We flew from Frankfurt
to Zurich, a 35-minute runway taxi and a 35-minute flight, under continuing
"drismal" skies, arriving around noon. We took the train from the flughafen
(airport) to the main train station, whereupon Bob decided to hire a
taxi to our hostel (reserved during our layover here en route from Paris
to Budapest), even though we had no specific address for it. All I had
written down was "Nieder Dar Strausse" when talking to the clerk at
The taxi driver who had agreed
to take us there for 15 Swiss francs dropped us off at the intersection
of Niederdorf Strauss and Muhle. And, we discovered only the next day,
he charged us "only" 10 Sf, it being only about a mile's ride. I was
a bit irritated at Bob's impetuosity at not waiting at the station till
we could verify our desired location. I left him with the luggage on
the corner of Niederdorf while I went up the cobblestone pavement to
look for the hostel.
day in Zurich had the best weather and the best scenery and ambience.
Click > to play video. Double-click the image to make fullscreen.
Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised
by the photogenic beauty of this part of town, which we had seen nothing
like the week before. I came across Schweizerhofgasse, which the hostel
had been listed as being on when I'd found it on the airport computer
directory the week before, but the only thing on that quaint cobblestone
alley was a Hotel Biber.
I walked down to it to see if
they knew of the hostel, to find at the door that the Hotel Biber is
now the City Backpacker hostel. I made my way up three flights of winding
marble steps, up one flight of wooden ones, down a hall and down a short
flight to the reception. I paid using my Visa card, Sfr 85 (around $67
for two persons, one night), and went back to get Bob and the luggage
about two cobblestone blocks away. While waiting, Bob had exchanged
pleasantries with a local resident who, upon hearing we were looking
for the hostel, had told him it was "very controversial." But we never
saw any reason for its being so. After settling in and being well impressed
with the clean room and modern showers and toilets across the hall,
we went out to explore Zurich.
The sun was shining! Birds were
singing like they hadn't seen sunshine for at least a week (which was
our impression), and everywhere we looked there were classic European
streets, plazas, and centuries-old buildings. I discovered Lake Zurich
on the downtown map reception had given me, and we headed there, stopping
to take video every block or so.
The improvement in the weather
was as dramatic as the scenery, and by the time we reached the lake
with its stupendous beauty the shore was a festival of summertime activityboating
in everything from two-person peddleboats to giant three- or four-deck
touring vessels; musicians playing the Blue Danubean organ grinder,
inline skaters by the dozens, sunbathers stripped to their bikini underwear,
people walking their dogs, jugglers.... We sat and took videos and still
photos, sat some more and walked.
I kept walking up the side of
the lake (despite a painfully sore ankle), and Bob headed back to the
hotel about 3:30. I ran out of videotape at about 4 o'clock and headed
back, too, by way of the cathedral which had been Zurich's main site
of Reformation activity under Bullinger and Zwingli (which was only
about three or four blocks from our hostel).
moments.' Click > to play video. Double-click the image
to make fullscreen.
This afternoon, second only in
significance to my afternoon in Dalky, Ireland, and perhaps even surpassing
it, my vacation "found me." My flagging faith in my own way of vacationing
was restored. It would have been a great tour even if it hadn't turned
into a vacation, but as of now, it was a vacation in the true sense.
We rested while the camcorder
battery recharged (I had brought another tape which was ready to begin),
after which we went out to find dinner. Everything seemed overpricedthe
least expensive cafe dinners being about Sfr 22 ($17 US), so we ended
up at a McDonald's in the downtown shopping district where, at Sfr 9.50
(about $7 US), a meal of chicken sandwich, fries and soft drink seemed
like a bargain indeed. Even McDonald's had sidewalk tables, and Bob
was able to get a couple of sparrows to eat from his hand while we enjoyed
Having been told that our 24-hour
roundtrip train tickets bought at the airport were also good for all city
transit, we walked back to the bahnhof and boarded a number 11 light rail
streetcar which took us past the lakeside we'd visited earlier and up
into the hills above the city before returning to the bahnhof. It was
a very pleasant ride. We also saw, a few blocks from the lake, the park
that we surmised to be the one Zurich had designated as a drug toleration
zone, made famous on an American news magazine show.
returning to our room briefly, I went out for a last photo walk past the
cathedral, a circus site, and another side of the lake that I'd missed
earlier. It was now twilight. By the time I got back to the hostel, the
surrounding streets, gasses and plazas were alive with throngs
of people dining, drinking, talking, and laughing, hanging out third-
and fourth-floor windows, entertained by musicians al fresco. I bought
a shake at the nearby McDonald's and sat on the plaza joining them briefly
before turning in.
Daily expense tallyroom,
food, transit: $54
Friday, May 17
Though Zurich was still moderately
warm, it was completely cloud-covered again, giving us all the more
reason to be thankful for Thursday's ideal "summer" afternoon and evening
as we made our way by train back to the flughafen for our noon departure
to Delhi. As we took off in our Swiss Air flight to India, we got our
first sight of snow-capped Alps. I wrote everything abovefrom
my search for the American missionary in Moscow to thiswhile we
flew over Romania and the Black Sea. As this is written, we have just
left the latter behind and are now over Turkey (?), snowcapped peaks
to the south (perhaps one of them the Mt. Ararat on which Noah's ark
rests), and arid but lightly populated miles of open land beneath us.