Thursday, October 7, 2010

Zurich at Four

Throughout the day, Zurich is a bustling city: at 6 in the morning, the colors and the flavors of the open market in Helvetiaplatz fill the air, along with the voices of vendors and passers-by who stop at every stall to pick up an apple, a freshly-baked croissant, or flowers. There are several Italian vendors, and among them my favorite cheese shop selling buffalo mozzarella and burrata.

At 8am, everyone is running to catch a tram or a train to get to work in suit and tie or fancy heels, or running in jeans to the gym to get a little exercise before starting a long work day. Bankers, consultants, construction workers, store owners, a diverse sample of humanity crosses each other's path in the city's paved streets.

At 11am, moms with their strollers and little old ladies walk about and head to the park or the grocery store, and the occasional student sprints with his bike and his iPod while challenging the traffic. People from office buildings pour outside with a coffee and a cigarette for a break.

Any given evening of the week, from about 5pm until later, people fill bars and cafes for a little apero before dinner, laughing and meeting new people, and just enjoying themselves. If the weather is pleasant, as this September has been, people will even sit outside and enjoy the last bits of summer that they can get, while the leaves on the trees start to turn yellow and fall down. Then, the dinner and post-dinner-drinks crowd replaces them and continues the party. One thing that amazed me ever since my first day in Zurich was that people go out every single night of the week, work or not. It seems to me that Zurchers enjoy life.

However, recently and unexpectedly, I discovered my favorite time of the day in Zurich. At 4 in the morning, when the air is crisp and the sky starts getting pink, in anticipation of the sunrise. When the streets are quiet, except for the occasional person cuddled up in her coat, eyes fixed on the ground, either coming home after a wild night, or leaving to start the day, and the smell of freshly baked bread coming from the bakeries, still closed but already alive, captures your senses every few steps.

The moment when you know you really should go home, because in a couple of hours you have to wake up, but instead you keep walking and enjoying the magic atmosphere, trying to ignore the passing of time, and artificially prolonging the night.

The moment when, between light and dark, you create everlasting memories.

The moment when, as I was told, you expect the unpredictable and allow your heart to listen to life's whispers.

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