On Returning From Storyland

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Photo by Lydia James

We have just raced the sunset.

Like Mina, and Jonathan, and Dr Van Helsing and his brave band, we hurtled towards the last of the sun; but unlike them, we  took off in our little plane heading directly towards a fiery winter sky filtered by the freezing ice-air which hangs above Switzerland. We were not racing vampires: rather a life to which each of us is compelled to return, in England.

Refracted into lilacs and purples and pinks, the sunset was the most glorous tease, and not even the might of modern aviation engineering could hold it back. It has gone, leaving the cantons lit by tiny man-made star-strings far below, with the clouds as wispy intermediaries between them and the interlopers in the sky above.

A fitting farewell to a hauntingly beautiful place.

I came here to the city of  Zurich looking for stories, and stories I found. Stories of ancient merciless mercenary- warriors who made Switzerland the wealthy place it is; of bowls of sheet-gold found beneath railway workings, and twins tormented by a poltergeist-fisherman; of ancient human sacrifice, and the dead walking. Of the collapse of a bridge on market day, and the dispassion which decimated a mediaeval city and made it the 19th century gothic masterpiece it is today, with Roman ruins rumbling around in its belly.

I could find little before I set out. A few terse, long dry facts about this most efficient canton. And nothing could prepare me for walking its streets, away from the affluent shopping areas and along the old river; and again, up into the winding paths lit with glimmering Christmas lights and pungent with oranges and cinnamon.

It is a hidden treasure trove. A safe-box with two locks, and I hold only one of the keys. The other is held by the city itself, and though I will tell her stories, you will have to go there yourself to unlock them fully.

That said, you might like to come back and read. The city of Zurich lives as much in the dark as in the light, and it makes for vivid storytelling. As James Joyce knew well. And Einstein, and Wagner, and Lenin. They were all here in the houses surrounding the lake, breathing in this intoxicating air, at one time or another.

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41 thoughts on “On Returning From Storyland

  1. When I visited this summer, I was so taken with the public transportation and the eatery boasting the oldest vegetarian restaurant. Switzerland is indeed a magical land but so dear!

  2. It looks like a beautiful if rather cold place at this time of year. I’ve been to Geneva a few times, but from your pictures it looks like Zurich may well be more interesting, though I do love Lake Geneva.

  3. “It is a hidden treasure trove. A safe-box with two locks, and I hold only one of the keys. The other is held by the city itself, and though I will tell her stories, you will have to go there yourself to unlock them fully.” – can’t wait to hear your stories, Kate, and hope to someday unlock my own. Brilliant post.

  4. I think this was more than a modest adventure. It seems to have provided you with much to draw from now and in the future. I’m so glad you had this wonderful opportunity. I’ll enjoy the stories, too!

  5. A beautiful read Kate. If that solid gold bowl is anything to go by, we are in for a real treat or two! Look forward to your stories with anticipation 🙂

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