Saturday, April 18, 2009

Triumphant return

We left Basel in March 2007, and we hadn't been back since. So I was thrilled to find out I had a meeting in Basel on April 1. I got in touch with a few friends who told me they had a group going up to the Alps for some late-season skiing from March 26-29, so I got clearance from a very jealous Gretchen to go early and have a few days of fun. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I found out that the meeting would be on April 7 instead. Not only did that mean no trip to the Alps, but it was also questionable whether I could even go at all because I was supposed to leave on April 5 and Gretchen had already planned to be in the Bay Area helping friends move out there and wouldn't be back until the 6th. ARGH!

All's well that ends well...Gretchen agreed to change her plans and get back on the morning of the 6th on a red-eye flight (just another reason why she rocks), and since my meeting started at 10:00am, I figured I could arrive that morning and go straight from the airplane to the meeting. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

At least I used miles to upgrade to business class flying over (we're required to fly economy to Europe for work) and try to catch a couple of hours of sleep, then I changed into my suit in the airplane restroom. Then I was saved by Swiss efficiency--the plane landed in Zurich at 8:05am, I had my bags and was through immigration and customs by 8:20am, I had coffee and pastries by 8:30am, was on a train by 8:45am, arrived at the Basel train station at 9:57am, and walked into my meeting minutes later just as it started. We had an all-day meeting followed by a dinner, but at least we had a couple of hours when I could walk over to Bachmann and get a delicious schoggiweggli:

The next day I moved from my hotel to friends' place nearby. It was cool and overcast, but that didn't slow me down--I had a long shopping list for Gretchen (chocolate) and Mädchen (toys, German childrens' books, colorful Euro clothes) to get through. So I wandered around the shops downtown and stopped for a bratwurst at a stand I used to go to on the Marktplatz:

I was also happy to see that teenage style (Eastern Europe meets suburban wannabe hip-hop) was as bad as ever:

I was also disappointed to know that I wouldn't be there for the big Basel Facebook party (or should I say Mega Party!), which I'm sure our Basel friends on Facebook will be attending this evening:

I try not to nap when I'm jet lagged so that I adjust more quickly, but it simply couldn't be helped that afternoon. Fortunately the nap made me nice and refreshed for a fun evening out with former co-workers (I decided not to try the stuffed rooster):

After sleeping in much too late the next day, I looked out the window and saw a bright blue sky with not a cloud in sight (the thing about Basel was that the weather was often lousy, but when it was nice, it was REALLY nice). So back I went downtown to see old, familiar sights:

I even took the tram back up to our old neighborhood, where I saw our former house:

That evening, I headed over to The Big Finn and Mrs. TBF's place, where friends Liz and Douglas and their daughter, as well as their friend Di, joined us for a delicious Thanksgiving-in-April (or "Kirkey," as they called it in my honor) dinner. Somehow I managed not to take pictures, but a good time seemed to be had by all.

By the time I got back to my friends' place, I realized I needed to be up at the crack of dawn the next morning (Good Friday) to get on an early train to the airport (United wouldn't assign me a seat ahead of time, so I wanted to make sure I got there early enough to get an aisle seat since I get intense claustrophobia otherwise). Good thing I didn't stop for coffee, because the doors were basically closing as I slipped onto the train. Getting there left me with a couple of hours to kill in the Zurich Airport, but it's one of the nicer airports you'll find, so all I needed was my iPod and some strong coffee and I was perfectly fine.

After several days of Swiss efficiency, it felt like home to be back on an airline where the entertainment system was broken the whole way back, only to arrive at an airport (Dulles) where going through immigration took close to 45 minutes and baggage claim is about as orderly as what you would expect to find in a Latin American capital city. God bless America!

As much as I wish I could have had more time there, and I wish Gretchen and Mädchen could have joined me (money and time didn't allow it), it was great to be back. It didn't feel weird--from the moment I arrived, I felt like I had never left. And it was great to see friends who I hadn't seen in a couple of years. As much as it made me nostalgic, though, I don't dwell on it--life was good then, but it's good now, too. I just hope to have another chance to go back again soon with my girls...