My maiden trip to Europe was a special memory, The fact that it was an all sponsored business trip and I was taking my Mom and 2 year old daughter along made it all the more special.
Zurich is the business capital of Switzerland and is known for its bustling and lively atmosphere. What struck me , apart from the freezing cold was the friendly nature of people around. Although the primary language spoken there is German, you will never fail to get a smile from people though they may not be able to communicate with you in English.
It was my first day in Zurich and I had to go to work.Sleep deprived, jet lagged, braving the cold and without internet, I set off bravely without any idea how to reach there, I just had the address with me. How tough can this be? You do not have the privilege of taking cabs in a country like Switzerland and I found out I need to take a tram to the main train station. I had 100 Swiss franc and no change. I tried my AMEX at the ticketing machine but it wouldn’t work. I need just 2.68 Swiss franc and though I bought some cookies I couldn’t get enough change. There is no concept of conductor issuing tickets there, you have got to buy it from the vending machine and the penalty for ticketless travel is huge. I broke into a sweat and then is when an unknown young lady who was also a tourist there offered to buy my ticket. It was a blessing in disguise and though I never met her again, it was a good omen about my first great experience in the city.
That was followed my many such good experiences, meeting my colleagues at work who are a warm bunch of people, sightseeing in and around Zurich- the snow capped mountains and the crystal clear lake, the sheer beauty of the magnificent landscape which I had only seen in movies before, the best ice cream in the world- Move N Pick- and travelling in and around the city using the super efficient transport systems.
What really makes a place special more than its scenic beauty or richness, is the people. The experiences you have, the warmth and love or lack of it leave you with fond or bitter memories.
One more experience which touched my heart and rekindled my belief that goodness still exists in this world is one particular day when we went to visit the famous Rhine Falls. It is on the outskirts of the city and we had to change 2 trains to get there. Spell bound by the panoramic falls and relishing on our favourite Move N Pick ice cream we never realised that it was getting late. We left at around 6 and went to the small train station but not in soul in sight we could see. My mom panicked but I was confident as usual. I had seen the train time table and there was a train at 6.15 I told her. Its not like India where trains get cancelled all of a sudden. It was getting dark and chilly and we were the only people at the station. A train came and just moved by without stopping.Thats when I sensed something is wrong. I hastily went to look at the train timetable again in the torchlight of my cell and thats when it caught my attention. This schedule was only till 22 Oct and today was 29 Oct. Damn. I was panic stricken. We knew there are no more trains from this station, due to winters and early sunset, the schedule had changed. We walked back to the main arena, panting after carrying my 2 year old and a host of things that goes with a baby. There were very few people around. The shops had closed, the place suddenly looked ominous. The few makeshift carts that were around were all wrapping up- the men who ran them dint know English and dint seem friendly. I tried using uber but couldn’t find a cab. Someone told us about a bus stop nearby- the next bus was after 45 minutes though and we weren’t completely sure if it there was indeed one. 2 men who claimed to be Indian were suspiciously following us. I was praying to God to get us safely out of here. We had a child with us and that was the biggest worrying part. Then all of a sudden, a God sent angel arrived. A lady from the French speaking part of Switzerland was walking towards her car and smiled. I asked her about the bus, she came and checked the schedule and it was a relief she spoke English. We told her about our situation and requested her to drop us to nearest railway station if she could. To our relief she happily agreed. She not only dropped us to the station but also got down , checked when the next train was and waited till we boarded it. Her smiling face as she waved us goodbye is vividly etched in my memory.
Though I haven’t travelled much and most of it has been work related, this city holds special memories for me and I look forward to visiting it again.