A weekend in Zurich


We’re back! We made it home in one piece (albeit a bit later than expected), and were much pleased with our jaunt to the Continent. We’re going to have several posts over the next few days (I’ll let you guess what Alex is going to talk about)… and we’re going to post lots of pictures! Overall we had a lovely time, and will definitely be going back.

Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, and is often called the cultural capital. With lots of museums, a great opera, and lovely outdoor spaces, it’s the perfect city for wandering. With a population of 360,000, the city itself is of a small geographic area along the Limmat River and the lake. But if you count the outlying areas, the population is about 1.7 million people. What I found interested is that nearly 30% do not hold Swiss citizenship. It is very difficult to become a Swiss citizen, involving years and years of residency and a strict language test. The official languages of Switzerland are German, French, Italian, and Romansch. In Zurich however, “German” really means Swiss-German, which is nothing like High German (which is what most people learn). I was surprised at how many signs I could read and understand (which was good), but I couldn’t understand a single spoken word (because of the local dialect).  Okay, enough about the boring stuff. Let’s get to the pictures!

Because we’re cheap (er, fiscally responsible), we decided to fly from Gatwick to Basel, and then take the train to Zurich (it was only about 1 hour on the TGV).  This is the central platz (square) of Basel — lots of trams! The train station there was very nice, with a lovely wooden roof.

Basel. The industrial city of Switzerland. (See the nice trams?)

When we arrived at the Hauptbahnhof (central train station) in Zurich, we were met by my friends Drea and Robert. I know Drea back from music school — she studied violin — and I was excited to see her husband again and meet her children. They even brought the dog to the station to meet us! We decided to take a stroll through the central streets of Zurich. We crossed over the bridge to the other side of the River Limmat, and walked down Niederdorfstrasse, a lovely cobble stone street with lots of cute shops and restaurants.

Then it was time to see the famous churches of Zurich, the Grossmunster and the Fraumunster. They face each other across the river, and the spires and stained glass in both are quite beautiful. The Grossmunster was first constructed in 820, and was declared the Imperial church by Charlemagne!

The Grossminster Church

The Fraumunster sits across the Limmat, and was originally a Catholic abbey. The order was dissolved in 1534 during the reformation, and now serves as a parish church for one of the many reformed parishes. The church is famous for it’s stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall.  They were so beautiful! From a distance they looked quite dark, but once inside the bright colors were really lovely.

One of the Chagall windows.

This is a good picture from a bridge over the Limmat showing the two churches across from river from one another.  We walked up one side of the river and then down the other!

Lake Zurich is really a lovely body of water — big enough to support some nice boats but small enough not to be overwhelming. What is interesting about the lake is that there is no major body of water flowing into the lake, it’s fed by small streams from the surrounding mountains, but also from several underwater sources.  It was a pretty cloudy day, so you can’t really see the Alps in the distance (in this picture, anyway), but they seemed about as far away as the Rockies do from downtown Denver.

Perfect for swimming in the summer

Once on the other side of the river, we walked down the Bahnhofstrasse. It’s the main shopping street of Zurich, with lots of fancy (and expensive) stores, stylish restaurants, and beautiful people. We saw a really cool clock that had lots of ringing bells and little people that walked around the edge.

A Swiss clock!

Pretty as a postcard.

Wow!  We had a busy day on Saturday! After walking back down the Bahnhofstrasse we headed to Drea’s lovely house. It was nice to see how “real” Swiss people live — I think that staying in a hotel can be nice, but gives you a sanitized impression of the people. I loved the design of their house — it was quite modern and, well, I’m not sure how to describe it except to say that it was very Swiss! We had an amazing fondue dinner that night. I’ll be dreaming of that cheese for weeks! Big thanks to our lovely host and hostess (and the kids and the dog, of course).

I’ll have another post later about the rest of the weekend…. including pictures of Alex petting a goat!!

—Astrid

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Posted on 30/03/2010, in Travel to Europe and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Beautiful pictures of Zurich. Did you take any of Drea? I wonder if I would recognize her. . . .
    Suzanne

  2. I knew that Chagall designed the windows, but I’ve never seen any of them so bright as this pic. Was it a particularly bright day when you took this one? Can’t wait for the next installments .. .. ..

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