Thoughts from Zurich.

Zurich Travel Blog

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I really don’t want any of the experiences I’ve enjoyed this year to fade to a distant memory.  It’s been all too valuable time in my life, perhaps the most significant and meaningful, all helping me to define and reshape many aspects toward life and how I want to approach things from here out.  I even shudder at the thought of regressing and forgetting the lessons learned on the road.  Already, many small encounters and more than few experiences have unfortunately been permanently stored away and forgotten, waiting to be recalled from a familiar sight, sound, aroma...some type of trigger that will bring back a flood of memory.     I’m always trying to strive to relate some of my personal experiences through pictures and words, especially in words, hoping that some of you have empathized and laughed along with some of my journeys around the globe.  Maybe vicariously learned few things with me.

The past six weeks have been rekindling old friendships, strengthening of bonds with new friends recently met on separate continents, and further encounters with still more new faces.  People and not places have always made the most ordinary of cities an extraordinary one.  Prague with all its beautiful castles easily takes a backseat to a much more memorable time walking around Helsinki with an old friend or Frankfurt with new friends.

Seeing a former friend in Helsinki, Finland, who was a former exchange student in CA from Italy was one of the most heartfelt moments for me in the past year.  The last time Chiara and I met was 17 years ago on my first trip to Europe.  How do you define friendship?  How does friendship suffer in absence of contact?  Will friendship still flourish?  What has changed and not changed?  Staying up late and sharing ideas and opinions on life, politics, social issues, family and just cramming a decade and half of our lives in five days...the days raced by, but the sun stayed up until 11 pm and the sky is still well lit up past midnight in Helsinki...we had to look at the clock to realize it was well past bedtime.  I’ll be visiting Helsinki, but more important my friend Chiara again sooner than later.
Danish countryside is picturesque and as peaceful as its inhabitants.   Reunited with a Viking friend, met during the climb up Kilimanjaro in
February and sharing the charm of his family, friends, and the Danish culture has been an unforgettable experience.  Trying to learn few Danish phrases is a forgettable one.  Ulrik and I now joke about his broken rib instigated by the Frisbee I brought along and the rock he landed on at 14,000 ft en route to the summit of Kilimanjaro.  He did summit and I ended up donating the Frisbee to a local school after the climb.

I’ll never forget Danish girls not shy in asking guys to dance at the night clubs or walking out of a club at 5 AM watching the Danes stagger toward their bicycles to ride back home or trying to catch a taxi to retreat and recover from the festive night out.  Europeans are vampires; they start their fun late in the night, usually midnight, and retreat to their “casks” when the light is out on weekends, only to resurface when the night sets in again. 

Driving along the island of Fyn with Ulrik to visit his family and friends, I’ve watched the most picturesque countryside, green with rolling hills and stone walls, with a calm and peace and a glow inside to make up for the gray overcast.  Living for several days in a Danish farmhouse, playing catch with the most beautiful black Labrador named Jessy, gliding my hand across a golden wheat field, eating traditional Danish meal, including the most amazing fruit dessert, and eat your heart out “Under the Tuscan Sun” Diane Lane!

Bicycles.  I will never stop admiring how Europe uses their bicycles for transportation in mass!  One of the most beautiful sights is still seeing a woman in her full business attire with her briefcase in the front basket peddling away with her scarf flowing behind her.  The bicycles are simple, have mud/water guard, inexpensive, and dedicated bicycle paths (even signals dedicated to bicycle traffic in Denmark) are the norm in Austria, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and it’s no huge surprise as to why XXL is not a popular size on this continent.  It’s an amazing sight to see a city center’s bicycle parking spaces filled with thousands of bicycles.

How do you define hospitality, kindness, friendship, and trust?  A friendly German in Frankfurt barely met before her departure from Cape Town, offering couple nights rest at her apartment in the city might make some of us rethink about how we extend ourselves to relative strangers. Too busy during the day to show the city herself so arranging her roommate to give a tired traveler, shaking off a cold, a city tour is kindness, hospitality, and generosity that makes Frankfurt a place I want to return and not just the 14th century cathedrals (though they do add to the ambiance) or the cobble stone roads or sitting along the river Main sipping beer watching the sunset while swans swim by.  Frankfurt is also the home to the tallest building in Europe and the European Union Finance Center.  I learned that from my new friends in Frankfurt, much preferred to any Lonely Planet guidebook.

Having lunch with my friend Gerry, now a Commander in the Navy, from flight training days and his family who recently got stationed in Germany at Stuttgart, was a walk along memory lane again.  Once again, a friend not seen in about 12 years, and I'm wondering if the Celestial line of friendships are lining up for me in 2007 in Europe.

Then there's a kind Swiss met briefly in South Africa hosting me in
Zurich at the moment, an Italian exchange officer friend, Fabio, again met during flight training hosting in Bologna, the fest I enjoyed with the wonderful Austrians in Vienna all due to one wonderful Austrian friend met in Cairo, the wonderful British couple I toured with in Cambridge, and the friendly Dutch girl in London.  And let’s not forget the friendly Brazilians in Florianopolis that I can’t wait to return to someday soon.  One is humbled by the overwhelming kindness and the hospitality, always made sure by all of my hosts of various nations and ethnicities in multiple countries, of my comfort and made sure not to be faded into the background for the lack of my polyglot ways.

My life on the road consists of 17 kg/37.48 lbs of clothes and gear in my one Osprey Sojourner travel pack with "off-road" tow wheels saving my lower back and my daypack with essential Mac Book Pro laptop, an SLR Canon 30D and a compact SD550, the all essential Blackberry, a mobile phone with Austrian SIM chip, iPod I haven't used yet, and other essentials I guard with my life.  Thanks to my friend Gerry stationed in Stuttgart, I was also able to purchase more underwear, a pair of jeans, socks, and t-shirt at cost; you can take the "mighty" out of the dollar as I am feeling the exchange-rate enema in Europe!  It’s the lowest the dollar has been in recently history and I’m feeling the pangs daily.  Oomph!  Thank you sir...may I have another.

I’ll be continuing south towards Italy then move on towards the former Yugoslavia, eventually towards the Mid-East.  I have a dream of finding a Greek Island, little visited or away from the crowd, rent a room close to the water and to stay put for a while and redefine the simple life that Paris Hilton and the Richie girl have shamed.  The world is getting smaller for me by the day and more importantly, each country has at least a friendly face that I can associate it with.  I’m off to bask in the sun in front of Lake Zurich now.  Whatever you do, don’t pinch me!  I like this dream. Hope you’re enjoying a warm sunny summer day!
sylviandavid says:
Very wonderful blog... Do you photograph and should I check back later for photos? Sylvia
Posted on: Jan 21, 2011
ladybuglover_01 says:
Your summary of the blog is fantastic. I think more of us need to think like this. Would we really live day to day like we do now if we had the mentality that you have? :)
Posted on: Aug 08, 2007
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photo by: Sweetski