Switzerland, Where I Became a Hooker

17 07 2010

And here it is. Finally. After nearly a year (!?) of waiting, this blog is about to become extremely anti-climactic. So before you disappoint yourself by reading further, you may want to refresh your memory of the earlier parts of my 1996 trip to Europe. I just did and turns out I’m really frickin’ funny.

Episode I
Episode II
Episode III
Episode IV

At every new country we had to stop at the border, some countries had more security than others – England, for instance, had to stamp our passports several times per airport; upon arrival in Italy, we had to get off the bus for inspections. But Switzerland simply waved and smiled as we drove right on through. Awesome.

The first city we hit in Switzerland was Lugano. Here’s what we did there:

me being cute

Oh, it wasn’t all standing oddly on fountains while wearing too-small sweaters that probably belonged to Hanna. We also ate veggie burgers at Burger King. But that was all we had the chance for before we were on the bus on the way to Lucerne.

A word here about blue Chucks. Back in high school, during a Saturday rehearsal for some play, Summer and a couple of classmates and I walked to Jack in the Box for lunch and noticed that three of us were wearing blue high-top Converse. While there, Dominic ran out of money to pay for his lunch and a nice man made up the difference. Shortly afterward, something similar happened – we wore blue Chucks and someone gave us money for some reason. We began to understand the magic of these shoes. True enough, on the very last leg of our Europe trip, at the Chicago airport, someone paid for my Starbucks. Behold the wonder of the Blue Chucks!


Lucerne was one of my favorite cities on the trip (they were all one of my favorite cities, weren’t they?). Beautiful geography, beautiful art, more pigeons, what’s not to like? A year or so later, two Swiss boys who often visited the move theater I worked at asked me how I’d liked it there and when I replied, “It was cool,” they nodded emphatically and responded, “Yes, it is cold there.” Rimshot! No, but they really did say that.

Our hotel there, was, according to my memory, a large, white box. The dining room was upstairs and had the same staff no matter the hour of the day and the coffee stank (this could have been a ploy to get us to enjoy their Swiss hot chocolate. if so, it worked). On the ground floor was a large statue of the Winged Victory. The windows were heavy and opened uptwards* as you can see in the picture of Sarah and Denise here (but don’t click yet! Spoilers!). Also, they were trying to murder me. The windows, I mean. Not Sarah and Denise.


me, sat upon by more mangy birds

We stayed two or three nights here in Lucerne. We did some sightseeing (I think this is where we took one of those sideways trains up the mountain, although I cannot remember what we saw there), saw the lion, got a tour of the older part of town where the buildings are covered in murals, walked across the medieval wooden bridge, climbed the city walls (which involved over one hundred stairs! in a row!), became a pigeon perch, and played on a little playground that was tucked away in a little neighborhood. We had been warned by Dolly of Mad Cow rampant in Switzerland, however true or untrue that might have been, it became a running joke and since many shops had life-size colorful cow sculptures outside the doors we did, indeed, see a lot of mad cows.

Enough beating around the bush. One evening, as we were waiting for dinner, I was sitting in the window enjoying the evening air and playing someone’s electronic blackjack game. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I want to clarify that. At some point I noticed a man down on the street below, waving to me. I tried to ignore him, but he only became more persistent, and motioned for me to come down. I shook my head HELL NO. But did that stop him? Hardly. Instead he pulled out money and waved it at me. Needless to say, I got the hell out of the window.

There was other excitement in the hotel, too. One evening the girls from the other high school had been out dancing again, this time the dance club, in the form of assholes who won’t take no for an answer, followed them back and, apparently, harassed them until some of the guys from the school came out and made them leave. Another time, I was leaning my head out the window (you’d think I’d learn…) and just as I pulled it back in, it came crashing closed with a loud bang that freaked us all out. Downstairs the next morning, Sofia pointed to the Winged Victory and told me I nearly ended up with a head like hers. While a concussion, technically, would have been more likely than a beheading, the latter certainly makes for the better story.

The day before we left Sofia and I wandered around the city together (this is when the 100+ stairs happened).  We hit the three-story toy store where I bought my little cousins some toys and another small shop where we thought we might buy some cheap clothes (she may have, I didn’t – but the zipper pull on the pants I tried on came off so I kept it.  I have a rule – if I touch it lightly and it breaks in my hand, that means it must want me to own it).

On our final morning we woke to bad news.  TWA Flight 800 had exploded and crashed on its way to Paris.  Since we were heading to Paris the next day, and since the crash killed a French school group, we weren’t very sure of what to expect in terms of emotions there, and feelings about Americans in general.  Also, there were my own personal feelings about planes crashing on trans-continental journeys to contend with.  But the Parisians were nothing but wonderful to us** and our plane didn’t crash.***  Perhaps caused by the flustered feelings of that morning, or perhaps it was simply inevitable on a trip like this, but I left some things behind in that Swiss hotel.  The toys I’d bought for my cousins, for one thing, but also a journal I was keeping on this trip, with every moment documented in silly teenager-style notes.  Which would be very helpful (and rather amusing) at this particular moment.

And then we were off to Gay Purr-ee****. Stay tuned for bitter rantings about missed skeleton caves and the price of Coca-Cola. I’ll probably get to it before next July.

*That was a typo, but actually expresses the action quite well so I’ve made it an actual word now. Go forth and use it.
**Spoiler alert!
***And now you know how the 1996 Tour of Europe ends.  Sorry about that.  Hope you enjoy the bits about London that I haven’t spoiled you on yet.  Except for Sonja who got to hear in person about how I fell asleep on a toilet.
****But with fewer cats.