can't find an iced drink to save your life, and even if they seem a bit stingy with the coffee ... Switzerland is a beautiful and remarkably clean region, and these incredible mountains are right at their fingertips.


 For workouts, Beat and I went for a couple of runs from our hotel to the Uetliberg, a small 2,850-foot peak with a panoramic viewing tower at the top. On Monday it was cool and rainy, and I'd been so busy traipsing around the city that I neglected to eat lunch or even snack before our 5 p.m. run. I was thinking it would be this short, after-work thing, but it was still 8 miles with 2,000 feet of climbing on some steep terrain. I bonked early and hard, to the point where I was weaving a bit on the switchbacks, and wavering more dramatically on the slippery staircase up the wind-blasted tower. It was a tough run for me, and of course Beat was full of energy and laughing at me the whole way up. Deserved.

 We went back to the Uetliberg on Wednesday evening, and it was another hot, sweaty day. Just before our run, I met with a friend, Gabi, for afternoon drinks (more ApfelSchorle for me. No ice, sigh.) Gabi is a mountain runner that I met through Beat at the Tor des Geants. She's also the only person I know in Zurich, and I just happened to see her on the street when I was walking to the train station on Tuesday morning. During our visit, I started to tell Gabi the story of how Beat and I met at the Swan Crest 100 in Montana when I realized it was July 31, and this was the day Beat and I acknowledge as our anniversary. Later, and Beat and I were running up the steep side of the Uetliberg, the realization popped into my head again. "Hey, Love, guess what? It's our third anniversary!"

 So, after the run, we celebrated with a visit to the Thermalbad in our hotel building, which is apparently a famous spa in Zurich. The lower level is built into centuries-old stone vaults with hypnotic lighting effects and various saunas and jet pools. Then there's a roof pool with panoramic views of the city. We visited this pool right at sunset, with clear air, rich light, and alpenglow on the snowy peaks in the distance after the sun went down. Unfortunately I did not bring my camera. This picture is from the following afternoon, when went back for a lunchtime soak on our 24-hour access pass.

 August 1 is a national holiday in Switzerland. It's just like the Fourth of July in the United States; our morning pastries were adorned with little Swiss flags on toothpicks. Because it's a holiday, the Google office was empty and Beat finished up his work and took the afternoon to meet his uncle for a hike in Baden. It was yet another extremely hot day, in the mid-90s, and my body temperature was already jacked up from the mid-day spa visit. Beat's uncle guided us up this extremely narrow ridge that had some decent exposure to sheer drops. I felt severely overheated, to a level where I was concerned about heat stroke. But I poured the rest of Beat's sparkling water over my neck and this seemed to take my temperature down a few degrees — at least until we ran out of water about two hours into the hike. Beat's uncle walks even faster than Beat does, something I didn't think was possible, and we just kept marching along this breezeless, hot ridge. I was pretty grumpy. It's funny, because of all of the runs I did this week, the only one that didn't put me deep into the pain cave was the big mountain I time-trialed in Lungern. All the easy runs were hard; the hard run was easy. I guess life works out that way sometimes.

 There were good views along the three-hour ridge walk, which of course ended in a restaurant where Beat and his uncle ordered cider and I begged for water. My experiences in Europe have largely shown me that restaurants are pretty stingy with fluid in general, but this worker was very nice and filled up my bladder for me.

Our walk ended in Dielsdorf, adorned with yet another castle tower that has been standing since the 13th century. "The only buildings this old in the United States are Anasazi ruins," I said to Beat, but of course old stuff here is just not a big deal. We took the train back to Zurich and caught the fireworks over the lake in the evening. Fun holiday. The Zurich leg of this trip was really just supposed to be a business-related stop for Beat. I of course am pretty happy with how it worked out.

I'm going to keep all of these memories close to the surface when I'm cold and hungry in Iceland next week. The hot hot heat and the lap of luxury ... these things are good to experience sometimes, too.