The last time I was in Zurich, some random individual (male) got on the tram and started whaling on me with a rolled-up magazine. It hurt. Okay, so I had been staring mindlessly out the window and he got caught in my crosshairs. I hadn’t actually been looking at him – it was more like he got in the way of my stare.
Anyway, he took offence, came aboard, and started on me. Rolled-up magazines are formidable weapons. They hurt. But what hurt most was that I was in law-abiding Switzerland and no one came to my aid. Whatever invectives he was shouting act me must have given our general audience cause to believe that we were embroiled in some sort of domestic dispute, so they kept their distance. In fact, they did more: they got up and moved away. He calmed down and sat down, and I stayed seated, rooted to the spot, hoping he’d get off at the next stop because I wasn’t capable of thinking enough to safely put one foot in front of the other. But he didn’t. When he stood, it was to turn on me … again.
Fast forward 20 years and I find myself with an invite from good friends to visit them in Zurich. Understandably, I have no great love for the city. What sights there were back then had been swallowed whole by the memory of Mr Magazine. But it wasn’t Zurich I was going to see.
My mother is fond of reminding me of the beatitude – blessed is she who expects nothing for she shall never be disappointed – and I can add to that now… expect nothing and you might even be pleasantly surprised.
Zurich at Christmas is delightful. The Bahnhofstrasse is lit up by lights they have named ‘Lucy’. Strings of lights are suspended across the street creating an illusions of falling stars. It’s amazing. So simple and yet the effect is one that makes you stop, repeatedly, and wonder. Shop windows epitomise a style that is uniquely Swiss: a little sharper than neighbouring France and a lot less harsh than bordering Germany. The sales boasted hefty discounts, but even with 70% off, the prices were still just that little bit out of reach. Zurich is many things – but it ain’t cheap.
Nicely mellowed by the gluwein and wrapped against the elements, I rediscovered the art of rediscovering. I had a change of heart. Yer man’s face, with the three vertical cuts on his forehead, is a vision that has been superimposed by one of magic and wonder.