Unorganized thoughts from Switzerland:
- It reminds me a little of Taipei, oddly enough. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it has a similar feel (except it's not 98% Asian and things are a lot more expensive). I think it's the way the shops are built, the little markets, the meandering back alleys, the smaller cars, the bicycles (though in Taiwan, it's mostly motor scooters), the closeness of everything. Of course, the air is much nicer here and the buildings much older.
- There racial diversity is pretty surprising. I would have thought it more like Utah, to be honest, but there is a noticeable presence of minorities here.
- Things are expensive.
- Lots of bicycles...everywhere. Men, women, professionals, students, young, old-- all sorts of folks can be seen riding their bicycles in the morning. Also, people don't generally lock their bicycles; they just park them and go. A fellow American traveler commented that in the US, they'd probably all be on the back of a pickup truck in under 10 minutes...
- Basel, where I'm staying, is very small and very walkable. However, the free tram system here is superb and traveler friendly. They are frequent and accessible from nearly everywhere in the city - no need to purchase tickets.
- As a consequence of the previous two bullet points, there aren't very many cars here for a metropolitan and business center.
- Maybe I notice it more because I back up to the woods at home, but there is a surprising lack of insects.
- The toilet paper is much thicker and the sheets are longer (yes, these sorts of mundane things interest me).
- The city is very clean compared to other metropolitan areas I've visited.
- The coffee is fantastic nearly everywhere I've had coffee (maybe this is a general European characteristic). Even the hotel coffee is superb! It surprised me to see several Starbucks in my wanderings in the city given the general quality of the coffee I've had here exceeded the coffee I've had at any of the US Starbucks I've had. A fellow Danish traveler said that it's because it's "American" and folks like the flavored coffees, which is absurd to me.
- The McDonald's here is the most expensive McDonald's I've ever had. That said, the Big Tasty was huge and had bacon and the bun had caramelized onions on top. Way better than in the US.
- Smoking - it's everywhere. I guess I'm not used to this anymore as there's pretty much no open areas where people can smoke back in NJ. I will tell you this: I do not miss that aspect of New Jersey.
- The aforementioned Danish traveler mentioned that he never eats breakfast at hotels here in Europe but never skips them in the US. I can understand why. The breakfast fare here is mostly bread, cheese, bread, cereal, and more bread. Not quite as satisfying as some bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, and hash browns.