Daily Prompt: In Transit – in Switzerland

Train stations, airport terminals, subway stops: soulless spaces full of distracted, stressed zombies, or magical sets for fleeting, interlocking human stories?

Rush Hour Solothurn StationWhen the kids were smaller (there was a time when I had four at home), I was sure I lived on a station and was permanently in transit. Swiss schools find that an early morning start is positive so I had two kids to be at school by by 8 o’clock in the morning. They had to be washed, dressed and fed. Mr. Swiss had already left the home station an hour before, yes the Swiss are an early nation. I was left with the baby and the other son that was picked up by taxi an hour later (autistic and in a special day school). The baby had no time table, he just screamed when he wanted something or might have discovered something new to torment mummy with. Who cares? It was all part of life. Later when the kids could be farmed out to various places where they were safe, they let me out. You think an airport terminal or a railway station is full of distracted, stressed zombies? Forget it, the world of family and work invented the stress. The rest is just supplementary.

But now to the real thing. The photo is of the local Solothurn railway station somewhere in the northern part of Switzerland. Being a small country, our train system is very easy to follow if you know where to go. Solothurn has no problems. Platform 1 comes from Geneva on the border to France (with a few changes on the way) and goes to Romanshorn on the German border via Zürich. If you come from Zürich you arrive at platform 3 and if you want to go to Bern, that is quite adventurous. We have a small direct line from Solothurn to Bern, stopping at a few country stations on the way on the other side of the station. It takes about an hour.

So you arrive at the station. Perhaps you just want to buy a newspaper at the kiosk. No problem. There will definitely be someone, usually a young man, sometimes a young lady that will approach you and get quite close. They are not really trying to be friendly. No, generally they are asking if you have a few francs for an overnight place to sleep. Yes, even in the country of bankers we have our problem people. You might feel sorry for these people. Do not. They actually need the money for their dealer to purchase whatever they purchase from the dealer.

If you see a gentleman dressed in a suit with a tie and pulling one of those bags on wheels on Platform 1 then he will definitely be going to Zürich Airport for a business trip. He will climb into the first class compartment when the train arrives to complete the business image. I usually travel first class when I go to Zürich Airport, but that is because I am usually so stressed out before I arrive at the station with my case, passport, flight ticket and whatever that I need to compose myself before arriving at the airport and 1st class is quieter, less stressed and the seats are comfortable. The journey is one and half hours. If you are lucky you have a direct train to the airport, otherwise you might have to change trains in Zürich main station. No problem, with Swiss efficiency it is all perfectly co-ordinated.

It is difficult to find an interlocking human stories as waiting at a Swiss station is something like a meeting in the United Nations without interpreters. Half an hour going West they begin to speak French as opposed to the Swiss German that we speak, so do not bother to engage anyone in a conversation as probably they will look at you as if you arrived from another planet and might say “pardon” if they are polite. We have many immigrants from east European countries and Turkey. They think they can speak our language, but it can become confusing if they are talking to each other.

Talking to the students from the high school that are circulating is a lost cause. They do not hear you, they have all substituted their ears for some sort of plastic hearing aid with a cable attached to their telephone or iPod and might be swaying to the music. There are the thoughtful students, another waste of space. They are busy clicking on their iPhones and talking to a friend. If they have face time they have attained the peak of communication. They even see who they are talking to.

We have a small station in our village, but that is a real meeting place. If you take the train you know when it is arriving and when it leaves. Generally village inhabitants congregate at the station a few minutes before the train arrives. You greet each other and as everyone knows everyone else, you engage in a conversation.

I noticed I could not really find anything amusing about railway stations in Switzerland, probably because the Swiss consider travelling a serious matter.

Daily Prompt: In Transit – in Switzerland

14 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: In Transit – in Switzerland

  1. I was most interested in your own village railway station. It sounded like something that had come out of “The Railway Children”- a quaint, old time station, where everyone knew everyone else, including the station master.
    Can you actually travel across Switzerland from border to border in about an hour ?


    • We don’t have a station master at the local village station. It is all done automatically. You get the tickets from a machine and press a button to tell the train to stop when it approaches.
      From East to West it would be about six hours and from North to South about 4. There are a lot of mountains in between, but luckily over the years they built tunnels through them. You can do the scenic version if you drive over the mountain passes and they have built some quite good motorways.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reminds me of getting on the train UP in Kleinescheidegg. Outside were farmers with their goats waiting for the train down. My friend said, “Chamois?” I don’t know what got into me but I made my one and only ever joke in French. I don’t even know WHY but I said, “Oui. C’est les chamoix domestique.” There were French speaking French bikers (motorcycle guys) sitting nearby and they cracked up. I suppose the train had an effect on my linguistic ability…


    • We walked up to the Kleinescheidegg station from Grindelwald where we were spending a two week holiday. The station has now been rebuilt, no longer quaint . I usually smell the goats before I see them and I certainly wouldn’t want one as a pet.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a wonderfully descriptive summary of a place I’ll likely never be able to visit. Thank you so much for sharing, I love small glimpses into the everyday lives of others.


  4. I dislike flying MOST of all. I like trains the best … but we do almost everything in a car. That’s because the U.S. is a nation of roads. The rest of our transportation system is a patchwork. We have good airports … as good as anyone’s, though to me all airports look much the same. I spent half a day in the airport in Zurich and it was the cleanest airport I’ve ever seen.

    The older I get, the more serious traveling is, no matter how we are doing it. I get tired. I hate crowds, I hate waiting in line. But sometimes, no matter how I try to avoid it … you need to travel.


    • We drive locally but long distance drives are no longer so interesting. Both of us being golden oldies our concentration is not what it used to be. We have a good train system in Switzerland and we both have a permit for half price which we renew every year. The Swiss railway system can be expensive. Zürich airport is being improved on year by year. I don’t mind Zürich. We travelled once from Geneva and we did not like it. We flew to Kennedy airport N.Y. but that was big.


  5. This was like reading the epitome of stereotypical Swiss-ness 😀 All efficiency and resolute determination for everything to run as planned. I think I would prefer your homely little station, much more me 😉


  6. Oh my! I knew Switzerland was a wonderful place, but now… I feel like I have to visit it at least once in my life (I do have a desire to visit Europe someday). I never would have thought it would take so less time to travel within Switzerland!

    It takes a minimum of eight hours to get to the capital of our state. Then to get to the capital of our country would probably take a few days (on train, that is), because I live in the southernmost part of India. And then from top to bottom? That would require a week or so!

    And with the teenagers always engaged with their headsets — I agree with you. Though I’m young myself, I certainly do not prefer those. I try to remove them off my friends’ ears to remind them that we could talk more and have more fun on a picnic without those! 😀


  7. Pingback: Transiting | It's Mayur Remember?

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