From avioded to embraced
Zurich Travel Blog› entry 1 of 5 › view all entries
As I was saying, other than flying through on my to for from somewhere, I've chosen not to explore the city of Zurich. Part of the reason had to do with the expense. Rob had business there for a week so, I thought this would be an opportunity to visit for less.
To make the journey as cheap as possible, I flew from Amsterdam to Basel and then a train to Zurich.
Rob had flown to Zurich the day before so, I made the trek without him.
I flew Easyjet to Basel. I really don't like many things about Easyjet but, they have really, cheap prices. I use them several times a year and now with the addition of Madrid and Rome, from Amsterdam, they are asured of my continued patronage.
So, I enjoyed a late but, mostly pleasant flight. Not having assigned seats....can create difficult people, that's all I will say.
It was easy transition from Basel's airport to Basel SSB train station. I had allow 1 hour between the flight landing and the train departing. With the 30 minutes that we were late, I was a bit stressed that I might miss my train. Luckily I made it but, with only a few minutes to spare.
The train ride was less than an hour and the view was quite spectacular as we moved through several of the most quaint towns along the way. The only disappointment was that by the time I would turn the camera on........the great views had passed. The route deffinitely deserves a driving trip.
We reached Zurich Hauptbahnhof and I exited into the sea of people.
Rob had mentioned that it was 2 stops from the station, I was concerned when I saw that it was many stops away. I got concerned and text Rob as it had now been 25 minutes and I was approacing 2 stations that had the Oerlikon name. He was confused about where I was and I had not map. So....I just took a cab from where I was, what else to do??? In only a few minutes I was at the hotel.
I picked up my room key and Rob met me to take me to the room. It was a corner room on the 25th floor of the building with panoramic views of the city and mountains to one side.
The room was really nice. it was spacious and luxuriously appoinnted. The bedding was extra comfy and a nice textured wall paper warmed the room. The bath is small but generously outfitted with premium fixtures.
After pulling together my backpack, it was time to hit the town.
Across the street was the train station.......a much easier way to get into the center. It was only 2 stops and 7 minutes. In returning to the Hauptbahnhof, I decided to check out the large open area that had been turned into a Christmas market with a towerin Christmas tree adorned with the brilliant crystal ornaments of Swarovski.
I walked around the market and looked over the merchant's goods. There were traditional wooden candle displays with fantastic scenes, hot wine, pretzels, and many other tastly Swiss treats. There were also, silver jewelry that ties to no tradition, North African lamps, and Indian pashminas. I was surprised that it was much more like just another bazaar and not more handcrafted items. So, I moved on.
I walked out of the station and down the Banhofstrasse. It was raining, not hard but, my umbrellas was definitely needed. After a block and a turn around to take a nice shot of the grand station, I turned towards the river to find the Old Town.
Within a block or two the view opened up to the Limmat River that splits the city.
I walked across the river and into Neiderdorf. It's filled with narrow pedestrian areas with a great architectual record of the city's history. The details there are so beautiful that they remind me of cake decorations. There are frescoes on the sides of buildings throughout this area, as well. It has become the party zone at night as it has many clubs and pubs. There is a seedier side as well, there are x-rated clubs. It's a shame that the architectual beauty is overshadowed by is modern use.
At one intersection, I see the tall spire of the Peterskirche. The spires in Zurich are DRA-MA-TIC! This one is no exception.
An interesting fact: Throughout the Middle Ages, the short spire with the windows was the home of the town watchman, whose duty was to look out the windows every 15 minutes for a fire. If he saw one, he would sound an alarm and hang a flag out of the window facing the fire. It seems to have worked - unlike so many European cities, Zürich never suffered a major fire.
In the 18th century, the Peterskirche's minister, Johan Kaspar Lavater was so popular that people reserved seats for Sunday Mass.
I walked in and what initially seemed to be white and blank turned out to be a really special place in terms of design. It's neo- classic focus seems strange but, with only the shadowing of the moldings standing out, it's very elegant in it's simplicity.
Upon my return to the streets of Neiderdorf, I enter and area where they are setting up for a much larger Christmas market. The signs say that it will open tomorrow. I will have to return.
While walking in this area, I am shocked to look up and find a brightly painted cow (like those of the Cow Parade in US) hanging out of someone's balcony with decorations . The cow had an image of the city painted on it's side. It also had a plaque next to it with. it's name, it's birthdate, and place of birth, really creative!!!
I walked back down to the river and continued along it. The city's great focus was obviously the river. The mountains on both sides focused the growth along it and up the sides. It makes for a beautiful layering effect and everything points to the water.
The rain had made it very difficult to take pictures but......I persisted. With most every picture, I had to wipe the lens.
As I approached the area closest to the Grossmunster, the rain seemed to stop. With this cue, I made a beeline for the church. It's possible to climb one of it's towers for a panoramic view of Zurich, the water, and the mountains.
So, I took the opportunity and raced into the church and paid my 2 francs and started my climb. The first section was cut stone and barely wide enough for me, no passing but, that only lasted a couple of stories. Then the space opened up and there was a wider stairway the rest of the way to the top. The viewing platforms were only the 4 corners of the tower so, only a few people at a time could stand there.
The veiw, even on such a nasty day, was breathtaking. All of Zurich's beautiful Old Town, the River Limmat, the Zurichsee, and the Alps beyond, lay before me. Zurich is a magial city. Hmmmm, I think that I've already said that but, it bears repeating. Spires stretch to a needle thin point aimed skyward.
The church is a 12th-century Romanesque ex-cathedral with a fascinating history of Catholic saints and Protestant preaching. According to legend, the Grossmünster was founded by Charlemagne after his horse bowed down on the spot marking the graves of three early Christian martyrs.
After a fire in 1763, the spires and tops of the Grossmünster's towers were destroyed. They were reconstructed with the Gothic-style sections that can be seen today.
The interior of Zürich's Grossmünster is quite bare, entirely stripped of the statues and paintings denounced by Zwingli. Thus, like many Romanesque churches, the beauty is less in the decoration than in the simple beauty of the architecture. The furnishings are modern, including the pulpit (1851) and the organ (1960).
The only original decoration that remains are some capitals decorated with battle scenes and Charlemagne's discovery of the graves of Felix and Regula (third pillar on the north side), as well as some delightful faded frescoes in a side chapel.
I left the Grossmunster and birds seem to be following me as I walk along the river.
In many squares, just off the river, there are large Christmas trees all lit up with a million tiny white lights. It was truely magical. Zurich knows how to dress for a holiday occasion.
Along the river a large gathering of swans, ducks, and sea gulls have descended upon one person with treats for them. It's crazy how many birds were vying for the few scraps being offered. It was a feeding frenzy!
I return to the river as the light grows dim. The city's lighting is coming on and the mood changes to something more intimate. You can easily picture the fantasy like buildings as the major elements in a Medieval Zurich. The Grossmunster is so dramatic at night. The lighting makes it look even larger and taller than in the day.
The rain starts to pic up, again. I give up. I'm been soaking wet all afternoon but, I'm tired of it, now! I start to head back. As a last little surprise, I turn down a street near Bahnhofstrasse that has little lights strung between the buildings and seemed to be floating mid air.....really cool!
The Hauptbahnhof was just down the street. It was a welcoming refuge from the rain even though the hall was packed tightly with the wet city of Zuich housed inside......atleast it seemed that way.
I took the train back.....quick and easy and settled into the room. I worked with some of the pictrues that i had taken that day. Wow Zurich is beautiful.....yeah, I've said that, alot. Rob should be along soon.
It turned out that he was 2 1/2 hours late.
We ate in the restaurant in the hotel and had a barely passable dinner that was overpriced but, I didn't want to get wet again after my afternoon. We did have a wonderful reisling with dinnner, the highlight.
I was so wonderfully surprised with what I found in Zurich. It's a lovely city on a river, at the edge of a lake, with an Alpine backdrop. It is a WOW!
Hhmmmm, why didn't I think I would enjoy this city? I don't even remember, now. I found this enticing Swiss city that has my interest. Show me what you've got, Zurich, I'm paying attention!