Sam's next little adventure (after accepting his job offer) was to find somewhere to live in Switzerland; or as I like to call it now: Swiss-land (easier to type). I heard that the best way to find a good apartment is through connections, but it turns out it's the only way! The housing market in Zürich is insane at the moment, perhaps due to the universities' semester dates. Anyway, here are some major points I'd like to highlight about my new home, Switzerland:
>140 people apply for share-house rooms
You would not believe the trouble you can have with getting a place to live! You apply for an apartment, only advertised the day before, and it's already gone! Then you find another one, suspiciously without preview images but seems perfect on paper (big, close, cheap), that's so filthy that you'd not put a dog in it.
Here's one for you: an apartment with a warning sign - We apologise for our dog's smell. We've tried everything... And the house itself? It looked like it was built in the 70s and not lived in since! Bonus: it was also ridiculously overpriced and neighboured a major highway. Double bonus: it was previously a motel, but due to low numbers was converted into apartments. The lady wanted the rental agreement settled by Tuesday, hehe. Good luck with that, lady!
Next: 2 smelly, sweaty, hairy, smoky Italian blokes offering a 20 square meter room in a filthy, smoky apartment, that looked like the roof would cave in at any moment. Also, the room was no where near 20 square meters - it was closer to 6. No thanks. I'm not picky but just this once I'll give it a try. *Sam runs away*
You think applying for share-houses would be easy? Think again! Just like with advertised apartments, share-house rooms are gone in seconds! I arranged a meeting one Friday, booked a ticket to come to Switzerland to visit, and she tells me the day before I fly out: Sorry, it's gone now. Good luck anyway. Bitch!! Another place sent out a group email to inform everyone their room was filled already, which said: We've had over 140 people apply for this room! Crazy market, eh? Damn uni students, taking all my share-house rooms!
You never go thirsty in Zürich. Also: many swans
All the rivers and the lake aside, Switzerland has a lot of very clean water. This makes me happy, as I've always been one to complain loudly about chlorinated Aussie water. So anyway, every 20 or so meters along Zürich streets there are drinking water fountains - not just bubblers, but rather fountains. That is to say, they run constantly and are very elaborate. They have no water shortage here, no sir! Saves you carrying a water bottle everywhere you go, but occasionally hard to use.
Zürich Lake's main outlet is a river that flows through the middle of Zürich city. It has a ferry for the first 2 km, then lots of swimming spots after that. They even had the foresight to separate the joining rivers from mucking-up the water clarity until after the swimming area. We found one nice place to jump in: just before the swimming area form the pedestrian bridge near a cafe. I think it is a local favourite, since I've seen people there randomly jumping in and floating down river before. I feel like a local now, after trying that!
There are a lot of swans in Zürich - a lot more that you'd expect! Try imagining the number of pigeons you get when you throw food on the ground in a city somewhere; now replace the pidgins with swans. Yeah, that's a lot, eh?
Zürich's bureaucracy is fast, refreshingly cheerful
So Sam wanders off Monday morning, not too early, to register at his local town office. He arrives 10 minutes before their midday break to complete his registration, which would probably take well over 30 min, but they happily serve him anyway. How nice is that! The lady there not only dug deep into her next meeting time to process Sam's application right in front of him, but all the while was giving tourist'y information and apologising that it was taking so long. Sorry this is taking so long. Here's something to read. - and - You're Australian, you'd like the lake swim, I think. - and so on.
After that, Sam walked down the street to Credit Swiss- a very nice bank in a sandstone and marble building in the middle of the town. The lady who served Sam was very polite and agreed to speak in English, as Sam asked nicely. However, she gave an apologetic warning: I'm really sorry, but setting up an account will take 30 minutes. I'm so sorry! Sam, at this moment, thought to himself how nice it was to be in a country with such well-functioning bureaucracy. That's ok, Sam replied, because this is all I have planned for today. *Sam smiles*
Great public transport lulls you into complacency, bad habits
Zürich has trams running everywhere, every 2 to 3 minutes. Not only that, but they are also comfortable and look nice - something that you may expect from a luxury car. Funny that, since I learnt the designer of the Cobra Strassenbahn was the same bloke to design Ferraris. Regular train are also notably neat, tidy and generally nice in which to be a passenger. Most have second and first class carriages, but I was hard pressed to see the difference between the two when I accidentally rode in first once. They give you newspapers, magazines and really comfy seats with folding tables. They even have 'bar lounge' kind-of arrangements, where 5 seats bend around a central table. And how far is it to the airport? 10 minutes duration, running every 4 minutes. Wow...
This, right here, is Sam being rather impressed with Swiss public transport. During the time I've been in Switzerland (10 days total so far) I think I have been lulled into believing that no matter how late you leave home, you can make it to the airport. This idea was put to the test when I boarded the wrong train and had to travel to Aarau and back before finding the correct train and trying again. Thing is, Aarau is in a different Canton of Switzerland and 20 min away, so even with the world's best luck (immediate connection back to the main station) making the flight was a long shot. This time: too long (of a shot). Bastard effective Swiss rail system, lulling me into complacency!
I found a nice roommate called Mélanie. Well, I didn't find her, she found me, and she was very surprised how fast I accepted the room. Our place is in Switzerland's equivalent of Sydney's Newtown: hip and happening, bars and restaurants, every race represented somewhere, everyone making themselves seen and heard by sitting outside a cafe chatting loudly. When I see the place myself I'll tell you all about it.