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.