Last month, I decided to go on a European road trip with my brother, two of my nephews and my cousin. We like to think of ourselves as “the dream team”…but probably resemble something more along the lines of this.
We landed in the Milano airport and immediately got busy.
Patron XO Cafe? At 8:30am? After an overnight sleepless flight? Sure why not.
Our very loose plan was to land in Milan, drive up to Zurich, then over to Liechtenstein (more on that in another post), then onto to Venice, Florence, Bologna, Rome and then up to Parma through the Tuscan countryside, ending our trip back in Milan.
IN 5 DAYS.
I do not normally like to travel like this—I prefer a nice leisurely pace with time to really absorb my surroundings (preferably a nice lukewarm Caribbean ocean with a fancy drink in hand). But sometimes you have just have to go for it. You have to be the America cliché because you are, for the most part, American.
So we landed in Milan, had some coffee and were on our way. One small glitch: our GPS was set in Russian.
Russian. An alphabet that is, like, totally impossible to work with when you’re desperately trying to search “how do I change the damn language on the GPS when it’s set to Russian” with my limited data roaming plan. (Verizon, you’re the worse.)
GPS OUT, iPhone IN. Our first mission was to leave Milan and head to Zurich. Something I absolutely DID NOT want to do. Why why why would we leave beautiful, wonderful, WARM Italy for the mountains, and cold, and dark, and dreary? WHY WOULD WE DO THAT? I tried my best to convince the dream team to skip the Alps, but I was outnumbered. So I gave in and focused on the photo ops instead.
At the border of Italy and Switzerland you are charged 35 Euros to enter Switzerland. That’s a red flag if I ever did see one. But we resumed blissfully unaware that the Franc-en-shaft had begun.
Around noonish we arrived in Zurich and started looking for places to eat lunch. I looked up some places on yelp and picked the highest rated/cheapest option. Except in Zurich “cheap” means something completely different than what it means for the rest of the entire world.
We find a pub and it’s tiny and cute and the owner seemed like a pretty authentic, rough around the edges kind of guy. Thankfully, my brother speaks German which earned us just a touch more respect than perhaps other American tourists would have. He plopped down menus in front of us, and gave us all of 3 seconds to look it over and figure it out. All the while standing impatiently over us waiting for our order.
When we told him we weren’t ready he gruffly took our drink order. My order went something like this:
“Can I have a glass of the house red wine?”
“WINE. WHITE. OKAY.”
“Ohhh, no…red. Red wine.”
My brother, laughing, ordered my red wine in German. The owner was not pleased. Did they have an abundance of white wine that he was trying to get rid of?
He came back two minutes later and pulled the menus out of our hands and waited for our orders. Let me repeat that, HE TOOK MY MENU AWAY BEFORE I COULD POINT TO WHAT I WANTED. Which of course left me to place my order in my ridiculous version of German.
“Geschnetzeltes, please.” Yeah. Exactly.
I ordered what is supposed to be the specialty in Zurich, and it looks like this.
It’s chicken (or pork or veal) smothered in a creamy mushroom sauce with what looks/tastes like a hash-brown on the side. And despite myself, and my growing dislike of this pub owner, it was pretty tasty. One side creamy, one side fried—win-win, right?
Our check came out, and was placed gently on the table. Ha, I’m kidding, gentle is not in the German/Swiss vocabulary.
You may or may not know this, but Switzerland is so rich that it never converted to the Euro. They’re all about the Swiss Franc. And because the country is so small, everyone is obviously a millionaire. Because our bill for the cheapest/highest rated pub in Zurich induced this reaction.
So we paid. Yet, still, we shrugged it off because we were ON VACATION! YEAH!
But then we went to get coffee at the Starbucks (Zurich is basically an outdoor mall full of American chain stores set in picturesque surroundings).
And we paid 8 Francs, or $9.20, for a coffee. This, this was the moment we coined the term: FRANC-EN-SHAFTED.
The entirety of our Swiss adventure felt like one big Franc-en-shaft after another.
Our most expensive, most delicious meal at a very expensive restaurant in Rome cost HALF of what a crappy “cheap” pub with terrible service costs in Zurich.
So do GO to Zurich for the photo ops:
But DO NOT eat/stay/drink there. Just turn yourself around and get yourself to Italy stat.
However, if you do decide that you must see the Swiss Alps, because they really are beautiful, you should perhaps brush up on your German: