A weekend in Zurich

Switzerland for the kids in India who grew up in the 80s and 90s was just this vast patch of green as captured in movies. Film after film from Bollywood suggested that the only place to honeymoon was in Switzerland. In the company of many lakes, green pastures and cows. I still remember a very shriek-y Sri Devi in that strange movie, Chandni, screeching out her love in Switzerland. But soon enough, Switzerland became a little common in film sequences. Romance was duly shifted to splendid blue seas in Seychelles and other islands.

We spent three days in and around Zurich. One of the main reasons we went there was to go and see my Dad who is there for a few weeks. But we may have almost been in India. The number of Desi tourists pottering about in Switzerland is huge. Bollywood, it seems, has had an incredible impact on Swiss tourism.

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Perhaps the most memorable part of this trip had to do with going to Jungfrau. The Swiss “country-side” is almost doll-like. Lovely houses, healthy fat cows with their bells. The view, snow and the altitude, were all rather breathtaking. A long bus ride, and a wonderful train journey that reminded me of the very-narrow gauge trains in the Indian hills. The observatory has a viewing platform where tourists skid and slip on snow. It was all incredibly beautiful, and enough to make us want to go back.

Even as you are surrounded by the Swiss alps and the snow, you are charmed by these fearless birds called the Alpine Choughs. Jet black, with yellow beaks, they eat bread, muffins and biscuits off your palm. I was fascinated by the birds, and for a while forgot all about Jungfrau.

I never thought Kareena Kapoor’s picture would make it to this blog. But it does, and how. Imagine our surprise, when we saw that at the height of about 11,400 feet, there was an Indian restaurant.

A desi eating joint named “Bollywood” at the Top of Europe. We assumed that it might serve twisted-Indian food, bland and colourless to suit European taste-buds. But the food was amazing. And a vegetarian’s delight. Perhaps another testimony to the number of Indian tourists in Europe.

The chef was from Garhwal, which probably explained the rather authentic taste. Film cans hung from the restaurant roof, and the walls had posters of Tamil and Hindi movies. Ungrateful as some people can be, the absence of rotis wasn’t taken too well. Overheard someone comment “There should be Pooris at least.”. Eat the bread, woman!

Even more interesting, in Zurich, we went to a lovely vegetarian restaurant called Hiltl. The place apparently started in 1898 and was the first all-vegetarian place in Switzerland. Ah, the sheer joy of not having to somehow say “vegetarian” in gestures was such relief.

Yesterday, the three of us walked around the old town in Zurich. Beautiful, small buildings on steep inclines. Quieter than most other cities this side of the world. Strangely devoid of graffiti. Almost, “too clean”. Zurich is not a grand city. It’s tiny. But it has its surprises. Antique shops with glass eyes in wooden cases. A huge cartoonish cow in the balcony of a building. Or stained glass art at the Fraum√ľnster Abbey with a rather modern interpretation of Jesus by Chagall, an artist of Jewish origin. Something tells me there’s more to this city than what meets the weekend eye.

As the train pulled out of Zurich station, with my dad on the platform, I felt a sudden pang of homesickness. I realize sometimes, how much like him I am. The fondness for new places, the need to pronounce the complicated names of railway stations, the obsession with routes and history. And the fondness for eating bananas and raw Maggi.

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14 Comments

Filed under Family and Friends, Photographs, Travel

14 Responses to A weekend in Zurich

  1. antha mattu moonji la oru kalai-e illa. all non tamizh maadu look dumb.

  2. km

    The observatory has a viewing platform where tourists skid and slip on snow. It was all incredibly beautiful, and enough to make us want to go back.

    Sounds very painful and comical. Desi tourists all slipping and falling, breaking their bones….

    But seriously, bananas and “raw Maggi”?

  3. Nancy Bohrer

    When you go back, make sure you also take a trip to Lucerne, which is very close to Zurich. It is about the most charming city I have ever seen. You can go there on the train.

  4. Your Zurich trip details and photos make me more determined in visiting Zurich and Jungfrau soon. Good writeup and great that you could meet your father on the Father’s day

  5. raw maggi? really?

  6. Did you also feel Swiss was horribly expensive? It was more expensive than Italy, France or Germany. Never been to UK so I don’t know how it compares. And the train ride up to Jungfraujock costs a fortune! It was all worth it though. Beautiful country and wonderful people.

  7. Hehhh

    Well, tis a long long way to Tadepalligudem

    : )

  8. really? i always imagined the alps as the land of the whites, honeymooners taking the view in, distant, serene… imagine, trekking up a mountain a few thousands over ground a millions from origin, take crazy risks, rapple up sheets of pure ice, dirty, stained, smelly, and finnaly you reach the peak., dig into the bag to take the flag out, when a hand rushes by… ‘saar chai?’

  9. Nilu: Neenga sonna seri daan.

    km: I think the comical aspect is achieved by some very aggressive desi tourists. It’s almost scary actually. We had our brush with one Auntyji in the elevator. She insisted on going to a floor that didn’t exist. Well raw maggi is a refined taste and all..

    Nancy Bohrer: Unfortunately this trip was rather short. But yes, at some point we’d love to go to other places in Switzerland. Luzern does sound beautiful.

    Nissidhi: Glad I increased the potential revenue for Swiss Tourism.

    Broom: Next time you come over – I’ll teach you how. Meanwhile, don’t let me tell others about your strange food combinations.

    Twisted DNA: Yes, we were rather shocked by how expensive Switzerland was. Considering we live in the UK, we really thought we’d seen the worst. And because France had seemed relatively affordable, I think we assumed that the rest of Europe would somehow be similar. And we did find the Swiss to be rather helpful too!

    Hehhh: West Godavari no? I remember going there once…

    mark iv: Well, it looks like you might have to imagine a bit harder. But I am sure the scene is rather different in the Winters, when Europe flocks to Switzerland for skiing. Though last year was quite a washout – hardly any snow to ski on.

  10. Oh, how I long to goto Yashland..

  11. Interesting read ! So vijay and kareena kapoor are poster boys right on top of the alps. The number of desis travelling in any country is more these days. Sometimes more than the citizens of that country in the first place ! :)

    The last para caught & held my attention ! Similarity does have a say on fondnesses. But with fathers, it is specially so !

  12. I lived in Switzerland for three months. Was always struck by the incredible freshness of the ingredients used in the cooking.

  13. hi neha!! dunno how i got here but had a great laugh! how’re you doing.

  14. perspective inc: Yashland! I am not sure if the Swiss will take kindly to the renaming!! Heh!

    kavi: Kareena is a poster girl, actually. :) I think traveling for Desis got a little easier with all those EMI options, package tours etc. On the whole they’re a very enthusiastic lot.

    mumbaigirl: Their cows were eating very fresh grass too. Even the grass looked very yum.

    manjima: :) Doing well – and yes, been a long time!