Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Switzerland Diary 2: Sausage, Chocolate, and Beer

The title says it all: I finally have my priorities straight in this blog. Now that the negative aspects of the trip are out of the way, there’s the positive, which was considerable.

The only problem I had with the food was that it was too damn expensive. And the only problem I had with the places that served the food was that the entire country of Switzerland apparently closes on Sundays, so there was nowhere I could actually eat for an entire day. I have decided that during this winter, I’m going to learn how to make rosti, a kind of shredded crispy potato, and hope only that it doesn’t require too much labour to prepare myself. This is why I’ll probably never make my own sushi. But the healthy portions of rosti with a large gravy-drenched sausage and a tube of hot mustard sauce from Saturday night was probably the best meal I had while I was there. The waiter was a jerk, and I think I inadvertently insulted him. So I think we were both equally jerks.

The downtown chocolate shop that we were first shown during the terrifyingly punctual walking tour was very good to me, supplying me with glasses of the best hot chocolate I think I’ve ever had, and my souveniers of surprisingly affordable milk chocolate squares. I did purposely seek the cheap stuff that would fit most easily in my suitcase.

The hotel had the best hotel food I think I’ve ever experienced, and it will be difficult for most hotels I can afford to top this display. Hotel Sonne-Rotmonten had freshly baked bread and croissants every morning, with substantial packets of blueberry jam and marmalade to go along with them. There was also a tray of assorted meats, all of which were flavourful and spicy, next to a fruitbowl and a mini-fridge containing carafes of juice and milk for the people. I think conference delegates were the only guests in the hotel that weekend, as we had the entire north dining room to ourselves.

I did not go to the official conference dinner because it cost $US90. But I stopped by at the end to let my friend Corrine know that everything else in Switzerland was closed, so we wouldn’t be going anywhere to drink after dinner. We did, however, finish as much of the wine that was left as possible. There was a very pleasant fellow from the RAND Corporation at the conference who had indulged far more than I had the chance to. We left the restaurant at 10.45, which was just enough time for Corrine to catch the last bus back to her hostel. Yes, it was the last bus coming at only 11.00, because Switzerland closes on Sundays.

My last Swiss dinner was at a fondue restaurant that my couch surfing friend’s host took us to. However, I did not have fondue as that many carbs would combine with that much cheese to constitute a terrible, terrible crime against my hotel room’s toilet that night. So while everyone around me dipped bread in boiling cheese, I ate an enormous breaded pork steak. I also had a pint of Hefeweizen that I genuinely enjoyed for the first time in my life. I think central European water is just better suited to making Hefewiezen.

The default mode of coffee was espresso. It was served at my hotel in the morning, and at multiple times of the day during the conference. I found it making me tired during the withdrawal periods again, the negative impact of regular coffee intake beginning to re-assert itself. At least the hotel’s espresso was actually good. I surmised that the conference services at the university gave us the same espresso that they sold to the students.

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