Zürich bei Nacht
Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
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It's been 'long time, no blog' for me as the last few months have been a bit of a renovation and travel whirlwind - all in between and around Christmas and New Year festivities. Yikes. In many cases Karen and I have been working seven days a week to get the new flat renovated (plus finishing the current flat so it is ready to let), leaving us physically and mentally shattered for the last wee while. Throw in two trips to New York and this most recent jaunt to Zürich and I'm pretty much at the end of my wick. Fortunately it will all be over soon, but it means this entry will be a little shorter than usual.
This was my first visit to Zürich and what looks to be a very lovely Switzerland in general. Unfortunately it was on business, and since our Swiss hosts seemed to work the ungodly hours of 8am to 6pm on each of the three days we were there, Drake (my boss) and I didn't get to see too much of it save the view of the alps buzzing by on approach to land. Still, there was the opportunity to cruise this small city of 380,000 souls by night, so hence the title of this little piece.
Being based in Oerlikon, a business and residential district 15 minutes from the city centre, the first thing we did busting out of work each night would be to hit the trams and cruise into town. These trams are great, mellowing out arterial traffic whilst still getting its passengers around a compact street plan quickly and efficiently. Seeing as though Edinburgh is in the process of installing trams, I was particularly interested to see how they operate in a similarly-sized city, and was definitely pleased with the results. Now I've got to help convince the other 99.9% of Edinburgh residents they're not such a bad thing.
Zürich is built along the River Limmat and around the Lake Zürich, into which the river flows. Apparently in several recent surveys Zürich has been named the city with the best quality of life in the world, and frankly it's not hard to see why. Around town the alpine farming environment seems pristine, whilst in the city all is very clean and ordered, with an amazing amount of well preserved medieval architecture (it paid to be neutral in WWII) and with a level of wealth that you rarely come by even within Europe - especially from a country's main city. We marvelled at the crystal clear waters of the nicely lit river one night - you don't see the bottom of a metropolitan river very often!
Although churches dominate the skyline and religion is important here, it becomes obvious from walking the streets that certain other liberties are allowed to be practiced relatively freely - even within the Old Town, which caters for well-heeled tourists and seemingly conservative locals alike. Many of the shop facades are highly ornate and showcase everything from the finest in Cuban cigars to the predictably vast array of Swiss timepieces. More surprising was the openly advertised porn shops, clubs and cinema on most streets. I myself was looking for a private bank or two to stash my loot, however they were few and far between after hours. They must take their sandwich boards off the pavement over night.
After all that futile searching for banking havens, the metre long Kanonputzer sausages available at the local Zeughauskeller (old Armoury converted into a restaurant and beerhall) should have been more appetizing. We certainly ate well each evening, from a fine selection of weiners the first evening to the obligatory fondue on our last. I was most impressed by the steak restaurant that second night however - as soon as we walked in they said, 'we only serve steak' and when we said that was fine, they re-warned us with 'we only serve one type of steak'. Maybe it was a language barrier thing, but whaddawe look like - nancy boys? 'We came to eat steak and we'll eat steak!' Unless you're vego, you've gotta love the concept of a one dish restaurant - especially when it is steak!
It was on the tram home with a belly full of moo that we noticed a final strange thing about this place - the high proportion of be-crutched people around Zürich (I am sure 'be-crutched' is not a word, but you have to admit it is pretty descriptive). Anyway, I could have sworn at least one in ten of the population is hobbling around on some sort of frame, crutch or walking contraption. But since it is well and truly winter and the population is generally fit, vigorous and not particularly goofy-looking, most of these must be ski-related injuries. Obviously even the healthy and vital Swiss have their clumsy moments...
From the tourist brochures I picked up Zürich looks like a gorgeous place in the sunshine, but we were pretty happy with the look of it even by night. Maybe next time then.