Sunday, May 18, 2014

Long layover in Beijing (My sky-high life)

In this SWISS Blog report, flight attendant Kristina Roder recounts her impression of Beijing during a night-stop rotation on which she was accompanied by her father.

by Kristina Roder 

I’m always excited when the timetable changes in the spring and autumn. Although the route network generally remains the same, schedule adjustments on specific routes sometimes mean longer layovers for crews, which is great news for a keen traveller like me. During this past winter, we were able to take advantage of a particularly long stay in Beijing.

For flights departing Switzerland on Sunday we had a four-night layover at the centrally located Swissôtel, near the Forbidden City, various parks and numerous markets. The minute I looked at the timetable I wanted to try for a night-stop rotation. This was something I had always wished for and this time my wish was granted. Because my father had long wanted to fly with me to China, this was the perfect opportunity. He obtained a visa while I arranged a ticket for him.

This was my first ever night-stop in China, too. I had never flown to either Beijing or Shanghai before. The culture of Hong Kong is rather different from these two mainland cities, so I was naturally very excited about the imminent night-stop, and a little bit nervous too, based on some of the negative things I had heard in Switzerland about life in the Chinese capital. Fortunately, I can say that nothing of that kind was confirmed. For a tourist at least, a visit to Beijing is a pleasure regardless of the language barrier. The people are easy-going and pleasant. And they do their best to be helpful and take pleasure in the sight of a relatively rare face from the western world. The city’s attractions are visited primarily by Chinese. In fact, tourists are a rarity in China. Business travellers from the West are generally too busy to have time to see much of land or its people.

Beijing, a city with a thousand years of history, impressed us on various levels, from the Great Wall to the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. The buildings are hallmarked by the attention given to detail. They are also colourfully illuminated and truly unique.

The food in Beijing is particularly good, too. Delicious vegetables, fried meat and shared and enjoyed. Chinese-style green beans are one of the best delicacies of all. It might sound incredible but it’s true. Local beer and rice brandy are ideal beverages and combine with the food to make for a perfect evening on the other side of the world.

Please find more details and photos about my journey on my personal blog: A cocktail a day

With the summer timetable now in effect, I’m hoping for night-stop assignments for Chicago or Dubai.

Best regards, Kristina

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Paul Beck experienced a fairy tale come true

His moving story was one of thousands from the “Seats for Switzerland” campaign. Paul Beck won a ticket to be reunited with his loved ones. He recently wrote to us with a report about his surprise visit in Guatemala.

How I experienced a fairy tale come true.

By Paul Beck

This is my account of my surprise trip to Guatemala. The surprises began on the morning of 5 March, the day of my departure. A former workmate accompanied me to the airport, where we were met by my friend and retired Swissair captain H. P. Hartmann, who was there to see me off. That produced a mutual "hello" as the two of them knew each from their days as apprentice mechanics. On that note, I boarded the aircraft. The take-off was observed from the side of the runway by both men.

My flight to Miami was one of the nicest I have ever experienced in terms of quiet. The onward journey to Guatemala also went very well.

The next day kicked off with my first surprise visit, to my friend Rolf Meier, the chef of Chocolateria Zürich. I told him my story and asked for his permission to surprise his sales assistant Gladys Puluc, our "foster child", in the Peri Roosevelt shop and restaurant in Guatemala City. I travelled there by taxi in the afternoon, my surprise appearance drawing a response of wide-eyed delight from petite Gladys. We talked about everything I had imagined in connection with this travel story. The expression of delight on Gladys's face speaks for itself.

On Sunday, 6 March, I returned to Peri Roosevelt to discuss Gladys's day off. My assumption was that on Sunday the shop would not be too busy with customers. But I was thoroughly mistaken on that point. There were very few tables empty in the spacious restaurant, and in the store was an impressive queue of customers, with Gladys alone on duty behind the counter because it just happened to be her colleague's lunch break. Without realising it, she showed me why she had been chosen best sales assistant. 

With quick hands she packed up a lovely cake, smiling from ear to ear all the while. She was clearly in her element and gave no indication that was the least bit under any stress. 

She dashed back and forth and even found a second to wave to me without her customers even noticing. After she had taken her own lunch, she came to my table with a stack of papers in hand, the orders for the next day, which need to be organised.

On her day off I invited her and her "Mama" who had brought her up at the local SOS Children's Village and with whom she still lives, to dinner at a nice restaurant in Antigua Guatemala. We travelled there aboard the public bus, which drove "like the fire brigade". I knew we would enjoy good food at the Posada de Don Rodrigo. 

While the tortillera shaped the tortillas with her clapping hand movements and then baked them in the hot bowl, we were entertained by the music of the marimba band, who performed despite the absence of a few members. 

Upon our departure, the band performed one of my favourite piece of music: “Luna de Xelaju", which caused me to stop and listen until the final note had sounded. This was probably my last farewell, and so it was much more than mere coincidence that this melody filled the air. (Example of "Luna de Xelaju")
We returned by bus to the Peri Roosevelt shop and restaurant.

Easter was a clear presence at the Chocolateria Zurich. The business's own "chocolate artist" had prepared her creations for both Easter and National Secretary Day. On display were Easter bunnies 50 cm tall, the likes of which I have never seen in Switzerland. The production equipment with dark or light chocolate was in steady use.

On Sunday, 16 March, I returned to Antigua in the hope that the El Agua volcano would demonstrate its full majesty. But that didn't happen. The gradual arrival of the next rainy season became evident. The peak of the mountain was, as usual, obscured by cloud. As an alternate attraction there was a procession by people from the neighbouring village, Santa Inés del Monte Pulciano. The entire route was carpeted with beautiful flowers, coloured sawdust and green coffee berries. 

Suddenly, the parade of cucuruchos dominated the scene, the violet-clad figures gradually passing by with their slow, swirling movements. They were followed at a respectful distance by a group of women carrying an image of the Virgin Mary. This was a prelude to the La Merced Good Friday procession, in which some 160 men are needed to transport the two-and-a-half ton figure of Christ with the cross.

On the final day of my stay I was able to take my friend Rolf Meier along with me to a photo session with the three main characters of this "true fairy tale". There I received a surprise woven gift embroidered with a message.

I have no idea when our Gladys found the time to get that done. She probably worked on it through the night.

On 19 March I boarded the flight for the journey home, arriving in Zurich on the 20th, a half hour ahead of schedule. I would like to thank you most sincerely for the ticket and hope that my photographs give you some impression of the happiness my surprising visit generated.

Paul Beck, thank you very much for your letter with wonderful insights of your journey.  SWISS

Thursday, May 1, 2014

SWISS on Instagram (FlySWISS)

Our Instagramer of the month in May is SWISS Golf Traveller lady Corinne Vogt, who will give you unique insights into her professional and private life. As a working mom she has plenty of stories to share with you. 

Hi everyone! My name is Corinne Vogt and I will be your Instagramer of the Month during May. I am really looking forward to sharing impressions of my exciting job as the person in charge of SWISS Golf Traveller. Some of you may be wondering what SWISS Golf Traveller is. It’s simply the best golf club in the skies, with great benefits available to members. Above all, the free transport of golf equipment up to 23 kg on flights operated by SWISS, Edelweiss and Lufthansa (not valid on codeshare flights or on Lufthansa flights to/from/via USA and Canada). In addition, we host 8 golf tournaments per year in Switzerland for our members. These tournaments are very popular and available slots are always soon fully booked. During the month of May I will share my impressions of the first two tournaments of 2014, at golf courses in Vuissens and Kyburg so that you can see what goes on within the world of SWISS Golf Traveller.

 At 34 years of age, I am almost a “dinosaur” in SWISS terms! My airline career started back in 1997 with a 3-year commercial apprenticeship at Swissair. In the nearly 17 years since, I have held a variety of jobs with both SWISS/ Swissair, with no signs of fatigue so far! SWISS is very close to my heart and I am proud to have the privilege of working for such an exciting company. I have been doing my current job for the past 2 years on a 60-per-cent basis. The reason for my part-time function is that I am also the proud mother of daughter Lynn, who is now 2 years and 8 months old.

I am very glad to have the variety that goes with being a working mother. It is, of course, a great organisational challenge but thanks to the support of my husband and my superiors at SWISS I am able to manage things well. We live near Zurich Airport and also enjoy travelling in our free time. Lynn is almost a frequent flyer already. She really likes flying around. In April we travelled on holiday to the USA and visited Chicago, Spokane (near Seattle) and San Francisco. The whole trip was simply fabulous!

See you soon on Instagram! Thank you for following @FlySWISS.