Day 11 - Zürich, Travel Home
Sadly, today marks our final morning in Zürich, Switzerland, and Europe. We’ll spend most of today traveling—either by plane or automobile. Unfortunately, this is the non-glamorous part of travel, so there shouldn’t be much to today’s post…
Unfortunately, it’s never that simple.
For our final meal in Europe, we opted to eat Hotel Allegra‘s somewhat expensive, but delicious breakfast buffet. Actually, the buffet was next door in the new hotel, Allegra Lodge. If I didn’t mention earlier, our hotel was actually completely automated and unmanned. You just checked in on your phone, and then your phone functioned as the door key to get in the hotel, use the elevator, and access the stairs. If you didn’t have a phone key, you had to go next door to the Allegra Lodge to get a key card.
Flughafen Zürich // Take I
Faith and I arrived at Flughafen Zürich around 08:00, in plenty of time for our 10:10 flight. We boarded our plane, United Flight 135 to begin our Trans-Atlantic return journey. Our travels this week enamored us so much that we’d all but forgotten about airport and time zone changes. Our scheduled takeoff time was 10:10 CET (04:10 EST), and our 8½ hour flight was scheduled to land at EWR at 13:05 EST.
That’s when the chaos started…
Many of you remember the fiasco I had a couple years ago trying to get home during some bad weather. The same thing happened in 2012 trying to take a flight from JFK to CLT. I don’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to return flights…
Right after we boarded the plane, we found a spot to place our carry-on luggage in the overhead bins. Apparently, I injured my back twisting as I turned and lifted our luggage. I could hardly sit down. As I was in my seat the pain worsened, and I began to feel nauseous. I managed to tell Faith that I thought I was about to pass out, and she’d better get some help. As she was getting the stewardess, I blacked out.
Two passengers, a nurse and a medical student, rushed to help and checked to make sure I didn’t have a spinal injury: I didn’t, thankfully. Because the captain couldn’t risk having to make an emergency landing, we were forced to leave the plane, and were told we couldn’t fly again until I had a fit-to-fly examination. Swiss EMTs, accompanied by heavily armed Polizei, escorted us off the plane and into a waiting ambulance.
There’s nothing quite like getting the above text when you’re the passenger requiring assistance.
We had to clear customs to re-enter Switzerland, and then we were taken to the Airport Medical Center, where the paramedics explained to the doctor what had happened. Thankfully, most of the medical staff spoke very good English.
The doctor examined me, and told me that I had a “para-spinal muscle spasm”, which had pinched a nerve in my back, causing the pain and the passing out. After being given some very heavy (horse-pill) doses of over-the-counter painkiller, I was cleared to fly.
Now, we just had to figure out how to get home…
Flughafen Zürich // Take II
The airport special assistance worker helped me into a wheelchair, and rolled us back to the United Airlines desk in the airport. The airline transferred us to their affiliate, Swiss Air, for a 17:00 CET (11:00 EST) flight to Newark, and then a 22:00 EST flight to Charlotte.
The lady wheeled me back through customs (double stamps on our passport for this trip), and then we had several hours to kill. The meds were kicking in, and I was able to walk slowly, so we were able to temporarily ditch the wheelchair.
The airport is no less expensive than the rest of Switzerland, but we finally found a market-style self-service restaurant that had sandwiches for a decent price.
We ate our lunch, browsed some of the airport stores, spent my last CHF coins on some Lindt Premium Dark Chocolate for dessert, and then returned to the special assistance lounge to await our next boarding.
Our flight, Swiss Air 0018, departed about 20 minutes late, but managed to arrive one minute early, at 20:09 EST.
The food on the flight was very good. They served us a Thai curry bowl with rice, savory quinoa, shaved Swiss cheese, a roll with Swiss butter, and mango mousse.
Later on the flight, they gave us a kaiser roll stuffed with pizza toppings, and a piece of Swiss chocolate.
Newark Liberty International Airport
Our flight from Zürich landed around 20:00 EST.
Out of all the cities I’ve ever been to, Newark is probably my least favorite. I’m currently struggling to think of one that’s worse, or comparably bad. The airport, unfortunately, mirrors the city.
We didn’t have much time during this layover, and had to quickly scramble through customs. This was perfectly fine with me, for reasons mentioned above.
Newark Metropolitan Airport was built in 1928, and shows its decrepit-ness — caused by effects of time and aging from its century-long history, and from being located in the terrible city of Newark, NJ.
At this point I’m too tired and sick of traveling to write anymore, so you’re not getting any further information.
Our original flight, United 3656, was scheduled to depart at 14:44 EST and land in CLT at 16:40 EST; however that obviously didn’t work out.
Our new flight, United 267, was running late because we had to return to the gate to remove a “non-compliant passenger” (whatever that means).
Either United didn’t give us any snacks on the plane, or we were so out of it that they didn’t even bother to ask – probably the latter.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport
Home at last! Faith and I arrived back in North Carolina around 00:30, but didn’t get to the baggage claim until 01:00. Mom was unable to come, so Dad and his sister [Patricia] picked us up at the airport. We gathered our bags (though unfortunately, as I’m writing this post, our checked bags are still in Europe somewhere), and drove back to Granite Falls, where we spent the night at my parents’ house.
I finally got in bed sometime after 03:00. Unfortunately, I had to work in the morning, while Faith got to sleep in.
This was indeed the trip of a lifetime. I know I say that about almost every trip I blog, but this truly was an unforgettable journey filled with many remarkable sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and memories.
Perhaps the most amazing part of our journey is that there is so much of Switzerland we didn’t get to see! We certainly hope to go back one day. Unfortunately, it is a very expensive country, and there is much of the world we also haven’t seen.
Until next time, auf wiedersehen.
We hope to post a final summary soon, including our thoughts, favorite moments, and maybe a few videos. Comment below if you have any questions you’d like us to answer!