Swiss Swans

Trip Start May 28, 2008
Trip End Aug 26, 2008

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Swiss Swans

Zürich has been ranked at or near the top in the world rankings for best quality of life a number of times, so it shares something in common my favorite North American city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Unemployment here is a meager 2.6%, though this does not include the small population living on public assistance.

The Swiss history in timekeeping, clock making, and watch making is well known - as is the national obsession with punctuality. We had no need for the little bunny rabbit watch I bought for Stirling in Malaysia, which after the strap broke became a pocket watch and our official travel timekeeper (affectionately referred to as "Bunny Time"). As soon as we stepped out of the train station we started playing spot-the-clocktower with new fewer than three visible right away - including the world's largest church clock face atop St. Peter church.

I have really enjoyed the street musicians in various European cities, and gave Finland good marks for classical buskers. Zürich topped that, with a brilliant classical trio playing alongside the river Limmat that we stopped to enjoy for a bit.

Running parallel to one side of the Limmat, one block behind the quay, is a terrific pedestrian walking street full of cool restaurants and shops. To fondue or not fondue, that is the question. We like this area a lot, but the one restaurant we wanted to visit is closed until later so we do a little sightseeing instead.

The legend has it that the Grossmünster church, an important church in Swiss-German history, was built where Charlemagne fell to his knees on the burial site of Zürich's patron saints. The Catholic saint relics used be carried back and forth between here and the nearby Fraumünster church on feast days, as the two used to vie with each other for possession of the relics.

A statue of Charlemagne was added outside in the 15th century when the second tower was brought up to the height of the first, but has since been removed and replaced by a replica. The original statue is on display inside the church crypt. In the 16th century, a protestant reformation leader named Huldrych Zwingli had the relics and paintings removed from the church, and it still maintains this austere interior.

We were delighted to hear the Grossmünster organ spring to life, thinking we were about to be treated to a concert, when the sour notes made that clear there was no organist available and the staff was sadly just notifying us of closing time.

Stirling and Gailen were quite interested in the swans on the river and lake, so we gave them some bread and crackers and they joined another family feeding the swans along the lake shore. These birds are graceful, but are pretty aggressive with one another when food is around. All the ducks and gulls know to stay out of biting range, and wait for the leftovers. It's easy to forget how large swans can be until you see them fully grown in person.

We elected not to stay the night in Zürich, but rather to continue on to Bern on the advice of a friend from Switzerland. The area of Zürich has been inhabited for a couple of thousand years, and the name Zürich dates to the 9th century, but we've heard that Bern has a wonderful medieval city centre and that is our destination for the night. Getting there takes no effort, as this is the Swiss train system after all.

- Demian
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