My Date Wears a Dirndl?
I walked to where Gianni told me I would find her. I felt silly, the most popular kid while in school needing his friend to hook him up with a girl. “I hope this turns out well, or Gianni is going to get it,” I thought, as I stepped toward the front door of the Arlette Hotel. She would be waiting in the hotel lobby, Gianni told me.
As he told me I would, I found a girl wearing a traditional Swiss Dirndl. She looked like a Beer Maid at Oktoberfest! Figuring that since Dirndls were extremely rare in modern-day Zürich, it must have been her. So I sauntered over and introduced myself.
“Hi, I am Michael Fassnacht. Are you Elisabeth Vögli?” I asked.
“Pardon me?” she responded in a beautiful Swiss-German dialect.
“My name is Michael Fassnacht. Are you Elisabeth Vögli?” I tried again.
“Äbä” she responded. Somebody in the lobby told me that meant “exactly”.
We spoke before we departed the hotel lobby for dinner. Occasionally, I needed clarification on words, but I think I understood most of the conversation. I am certain, though, that she thought my black suit looked good with my blue eyes and dark-brown hair. Her comments about me made me feel better about dressing up, especially since Gianni said he thought she was from the 1800s. I complemented her on her Dirndl, and her blue eyes sparkled with glee.
I had made a reservation at Didi’s Frieden, a restaurant only a block from the hotel. Having never been there, I hoped we were dressed appropriately.
As we were seated, we continued our conversation.
“My friend says you’re from St. Gallen,” I said.
“Yes,” she responded, “my parents work there making clothes.”
“The clothes industry,” I responded. “I didn’t realize that Switzerland still had a clothing industry.”
Our food arrived. I had the ravioli and she had the filleted sea bass. We held our conversation as we each began eating our food. But, I grew tired of the silence and tried to continue the conversation.
“Why did you leave St. Gallen for Zürich?” I asked.
“I didn’t want to work sewing clothes, so I bought a train ticket and came,” she responded. “I sure didn’t expect the trip to be so quick or the city to be so much more forward than St. Gallen.”
“Well, Switzerland has the most efficient train system in the world,” I said. “And Zürich is a city foremost in the world. I have been to other places, like New York, and Zürich is just as good.”
Elisabeth appeared shocked. “You’ve been to New York?” She asked.
“Oh yeah, I flew over a few weeks ago,” I responded.
“And you’re back already?” She asked.
I thought she had some special affection to New York. I was about to ask when she continued.
“How did you do that?” She said. “I have read that it takes weeks to sail to America.”
“I don’t know about that,” I said. “I flew.”
“You mean like a bird?”
“Yeah. In an airplane.”
“What’s an airplane?” Elisabeth was quite interested in airplanes.
“It’s a metal machine that can transport people through the air,” I said.
It dawned on me that Gianni was right, and this wasn’t a practical joke.
“Elisabeth, in which year were you born?” I asked.
“Um...” She hesitated. “I was born in 1853.”
I was speechless. I finished my ravioli, and she her fish. I paid the bill and we left the restaurant, and headed down the Limmat.
“Do you want to go back to the hotel?” I asked, trying to break the silence.
“Not yet,” she responded. “Do the Swiss still eat ice cream?”
“Oh, of course. Swiss Eis is the best around. You want some?”
“Sure,” she responded.
We walked to an ice cream stand and got some. Then we continued on down the Limmat to the Zürichsee. We sat on a bench and watched the waves reflect the white moonlight.
“It sure is a clear night,” I said.
“You should see it in St. Gallen in the 1800s,” she responded.
I didn’t want to admit it, but I am sure it would have been a million times more beautiful — even in Switzerland.
“I’ll bet that’s nice,” I said. “Do you miss home?”
“In a way, yes,” she responded. “I don’t miss the lack of opportunity. Here I can do whatever I want; back home, I only have the option of sewing clothes or getting married.”
“That sounds rough.”
“It can be,” she responded. “Women don’t know any better, so we live with it. But sometimes, I long to be a writer or to travel the world.”
“I understand what you mean,” I responded.
I think I may have endeared myself to her with that comment, because she looked over at me and smiled for the first time tonight. Even in the dark, her teeth were white enough that they sparkled like the moonlight on the lake.
The wind turned cold, a sign it was going to rain Elisabeth explained. So we decided to return to her hotel and walked back down the Limmat.
I felt that we arrived at the Arlette Hotel too soon, and I did not want to say goodbye, nor did she. As we walked into the hotel lobby, I thought that perhaps a kiss would be too forward. So, instead, we made arrangements for a second date and cordially said good night.
I am incredibly thankful to Gianni for setting us up. I cannot wait for tomorrow to go on that second date with her... and the memory of tonight’s date is still fresh in my mind.
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