Archive for May 18th, 2009


Dateline: Zurich

Zurich, Switzerland—It’s Monday, 9:30 a.m., but back home it’s 12:32 a.m. The time change screws you up, and not just your sleep-cycle—it’s played havoc with my internal email clock, which I didn’t even know I had. But now I get emails between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. Zurich time, so there isn’t much point in checking them during the day.

But that’s just a consequence of crossing into a different time zone, and doesn’t really say anything about Zurich itself. One thing I can say, unequivocally, is that it’s freakin’ expensive. The other, that it’s pretty as a postcard, or a jigsaw puzzle scene.

I arrived Thursday, and promptly got lost on the way to the main train station, Zurich HB. The Twister had to come and get me—I’d gotten off at the wrong stop. Fortunately, she’s staying not far from the main station, in an area rife with cafes, bars, restaurants, shops, and, uhm, strip clubs. It’s cobblestoned streets were teeming with the arrival of the sun this past weekend, and if you love European culture—sitting outside with a drink and watching the people go by—this street (Niederdorfstrasse)  is definitely prime. It’s also close to the river, the Limmat.

However, the Twister’s place—which is above Splash, a clothing shop, and across from the Hotel Alexander and a grocery store called Migros—is tiny. The kitchen is practically unworkable, and there’s nowhere to put my suitcase. It’s a furnished transition place halfway between an apartment building and a hotel; there is no garbage bin outside, but someone comes in once a week (tomorrow, Tuesday) to clean. Depending on your food habits—I’d suggest staying away from fish, if there was any fish to buy here—you could have a pretty stinky area under the sink by the time someone picks up the garbage. For this, she’s paying New York City apartment prices—and that’s nothing, apparently.

Language is a problem. For one thing, I don’t know any German, and for another, the language they speak here is a bastardization, Swiss-German. The Twister’s no great shakes in the language department either; we got into a silly fight when she accused me of coming off like a linguistic expert. Every once in awhile I’ll try out a little Swiss-German on a poor store clerk or server, usually with comical results. At least, the Twister’s laughing.

We watched a movie the other night, with a title loosely translatable as The Swiss Maker. It’s about a couple of petty bureaucrats who have the power to grant citizenship, and four people who are trying to become Swiss. It’s a cute, comical ’70s movie that tweaks the nose of the powers-that-be and the more uptight echelons of Swiss society. The Twister’s stories of trying to assimilate, and all the bureaucratic hoops she’s had to jump through, show things haven’t improved for those seeking citizenship. Echoes from Home, the other Swiss movie we tried to watch, turned out (the Twister wasn’t sure what it was she was buying at the time) to be a documentary about contemporary, experimental yodelers. I’m not making this up.

The weather’s been unpredictable, sometimes cool and overcast, other times hot and humid and sunny; Saturday was gorgeous, and we walked along the river to a lakeside flea market followed by a delicious pizza near the water. Yesterday started out beautifully, and I went for a run along the river walk, but by the time we got to a park in Langstrasse the clouds had come out. We stopped for a glass of wine before coming home, and everywhere we went, people were watching a football (soccer) game. Tres European.

Friday and Saturday nights we went bar hopping, an expensive proposition, let me tell you. But there are so many around here, it’s hard to resist; one I’ve especially liked so far is called Corazon, which has a casual atmosphere with cushion-y chairs and benches, and serves big bottles of Chimay. Speaking of Belgian beer, yesterday we stumbled upon Beers of the World (at least, I think that’s its name) in the shopping concourse under the main train stration. I haven’t been that excited since I discovered the U.S. chain BevMo.

Today looks like another cloudy one. With the Twister at work, I’m gonna be spending a lot of time wondering from cafe to bar to cafe again. And I might have to visit Beers of the World again. It’s cheaper than going to Starbucks, that’s for sure.

May 2009

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