I was in college the first time I went to Switzerland. My fiancés father organized my flight over from JFK. Ben’s mother and father, who I had never met before were going to meet me in Geneva and take me back to Berne. By the time the three of us were to arrive in Berne, Ben would have finished work and would be waiting for me. Sounds easy, right? Well, spoiler alert, it wasn’t quite that easy.
This wasn’t my first flight alone but it was my first overseas and I was going to meet my future family so I was a little nervous. The problem was I didn’t have a ticket. Ben said not to worry I would be on the passenger list and would be able to get on the plane. Trust, trust, I can do this, I’m going to Europe! And, true to his word I was really on the list, everything got cleared as if I had had a ticket and I got pointed to the gate. Remember, this was pre airport security control days: the take off shoes, socks, rings, belt, coat, remove change from pockets, hairpins and gold teeth fillings were in the distant future. The only thing you had to worry about was ruining your rolls of film in the x-ray. So passport control was a breeze.
After waiting at the gate awhile, it was announced that we would be boarding at another gate, so everyone picked up their carry-ons and moved collectively like a noisy brood of chickens to a gate about 5 minutes away and settled in there. I had eaten about a ton of chocolate chip cookies and drank a gallon of Coke while waiting and was on a sugar high, ready to move to the other side of the airport at the drop of a pin. We changed gates about 3 times and I kept up like a champ. No problem that the plane was delayed, I just had to be at the right gate at the right time. Finally we boarded. I felt like I had won in the lottery, I did it! Now I could relax and enjoy the flight (well, as much as someone who doesn’t particularly like to fly can enjoy it).
Like I said, the flight had been delayed and somewhere over the ocean it was decided that the plane would fly directly to Zurich and not stop in Geneva. Oooookay, now what? No parachute, so obviously I get out in Zurich, not much choice there. Ben’s parents had traveled to Geneva (a 2 hours drive) to pick me up only to find out that the plane had been rerouted. Those lovely people quickly arranged to have me paged and sent to a hotel to wait for them to get to Zurich (an additional 3+ hours travel).
It was like a miracle, while I was standing in the airport wondering what I should do, I heard my name over the loudspeaker. I found my way to the information stand and somehow got to the hotel. Everyone was so nice speaking English to me and helping me. The lady at the hotel reception gave me the key to my room and told me it was on the first floor and pointed to the elevator. But wait, I was already on the first floor. I was confused, to say the least. I stood there like a doe not knowing which way to run. She repeated the room number, held up one finger to emphasize the first floor and gave me a little shove towards the elevator. I found the room and while I was waiting it dawned on me that the first floor is the one above the first floor. I should really have paid closer attention in German class.
In the meantime Ben’s parents, who were in the middle of their own marathon, had returned to Berne, picked him up along with his sister and her child and the five of them travelled to Zurich. He came up to my room and we went down to the restaurant to meet the family. Ben asked me if I wanted something to eat, maybe a sandwich? Sure, why not, I had been eating practically nonstop but a sandwich sounded like comfort food to me.
I was floored when I saw the sandwich. It was mostly bread, thick, thick bread with a brown crunchy crust, very little ham. Nothing like the ham sandwiches I knew. I decided I probably wasn’t really hungry after all.
Sort of a bumpy start but it was a wonderful trip. Welcome to beautiful Switzerland.