Zurich

The next stop on my three weeks of travel was the beautiful city of Zurich, Switzerland. I spent two days here, with one of the days being a side trip to Jungfraujoch, but more on that later.

Accommodation was at the ibis Airport Hotel. The cost was reasonable at $70 CDN, although the rooms were rather simple, but the beds were comfortable.

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city at 408000 people. Switzerland has a population of 8.2 million people. Before we take a look at Zurich let’s look at a bit of history of Switzerland and how Zurich came to be.

Switzerland’s history is rather young. Switzerland was inhabited by the Gauls Raetians and was under Roman rule in the 1st century BC. The Gallo-Roman culture was combined with German influence during 235-284 AD time period. The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons (similar to states or provinces). Other localities joined the original three cantons over the years. The Swiss Confederation became independent of the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. The constitution of 1848 replaced the confederations with a centralized federal government. This constitution was modified again in 1874. Switzerland’s sovereignty and neutrality have long been honoured by the major European powers and the country was not involved in either of the two world wars. Switzerland did not become a European Union member until 2002, but maintains its own currency.

Zurich has an extensive tram network that would make many other cities jealous. The trams run every 6 minutes and are very punctual. This keeps traffic extremely light in the city as most people take public transport. Other cities that I have visited that have had great success with trams are Amsterdam, and Melbourne. Two cities that I’ve visited that used to a great tram network before the 1950’s rush to build automotive highways were Auckland, New Zealand and my home town Calgary, Canada. The mayor of Auckland even ordered the removal of some of the tram lines in the middle of the night! It’s a shame because these two cities are absolutely plugged with traffic.

Zurich is an extremely wealthy city, and Switzerland is also an extremely wealthy country with a large population working white collar jobs such as Google (3000 people in Zurich alone), fine quality jewelery and watches, chocolate, and banking and finance.

Zurich straddles both sides of the Limmat river and has many bridges that offer fantastic views, and a beautiful viewpoint from Lindenhof Park. Another wonderful spot for photographs is Grossmunster church, a Romanesque-style Protestant church, which was built between 1100 and 1220 AD.

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Check back shortly for the final installment of my trip; a trip to Jungfraujoch, a notable saddle in the Bernese Alps, connection the two peaks of Junfrau and Monch.

2018-08-20 – Nairobi, Kenya

Today I woke up at 7:30am. I had a shower and went downstairs to have a buffet breakfast, which was complimentary. The buffet had an excellent selection of cheeses, meats, omelets, sausages, pancakes, etc.

After having breakfast I went and explored the city of Nairobi and bought some groceries as the hotel lunch and dinner menus are exceptionally expensive. I purchased a muffin, yoghurt, bananas, oranges, and a bag of chips for under $5 USD at a local market called Tusky’s!

Since I didn’t have too much going on today I did a lot of reading on the history of Kenya, and the capital City; Nairobi. I’ve consolidated the information that i read into something that you can read in about five minutes.

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Kenya has seen human habitation since the begging of the Lower Paleolithic, back over 3.2 million years ago! In 2011 stone tools were discovered at Lomekwi near Lake Turkana, and these are the oldest stone tools found in the world. Kenya is a very ethnically diverse country with a mixture of African, Arabs, European and Asian individuals. There are 69 different languages spoken in Kenya, with English and Swahili being the most common spoken.

There are over 48 million people living in Kenya (estimated as the last official census was in 2009 and that census had some controversy behind it), and just over 6.5 million people residing in the capital city of Nairobi (including the metropolitan area).

Kenya was colonized by the British from 1888 to 1962. Nairobi was founded in 1899 by the colonial authorities in British East Africa, as a rail depot on the Uganda Railway. The town grew quickly and replaced Machakos as the capital city in 1907. After gaining independence from the British in 1963, Nairobi became the capital city of the Republic of Kenya.

Kenya’s economy relies heavily on Tourism, Agriculture, Industrial Manufacturing, Telecommunication, and Finance. Telecommunication and Finance account for about 60% of the total GDP of the country, and only 20% comes from agriculture even though that over 75% of the workforce is employed in Agriculture. Kenya’s economy is just starting to boom and is it definitely shows when I was walking the streets of Nairobi. You see a lot of economic diversity on the streets. On one street you see wealthier business people dressed in suits with laptops, cellphones, and nicer cars; then on the next street you see slums with tents and people selling textiles and food. 20% of Kenyans live on only $1.25/day but that wage is rising sharply with the economic growth!

As with any developing country with a developing economy there is a rather unwelcome problem of pollution in the form deforestation, water shortage, degraded water quality, and air pollution.

The main source of water pollution in Kenya is the direct and indirect discharge of raw sewage into water bodies. According to the UN Environment over 80% of the world’s water is released into the environment without treatment.

The main source of air pollution in Kenya is from industrial activity and the use of low quality fuels and diesel. Kenya is one of the few African countries that doesn’t use leaded petrol thankfully. According to the UN environment, overall environmental degradation causes 1 out of 4 deaths worldwide. This is an alarming statistic!

Kenya has taken some initiative to try to and solve some of the issues. One of these solutions was to ban plastic bags by imposing some of the world’s stiffest fines. I have noticed no plastic bags so far so I can definitely say this is helping. There is still a huge use of plastic for water bottles as the water in the country is mostly undrinkable due to contamination. Nairobi supposedly has water that is drinkable, but I’m not going to chance it. Another initiative that was taken was to built a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network in Nairobi, where traffic jams plague the city. People on average spend 3-5 hours stuck in gridlock and it has a huge tole on the air quality and economy; as its believed to cost 2% of the country’s GDP in lost productivity! I can believe it as I find the air pollution stifling here; even worse than what I experienced in my travels to Thailand and limited travels in China.

Another positive is that 87% of Kenya’s main grid electricity (not including personal diesel generators) is generated from geothermal heat, water, and wind, which puts it up there with Iceland and Costa Rica in terms of clean energy production. Way to go Kenya!

Continue following my blog as tomorrow I start my 8 day Kenyan Safari trip; so you’ll be sure to see lots of photos of animals in the wild!

Japan – Osaka

The next stop on my trip to Japan was Osaka. Osaka definitely feels a lot busier than Kyoto and has a completely different vibe as well. Osaka felt very westernized compared to Kyoto. I spent three days in Kyoto, including a side trip to a wonderful place called Mount Koya, a UNESCO world heritage site; more on that later.

Osaka was very different from Kyoto. I found the castle in Osaka to be better, and it was a more modern city, but my favorite of the two has to be Kyoto. Osaka had a great metro system, a great zoo, a super cool building called Umeda Sky Building, a great museum on the history of the city, and some really pretty temples. I also tried Sake for the first time here!

Stay tuned for the last installment of my Japan series where I visit the beautiful city of Hiroshima!

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