Sunday, January 18, 2009

Zurich Airport

11:00 Swiss Time

This is certainly Switzerland: filled with all of the kitsch and brilliance that I’d imagined. The airport is nice and spacious, and there is a great shuttle between the two big terminals. I was sitting in the smaller one, where my flight came in, for a while, but then I decided to ride the shuttle while I was waiting for my gate to show up on the departure screen.

This terminal, the bigger one, has all of the shopping and superior seating areas. What I can see of the hillsides beyond the airport looks perfect: forests and towns woven together with a crisp layer of snow over the trees. There’s a restaurant with what is supposed to look like mountains on the back wall, and the chef cooks from inside this mountain, with a window cut out of one side. Next door is an equally touristy restaurant that’s supposed to resemble a Swiss cottage. Coats of arms coat the walls, and you might expect a yodeler to walk in at any second. My favorite though was one of the jewelry stores. My friend Aaron had told me before I left that Zurich is that city that nobody really knows but seems to show up in every spy movie. Well, behind the counter of the jewelry store was a large picture of James Bond from the new Quantum of Solace and the slogan “James Bond’s Choice.”

Another interesting facet of the Swiss airport is the smoking accommodations. There is clearly no smoking in the main terminals, but as opposed to the current American solution of kicking smokers outside, the Swiss have given them a long room that extends the length of one side of the smaller terminal, not in the middle, but right against the wall, so a non-smoker trying to view the outside has to look through two window panes and the smoking room in between. There are more smoking rooms in the larger terminal, sponsored by Camel, each with a reception desk where I imagine you can purchase cigarettes. Overall, the feeling I got was of a society that doesn’t want to impose smoke on the non-smoking population, but tolerant of those who choose to: a balance that we have not found in America as smokers are continually demonized.

Modern European energy-conscious design was also evident at the airport in the form of smart escalators and moving walkways, each of which came to a stop or near-halt when not being used. Not only did it save energy through weight or motion detectors, but it made me more conscious of the energy I was using. If I was the only one ascending to the next floor, I felt compelled to take the stairs, not needing to use the energy that was solely devoted to transporting me. Although, I was disappointed they did not have the two-flush toilet system I have heard so much about in Europe.

Well, it seems my flight will be departing from the bigger terminal after all. The flight itself should be quite small though, to accommodate the small airport in Florence. I’ll be writing from Italy next time! Ciao.

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