Thursday, May 15, 2008

2 - A station far away.

The train is silent, glass-windowed, footboardless. As it does the short trip from the airport to the railway station, I try to get used to the novelty of the train, of the experience.

Zurich Hauptbahnhof(or Zurich Main, if you please) looks eerily like Mumbai VT. The station is an expansive ancient-looking stone building. Like VT, you see trains gently wedge themselves into dead-end platforms, like swords into scabbards. As platforms roll outwards from dead-ends under glass roofs, outlines of the tracks dissolve into a frantic mishmash.

I walk to the front of the platform, and go past the dead end. There is a corridor and a high-roofed hallway housing railway offices and restaurants and shopping areas. These stretch some 60 meters from the dead end within the main building. I walk around the arena and look about, lugging my two big bags along.

The first sunrays work their way past the pillars and outer walls of the hallway. Early morning commuters begin to trickle in – and not all on foot. A schoolgirl wades in on skates. A disheveled young man wheels a cycle in. Two electric scooters glide through. Two old men peer out of their jackets at the ticket vending machines.

In the middle of the foyer, a massive triangular balloon gets slowly inflated. The balloon reads “100 years of Toblerone”, and bears the said brand’s insignia. Young men and women in Toblerone t-shirts form a huddle, presumably to chalk out their plans for the day. Dispersing, they use Toblerone-yellow ribbons to demarcate the central part of the arena.

One coffee stall just beyond a platform’s dead-end has just opened; I glance at its menu and try to get the hang of Swiss Francs. I’m letting the calculations, the budgeting, the conversion into rupees distract me from taking in the vastness, the grandeur of the carefully carved stone atrium. Annoyed at self for said distraction, I take a deep breath and just look.

The parfumerie, the patisserie and the kebab stall on the outer margins of the foyer are still closed. The ticket counters and helpdesks are open, but there are only officials therein. A prim middle aged man unlocks the doors of a newspaper-and-book shop. A young, incredibly pretty woman dusts the exhibits of a flower shop. The brasserie looks appealing - it has chairs and tables placed outwards, right in the main lobby of the railway station. With some three rows of chairs-tables all facing the expanse of the hallway, it gives the impression of seats at a theatre or show.

There’s still a tang of cold in the air, as if to remind me of the winter that’s just past. It is, however, spring now - mild, golden sunlight weaves through passers-by and pours itself upon the largely empty foyer.

I order a breakfast of raspberry jam, uber-bitter coffee and soft, crumbling croissants. I occupy front row seats to look at still-fairly-sparse crowds of travelers walk across the atrium towards waiting trains and large schedule-boards.


Gee said...

You discovered croissants :)
Now you will never be the same person again!

QKumar said...

[Gee] - I'm not. :-).

Acshully, the guys on the plane gave me a croissant stuffed with vegetables, samosa style. Not finding it too hot, I wondered if this was the exalted dish you referred to.

Of course, after Hauptbahnhof showed me, the world's a better place to live in.:-).

Kunal Thakar said...

hey, what are you doing in Switzerland? I like your style of writing, rather the focus of your writing :)

QKumar said...

[KT] - Heyyy! Nice seeing you here man. Hope Georgia and life treat you well. :-).

Was in Switz-land on some acad stuff. Couldnt do rest of Europe and all, but this alone was fun enough.