We had a lovely overnight flight from Boston on Swiss Air. The last time we were in Zurich, it was December, with a wintry bluster and the first snow on the hills. This time everybody was out walking, biking, scootering or simply sitting -- in parks or at little tables in front of cafes -- enjoying the warm sun. At night the temperature dropped to the fifties.
We still had some chores to finish, and needed to become accustomed to the six hour time change, so we have put off major sightseeing for a day or so. We have had time to take a walk in downtown Zurich - a cosmopolitan city with a high-rent shopping district, and a bustling Hauptbahnhof -- main railway station -- whose huge train board could not list even an hour's arrivals and departures! The swans and ducks are still in the river which runs past our hotel, begging to be fed.
Not far from the fancy downtown is a near-slum surrounding the police station and prison, with evidences of a variety of third world cultures, plenty of bars and strip joints, and trash in the streets. This was the first big-city slum we'd seen in Switzerland.
We have also been struggling to get our portable computers / internet to work, and the problems are not yet solved. We brought along a host of electrical adapters and transformers to deal with European 220V power, and some phone line gizmos to deal with European plugs and polarities and line power without zapping our computer, and we bought some more widgets for the same purpose. But no amount of technology could overcome the mendacity of our hotel, which charged one franc fifty per minute for local calls. That works out to about $1200 a day if you stayed on the phone all day and all night. They might as well rent the phone and throw in the room for free! Of course we shall find another solution and report the results later. Not so strangely, the hotel was of no great assistance in helping us get connected or pay an affordable charge. OBTW, Earthlink had assured us we could use an 800 number from Europe, but the hotel charged us for an overseas call; good thing we quit after five minutes. The overseas hotel charge was about six times higher than the local charge!
Downtown Zurich has a pleasant surprise: a modern, fully stocked supermarket across the street from the railway station. If you want to use the shopping cart, you have to pay 2 francs to unlock its chain. We found cheese and pate and hard rolls and wine to nosh in the hotel room. We plan to do this a lot in Europe, as restaurant dinners can be large, slow, and expensive.
Today we're off to an internet cafe. If you get this message you'll know we were successful in hooking our computer to the cafe's internet connection.
Lest this first report sound too grouchy, we hasten to add we're excited and delighted to be starting our 3-month European rail adventure. We'll be writing again soon.