Although our trip, mainly for the Sixth International Symposium on Neurobiology and Neuroendocrinology of Aging in Bregenz Austria, had a less than wonderful start - due to unpleasant family matters for Tom, numerous business items to be addressed, and several days of hot humid weather in our non-airconditioned apartment - the first day ended on a positive note.
We'd slept till mid-morning on Thursday 7/18 having gone to bed the night before exhausted, a bit earlier than we'd planned. We knew from the April trip to the UK, that sleep on the 6:15pm flight to London Heathrow Airport was unlikely. Tom managed a bit of unconsciousness but I just can't seem to "slip over the edge" in a plane seat that is barely reclined. (I've done it many times in a car and even in movies, but something about planes just isn't conducive to sleep for me.) Therefore, I was pretty tired by the time we'd completed the 6+ hour flight to London, waited 3 hours and then flown another 1 3/4 hours to Zurich. However, the arrival someplace totally new revived my spirits and we actually enjoyed going through Swiss Immigration/Customs at Zurich Airport - no forms to fill out, no questions to answer. We simply showed our passports and that was all! And Switzerland is not part of the European Union.
The train trip to central Zurich, less than 10 miles to the south, was quick though a bit puzzling - no one had picked up or looked at the tickets we had purchased before taking the escalator down to the lower level, without passing through any barriers. Once we reached the Zurich Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) where all tracks appeared to end, we made our way to the stop for Tram 7. (We received a little help from a pleasant apparent native who recognized our bewilderment at how to cross the street where there were no marked crosswalks. [We hesitated to J-walk not knowing the rules nor seeing anyone else doing so.] A pedestrian tunnel ran under the street just a few steps away; in fact we saw later that this was not uncommon.)
Like the train from the airport, the trams in Zurich operate on the honor system. Automated kiosks are situated at each stop; one enters the destination (1/2 fare designation when applicable), and the fare amount appears. Money is then inserted and a ticket is ejected. We didn't learn this till later in the day and on our way to the Youth Hostel had expected to pay the tram operator. There was no way to do so as he was isolated in the front cab, so we puzzled the situation till several hours later when while exploring, we "read" the instructions with the help of our German/English translation guide. It was also clear that our train fare into Zurich covered tram fares to our ultimate destination.
To find a major city with an honor system of such magnitude amazed both of us. Tom had used a similarly automated system in Tokyo, but it utilized checks as well as dispensers. We theorized that random human checks may occur with major penalties for those who can not provide a valid ticket. This method though says a lot for the people of Zurich - possibly for all of Switzerland. A society with such a system has more going for it than just well-running clocks, although timed and timely service was a major component of the mass transportation we used again 2 days later when returning to the airport (flughafen) to pick up the rental car and begin the drive east to Bregenz.
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