Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Last Day in Switzerland...

December 24 2005

The day when I am finishing my winterthur trip. Interesting thoughts though.

The flight connection to India is through Austrian Airlines and we have to change at Vienna. The first part is from Zurich to Vienna starting at about 7:30. For this we had to be in airport at about 5:30. we woke up at about 3:30 in the morning. The train tickets had already been bought the last night only and therefore we had no problems with respect to that.

The journey to Zurich airport was uneventful. Though we saw lot of snow still occupying the roadsides. I had to get a little rebooking done on my ticket and that ended up being the small event on the check in counter. Once that adjustment was done, the check in went fine.

The flight from Zurich to Vienna was very nice. Lot of nice views of mountain tops from the plane windows… Lots of photos again J

It seemed that it has been snowing in the high hills of Switzerland the previous days since everything was snow covered. Or perhaps we could only see the higher parts (from the plane) and obviously they were snow covered. I took many photos but I still wanted one more photograph.. one of some little village in the lap of the mountains. Like cradled in the lap of mother earth. I could see that a few times, but couldn't’t capture in my camera. L

We landed in Vienna at about 8:40 in the morning. And there was this news waiting for us. The flight to Delhi was delayed and would now leave at 1600 hrs instead of 1040 hrs. That meant a lot of wait for us.. lot.. actually about 5+ hrs.

I wondered whether we could go out in the city and have a look at Vienna. It would have been an additional feather in the trip since I have never been to Vienna myself. Though I have heard a few nice things about the country, I was never enchanted enough to plan a trip exclusively for Vienna.

However, my request was denied since I do not possess an Austrian visa. The Swiss visa that I have already does not entitle me to enter Vienna. So, I was forced to spend my time inside the airport only. Then I thought, “may be I would spend time looking at the duty free shops”, but no, not that also. Since we were secluded in a very small transit area within the airport. Unfortunately, this area has only a few common shops and nothing worth interesting (for me).

So, here we are, killing our time by doing all sorts of things, except flying home. Right now, writing for the blog.

Shall update later.

The time did not go by easily. I guess usual stuff for me. However, I managed some pages from Time’s Eye (one by Arthur C Clarke …). Felt like sleeping and therefore had to stretch over on the benches. Didn't’t like the experience.. huh.. J

Then there was this special lunch provided by the airline. It was my first experience with such a delayed flight and therefore being provided with this sort of lunch. It was not quite a lunch I liked or for that matter one of my vegetarian colleagues liked. It was probably the last thing we would have chosen had we had any option. And, to add to that, the desert was actually sour not sweet, for a change … !!!

So, that’s about the stay. That expenditure of time brought about 3 pm in the day and then we headed to the boarding area. As we expected, after the long wait, everybody for the flight was in a big-big hurry. All rushed up, a colleague suggested that we better get in early in the plain to reserve some nice space for ourselves on the cabin luggage area. His advice proved very useful. Actually, we found people who had trouble finding their way past the already crowded cabin luggage area.

Finally, it took off, and we were airborne.

After a movie and a quarter and not finding enough space for my legs, so as to be able to relax enough for a sleep, here I am, adding to the blog again… J

With all the news about fog in Delhi (the original reason our flight couldn't take off in time) we were concerned as to what would happen at the time of landing in Delhi. The landing was expected at about 3 in the morning, and lot of fog was expected at that time.

Luckily, the flight and the landing all went uneventful, and we landed in Delhi at 3:15 in the morning hours of Sunday 25th December.

Here comes a conclusion to my Winterthur trip account. I guess no more text will be added, but photos will be.. sure..

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Snowy second week

that's good life.

Snow all around you, while you are wrapped in all kinds of warm clothing... the wind hitting your face.. chilling whatever part of your body is exposed.... :) Its fun.

Then there were these small little trips through the market place..all covered with snow. Everything was white. Literally everything.

To add amazement to fun, there was a meeting planned in a meeting room on fifth floor. And, the room had big windows facing the market area. When someone looks out from that window, there is still the same old city, but all the colors are gone. Its just one universal color all over the place. ALL WHITE.

I love that.

I took many photos. Some with my SLR, some with my phone.. Can't upload them now, but yeah, they will show up.. for sure.

We went to one of the indian restaurants which Manoj had be-friended on his last trip here. The walk to the place was fabulous. The footpath was full of snow, like a blanket. The little gardenetts/bushes along the footpaths were all topped by snow. About two-three inches of that.

Some of these places turned out the be pretty dangerous. Snow had been crushed by walking people and some of it had become ice. A thin layer, but very slipperty to step on. If you are unlucky and step onto one of these patches, be very careful. I just about fell into one of these traps.

On another day, we went walking through the city center to the other part of the town. That part is rather sparsely populated and therefore, its more parks, open areas, greenery etc. And, to watch it in snow was just amazing. Lots of photos again.

Later in the week, the snow fall stoppd, but the snow on the streets remained still. Its still there (its the third day since snow-fall stopped). Temperature is not going up and therefore, the snow is not going away so fast. Though its reducing...

On the friday today, streets are more or less clean of snow, howeverm some plants, treetops, and standing cars in parking still have inches of snow on them. the temperatures are not going up more than a degree or two. Lately I found that we experienced things in the range of -5 to -6 degrees celcius.

Rest later...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Zurich Trip

Oh...wow... that's a city.. Believe me, you need truck loads of money to live there.. And enjoy its markets.

It was a Saturday. 17th Dec 2005 when I went to Zurich for a day trip. Left Winterthur at about 10 in the morning with a day pass and reached there by 10:30 or so. The forecast was for snowfall and that was my biggest expectation, apart from the city...

When I left Winterthur, it had already started snowing. And I felt very good within. I like going out in snow... and taking photos... and playing with snow balls. Unfortunately my wife is not with me, so I couldn't expect playing snowball, but I still wanted to go out in snow and enjoy.

The train station at Zurich is big. And has a complete shopping complex within it. I mean, if you are not careful enough, you might as well lose yourself. On top of that, all the Christmas shopping rush (both of people and makeshift shops) gets you even more confused.

I got out of the place to meet a very sullen lady at the tourist counter. She helped (?) me with a city map and started doing whatever she was doing. So, with that map in hand, I was on my own.

I had already bought a rucksack in the day (35 SF) . The BahnhoffStrasse is probably the biggest fashion street in the world. I could name any fashion brand out of my mind, only to find the shop somewhere around me.

A colleague told me earlier that since Switzerland has very lower taxes (about 7.5% as against about 35-40% in rest of European countries), I expected that the routine items would be cheaper. I have love for wrist watches and cameras, So I looked for a Tissot shop to start with. I was amazed to find that the prices were not so interestingly low. Rather, they were on the higher side. Perhaps the collection I was looking at was actually more costly. But, I got a shock of my life to see a 23000 SF wrist watch from Rolex. NEVER imagined something so costly. Never. Perhaps one could buy a Mercedes for that kind of money....

So I went on. The idea to convey is, every brand worth something was present there on the shopping street. Having one (or more) showroom in the kilometre or so long shopping street. All this while it was snowing slowly... making it even more "experience of life" situation for me.

Then I left the main shopping street and went looking for the river Limmet. Sounds like a Jewish name to me, but can't say. I found that it’s a very shallow river. A few feets only. Actually while photographing the ducks in the river, I could spot the riverbed. And that's how I figured that out. There were two - three high rising churches... Gross Munster, Frah Munster and one more.. Later I learned that "Munster" means church or ministry in german.

The Grossmunster is perhaps the tallest of the three and has two towers. One of them is open for public to go up and enjoy the city sight from that point. As I always like, I went up there. And I liked what I saw. It was a fabulous view of the city bathing in light snowfall. On one hand I saw the city buildings, houses, streets, the river and on the other hand I saw the monstrous Zurich Lake. It was snowing so I could not spot the other shore of the lake, but I guess, it would have taken some effort for me anyways, once I realized how big the lake was.

From that point I realized that the Zurich city is actually in a sort of valley. On both sides of river Limmet I saw high rise mountains, almost white by now. Perhaps the lake was also part of the valley only. Having said that, the realization brought even closer the sense of being in Switzerland, country of mountains…

I took a few photographs, covering almost all the directions. I am not sure I covered it good enough or not, but there was a certain view , where the sun rays were pouring out from behind of the clouds and were falling down on the lake. I hope the photo comes good. J

After Grossmunster, I continued my walk towards the lake head. The point where the lake cruises start. My day-pass included the boat trip price as well. While crossing one bridge en route to the place, I saw a lady feeding pigeons and ducks. The birds were thronging the place like anything. It was having about 80-100 birds at that place at once. I took some more photos there. For feeding there, the pigeons flew to the fence and stood there in a queue like formation. More photos there.

Then I took the boat cruise through the Zurichzee (Zurich See) as they call it. Funny thing is the imagination of scale of these people. A lake as big is that, and they call it a see, go to other places of world and you would see lakes times as big as that. I would say, that this scale problem exists with the complete Europe as a culture. The people here really lack that vision that there could be something as different or big from their own country. E.g. in Brussels, I spoke to a colleague who was amazed to know that the complete country of Belgium can be fit in one of the larger cities of India or a larger city of Delhi.

The trip thorough the lake was made even better by the snowfall. There were moments when the snow fall was so thick that vision was impared to a few meters and then it was better to a few kilometres. Amazing for me to see that kind of weather change in a matter of minutes. It was a ride worth taking while it took about two hours or so.. I actually took a little nap while on board.

I can’t ignore to mention the family I saw. There was this elderly man, a young boy in his teens, and two little girls (about 6-10) and a lady good enough to be their mother. The girls were frolicking like it was their home. Father was admonishing the younger one and the mother was saving her.. it was fun to watch. J

When we got back to the shore, the snowfall had stopped momentarily. The place was full of snow cover, everything was white. Just like that. Fun to watch.

Then I started my walk again. This time I took the little trip through the shopping street again.. on the other side of road. I found a camera shop… and it was a very expensive one. No discounts in the name of Christmas period etc. EOS 350D was still 1398 SF as advertised from Canon. Further on the walk I found rare presence on super market Co-op and Inter Discount. Both of them are big discount shop chains across Switzerland (so I have learned in the previous week). I went inside Inter discount one, looking for… nothing.. basically. Electronics being my craze. I looked around for USB storage sticks. Found some very interesting ones there. Swissbit, 2 GB was about 220+ SF while Sony were selling their 512 Mb (with password protection) at about 100SF. Then there were local ones as well.

I looked around the camera section, and found EOS 350D priced at 1200 SF. Suddenly, it was interesting for me. Then I asked and found out the actually it was a catch, since there was no standard packages along with it. And the standard deal from Canon (the photo printer, priced at 150 SF) was not with the deal. And I dropped it… J Anyways I was only looking for stuff.

Then I went back to look at the Framunster. This church boasts stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. Having heard the name a lot, I was curious. I went in and found it a bit anti-climex. Nothing special for me.

Further, I walked through the other famous shopping streets. Renwegge and another one (name.. missing). Interesting walk though. Since I didn’t had to buy anything , it was just casual walk for me. On the way I encountered the Lindenplatz ( a high point facing the river). Good for views and more photos followed.. J

That quite summed up usage of my leg strength. So I headed back to bahnhof for going back to hotel. I took a tram (they are pretty old trams here, from the look, but are well maintained). When I got down, it was all illuminated and snowing very heavily. Then I realized that on the main shopping street, they have this lighting system installed. It was such a magnificent view that I was just dumb stuck.

On the main street, there were cylindrical lights installed vertically. And, they were not standard tube lights. They were actually synchronized lights, with patterns flowing along the street. So, if you watch it for a few seconds, you would realize that a pattern is flowing from one point to other of the street. Each of the tube light was working in the combination. Marvellous.

Then I went inside and took the train to Winterthur. It took me about 30 minutes to reach Winterthur station. There had been heavy snowing in winterthur city. Till the next day morning, an inch of snow is still remaining.

I hope to go out again in the day and shoot some of Winterthur as well. J

Thursday, December 15, 2005

First weekend...

This is the first weekend approaching in Winterthur for me. Unfortunately its drizzling since morning and my plans for going out in the evening/tomorrow are under clouds as well.. :(

Finally I decided to rely on the forecast and believing on the snowfall, I would go to Zurich on Sat. Sunday Neeraj and Manoj should be here, and therefore things would move based on collective plans and preferences.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My First Day

I arrived at the hotel about 10:30 in the morning. Took a bath and then planned to sleep. But, me.... knowing myself, didn't dare sleep. I prepared myself for the cold and went out in the town. To look around, what;s there, how different or similar it is to what I have already seen.

What I found was pretty much similar to my expectation of a typical European city. Almost similar names (store brands), same kinds of super markets, not much different.

I somehow was expecting more Jewish effect on the city, which I could not spot myself. Somehow I have this mental image about Switzerland, which is very closely linked to Jews. Somewhere down inside me, I respect them a lot for their skills. And, having known Islam (more negative than positive), would like to know lots more about Jew-ism. But, I did not find any traces of Jew-ism (that I could spot). Though I have to admit that I hardly know anything about visible signs of Jewism.

I had seen at least two people at the airport, looking at which I could straight away say that they are Jews. but afterwards nothing.
In the town here also, nothing.

I walked across the city's shopping area... which was open on a sunday in preparation of the upcoming Christmus shopping season. But I did not see the kind of rush I have seen in Brussels. I thought ... a new town, a new trend.. let's see..

It was very cold, and I was worried about my preparedness while going out. I forgot my gloves that time and paid heavily. i could realize the mistake almost immediately.

I have this habit of not being able to go inside a shop if I don't have to buy anything (genuinely). And I have seen myself spending quite a bit of money just because I entered the shop and shop keepers (or salesman) have spent some time on me. I feel it like an obligation.

Therefore, I developed a need of buying a USB memory stick. I actually needed (still) one. So, I started entering electronics shops and looking for it. The exercise where I have to make something understand to someone who doesn't know english (and I of course don't know his/her language) is very interesting for me. I love that. And here I had the perfect opportunity. Alomost no-one in shops knew english good enough to understand my point in the first attempt.

Then it was genuinely the internal fight that I always have about the size of the stick. I have this tendency where I try to avoid being limited by capacity of anything. If I have to buy something, I would rather have it the maximum size (or multiple uses ) possible, even if i have to pay extra money. e.g. Last time I went out to buy this USB stick (in Brussels), I ended up buying a complete Sony VAIO Pocket kit (which I still regret(: . At that time it cost me 450 Euros. Somehow, I knew immediately afterwards that it was a bad decision.

Here, I found at least two shops which were selling USB sticks. one was some Inter discount... and other was even more obscurely named Fust. And even more intersting was the fact that both of them had a difference of about 20 Francs on the same product, of the same brand, same model, same capacity. Most strange, i thought may be there is another shop which has another price tag, who knows, even lower than the two of them. And so I continued surfing...

In the end, took a veggie burger at McDonalds' and went to sleep. No photos shot in the whole day. Now I am wondering, whether it will be worth to bring 5 rolls with me... if I am going to shoot at this rate... :)

Lets see...

First Time in Switzerland.. Winterthur

I had never been to Switzerland, and never wanted to, without my wife. This time work made me come here.. for two weeks.

Arrived on 11th dec. All alone, though I have travelled all alone before (while living in Brussels), this was a little bit different. And I liked it. The flight exchange.

For the first time, I needed the currency exchange while arriving in a foreigh country. Earlier always got money in the local currency from the travel desk.

Then looking for the train connection from Zurich to Winterthur. The trains here are much similar to those in Belgium or Netherlands. I guess the trains are more or less similar across Europe. whatever of that have I seen, I found most of the places having similar quality. Though Belgian trains had a little display inside the passenger wagon to display which station is arriving next, here they didn't have anything like that.

All in all, an interesting arrival.

The hotel, Wartmann, is actually a nice location. Just besides the train station. To me the town is also very small. But, I have actually seen very little of it anyways.

The hotel rooms in Wartmann are well equipped but are really small in size. Or may be I have the habit of staying in more spacious places. Can't say. I didn't like the room at first, but then the lady at reception was helping enough and allowed me to chnage pretty easily. this time giving me a room with a proper big bathroom. The room has almost every major amenity. And I can't complain. Only thing missing is a big brand name. Something like Shereton, or Oberois or similar. Else the place is good for a person like me. :)