Zurich, Switzerland, is a city steeped in history, a magnificent representation of the Swiss way of life. As Switzerland’s largest and most important city, Zurich is modern in virtually every respect but yet manages to retain much of its nineteenth-century charm through its broad network of parks and gardens, ubiquitous bike paths, splendid and historic residences, and near-absence of typical metropolitan pollution, the result of public transportation and major industries operating on electricity.
It is a city of grand design with its location on the northern shore of Lake Zurich and its division by the River Limmat. One of the most fulfilling experiences is that of strolling along the quays of Lake Zurich and the River Limmat simply observing and experiencing the relaxed and unpretentious ambience of this majestic city.
When the band arrived via charter jet from Leipzig on 6/1/02, the city never seemed so inviting with temperatures in the high seventies, a brilliant sun, and all that beautiful clear water. The band had looked forward to Zurich because there was a day off followed the next day by a late show, an ideal schedule for getting some rest, catching up on correspondence, washing clothes, and, most of all, doing some serious sight-seeing and shopping.
On Sunday morning Kaptain Karl Perazzo and I hooked up for an early breakfast before setting off to see the city. As always, Karl took the lead because he is absolutely fearless about exploring new places and because he has a sense of direction which would make a homing pigeon proud. An added attraction to any walk with Karl is his tendency to launch into one of his uncanny impressions with today’s subject being actor Walter Brennan, replete with the limp, trembling fists, and references to “Luke”.
Although we had been told that most shops in Zurich closed early on Saturdays and remained closed on Sundays, the Kaptain said, “Fear not”, so off we went. We walked along the waterways observing huge water fowl with their young and even contemplated renting a boat to make the trip a bit more adventurous. After I ascertained that only one of us could swim- a total of about twenty feet on a good day with no current-, we thought better of the idea and continued on foot where we soon encountered some kind of religious street bazaar with interesting music and great food.
Next we walked through the watch and jewelry section of the city with all the gaudy displays and even gaudier prices. Karl, who admits to a weakness for watches, started to waffle and wobble at a few spots but I managed to nudge him on before he had to declare bankruptcy on the streets of Zurich.
I don’t know how he knows these things but Karl hung a right at the next intersection and guided us to a train station. He smiled as he announced,” The gold is buried underneath” and then found an escalator taking us under the station into a gigantic shopping pavilion. As Karl had promised, everything was open and there were lots of interesting wares.
As we were checking out a shoe store, I felt the hand of Fate gently tapping me on the shoulder as I picked up a dynamite-looking pair of sneakers with the brand name of Armando. Could the gods have been any more direct than this?
Former Santana and world renown percussionist Armando Peraza is one of the world’s great shoe fanciers, a man often referred to by friends as Imelda Marcos Peraza, and the subject of more anecdotes –most of which involve shoes- than any other person I know. Clearly, our discovery of these Armando sneakers was pre-ordained, but alas, they didn’t have anything in our sizes so we had to reluctantly move on with apologies to the real Armando.
We took the long and scenic way back. Hopelessly lost, I had no choice but to follow Karl whose unerring sense of direction was an undeniable comfort and an absolute marvel.
We walked through a park of breathtaking beauty, bordered by the lake, teeming with aquatic life, and highlighted by magnificently huge and noble trees resembling the great redwoods of northern California. Throughout the park, people were sunbathing, roller skating, or just strolling leisurely in a grand example of old Europe grace and civility.
When we got back to our hotel, I discovered to my amazement that we had been walking for three hours. As I headed back to my room to recuperate, I heard Karl talking to vocalist Andy Vargas about the sights just before they started out on Karl’s second tour of the day.
I highly recommend Zurich, even if you have to go without Karl Perazzo: it’s that fine a city; it’s that singular a joy to explore. But try to get Karl if you can: he’s that good a guide and that interesting a walking companion.