Expat diaries: Den Den reports from Heidiland, Part 5

Posted on December 3, 2010


5) The Christmas Tree

Most of the people who have ever spoken to me know that I am not that keen on Christmas, in fact, that might be an understatement. It’s not because I had an unhappy childhood with no presents under the Christmas tree, or because Santa came home one Christmas night and tried to abuse me. It’s just because, for the past few years, my Christmases were the loneliest days of my entire life. For reasons unknown, the saddest things imaginable befell me, and it never helped that I was expected to look, act and ooze happiness from every pore. So when Christmas came, I got accustomed to making it a point to not doing anything Christmassy, and to hide indoors until the hurricane of fairly lights, wrapping papers and crappy last-minute gifts had passed and left the country.
But this year, something is different. This year, even if I wanted, I couldn’t be so cynical about the festive season. That is because this year, Santa Claus visited me six months earlier and, as a kind of compensation for the multitude of crappy 25th Decembers in my life, gave me the gift of a lifetime. I am still unwrapping it slowly, months later.
The new optimism which this early gift in the shape of a gentle Swiss giant sparked in me, made me boldly announce to him that I wanted to visit the Christmas market in Zurich station and to see the giant tree which had been set up there. But this country being none other than Switzerland, the aforementioned tree was not just any tree, but one entirely decorated in long, beautiful Swarovski crystals. When we got to the station and started approaching it from a distance, I gasped, because despite having always claimed not to care about shiny things, the woman-DNA inside of me could not but succumb to the sight of hundreds of sparkling little ornaments that made the plastic decorations I used to put up on my tree as a child look like chewed toilet paper rolls.
And so it was that I walked from stall to stall, marvelling at the little gadgets and contraptions on sale, taking in the air smelly with raclette cheese being melted, tempted to purchase a useless souvenir, a memento, but stopped by the remembrance that I had to be as thrifty as I could. Later, I went on my first, full-blown Zurich tour to the places tourist are supposed to go: the botanical gardens, the two churches with large, colourful stained windows, the old town with its pretty and perfectly set up window shops. We walked and walked up and down, left and right, on and off trains and trams. And all along Ferenc was there, slightly limping, because his leg hurt. He was there even if it had been hurting since the previous day. He was there because he knew this would make me happy. It was also during this trip that I finally found a real tea room with such a spread of cakes and sweets that it would have made the mouth of a dead man water. Having finally struck gold, I walked into the opposite Starbucks budget option instead, and enjoyed the most heavenly cheesecake I had ever tasted.
After taking a look at the different streets decorated with different festive light fittings and configurations, we headed back home, hopeful that we would catch the bus instead of walking the twenty-minute journey home. Alighting a stop earlier to catch the connection, we discovered that the last bus had left two hours earlier (5:00 pm) and were thus condemned to walk 40, instead of 20 minutes through a pitch-dark stretch of road and fields. By the end of the day, I wasn’t much more into the Christmas spirit than I had been the previous years. Once a Christmas cynical, always a Christmas cynical, I would say. The tree was beautiful, the streets sparkling and neat with their new lights and the shops magnificently set up for this season’s mass present purchasing, but I still thought that if Christmas had to mean something, than in certainly didn’t mean this. Christmas meant taking your girlfriend out, despite limping most of the way.

-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.travelwithdenden.wordpress.com