Text and Photos by Kimberly Cecchini
Yes, I swiped a line from the Beastie Boys, but I’m not surprised by my delirium. When you fast forward through time by flying through the night, I feel that your ramblings can be forgiven. Ear plugs, eye masks, a meditation podcast and the dimming of the cabin to simulate nap time never lulls me to sleep with a crooked neck in coach.
So, no, no sleep until Zurich…sleeps.
As the cabin stirred again with stewards, I filled the window with my face to watch as we caught up to the sun’s rise somewhere over the eastern Atlantic. The carpet of clouds looked like ocean waves caught in the midst of their wake while the sun burned the edges between clouds and space.
Eventually a crisp blue overtook the darkness. I put aside my inner squeamishness for the sea of single serving package waste and the stream of jet fuel that spewed behind us to reflect on the pinkish hues of the cotton below us. We are suspended in the heavens.
It is still fantastical to me. And utterly unnatural.
Soon we were descending amongst the clouds as they softly whisked about the craft. Dropping closer to the Earth, it appeared like the crisp perfection of a model train landscape. Modern wind turbines dotted the waters, homes wrangled into towns, trees clustered into forests and tiny animals grazed on swaths of astro green farmland.
After debarking in Amsterdam, my husband and I were both patted down for our connecting flight (apparently, taking off your shoes is not necessary anymore?). The short trip over to Zurich is uneventful and I really couldn’t peek at the landscape as we land because there is a stranger in the window seat.
Once we retrieved our luggage in Switzerland, we were allowed to walk right out into the country. I found this to be just as unnerving as when my husband and I visited Spain by means of a layover in Germany. This, as I finally looked up today, is due to the Schengen Agreement through which participating European countries share law enforcement information. Albeit trivial, I will admit that we slightly begrudge having Dutch and German stamps in our passports rather than those that represent our travels, but we can’t really hate an opportunity to avoid the hassles of customs.
So, yes, we walked right onto Swiss soil and found a train to the Zurich’s main station. First impressions? Zurich has the feel of an old European metropolis; quaint old buildings on winding streets interspersed with slick, contemporary design, the particular sound of their emergency vehicles, and the smell of cigarettes that reminds me of how absent they have become in New York over the past decade.
One of my first photos, not surprisingly, we found later to be an icon on the tourist map- but you can’t ignore this large curvy woman hanging from the rafters of the transportation hub. Searching for a cheap, first night dinner was a quest as inexpensive offerings are difficult to find at least so far. We settled for Nordsee, a Swiss fast food chain, and it far outranked Red Lobster with its fresh fish options laid out on ice. Although the Swiss-made chocolate bar from the grocery store for dessert was tasty, it turned out to be owned by Nestle.
The highlight so far is our hotel in the old section of Zurich, a boutique spot whose rooms each honor their own persona. The plaque outside our room features Slovenian poet and author Ilma Rakusa. The decor is an article about her in German and a photograph of what appears to be her drawing words on the series of colored rectangles on the far wall.
Right now I’m sitting next to the open windows-yes, open hotel windows, my fellow Americans-on the wide sill; the air is cool and crisp, I can see the clock tower reflected in the river, and I’m listening to chatter from the cafe below, the church bells ringing in unison across the city and a Swiss hip hop artist in the distance.
If my eyes don’t just fall closed for exhaustion, I am counting on Zurich to lull me to sleep.