I flew Qatar Airways from Dubai to Zurich. It cost me around 800 US Dollars for the journey, which was way less than the other airways. Zurich Airport, also known as Kloten Airport, is the largest in Switzerland . Our flight landed in Terminal E, which is entirely used by non-Schengen International Flights. (The Schengen Area is the area comprising 26 European countries that have abolished passport and any other type of border control at their common borders, also referred to as internal borders. It mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy, according to Wikipedia)
As soon as we got out of the flight, we were directed to a train which would take us to the main Terminal for Passport Control and baggage collection. The bizarre nature of this train is you get to hear cows mooing, bells ringing, shepherd/ cowherd calling, the whole gamut of sounds that you imagine and expect of Switzerland. Switzerland! I couldn’t believe I was there already. I was about to start a fresh chapter of my life. Everything felt surreal…
After we got down, we queued up for passport control. As my turn came, I was greeted with a big smile by a police officer, who checked my passport while asking a few questions like the purpose of my visit, etc. I found him such a pleasant contrast to the airport authorities in India and Dubai.
With my passport stamped and baggage collected, I went looking for the train station. It is pretty common here to use trains as the chief means of transport. It did not take me long to locate the station as it is right beneath the Airport. As I did not know how to use the vending machine to buy a ticket, I bought one to Winterthur from the sales person in the ticket counters. Winterthur is about 27 km from the city of Zurich.
All along the train ride, I saw cows dotting lush green fields and gorgeous tiled houses. It reminded me of my aunt’s village near Mangalore. I couldn’t stop thinking… India is just as beautiful as Switzerland, if only we took as good care of our surroundings as much as we nurtured our own homes…
The cheapest way to reach my hotel would have been to take the Bus number 2 from Winterthur main station (Hauptbahnhof) to Feldtal, and from there to walk 10 minutes through Fluelistrasse to reach Oberfeldstrasse 10. The HR of my company had booked a room for me at the Hotel Hessengueetli there. But since I was carrying 2 heavy bags and wasn’t yet familiar with the roads, I decided to take a taxi from the station to the hotel which cost me around 20 US Dollars. The Owner was very kind and sweet. She told me that she owned the hotel along with her husband, and their son helped them with the business.
After we discussed the terms and conditions and I signed the contract for a month, she drove me to the building where I would be staying. It was 2 blocks away in Feldstrasse 10. . For a month I would be living in a studio apartment, which was just a small room with a bed, balcony and a bathroom. There was no kitchen, only a coffee machine and a microwave to warm up my food. I paid around 1500 US Dollars for it, which included the use of TV, electricity and Wifi facility.
In order to get acquainted with the place, I had arrived 3 days earlier than the date of joining. I landed on a Saturday, right before Easter. This meant that the entire city would be celebrating and hardly any shops would be open. Thanks to the hotel owner who told me to go immediately to the nearest supermarket Coop before it closed, I was able to stock my supply of fruits, bread and milk for the weekend.
I spent my first weekend strolling around Winterthur main town. I found familiar brands like H&M, McDonalds, Subway, Mango etc. Though the shops were closed for the weekend, many restaurants and coffee shops were open. I found an Indian store in the city where I bought ready-to-cook Indian curries, Maggi packets, frozen Naans that I could warm in the microwave.
I started commuting to the office by bus. Every evening after work, I would go to the city, sit in a coffee shop and read. And when I got tired, I just watched people. This became my favorite pastime.
I fell in love with the place, the people, the architecture,the coffee shops, the pizzerias, everything… They made me want to come back to this place again and again.
You can read Part 1 here.