I've always enjoyed speaking at conferences, especially those in exotic locations. Earlier this year, I saw Jazoon's call for papers and thought, "I've never been to Switzerland, sounds fun!" I proceeded to submit a talk, got accepted and booked a trip with my girlfriend, Trish. We left Denver last Tuesday and arrived in Zürich on Wednesday around noon. After settling into our awesome accommodations at Hotel Opera, we journeyed to the conference location, which was held at a movie theater.
We were quickly impressed when we learned the conference had reserved a theater for an evening showing of The Hangover 2. We grabbed some drinks from the bar and settled in for a couple hours of giggling and barely staying awake from jetlag.
Zürich quickly made an impression on us the first day. We experienced its excellent transportation system (trains, trams, buses and boats) and saw a number of fancy cars (a Bently, a Lamborghini and a Ferrari). Prices were high, but the food was excellent.
On Thursday, we woke up and Trish realized she'd left her expensive Nikon lenses on our flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam. This realization hit her hard and she scrambled to try and find them by contacting the airlines. I rushed off to the conference to catch Frank Kim's What Every Developer Should Know About Application Security. This was a great session and I especially enjoyed that he selected Apache Roller as the application to hack. After that, I attended Ed Burns' Hyperproductive JSF and published my notes.
Then I met Trish for lunch at the conference and we went to the room for my talk. We had some technical difficulties to start (my brand-new Mini-DVI connector was bad) and I started about 10 minutes late. During this mad scramble to fix things, I started having some stomach issues, but ignored them thinking I could make it through my 50 minute talk. As I was doing demos and sweating profusely, I realized I couldn't make it and ran out of the room with 10 minutes left. The whole experience shook me up a bit. It was definitely not my best performance, but it could've been a lot worse.
Friday, we tried to sleep off our jet lag and woke up in the early afternoon. Trish had three places she wanted to visit and we managed to see them all in the same day. We climbed the tower at Grossmünster, rode the train to Rhine Falls and celebrated our anniversary at Gruelich, the highest-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor. We arrived at Guelich around 10pm and were very happy when they agreed to serve us. We did the 4-course meal and had the Sommelier choose our wines. It wasn't cheap, but definitely worth the experience.
After dinner, we took the 8 Tram back to our hotel. However, it somehow turned into the 9 and we ended up on the opposite side of the lake. This turned out to be a nice diversion as we had a nice walk around the lake with some nice swans and lights on the water.
Saturday, we woke up early for a big day of travel to the Swiss Alps. We enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast at the hotel and headed for the central train station. My good friend, Fernand, recommended we visit Grindelwald, while one of Trish's best friends thought we'd love the quaintness of Gimmelwald. We gulped at the price (500 USD) of the train ticket to both locations, but were impressed that you could buy all the tickets we needed (including the bus and trolley ride) at one place. We both quickly forgot the cost as we passed through the beautiful town of Interlaken and arrived in Grindelwald. An hour later we were hiking through Gletscherschlucht (Glacier Gorge) and marveling at the craftsmanship of the trail.
After enjoying a beer on a patio with a view, we boarded the train for Gimmelwald. A transfer, bus ride and cable car ride later, we were standing in the picturesque town, marveling that it had a lower elevation than Denver and perplexed that everyone seemed to be American. We strolled around, took a number of cool photos and had a scrumptious dinner at the Pension Gimmelwald.
On our train ride home, we missed our connection in Interlaken. This was no surprise as we regularly encountered very short layovers between trains. The Swiss are incredibly efficient and our brief stop in a store (that had a line at the cashier) was enough to miss the next train. The hour layover turned into a nice opportunity to stroll around town and snap a few last pictures. I especially like the sunset below, taken around 9:30 at night.
Trish and I both were super-impressed with Zürich, the friendliness of the Swiss and especially the Swiss Alps. Yes, it was definitely expensive, but everything was top notch and beautiful. There's a very good chance we'll visit again. Thanks to the Jazoon Organizers for having us and providing us the opportunity to explore their gorgeous country.