Ah Switzerland–where time matters


That’s one warm smile

The day before the world ended, I wrote a blog post.

It was a puff piece—a bit too light spirited for the current mood. But since I spent some number of days on it, let me summarize.

Two years ago, my winter coat was stolen on New Year’s Eve from a bar in Philly.

That same New Year’s, I booked a house in Guatemala for the following winter.

When we returned to Budapest, I bought a wool coat for four dollars from a thrift shop.

Two months later, when we moved to Austin, I left it behind on a park bench.

Blah blah blah

As of last week, I still didn’t own a coat–hadn’t needed one.

The weather report for Zurich was cold and snowy.

I bought a coat.

Sometimes it sucks that I have to limit my stuff to one suitcase.

I’m looking forward to settling in Paris.

As you may have concluded, we spent the last week in Zurich. We went by train, rented an apartment, and took some number of day trips. I had last minute concerns with a full week in Zurich, but it was a nice break.

I loved Switzerland, in part because I love timeliness. At work, I had two types of colleagues:

  • Those who were punctual and…
  • Scum

By our second day in Zurich, I realized that the trains left EXACTLY to the schedule. As we pulled away from the station, I would poke Pat, point to my watch, and thump my chest over my heart.

I wondered which came first. Did the Swiss invent watches and consequently time became a big deal? Or was time a big deal, so they invented watches?

It doesn’t matter. The 10:02 left at 10:02.

Mind you, this can be done without the expense of a Swiss watch. I ran my punctual life on a twenty dollar Timex.

Frankly, I don’t understand the $15,000 watch. (Unless, of course, you wear it on your left wrist which you dangle out the window of your $100,000 sports car. Then it makes perfect sense.)

Yet the Swiss manage to a schedule without snobbery. The entire country quite simple works. One of our trips was one minute delayed. Those crazy Swiss sent me a text message notification.

In Central Europe, I feel good about any train that runs within an hour of its appointed time. A five-minute delay in this region is thrilling. Five minutes in Zurich and I would have searched the horizon for a mushroom cloud.

Over the course of six full days, we took three wonderful day trips:

At 9:44 on our first day, we went to the medieval villages of Stein am Rhine and Schaffhausen before hiking around the Rhine Falls.

At 9:42 Monday we went to Lucerne. A charming town in an enchanting setting.

And at 10:02 Tuesday we set off for Bern. A cute city where every single building is the same color. Yet it works somehow.

We spend two days wandering fabulously expensive Zurich (but we had an apartment and groceries were affordable, so it was fine).

To make my point of how expensive this city is, we found an Italian restaurant with 75-dollar pasta dishes. WHO PAYS THAT? (I only capitalize that because when I read the menu aloud to Pat, I used my ALL CAPS voice.)

For seventy-five dollars, wouldn’t you take EasyJet to Rome and eat really good pasta there?

But we did eat out one day in Zurich. I had left Wednesday open anticipating a late night of election returns (keeping in mind, we were six hours ahead of the east coast). We went to bed at nine in the morning. At noon, we went out for lunch: paired a luscious pot of melted cheese with a bottle of wine and followed it with a chocolate mousse for dessert.

Watching my cholesterol to stave off early death felt a tad optimistic.

The next day we walked to the station in a rain that was considering changing to snow. At 8:40 sharp, I felt the train move. One last time I looked at Pat, thumped my chest, and smiled.



Categories: Western Europe

Tags: , , , , ,

13 replies

  1. I just love your blogs. They are are cheering me up so much right now as I have a torn meniscus and I have had to cut back on my escapades. Would you believe it hurts to sit on a bus because the seat pressure triggers nerve pain. I am dealing the problem with aqua aerobics,and I love acupuncture results although not provided on NHS. My thicker winter coat has had to go on the back burner, although I did find a warm winter hat for £1.00. Gotta love a bargain when you are retired

    In anticipation of being able to hit the road in 2017, what websites do you have the best results for finding apartments?

    Jack is so cute by the way and he looks just like Michael.
    Keep writing and who knows we may end up being in the same city at the same time someday.

    • Thank you, Linda (and yes, Jack is Mike’s mini-me!).

      I use Airbnb and VRBO (which is the same as Homeaway). Increasingly, I use Airbnb because its just so easy.

      The next year will find us largely in Ireland and Paris. Let me know if you are in either of those. We’d love to see you!

      Take care of yourself and heal quickly!

  2. Greetings from Switzerland (Basel) – you have captured the timeliness and the expense so perfectly!!! Oh…and it is 13:27!

  3. Greetings from St Petersburg, Russia, my favourite city. We have an airbnb-apartment for a month, not high season but that´s why even more interesting. Here things work, maybe not always on time, not always exactly the way you expect. I never come late if it depends on me but I don’t mind the world around me is less punctual – for example because of snow like yesterday.
    I enjoy reading your blog.
    Best wishes,

    • Oh Pirjo, you are in the city my husband most wants to visit. And for a month! That must be wonderful.

      My views on timeliness are a bit extreme. I have my father to thank (blame?) for that.

      So glad you enjoy the blog. Thank you!


  4. I can imagine this is the city to take photos!

  5. Love your post as usual, you have such a way with words. We are gradually losing the numbness in our brains and your blog is always a tonic.
    I have not ridden trains in Switzerland, but your story reminds me of Japan. I will always remember taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto on a business trip and was worried how I would know when I had arrived at the Kyoto station. My Japanese colleague said, “just look at your watch”. He was correct, the train even had a “count down” clock as we approached the station, stopping at the exact time as described in the train timetable.


  1. A New Year – The World In Between

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