Posts Tagged ‘Zurich


Ups and downs on the Golden Pass

Back in Vancouver less than 24 hours and the Twister’s already calling to use my credit card. So much for “rebranding” herself, as she claims to be doing over there in Zurich.

Our goodbye, which happened at the main train station when I saw her off to work, was sad, as much as we infuriated each other over the last 10 days. And there was plenty of irritation to go around… for the Twister, I’m sure the highlight was Saturday afternoon. On our way to Montreux, in southwest Switzerland on Lake Geneva, via the scenic Golden Pass train route, we’d gotten on the wrong train, and we were trying to right ourselves. In a weird switch of gender roles, the Twister likes to figure things out herself (invariably leading to more confusion) while I, especially in a foreign country, like to ask questions. At any rate, she also hates my pronunciation of the few German words I attempt, and becomes acutely embarassed whenever I start asking questions.

So when we became uncertain which train to take next, she left me on the platform of a station. I was strictly forbidden from inquiring from any passing authorities or other passengers while she went in search of info. Of course, the minute she was out of sight I spied this weird pillar-like kiosk that said “information.” You don’t even talk to someone in person, you press a button and talk into a microphone. And that’s how she caught me, red-handed as it were, talking to a red pillar and trying to communicate with some Swiss train dude about which train to catch. She couldn’t have been angrier if she’d caught me with pictures of someone else’s crotch on my camera (see previous blog entry, Thanksgiving 2008).

We got through that, but there were several more instances as we tried to navigate the Swiss train system. It was all worth it though for the night and half-day we spent in Montreux, a breathtakingly beautiful little lakeside town. The Golf Hotel was no great shakes as rooms go, but the breakfast (included) was a feast, and a terrace looked out on the water. For dinner we ate at a little Italian restaurant—pizza, again, it’s so good over there thanks to the Italian influence—and chatted with a local who recommended, for lunch the next day, the Palais Oriental. We stopped in for lunch—Greek tapas—on the restaurant’s terrace, then spent the rest of the day at each other’s throats navigating our way back to Zurich. All right, it wasn’t that bad, but it was a long (if sickengly scenic) journey, and we were exhausted by the time we arrived back in town. And like I mentioned, everything was fine by the next morning, and love and sorrow at parting had replaced our mutual desire to make the other’s head explode like in the movie Scanners.

Next: a pictorial essay on my Switzerland trip.


For a good time in Zurich…

It was some kind of holiday yesterday, though national or just city-wide I’m not sure. Also, no one seemed to be able to tell us what the holiday was about, outside of “some Christian thing.” Anyway, the upshot of all this being, the Texas Twister lost her key.


To put it into context: there is one key that works both the building door and the apartment door, and it’s basically uncopy-able. So we have the one key between us and yesterday she was doing the laundry in the basement dungeon. She took the key with her and came back upstairs and then said she was going to get some breakfast. I said I’d be along in a bit and she left. A few minutes later, having finished whatever it was I was working on, I started getting ready to leave. Then I thought, the keys. She must have them. However, I know enough never to assume such things when it comes to the Twister, so I took a quick look around the apartment, even checked some coat pockets. Nothing. Okay then…

I found her sitting outside at a nearby “cucina” (lit. “kitchen”, meaning restaurant), where she’s having a coffee and waiting on some mussels. Hi, I say. You have the key, right?

She looks in her big white bag, which she bought at the flea market last Saturday. No key. Still, I’m thinking, it’s probably in that bag somewhere—this kind of thing, where she can’t find something that she has on her, has happened before. We finish our coffee, go back to the apartment. Re-check the bag, both of us. No key. We decide to stake out the building, even though no one ever seems to come or go. She takes the first shift, and I go up the street for a glass of wine and some olives. I come back, she’s inside. (I have to call up to her second-floor suite from the cobblestone tourist bath outside, with people who are sitting at wooden tables outside the Migros Take Away watching, because, she told me when I first arrived, the doorbell doesn’t work. Last night she revealed this was a lie, that it does work, she just wants me to yell from down below like some kind of putz.) She’d rung all the bells and someone, “a little old Italian man,” had come down to let her in. “I should’ve asked him to let me into the [locked] laundry room.”


“I can’t find the keys anywhere in the apartment. I must’ve left them in the laundry room.”


She’s already called the Swiss company that takes care of the building. They’re sending someone over to unlock the laundry room. She has to do some work she says so she’s going to go up the street to the bar that has wireless. Can I wait here in case they come? Oh sure, I say. What a sucker.

Dude shows up, doesn’t know a lick of English. The door to the laundry room, by the way, is unlocked—not sure if he’s just unlocked it now or if it had been unlocked the whole time. Anyway, I start looking for the key ring down there, but it’s nowhere in sight. There’s a pile of bedsheets she’s piled in a chair in the corner. I go through the pile. Nothing. Then Swiss handyman dude, mustached, 50-ish, stocky, goes through them. No keys. I’m babbling, “I don’t know where they could be, she does this all the time, the stories I could tell you, hahaha,” and he’s not understanding a word.

We go back upstairs to the apartment.

Swiss dude calls his boss. Boss gets on the phone with me, asks me what happened. Never mind that my presence here goes more or less unexplained, and I already fee like we must be breaking some weird Swiss rule by my being here (this apartment is run like a transitional hotel, with maids sent once a week), but now I have to try to explain. See, she went down to do laundry, and then came back up, and then went out, and and and… He says he’s going to get the handyman to leave me the extra key, and asks me to speak to the handyman again.

They speak in Swiss. Handyman laughs. Yeah, haha, stupid North Americans have locked themselves out of the building, yeah, no, the girl’s not here, it’s just some guy, yeah, what a sucker. Hahahahahaha…. hands me the phone back, dude on the line wants again to know what happened. Establishes that they weren’t stolen (“So you had them last night? And this morning?”) then pleads with me to let him know as soon as we find them. I hand the phone back, dude gives me the key, leaves. Five minutes later, the Twister shows up.

“Did they come?”

“Yep.” I show her the extra key. “They weren’t in the laundry room.”

“They weren’t?”


She goes down to look in the laundry room herself, like there’s some secret nook or cranny she might have left it in. Comes back up, no key. “Where could it be?” she asks repeatedly, as though I’ve hidden it.

Finally I say the only thing I can think of, the one avenue we haven’t explored in depth, even though it was the first one that should have occurred because it seems so obvious but then, wouldn’t that be the first thing you’d think of, “Where else did I go?”

And so I say, “Well, did you go anywhere before the restaurant where we were at?”

“No,” she says. Pause. “Wait. There’s one other place I can look.” Leaves. Comes back five minutes later, waving the keys. Where were they, I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

“The cafe.” What cafe? “The cafe I went to before the restaurant. I put my stuff down but then they said they were closed so I went to the other place. I guess I left my keys… ”

For a good time, visit the Texas Twister in Zurich!


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.


master cleanse day iv: hanging in there

Day no. five, and I know where every last morsel of food is located in my apartment. There’s the miniature, blue-foil-wrapped chocolate egg left over from the Easter lying on the floor in my closet. There’s the bag of dried sugary cantaloupe slices I brought back from Palm Springs in the cupboard, along with dried cranberries and granola. There’s the chocolate bar I bought for the Twister, which she never ate, also sitting in the cupboard. (For those of you paying attention, the Twister has landed safely in Zurich.) There’s the bag of raisins in the fridge, also brought back from Palm Springs. Heck, even the cats’ 95% duck food is starting to look good.

Still, the end is in sight. Day 5 is hump day; after this, it’s just a matter of counting off the days ’til the end of this self-imposed sentence. I must be a glutton for punishment although, as I mentioned on Facebook, I’ve lost 80 pounds. (Not really, but that’s what I tell myself to keep going.)

What’s going to make it doubly hard tonight is that my cousin’s coming over for our weekly Movie Nite, which has been on hold for the last couple of weeks while I’ve been traveling. Traditionally, we order a large pizza with artichoke hearts or chicken and spinach or mushrooms and feta to go with the week’s flick, but tonight I’ll be swigging from my cup of cayenne-and-maple-syrup lemonade.

God. Could I go for a pizza right now.

August 2020

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