constructed from notes, pt 1

thursday and friday, from memory and the photographic record:


On Thursday night, my coworkers and I went to have a lakeside barbeque in a small park overlooking Lake Zürich. Because I’m an idiot, I decided that the fact that I was once again carrying a backpack with a laptop (the same one I’d schlepped up and down the Uetliberg the day before) was no reason not to hike the 6km from our office out to the park instead of doing the sensible thing and taking the train.

For the record: this was not a sensible decision. The knots in my shoulders by the end of that evening? Indescribable.

As a small bonus, the walk took us through some of the less touristed areas of Zürich, which afforded me the chance to see some of the local graffiti. Now, back on my trip to Iceland, I indulged in some mild mockery of the local street art (the phrases “Hrothgar was here” and “Icelandic homies reprazent” may have figured), but that’s actually pretty unfair: Europe’s graffiti tradition dates back to the Romans after all. And I have to say: Zürich’s taggers could probably pass muster in Queens:

Also seen on the way: one of a disturbing number of the garden gnomes of various sizes that I spotted in various locations across the city. There were many of them, and nobody seemed to be being ironic about it.

Dinner at the lake involved more meats-on-a-stick than a sane person should ever consider eating in a single evening: the Swiss are quite serious about their Wurst. And when I say “on a stick”, I mean that quite literally, as the following (slightly fictionalized, highly slanderous) conversational excerpt will demonstrate. The scene: we have just gotten the coals going on the portable grills, and your humble narrator has wandered over to the Bag o’ Meat to inspect the goods:
Your Humble Narrator: So I see wurst, chicken and beer. Do we have buns, knives, napkins or mustard?
Coworker Who Will Remain Anonymous: Um… I knew we forgot something.
YHN: Really?
CWWRA: Really.
      [Uncomfortable pause]
YHN: You came in a car, right?
YHN: So you could… go get them, right?
CWWRA: Shops close pretty early in Zürich.
YHN: …when?
CWWRA: Around eight?
      [YHN checks his watch. It is 7:45pm.]
      [Uncomfortable pause]
YHN: I suppose you’d better get going then?
CWWRA: I guess so.

While the Co-Worker Who Will Remain Anonymous did eventually return with bread, napkins, condiments and plasticwear, the first round of wursts came off the grill long beforehand, so being the clever engineers that we were, we sent one of our number into the nearby bushes with his swiss army knife. He returned, victoriously, with a fistful of sharpened sticks, which we used to eat the wursts from.

In the meantime, I amused myself by standing still and being used as a climbing pole, fencing partner and tickling target by the adorable 6-year-old daughter of my co-worker Ben and his wife. I’m not sure what it is about me that prompts all children under the age of 10 to think “toy!”, but it appears to be a pretty consistent reaction.

Eventually, the sun went down. And when I say ‘eventually’, I mean around 10pm: I’d forgot how much I missed the way summer nights stretch in the far north.

…and we took a train home:


work work work. meetings meetings meetings. drink with coworkers. dead on feat. shoulders still twisted into Erlenmeyer flasks. wandered out onto the riverfront, got a caphiriña from a vendor. they turn out to be tasty. also sleep-inducing. stumbled back to the hotel, fell asleep. least glorious day as a solo traveller so far.

Oh, one funny note. Google, like a lot of big companies, has a weekly ‘TGIF’ function every friday afternoon to let people unwind a little before the weekend. (Not that the work environment there is so tightly wound to begin with, ahem.) At the Zürich office, the beginning of TGIF is sounded by — and I swear I am not making this up — the theme to “Heidi” being played at top volume over the building P.A. system. I can only shrug my shoulders and say “the Swiss do like their Cheese.”

To be continued.

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