Zurich at First Blush

After a travel day that was as rocky as the cobblestone streets that trace the city’s old district, I have been calmed by the serenity of this tidy and enchanting place.

An early morning walk through downtown provided me the much-needed break from packing, traveling, arriving. A little park overlooking the river and the central buildings was the ideal spot to allow my brain to unfurl from its guarded state; a defense mechanism that numbs the input of external stimuli when everything you see, hear, smell, taste and touch, is new.

In that park, sitting on a wooden bench, I allowed myself to finally expose my senses to Zurich’s offerings. A crisp bite to the air chilled my fingers and I saw my breath. Every visible exhale carried with it the stress and toil of getting here, and as the chaotic wisps faded I smiled on the inside for the first time in days. My eyes relaxed and saw the city, not just a collection of buildings holding unpronounceable street signs. The acute rays of the early morning light bathed the city in an orange quite fitting for October, and I was struck at how long the shadows were because long shadows are things I only associate with afternoon sun. The damp musk of a thousand yellow leaves dotting the gravel underfoot enveloped me. I breathed in deep and held it in long. I reveled in the scent, not because it was necessarily pleasant, but because it reminded me of something I have been struggling to find for years: home.

Below, the city was stirring, aided by the hush of the electric trams on their exquisitely punctual schedules. A group of children scurried over close to where I sat; their laughter and energy broke my serene introspection. But in doing so, the children reminded me that for as stately and important and rigid as it may be, Zurich does have a soul, a soft bit between the buildings and the wealth and the status.

It is within this warm embrace where I want to focus my efforts for the next however long we are here. I am trying not to get caught up in the difficult housing market, the high cost of living, the tricky language barrier and umpteen other cold, hard factors. I’m here and my wife is by my side and our cats are too; and we’re going to make it home. At least until the wind blows us somewhere else.



  1. Beautifully written and beautifully said. Good job, DK. 🙂

  2. M. Neilan

    D–as always beautifully written. Zurich is a gorgeous city you, Amaia and the cats will have a great time there. I spent a week in the small Swiss town of Einsiedeln about a hundred years ago and still remember being awestruck by the natural beauty and of course the beer.

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for the comment, I agree, Zurich is gorgeous. I feel a special connection with Switzerland being from California; they too take their nature quite seriously. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Eva

    Beautiful writing as always, maybe the best I’ve read from you. So vivid in your descriptions, and I always learn a word or two from you, in this case “unfurl” and I need to look up what “wisp” means although I feel like I should know it. I can more than relate to struggling to find home — and I am beginning to think that maybe I’ll never find it. 🙂 Enjoy Switzerland — it is one of my favorite places. Make sure you go to an Alm (mountain farm that’s also often a B&B and serves fresh cow’s milk and other refreshments), go to Lugano (I would move there in a heartbeat, the Italian part of CH is my fav) and go on top of the Gotthard tunnel (most impressive drive I’ve ever done) from Goeschenen to Airolo. You will see pristine mountain lakes, waterfalls and meadows (go in spring or summer). Have some Raclette (the other Swiss tradition, there isn’t just fondue) and Gluehwein (that’s more German but I am sure they’ll have it there). Oh, and Interlaken if you want some adventure (skydiving, whitewater rafting, California backpackers — I met 4 people who also went to UCSB there, one lived two houses from me in college). If you are into skiing, the possibilities are endless! And if you ever walk down Bahnhofstrasse, you can laugh at the store that carries my last name “Gross Couture” haha. End of jealous rant!! 🙂

  4. Hi Eva, thanks for the warm words and comment. Quite incredibly I came across this article on the HBR regarding this very question of ‘home’. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/10/moving_around_without_losing_your_roots.html
    I have to agree with the author upon first reading but I will be thinking more about this topic and writing further on it.
    Regarding your list of Swiss things to do, thank you! All of this seems wonderful and exciting. Funnily enough, I just learned Alm in my online Deutsche course. I’m pretty excited, I am starting in A1.3 the class before A2!
    Danke schön und tchüss!!

  5. Adam

    Great piece Dustin. The question of home was one I was even familiar with before traveling outside of the states. It is hard to say what is home when you spend enough time in different places to always be carrying a part of that place with you. I have been struggling a bit of late because I don’t see myself adding any more ‘parts’ soon, and that conflicts with some of my visions of ‘home.’ I think it is more anxiety that I will lose some of the ‘parts’ I have, than not add new ones.

  6. Hi Adam,

    Thanks for the comment. Interesting that you are experiencing a slightly converse problem with home in your settling down for a while. Thank you for reminding us that, of all the places we’ve lived and loved, we can always carry a bit of them with us to build our home wherever we are. How’s the deck?

  7. Adam

    It’s finally finished!!! Thank goodness. Looks great and having a deck party on Sunday. Wish you guys could join!

  8. Pingback: D’heim in Züri | roughly translated

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