When I made plans in late 2008 to travel to Switzerland and live there for at least a month or two, I began my adventure by first seeking out an apartment that I could call home for the first leg of my trip. I didn’t really care where the apartment was located, but it needed to have Internet access and it needed to be within my budget. I preferred that it be in a somewhat large and historical city, but other than those few things, I was open to just about anything I could find.
I started my search on Craigslist.org, but was unsuccessful in finding anything in my price range. Then I started searching on Google. Once again, no luck finding an affordable apartment with Internet access in any type of major city.
It was then that I had the idea to search on Google.ch – the Swiss version of Google.com. It was there that I found an entirely German website (sadly, I can’t remember what is was) that had short term apartment rental listings. Scrolling through the list of apartments (and looking mainly at the prices), I found one in my price range and then used Google Language Tools in order to read the details of the apartment (My German at the time was not nearly as good as it is now, so I needed some extra help). From what I could tell, the apartment looked great, so I sent off an email and heard back a short time later from a girl named Stephanie.
Stephanie and I exchanged a number of emails. I asked about the location of the apartment, the Internet access and the price. She wouldn’t budge on the price and she wanted to find someone who could rent the place for two whole months, but after a bit of deep thought I made the leap and told Stephanie I wanted to reserve her flat (afterall, the apartment was practically the same price as what I pay for the mortgage on my condo here at home, so it wasn’t like I was going crazy or anything). I crossed my fingers, praying that this wasn’t some kind of Internet scam and wired Stephanie approximately $3,000 USD ($1,200 per month x 2 months + another $1,200 for the deposit).
A few months later I flew into Zurich, Switzerland, boarded a train bound for Luzern, and walked with my bicycle and all of my humanly possessions the short distance (less than a mile) from the train station to my new home in downtown Luzern.
I arrived in Luzern on New Year’s Eve (2008), just a few hours before ringing in the New Year. It was dark when I emerged from the train station and snow had just started to fall from the sky.
I remember walking across the bridge that leads from one side of Lake Luzern to the other and thinking to myself, “I hope this apartment actually exists. Otherwise, I’m screwed!”
I had used Google Earth to map out the location of the apartment in advance, so it was incredibly easy for me to find once I arrived in Luzern that night. I walked almost exactly to the front entrance, inserted the key (which Stephanie had mailed to me in advance), walked up the stairs to the second story, went through two more doors, and found myself inside my new home!
Instantly upon my arrival I knew that I was going to like it here. The place was modern, clean, warm and welcoming.
Decorated almost entirely in IKEA products, the apartment obviously belonged to a girl – probably someone around my same sage (25). The photos below show nearly every inch of my Swiss apartment.
When I walked into the living room/kitchen area, I found a note that Stephanie had left for me, along with a number of maps for the surrounding areas.
Here is what Stephanie’s note said:
Welcome to Luzern, and welcome to my flat. Please feel at home. Please feel free to use anything you want.
– There is an Internet connection next to the sofa for you to use.
– Feel free to use the food in the cupboards.
– The rubbish has to be put in the grey bags under the sink. When it is full it has to be put outside the door on the street only on Monday or Thursday before 8:00 am. If you need more rubbish bags they can be bought in the Migros on the till.
– You can use the washing machine which is next to door (on the left) when you come out of the flat. The machine accepts only 1 Fr. coins which you put in the meter on the left. Make sure you have enough money in it otherwise it will stop washing. It takes two one franc coins.
– There is a tourist information in the railway station for your activities in the region or have a look at www.myswitzerland.com
If you have any questions please call my boyfriend ___________ or my mum who has a spare key ___________.
Enjoy your stay in Luzern!
– Stefi –
P.S. – Can you water the plants once a week?
– You can also use my computer. Login ____________
The plant you see here on the far left side of the bookcase did not survive my stay. I tried my best to keep it alive, but I could not… and I felt really bad about killing Stephanie’s plant while she was away. I left her a note when I left the apartment, telling her how sorry I was. She email me back a few days later and said it was no big deal. I hope that that is true!
The gray cylinder on the left side of this photo had a note on it, asking me not to look inside. I imagine this strange circular closet contained Stephanie’s clothes or other personal items, but I never did look inside, so I guess I’ll never know.
The photo above shows the entrance to my Swiss apartment. You would insert a key to get past the glass door on the ground level, then climb the stairs on the left and enter the first door on the left-hand side (with the same key). Once inside the building, I’d walk straight forward and enter the apartment through the door directly in front of me.
It often times smelled like smoke inside the apartment building hallway and I occasionally heard my neighbor to the left of me entertaining guests. But other than that, the apartment was quiet, comfortable, and homey.
One of the neatest things about my apartment in Luzern was that it was located directly above a Heini bakery and directly across from a large Migros supermarket. I never actually ate at the bakery, but finding food was never a problem.
The apartment I stayed in had windows directly to the left and the right of the red HEINI sign shown in the photos above and below.
I would often times open the windows and just sit and stare at the people walking past. Most people paid no attention to me. In fact, most never bothered to look up and see me sitting there. Some did see me however, and they usually just waved as they slowly ambled past.
One of my favorite things about my apartment in Luzern was that I could sit in the apartment, working or eating, remain toasty warm, and I still felt like a part of the city because I was able to look down on all of the people walking by.
The photo above shows my view of the Migros supermarket that was situated directly across the street from me. This photo was taken during the Fasnacht carnival, which is why the people here are dressed up in costume.
This photo was taken while riding a large conveyor belt down to the bottom floor of the Migros supermarket. The supermarket had three main levels and you rode a slightly slanted conveyor belt to get from one level to the next. Because the conveyor belt was flat, unlike an escalator that has stairs on it, you could push your cart up or down the ramp, which made me nervous the first few times I saw others do it.
The photos below show me working inside my flat in downtown Luzern. I spent a lot of time sitting at this table, but it was probably one of the more enjoyable places I have ever worked. From that spot inside the apartment I was not only able to get a lot of work done, but I was also able to stare out the window to my right and watch as hundred and thousands of people walked past.
My typical day in Luzern consisted of me sleeping in until about 9 or 10 am. I would then get up, check my email and do an hour or two’s worth of work. While working I would eat and stare out the window as people walked by. Then I’d head out into the streets myself. I would walk around, ride my bike, or simply go and visit nearby stores. Around 4 PM I’d return to the apartment and spend a few more hours at the computer. I’d eat around 8 or 9 PM and then return to the streets for another hour or so, just to take a break from work and see what, if any, activities were going on that night.
While living in Luzern, I took several side trips to other cities and neighboring areas. I went skiing with my friend Rich Palantino and even took a train to Liechtenstein.
After two months of life in Switzerland, however, it was finally time to say goodbye. On the 28th of February (2009) I packed up my things, locked the door to my second story apartment and said goodbye forever.
I’d love to go back to Luzern one day (especially in the summer when the grass is green and the air is warm) and I will always consider this famous Swiss city as one of the few places in the world where I have ever truly felt at home.