Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012 - No comments

More Ramblings from the Road (and the Train and the Plane)

Aug. 30, 12:15 PM - Waiting for the shuttle from the Zurich airport to the hotel to drop bags off

Ravenously hungry and so very tired.  Should’ve been just about home by now, but my last flight was cancelled, so now I get to wait til tomorrow.  I’d actually been hoping for this when I knew I only had a one hour layover and thought I might not make it.  In my fantasy, though, the airline was paying for the hotel.  And it wasn’t raining.  And I was much more awake.’s Zurich!  So I have to go into town, at least for a few hours.  How ridiculous would it be to be in this beautiful city and spend the whole day in my hotel room?  Jetlag can wait.


Embarrassing side note:  As it turns out, there was actually an email in my inbox explaining this change in my itinerary all the way back in June, but I’d kinda sorta scrolled past it and dismissed it as “Orbitz junk mail.”  Oops.  My mom had even asked me if I was going to confirm my flight before heading to the airport, but I’d dismissed her with a confident, “Mom, no one does that anymore” roll of my eyes.  Yup, this is me - experienced world traveller.  I guess even experienced travelers should listen to their moms sometimes.  :)

On the plus side, the fact that my flight had been changed to the next day means I actually would’ve been spending the night in Zurich anyway, and I just didn’t know it.  So I can’t be mad at the airline, and I would’ve had to pay for a room anyway.  I just would’ve known it ahead of time and have been able to pick my hotel from the comfort of my own laptop instead of in an airport tourist info office with a fuzzy jetlagged brain.


Aug. 30, 2:34 PM - Window seat on the train into the city

On the train now to the Hauptbahnhof (monster-sized main train station).  Over-priced and over-salted fried noodles at the airport at least filled my belly.  I’ll stop in at Sprüngli for coffee and macarons and, after that, I’m sure I’ll be ready to take on the world.  

My main goal is to tour the Grossmunster - Zurich’s famed landmark church.  I didn’t get to see it when I passed through in June and the view from the towers is supposed to be amazing.  That is, if I can drag my weary body up all 197 stairs to the top...

I bought a Zurich card (20 CHF, includes free public transportation and entrance to all museums and most attractions) thinking I’d be up for a boat ride up the Limmat River to Lake Zurich, but with the weather so dreary and me so sleepy, I think the church had better be it.  And coffee.  Not in that order.  Then bed.  Definitely bed.

Aug. 30, 3:22 PM - Sprüngli, same window, one stool over from where I sat last time

This was the historic place where I tasted my first macaron two months ago.  Thus began a mild obsession with these airy treats, and a series of macaron photo cards, calendars and coasters.  I purchased several batches this summer from a couple of different patisseries and gourmet shops - shooting them from every angle and then happily eating the models.

I have to say, I definitely prefer Sprüngli’s macarons to the cakey Parisian ones from Thierry in Vancouver.  These have the texture of clouds (or so I like to think), their appearances daintier, their surfaces smoother and shinier.  

So far, I’ve just eaten the mocha one and I’ve got a chocolate and a salted caramel left.  (Will it be as good as the Canadian Bacon Salted Caramel I picked up at Edible Canada on Granville Island this summer???)  

But first, my cappuccino.  Yes, I am coming alive already. 

Aug. 31, 6:51 AM - Swiss Airlines flight 8176, Seat 33A

Sometimes just getting on a plane feels like a colossal victory.  Today is one of those days.  

I went to bed last night at 7, fully exhausted, and slept all the way through til 1 AM....and then lay there wide awake, wondering what to do with myself.  I thought about getting up and reading, or documenting my day (all two hours I was awake for) in Zurich.  But then I decided that a day of flying, speaking Turkish again, grocery shopping and trying to get phone and electric and internet turned back on was not best begun at 1 AM.  So, I forced my mind to slow down and went back to sleep until four when my alarm would go off.  

I awoke just before four in a panic because I’d had one of those crazy stress dreams in which I was running way late and the friends who were taking me to the airport were in no hurry whatsoever and were more concerned with chatting with hotel staff than they were about getting my bags to the car.  I was SO grateful to wake up and find out that my alarm hadn’t even gone off yet!

Two kind businessmen who also had to be at the airport hours before dawn let me share their taxi, getting me there a good twenty minutes before the shuttle would have.  And they refused to let me pay a thing!  I was so thankful for those extra twenty minutes when I got all the way to my gate, only to find that the gate had been the terminal I’d just taken the train from!  I rode all the way back, went through security AGAIN (and let me tell you, when you’ve got your own laptop plus one  you’re bringing back for a friend, several canister-candles that look suspiciously like explosives, one metal coffee tumbler, and assorted electronics and camera-related items in your carry-on, security is no quick event!) and still got to my gate with two minutes to spare for a trip to the bathroom.  Victory!

So, my day in Zurich didn’t turn out exactly how I’d pictured it, what with the rain and me being exhausted out of my tree and all.  But, really, when it comes down to it, I didn’t come to sightsee.  I came to eat macarons and truffles.  And those didn’t disappoint one bit.

After my salty noodles, my train ride, and my fortifying sweets-and-caffeine experience at Sprüngli, I set off to tour the Grossmunster.  I walked back to the train station and, remembering that the #4 and #14 trams were the ones I’d taken from various places back to my guesthouse in June, I hopped the #14, thinking it was the one that went up the Limmat River towards the church.  Turned out I was wrong.  A few stops out of the main station, it swung right back up to Lowenplatz, where I’d just come from.  I decided not to interpret it as a sign to head right back into Sprüngli for more sweets and set off for the church on foot instead of backtracking all the way with the tram.  

Seriously, what was my deal with not asking for directions yesterday?  I took a rather roundabout route to Sprüngli the first time around, too, heading off in the right direction but off by one street.  I think I was trying to act the part of the capable tourist who knew where she was going cuz she’d been there before and didn’t even need to look at a map.  I sure proved that wrong, if only to myself.  

Crossing the river on foot was pretty, even if I did get rather wet.  Seemed everyone around me had an umbrella, but I couldn’t see where they were getting them from.  Home, I suppose.  It seems very Swiss to be prepared for a change in the weather.  Had I been in Istanbul, umbrella sellers would’ve appeared out of the woodwork the moment the first drops hit the ground.  I guess in Switzerland you have to fend for yourself.

When I got to the church, even more than climbing its great towers for a (cloud-covered) view of the city, I was excited for a bathroom and shelter from the rain.  In the end, I only got the latter.  The church was closed to visitors for a funeral and when I asked if I could still go up the towers, I was informed that it was “impossible.”  

I was disappointed, but I still enjoyed a reprieve from the wetness as I took in the solitary beauty of the recently renovated cloister garden.  It would seem that the restoration was done with a goal of a “vague spiritual meditation area” as a goal, rather than a place to meet with the Living God, as evidenced by the various zodiac signs and animal heads mounted on the courtyard walls and carved into its stone pillars.  Slightly creepy, but dry nonetheless.  

Despite the rain, I took a little walk through some of the hilly cobblestone streets of Aldstadt, the Old City.  I so love all those tall houses and colourfully shuttered windows lining the skinny streets.  At one point, I paused outside a window to listen to a violinist practicing inside, and I felt like I’d been transported back to the world of Elisa Linder, the Viennese violinist in the novel I’m reading.  Switzerland wasn’t full of Nazis like Vienna was, but I imagine it looks much the same, and I could almost imagine the sound of jackboots on the cobblestones....  Perhaps not the best book to be reading while traveling through German-speaking Europe!

By 5:00, my eyelids were drooping and I knew any more exploring might result in me falling asleep in a puddle, so I headed for “home.”  I actually knew where I was going (for real this time) and confidently hopped the #4 tram back to the Hauptbahnhof with three minutes to spare before the next train back to the airport.  

I wanted to grab some light snacks for my dinner and early morning breakfast, so I went into the Migros at the airport train station - the same one where I met that sweet elderly Turkish couple back in June.  My exhaustion seriously hampered my decision-making abilities, but I finally settled on some apple-mango yogurt, a couple of waters (took me forever to figure out which ones were sans gas - not bubbly), two Gala apples and some cheese that was on sale.  I was embarrassed to get to the front of the checkout line and be told I had to go back and weigh my apples, but glad to have just enough Francs left over to pop into the Sprüngli next door and get myself a Bailey’s truffle and a salted caramel macaron to take back for dessert.

I kept company with my Viennese violinist while I ate, all curled up in my bed with the heat on to warm up.  (Yes, in August!  Turkey is going to be a shock to my system....)  The cheese turned out to be too stinky to be enjoyable, but rest filled me up before I crashed at the ripe hour of 7:00.

Couple of notes on the plane trip this morning:

* I am grateful that, all these years later, those A’s in French class can still order me coffee and apple juice without too much embarrassment.  (Ask me anything beyond my drink order and I’m lost....)

* There’s a family across the aisle from me who look Turkish but are speaking German to each other.  You can tell mom and dad must lapse into Turkish when they get upset, cuz these little assimilated kids can still produce a perfectly accented “Of yaaaaa” or “Oha!” when they’re unhappy.  :)
And....ten minutes til we land!  Ready or not, I’m home.  Not sure my heart has switched over yet, but I know it will the moment I slide into a taxi and start speaking Turkish to the driver.  And if some neighbour arrives at my door with a plate of dolma, I shall consider myself truly welcomed home.