Monday, April 15, 2013
The Return of the Swiss Miss
The last couple of weeks have been a blur: I was alone, in a new country, working in a different environment, with people who spoke a different language, came from a different culture, dressed differently and did things differently.
There was work, lots of it. Every morning, I would get up at six in the morning, get ready, run out of the hotel to the tram station right across the road, validate my ticket and take Tram No. 7 to reach office by 7:30. Unlike in India, people started their day devilishly early, and they left early too. As expected, Company C is huge in Zurich: every five hundred metres, there was either an office or a branch. I didn’t have to explain where I worked which was a big relief compared to the blank stares I get here. I would spend most of the day running from one office to another, meeting people for coffee or lunch, and repeating the same jargon like a parrot each time. But at least people heard me out, irrespective of how senior and experienced they were compared to me, irrespective of how they towered over me and irrespective of my apprehensions of being a silly girl trying to take herself too seriously. At the end of the day, despite some goof-ups/missed appointments I managed to hold my own and get some work done. More importantly, I finally managed to meet the people I have spoken multiple times over the phone, put a face to the voice and become more than just a remote entity with a weird name. Finally I also met the people I used to work closely with, but who had become a victim of all the mindless restructuring over the last two years that I have been here. Some of them no longer had a job but yet they were gracious enough to take me out for a lunch.
There was exploring a new place. In the evenings I would either drink it up with the team members or go exploring the city by myself: Zurich, with all its churches, museums, lakes and universities had plenty to offer to a tourist. I admired the glass paintings in the Fraumunster, enjoyed the grey majestic architecture of the Grossmunster, gratefully listened to the explanations of my German colleague in the Landesmuseum, admired the view of the city from the tower on the Uetliberg hill, took a pleasant boatride in Zurich Lake on a rare sunny afternoon with a clear view of the Alps, parked myself on the Polybahn toytrain for a ride through the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) and walked around aimlessly through the colourful streets of Bellevue and Bahnhoffstrasse.
There was also the wonderful weekend. On a cold Saturday morning, I took a long train ride to the Italian part of Switzerland, and surprise surprise, I was greeted with warm sunshine and bright blue skies! I walked through the small but hip town of Bellinzona, exploring the huge castles, and helping myself to an experimental Italian breakfast in a chic café where no one spoke English. Neither did they have a menu card in English. Long story short, I had no idea what they served me, but I ate it without a fuss. Then I went down to Lugano, took a toytrain ride to the top of the Monte San Salvatore for a breathtaking view of the city and spent the afternoon walking for miles through the parks and city streets, eating a sandwich by the lake and a Gelato icecream at the Italian border, slightly tempted to cross over to visit Lake Como which I missed out during my Italian holiday last year.
On Sunday, I braved my fears and gathering all the courage I could muster, set off for my first mountain sojourn to Zermatt. At roughly 4500 metres, the Matterhorn peak was even higher than Jungfraujoch which is touted as the Top of Europe and one of the most popular tourist attractions. But Zermatt, with all its connectivity issue, is still untouched, with even localites avoiding the place in favour of more accessible ones. While getting there was a struggle, I was overwhelmed by what could only be described as the experience of a lifetime. For someone who shivers at sub-10 degree temperature, for someone who has never seen snow (except on TV and Facebook) and for someone who is mortified of heights, it was challenging in all aspects. As I sat alone inside the cable car which perilously navigated its way through the glacial palace finally taking me to the Matterhorn, I felt a strange sense of achievement and like a typical Indian tourist, I couldn’t resist from asking a stranger to take my picture as I PLAYED WITH THE SNOW, looking like a tiny Eskimo wrapped in layers and layers of clothing. However, on my way back, as the cable car stopped in between suspended in thin air, with me staring at the white landscape hundreds of feet below me, I felt a chill down my spine. I could have screamed if only there was someone to hear me out! On my way back, I stopped over for a couple of hours in the picture perfect city of Bern, just to restore some sanity.
Then there was my brush with exotic cuisines. From the fine wine and whisky to go with all the fresh cheese and premium chocolates, it was as luxurious as I have ever known it. Add to it a new dish every day, and it was the best food I have ever had: from the Zurich style veal preparation to the Rosti, the Cheese Fondue, the Cordon Bleu and the Raclette, not to mention the Ravioli, I tried it all and loved it all. Having said that, I did resort to the familiar Chinese food at Chopsticks one night after being hit by a sudden pang of homesickness.
There was also the feeling of liberation. On few nights when I was by myself, I would dress up, go out, explore Niederdorf, the Bandra of Zurich, find a bar or a restaurant, sit by myself, enjoying my drink and food: something I would never dream of doing in India. Strange random men would approach me and offer to buy me a drink even though we barely spoke the same language. I would shrug it off, speak to them casually, shake hands and leave for the next one.
And finally, there was my Yash Chopra moment as well. With all its mountain top view, romantic candle-light dinner, train rides, rains and new excitement, it could well have been the DDLJ sequel.
Yes, it was cold, it was lonely, it was unfamiliar and it was scary. But at the same time it was emancipating, it was empowering and it was exhilarating…
It WAS indeed my SNOW WHITE FANTASY…