From avioded to embraced

Zurich Travel Blog

 › entry 1 of 5 › view all entries
Catching my train in Basel

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.

The Swiss country-side

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.

Christmas market miniatures for sale at the Christmas market in the Zurich Hauptbahnhof
I made my way into the main terminal and started looking for a screen or board to look for the platform information for my train to Oerlikon, the suburb where our hotel is located. I located an information booth and got the info. I went to the trams out in front of the station and took the # 10 to Oerlikon.

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 sparkling Swarovski Christmas tree
The trip from the station had shown me a bit of the Zurich area and it seemed interesting.....and I really hadn't seen anything, yet.

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.

The tasty treats of Srungli!
It was a sight to behold.

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.

The Peterskirche in the Niederdorf area
The setting unfolds before me, tall steeples, stone towers, colorful buildings, mountains, and the brisk moving waterway heading towards the Zuichsee.

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.

Holiday decorations at the Peterskirche
I went for a closer inspection. It was built in the 8th century but altered in the 13th and early 18th century.

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.

Frescoe of Zurich on the side of a bulding in Niederdorf

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.

Zurich's cow making an appearance on her balcony

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.

Spectacular panorama of Zurich from the Grossmunster

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 watchtower - fire protection, Medieval style
The fire also provided an excuse to fully embellish the interior with Baroque decoration, but it was restored to its original Romanesque appearance in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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.

Zurichsee and the Alps beyond from the top of the Grossmunster
I'm sure they expected me to feed them.....so sorry!

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.

Swans of the Limmat

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.

The Grossmunster at sunset
.....meetings, meetings, meetings. I was quite hungry by the time he arrived and I'm sure he was hungry, too.

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!

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Catching my train in Basel
Catching my train in Basel
The Swiss country-side
The Swiss country-side
Christmas market miniatures for sa…
Christmas market miniatures for s…
The sparkling Swarovski Christmas …
The sparkling Swarovski Christmas…
The tasty treats of Srungli!
The tasty treats of Srungli!
The Peterskirche in the Niederdorf…
The Peterskirche in the Niederdor…
Holiday decorations at the Petersk…
Holiday decorations at the Peters…
Frescoe of Zurich on the side of a…
Frescoe of Zurich on the side of …
Zurichs cow making an appearance …
Zurich's cow making an appearance…
Spectacular panorama of Zurich fro…
Spectacular panorama of Zurich fr…
The watchtower - fire protection, …
The watchtower - fire protection,…
Zurichsee and the Alps beyond from…
Zurichsee and the Alps beyond fro…
Swans of the Limmat
Swans of the Limmat
The Grossmunster at sunset
The Grossmunster at sunset
Market sign
Market sign
Market in Hauptbahnhof
Market in Hauptbahnhof
Market in Hauptbahnhof
Market in Hauptbahnhof
Frescoes of Niederdorf
Frescoes of Niederdorf
Stairs in Grossmunster tower
Stairs in Grossmunster tower
Rob at top of Grossmunster
Rob at top of Grossmunster
Robs pic from the Grossmunster - …
Rob's pic from the Grossmunster -…
Robs pic from the Grossmunster
Rob's pic from the Grossmunster
Robs pic from the Grossmunster II
Rob's pic from the Grossmunster II
Lighting, lighting, everywhere
Lighting, lighting, everywhere
Festive lights
Festive lights
View of Zurich from our hotel room.
View of Zurich from our hotel room.
View of tree-lined square from our…
View of tree-lined square from ou…
Zurich
photo by: Sweetski