Sundials, Sandclocks and Swatches

It all starts when the Swiss Air flight attendant holds out a bowl of Lindt Chocolate and says “Danke Schoen”. While I would have loved to grab as many of those with both my hands, I had a faint feeling that that might not quite be the right thing to do. So I only took 3.

Update ps: A quick guide to speaking Swiss German (Schweizer Deutsch). I thought I could manage with my 15 year old memories of Max Mueller Bhavan Grundstufe Eins German but I was sadly mistaken. The Swiss accent of German is about as different from Deutschland German (High German) as Chennai Tamil is from Tirunelveli Tamil. For once, Ich (I) is pronounced Eeekkkhhhh (sounds of clearing throat mandatory) and the R’s must be rolled, no, rumbled at Richter scale 8. Further, a few of the vowels must be pronounced like French and the overall tone must sound slightly Italian.

Switzerland, it turns out, didn’t quite evolve like other countries. They figured out that staying out of wars, for instance, was common sense. Keeping their mouths shut, especially about numbered Bank accounts also apparently encourages people around the world to save all their gold and cash in this landlocked country.

Legend has it that the Swiss (called Helveticans in those times) decided that they would get out of the Sundial business because our planet was not quite upto Swiss precision standards. A few minutes/seconds variation in the rotation/revolution period was simply unacceptable. So they shifted to Sandclocks, which were OK as long as the particles of sand did not undergo enough erosion to cause the clocks to go a little faster. That was when the Swiss started making watches.

And I just made that story up.

So what did I see in Zürich?

I saw Bahnhofstrasse, which is kind of like Station road next to Mambalam Railway Station, but slightly less crowded and moderately more clean.

I saw Grossmünster and Fraumünster , 2 of the most famous churches in Zürich because I could then type that in my blog. I like typing words with umlauts (ü).

I ate Indian vegetarian food in a restaurant called Hiltl where the dishes are priced by weight. I had 0.537 kgs of Desi food. And this place is run by the Swiss, and not by The “Pnjaabi All-you-can-eat $9.99 Buffet Association of Yooshtun”.

I found out that Zurich was originally a Roman settlement, dating from 90 AD. Today, the only remnant of that distant past is a milestone whose Latin inscription reads, and I translate, “Please vote for Marcvs Vmlblcvs Cordvs of the Plebian Party”. Apparently, desi political parties were not the first to stick messages and hide useful public signs.

I drank Swiss Hot Chocolate. (extremely satisfied “aaaah” of pleasure)

I visited the place where Albert Einstein is said to have written “I vill not use relativity as an excuse for not doing my homeverk” a 100 times on the classroom blackboard as punishment. The famous ETH Zurich.

I ate authentic Italian Pizza at Ristorante Moline. Not deep dish or Pan or thin crust. Not panneer tikka or Lebanese Chicken. Not Veggie lovers or Veggie Supreme. The real deal.

I saw a St Bernard. It was pulling its owner along. In a direction of its choice. The owner was complying. I am not sure she had a choice.

I realized that Switzerland was designed by professional photographers. They took their best postcards, and then arranged the country to look like them. Which explains why every part of the country is photogenic. Cows, Sheep, Villas, Mountains, lakes and rivers were arranged to maximize airline, hotel and the camera industries’ profits.

I also ate Falafel in Zurich. And I was reminded of my grandmother who once asked me why the Arabs would eat jackfruit. I had said “uh?”. She said “so what is this palaapal that I read about in a Tamil magazine today?”.

I ate 7 different varieties of Cheese. Emmentaler, Gruyere, Tilsiter, Appenzeller, Berner Alpkaese and Vacherin Mont d’Or. I tried very hard to find the elusive Budeeheimusstmusst but I couldn’t.

I also ate, no, experienced, the real Tiramisu. (extremely satisfied “aaaah” of pleasure)

And oh, what did I go there for? Yeah. Some work with a client. We bored them with some “Ab SOA jao bacche” ppt treatment for a full day. All you IT-guys and girls, please explain that reference to the non-IT types.

And I got chocolates for everybody. Not the run of the mill Toblerone or Lindt that is available in Potti kadais in Chennai. Specialty chocolate from a confectionary.

Some photos of my trip available here