– Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions
Last week, on our way to an Alpine village in the Arosa region of Switzerland, we stopped briefly at the Zurich main station. Zurich is a hub for trains to and from Italy, Austria, France, and Germany; mid-afternoon on a weekday seemed like peak hour. A good spot, then, for a few pictures.
Later, when we reached Langwies, our destination in the mountains, the station had three tracks, with one train arriving in either direction each hour. The station master, who lived in a cottage nearby, walked up to the station a few minutes before the train arrived, and chatted with locals and tourists waiting there.
At 6:48 the train came around the bend in the mountain, sluggishly, like a giant centipede crawling up a slope. It was a small train with only three carriages. No one stepped off at Langwies, and the handful of passengers inside sat staring out of the windows. Some minutes later the train set off, at an unhurried pace, and as it crossed the nearby gorge a Swiss postcard frame emerged: tall white peaks in the background, dark green mountainsides, a red train on a narrow bridge.
The station master, no stranger to this scene, simply walked back to his house across the parking lot. And the resident cat, now all by himself in the empty station, sprang onto the open tank below a flowing tap and sipped the cool blue-green alpine water.