By Emma Montross, MA 2014-15
6:30 AM is an early departure time under any circumstances, but when paired with the promise of waking up in a beautiful new country, the pre-dawn alarm becomes a lot easier to swallow. Last weekend, the Museum Studies Masters students had the opportunity to travel from bella Firenze to Zurich, the bustling and historic capital of Switzerland. A couple of stops were taken along the way, specifically Lucerne and Lugano, which couldn’t have been better additions to the trip. Being able to experience Lucerne, Lugano, and Zurich (with the Alps to keep us occupied on the bus in-between cities) was an excellent, albeit small, example of what Switzerland has to offer.
First stop, Lucerne. Located in central Switzerland and a part of the German-speaking portion of the country, the city boasts a population of around 80,000. In addition to being the most populous city in Central Switzerland, it is also the center of transportation, telecommunications, and government in the region. After six hours on the bus, everyone was excited for the first step on Swiss soil. Lucerne is situated on the shore of Lake Lucerne, between the Alps and the Swiss midlands, making a picturesque background for the first official activity of the trip: the Swiss Museum of Transport or Verkehrshaus der Schweiz. Inside the complex (the museum is comprised of four or five buildings), nearly every aspect of the museum is interactive. Visitors can board planes, touch buttons that make machines come alive, and even play a game with twenty-five of your closest friends to collectively choose a car from the museum’s extensive historical Swiss car collection to learn about specific car’s histories and cultures. Every part of the museum invites you to explore and learn, which was a welcome contrast from museums that only allow observation and do not allow for any interaction. A short hour and a half later and the group was back on the bus to Zurich.
We spent the most amount of time in Zurich, and I have to admit, I wish I had been able to spend a whole month there. With so many things to do and see (and only one free afternoon to achieve it all), there were endless possibilities. In the morning the entire cohort had a guided tour through the Museum of Modern Art (Kunsthaus Zürich), a pleasantly open and welcoming fine arts museum. It had a sizeable Van Gogh collection, and a respectable old masters collection, but for me, the most interesting part of the museum was its temporary exhibition entitled Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh… Japanese Inspirations. The exhibition explored the phenomenon ‘Japonisme’ in prominent European artists by juxtaposing Japanese objects such as fans and prints next to paintings by Degas, Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Bonnard that indirectly or directly influenced their works. An interesting way to look at old masters, I thought the exhibition was a fresh way to view and understand how art and world cultures interact.
Free time in Zurich varied for everyone, but I can definitely say that my favorite part of being set loose on the city was being able to walk around through the streets and people watch. And, of course, being able to get Starbucks. But from Chagall windows to Charlemagne crypts to Ukrainian protests, Zurich did not disappoint. I was definitely sad to see it go, a blow made entirely easier by the last Swiss city we stopped in before returning home.
Lugano is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Nestled against the shores of Lake Lugano with the Alps as a backdrop, the city has just enough Italian flair in it, reminiscent of old Venetian grand style. The group was fortunate enough to have a wonderful tour guide (and a student herself born and raised in Lugano!), which made the short 3 hours spent in the city feel like a home away from home. Lugano is also situated a little less than an hour from the Italian/Swiss border, and is therefore an Italian-speaking city—another welcome change after unfamiliar German over the previous two days. That Sunday, Lungano was hosting a grand prix bicycle race that looped through all the main roads, which did make getting to and from our restaurant for lunch a bit of a hassle, but the city is so beautiful that you could hardly stay mad for long. For me, I could tell that the people that live in Lugano deeply love their city, and in turn, it made me feel like Lugano was worthy of such a high honor.
All in all, I can say that while I spent a lot of time on a bus with short bursts of Swiss beauty, my favorite part just may have been looking out the window and watching the Alps act as a backdrop to small, colorful towns, crystal-clear lakes, and alternatively a life completely different of my own. When you have that, and a bus full of all the people you know abroad, how much better can it get?
Photo by Sarah Klein