10 April, 2011

The ZSC Lions Are Crowned Swiss Champions!

 

Eurotrip Finale 


 

It’s about that time where I unfortunately have to say all good things must come to an end.  My time in Switzerland has officially ended for this year, as I am currently writing this blog on the plane back to Canada.  I arrived in Switzerland on the 25th of August as a first time European traveler but now I leave on the 7th of April as a very distinguished world traveler.  I was fortunate enough to travel to 11 different countries (which were all amazing) and become a first time Swiss Champion as part of the ZSC Lions organization! My experience in Switzerland is one that I will never forget, it’s such a beautiful country and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to have stayed there for the last 7 months.  Of course, I can’t be writing my last blog without a few more travel stories for you, but first I will sum up my hockey experience since that’s what brought me to Switzerland in the first place.

 

 

Thinking back to the first day I spent with the team, I was nervous but I was also full of excitement. I wanted to let this opportunity take me to places I never thought I’d go, I wanted it to give me a unique experience…and that it did!   There I stood in the locker room, listening to 20 girls speak German to each other, and thinking they are totally talking about me but I had no hope in understanding! But my perception soon changed as most of my teammates were fluent in English, let’s just say I was overwhelmed with a sense of relief.  I knew right away that this team was a great group of girls and that I was going to have a lot of fun this year! I was immediately welcomed and taken care of but all members of the organization and they were very patient with my lack of German speaking abilities.   We played our first two games at a practice weekend in Switzerland and it was during this time when I knew this team had the talent to become Swiss Champions…..we had such a successful season, losing only 2 games in a 34 game season.  The first of three league titles that we won was the Swiss Women’s Cup (which I have talked about in my previous blogs).  Next was our regular season title, as we had the most points and gained home ice  advantage for the playoffs.  The third and MOST important title was Swiss Champions.., which I will now talk about our final series against the ladies Lugano team.  So if you think back, our playoffs started against Langenthal and we were able to beat them 3 games to 0 in a best of five series.  That advanced us to the finals where we were to play the defending champions, Lugano.  Our season series was split 2-2 as we both won 2 and lost 2 games against each other so we knew it was going to be a hard fought battle.  We played the first game in Zurich, where I must say our fans were great! Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best start as we were down 3-0 after the first period! But, with a strong effort in the second period and 2 short handed goals, we were able to come back and find ourselves tied 3-3 going into the third period.  The third period solved nothing, which resulted in overtime.  At this point, I was feeling confident because we were 2-0 in overtime games this season…sure enough, we kept our undefeated streak alive in overtime and scored to take a 1-0 lead in a best of five series.  The next day, feeling a little tired, we traveled to Lugano to play the second game of the series.  After the 3.5 hour bus ride, we put our gear on and were suited up for game 2.  Our hopes were to come out a little better then yesterday’s start but AGAIN we found ourselves down 3-1 after the first period.  What was going on….I felt like I had a bad case of déjà-vu.  Like yesterday, we fought back in the second and closed the score to 4-3 before the start of the third.   In the third, with a valiant effort from all members of the team, we came back and scored 2 goals to win 5-4.   THIS WAS HUGE for us.   We just took game 2 of the series in Lugano and found ourselves with the opportunity to win the championship (game 3) in Zurich.  We ate some Italian pizza (so good) and then made the journey back to Zurich feeling very good about our efforts!  We had the week to recover and rest, and then we were back on the ice for game 3 that Saturday.  I will say that I think we were all a little nervous before the game because the Swiss Championship had never been won in the ZSC ladies organization…so we put a lot of pride in the opportunity we had.  We had our best crowd of the year, as ZSC flags were waving as the puck dropped for game 3.  Unfortunately, we did surrender 3 goals after the first period (for the third game in a row) but this time we were able to score 2 ourselves so we down 3-2 after the first period.  We never actually took the lead until late in the third period, as the game was very back and forth.  We were winning 8-6 with one minute to play...I was sent out to take the faceoff but somehow I managed to get a penalty for playing with a broken stick (I admit it was broken but the other girl got a penalty also)….so off I went to the penalty box where two of my teammates were there waiting for me!  We celebrated by jumping and screaming and then joined the celebration in front of our net after the game had ended…we had officially become the Swiss Champions!! It was a great feeling seeing everyone’s excitement, especially after such an exhausting series! We celebrated with pictures for over an hour after the game and then continued our championship festivities later that night (details on request).  So basically, that sums up my Swiss Ice Hockey adventure.  It was the perfect season!! 

Now onto my travel stories….following a visit from my mom and Marie in February I had about a month to recover before my Grandma and Aunt Karen came over for their own Europe adventure.  Unfortunately, the season had finished before they arrived so they weren’t able to see my play, however that gave us ample time to travel and enjoy Europe to the fullest.  So just like all my visitors, I tried to be a good host and meet them at the airport for their arrival and you would think at this point I would have the whole timing thing at the airport down…. think again!   I always find myself waiting, and waiting, and waiting for these international flights to arrive. …soon enough, two more familiar faces came walking through the door and we were off to our adventures. The day they arrived was a very busy one as were traveling to Basel, Switzerland to attend Fasnacht (a Swiss carnival) to meet a few of my teammates and friends and to enjoy the parade.  The carnival lasts for a continuous 72 hours and is full of crazy costumes, confetti, flowers, and many, many people!  Approximately 18, 000 active fasnachtler (participants) are involved in the celebration every year.  So we hopped onto the train and arrived in Basel around 2pm.  The city was full of people as we made our way down to the carnival.  We were able to get candy, flowers, oranges, and confetti thrown all over us – it was a very interesting celebration for us Canadians to experience! We left the parade and decided to get a bit to eat with everyone, which I was very excited about because my aunt and Grandma were able to meet and talk with Swiss, Scottish, and Canadian girls! They got a little glimpse of what my year was like in Switzerland…we finished our dinner and traveled back to Bulach for the night…I do have to mention that out of all my visitors, my aunt and grandma were the ONLY two to not have slept the minute they arrived in Bulach (so congratulations to you) !! However, I think this worked against me as later that night I realized I had a third and fourth member of the orchestra featuring Aunt Karen on the bass drum and Grandma on the French horn (ear plugs were a must)! The next day I took them to see the city of Zurich and if you do you calculations correct you will also realize this was St. Patricks Day (I will admit I forgot all about this).  We walked down bahnofstrasse and made it to the lake of Zurich, continued onto the old town of Zurich and then came across an Irish bar (we were all feeling a little thirsty)  so we decided to go and have a drink for St. Patricks Day – green beer!! As we said cheers and enjoyed our drinks, I came to realize I had actually been to this bar before….is that a good or bad thing??? Anyway. I invited a few of my teammates to join us and we ended up spending a good part of the afternoon celebrating this lovely holiday! On Friday, we traveled to Interlaken, an area most famous for being in the Swiss Alps. Here I was really hoping it was a clear day because the views of the mountains are incredible from here.  Sure enough, the day turned out to be perfect and we got the pleasure of eating lunch with the Swiss Alps in the background! We also toured into a few shops, purchased some Swiss army knives, and enjoyed the city of Interlaken.  For dinner, I made them a nice homemade pizza and we had a very relaxing night! On Saturday, my aunt and Grandma has plans to take a guided tour to the Swiss Alps, but due to the rainy weather, they decided to take a trip to Luzerne, Switzerland (which is also beautiful) and spend some time in the city there.  I took the day off and waited for their arrival back to Bulach in the afternoon – I will admit I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see them again because it was their first time using the Swiss Bahn alone!  Good news though they arrived back in Bulach sooner than I expected so they must have done well with the train schedule! 

 

 

The next morning we were up at 5am to prepare for our trip to Paris, France.  We took the ICE (intercity express) train to Paris, as it was a 4.5 hour train ride.  We arrived, found our hotel, and planned out our evening in the city of romance.  We decided to do dinner at the Eiffel Tour along with a night cruise along the Seine River.  So we journeyed on foot to where we had to meet for the start of the tour.  I was the map reader and I ended up taking us down pretty much the red light district of Paris, so I apologize for that!  Anyway the dinner was great, as we had salad, duck, chicken, vegetables, and a lovely dessert.  The cruise was beautiful as Paris at night is definitely something worth seeing!  We had a great start to Paris adventure and were excited to explore the city the next day.  On Monday, we purchased a Hop-on-Hop-off bus pass to get us around the city.  We saw attractions such as the Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre.  The weather was great as we ate lunch outside at a very quaint restaurant in the center of the city!  At night, we decided to attend the ever famous Moulin Rouge….and what a show it was! On Tuesday, we decided to explore a bit on our own, so I spent a large part of my day at the Eiffel tour, relaxing on the grass and taking in the amazing structure.  At night we went to a Ukraine restaurant near our hotel, as we wanted to try a different type of food.  We all enjoyed our meals very much as it was a great way to end our Paris adventure. 

 

 

On Wednesday, we left Paris to travel to Munich, Germany and again we made the most of our first night in the city by participating in the Beer Challenge tour.  Here we learned about the history of Munich and the importance of beer and how they make it. Of course there was a little tasting involved as well and I do have to mention that my Grandma received the Beer drinking champion award at the end of the night – way to go Gram!  We visited four different beer halls in Munich and even had a drink at the famous Hofbrauhaus! The next day, aunt Karen visited the Dachau memorial site and Grandma and I toured the city of Munich, had a delicious Bratwurst for lunch and spent some time in the parks of Munich.  We also watched the glockenspiel at city hall, which was something special to see!  The three of us met up for dinner under the old city hall where we ate traditional German dishes.  On Thursday, Grandma and Aunt Karen went on a castle tour (one that I had already done in October) so I decided to shop and maybe treat myself to a few gifts.  I ended up buying a new leather jacket and some new flats so I was very pleased with my purchases! We relaxed at night and prepared for our next adventure up to Frankfurt, Germany. We arrived in Frankfurt at noon, and Julia was there to pick to us up (a distant relative that Grandma got in contact with through Genealogy).  We traveled with her to her house and met her mom, dad, and sister who were all very welcoming! We also arrived to a nice, traditional, homemade, German meal of meat, potatoes, and green sauce.  After we ate we went and toured the city of Frankfurt, which is fairly new compared to the rest of Europe due to the destruction of World War II.  It was a very beautiful city with many expensive shops.  Following our tour of the city, we met her family at a local restaurant and got to have apple wine out of a stein! The next day we traveled to Niederjossa (about an hour from Frankfurt) to meet a number of our extended family members that my Grandma was in contact with through her genealogy.   This was a very exciting and interesting for us as we got to learn a lot about our German heritage.  The lunch was interesting because not many of the guests could speak English so we depended a lot on Julia, Suzy, and Sascha to translate for us!  After lunch we toured around the area to learn more about family living and the traditions that have carried on through the generations.  We returned back to Frankfurt at night and were exhausted from all the excitement that the day had entailed! On our third and final day in Frankfurt, Aunt Karen and I decided to go shopping and Grandma and Julia toured around the area with the car.  We had homemade pizza for dinner (very delicious) and again had to pack up our suit cases as Grandma and Aunt Karen were to return to Canada the next day and I was returning back to Switzerland! 

 

 

After being back in Bulach for one night, I left for Greece the next day with my new found 5th removed cousin Sascha that I met at our lunch in Niederjossa.  I was very excited for this trip because Greece had been on my bucket list since I arrived in Europe.  So we met at the airport and our first destination was Athens.  Athens may sound familiar as it hosted the 1896 and 2004 Summer Olympics…but also standing on the ground of Athens is the site of the Acropolis.  The significance of the Acropolis in Athens in that it is commonly known as The Acropolis without qualification.  The Acropolis is a flat-topped rock that rises 150m above sea level in the city of Athens.  We arrived on the 31st of March and toured the city for the afternoon, walked through their amazing gardens, picked some oranges from the orange trees, and saw a number of monumental structures throughout the city.  We also visited the Acropolis museum, before heading to a restaurant for a very traditional Greek dinner.  Following dinner, we decided to try the nightlife of Athens and check out a couple local pubs…. we enjoyed the Greek beer very much! The next day, we traveled to The Acropolis only to find it packed with tourists!! We made the hike uphill and eventually stood looking over the entire city of Athens – what a view!  The structures at this site were truly amazing and you could feel the importance of history in the Greek culture.  That afternoon, we hopped onto another plane to continue our journey down to Santorini, part of the Cyclade group of islands in Greece.  Now this part of travel was designed to be my relaxation trip, as Santorini is famous for its beautiful views and black sand beaches.  From the minute we arrived I was blown away by the landscape of the island.  We arrived in the afternoon of the 1st of April and made our way to the town of Fira (capital city).  Fira is situated central but also west on the island, so it provides amazing cliff views of the Aegean Sea.  We spent the afternoon touring the city and doing a little shopping.  The next day, we did a boat tour taking us to the Volcano Island and hot springs.  Santorini is essentially the remains of an enormous volcanic explosion, so visiting this island, some 2 km from the mainland was a lot of fun.  We hiked up the volcano island, where again the views were incredible, and then continued onto the hot springs.  The hot springs was located behind the volcano island and this is an area known for its swimming as water temperatures are usually 5-10 degrees warmer then the rest of the sea.  Sascha was brave enough to take a swim but it was unfortunately too cold for my liking so I stayed on the boat and watched! We returned from our boat excursion later that afternoon and then continued the day with some touring and nice a Greek dinner at a local restaurant.  On the 3rd of April, we decided to rent an ATV so we could travel around the island.  In the morning, we basically drove across the ENTIRE island, checking things out like the red sand beach, black sand beach, and the town of Oia.  In the evening we stayed in Oia for dinner and as recommendations stated, this was THE place to watch the sunset.  Most of the post card pictures of Santorini are taken in this town, as there are beautiful pictures with the white and blue churches standing on the cliff looking onto the Aegean Sea.  I must say, I was very impressed with everything this town had to offer, the sunset was amazing and the restaurants were delicious! I tried a traditional dish of Santorini called the Moussaka, which is a layered dish with eggplant – very good! After the sunset we took our ATV back to Fira and decided to try our luck with the nightlife…I definitely was not disappointed with this!  The next day we took the ATV and our luggage to the town of Kamari, to stay two nights on the beach…we had experienced the cliff view but now wanted the sand!  We stayed right on the beach and could walk to all the café’s and restaurants looking out to the Sea. This was true Santorini for me….later that day we took another tour on the ATV and again made our way to the nightlife of Santorini! On the 5th of April (also our last day there) we took the ATV up to ancient Thira (the original sights of Santorini Island) and once again the views and history here were amazing. After this we had a nice relaxing day on the beach and then went to dinner at a great restaurant on the water.  Unfortunately, we had to return back to Switzerland (and Germany for Sascha) the next day and our Santorini vacation was over! The flights went well, as I returned back to Bulach around 4pm but knew I had LONG night ahead with packing as I was leaving for Canada the next morning….

 

 

The packing went better then I thought, as I was ready to go fairly early and was able to relax and enjoy my last night in Bulach.  It was then that I realized I’m going to miss this place, as my time in Switzerland has been nothing short of amazing.  I was able to continue playing hockey, travel Europe, meet great people, and even win a Swiss Championship! I am 100% grateful for the opportunity that was given to me and as for my future plans….that is still to be decided…for now this is the end of my blogging journey!


 

Thank you so much for reading and supporting me over the past year!


 

Kelly  

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