Switzerland, day 1, Zurich. Though Zug would be my base in Switzerland. A small town 30 minutes train ride from Zurich in the canton of Zug. Not really a base; my friend has been living there for over 15 years, Kim. Having no plans whatsoever for Switzerland (nothing new), Kim had kindly invited me to stay with her. Heading back to Europe it felt like going home, going back to familiarity. Having stopped over in Zurich countless times, I had never visited Switzerland. Worst case, I would get to see an old friend.
My flight to Switzerland was just that, getting me from A to B. I was just a passenger. An existential journey to a destination with no purpose at all. Leaving New York my apprehension hadn’t abated. Whilst in Switzerland I would have no choice; I had to make a decision on what next in life? This is not a sympathy calling…no need to bring out the violins. Zurich was my second to last flight in my round the world ticket. Last was me ending back where I had started, Dubai. Niggling at the back of my mind for the past month or two was “what next”. This feeing started in Bolivia, I had been pushing this question to the back of my mind. Being sick in Bolivia hadn’t helped my thoughts drift into a negative space. Now reality was impossible to dismiss…my days were numbered no matter how I counted them.
Zurich was actually my 2nd day in Switzerland. First was spent strolling around Zug and attempting to do some planning. Not much to say about Zug, so I’ll leave that as my last blog post about Switzerland, maybe along with anecdotes. Back to Zurich. Having transited through Zurich countless times, I would finally visit the place. To a large degree I also needed to get moving again. Zurich is a 25-minute train trip from Zug. With no sites to see in mind, plan was to get out of the train station and start walking.
I was expecting more of a CBD, like London; Liverpool Street, Canary Warf type of place. No. Zurich is a quaint city, with the feeling of a large town. Granted, I only stayed within central Zurich. If felt like a larger version of Zug. The city is buttressed on the shore of Lake Zurich, cut through the middle by the river Limmat. Unlike many European city lakes and rivers, the lake and river in Zurich is not toxic!
Grossmunster / Grossmünster
Zurich has four major churches, Grossmünster (Grossmunster), Fraumünster (Fraumunster), St. Peter Church (St. Peterskirche) and Predigerkirche. They all pierce the sky with their spires in an otherwise low skyline of buildings. Except for Grossmünster, which is reminiscent of a downsize Notre Dame, with Germanesque architecture, all the other churches have long narrow spires. They look unnecessarily stretched beyond any rationale of purpose. This exaggeration of architecture gives the churches a delicate demeanour. Slender elongated spires topping off stout concrete and stone buildings. This juxtaposition only accentuates these turrets like inverted slender stiletto heels.
All this talk of spires, yet Grossmunster / Grossmünster (using English and Swiss-German spelling), doesn’t have any. Instead it has to prominent square squat towers on either side of the main entrance. One, you can climb to the top of, which I did. Highly recommended too. It’s not very high, and the views of Zurich below is worth the little effort required.
…brief history of Grossmunster / Grossmünster
A protestant church. Constructed on the site (according to legend) of a Carolingian commissioned by Charlemagne. More about Charlemagne later. The current church was inaugurated in 1220, construction started in 1100. There is a tussle between Grossmunster and Fraumünster on the other side of the Limmat on which church was the first to be built. The story goes the Grossmunster was founded by Charlemagne and Fraumünster by Louis the German, Charlemagne’s grandson. Grossmunster used to be a Catholic church. Huldrych Zwingli lead the reformation of the Swiss-German Reformation of Switzerland resulting in Grossmunster cutting ties with the Pope.
Considering Grossmünster’s pride of place in the city, along with its prominence, its exterior is quite bland. Simple reason; after its separation from the Catholic church, all statuary was removed. Out of site, out of mind…the past never happened. Even the organ was removed…as was a ban on church music – what lovely times!
Volumes of books have been written about Charlemagne. I’ll do a paragraph or two at most. Part of the Carolingian dynasty, he was the King of many regions. King of the Franks, from 768, King of the Lombards, from 774, crowned Emperor of the Romans in 800. Seen as a unifier, he united most of Europe from the West to Central Europe. Charlemagne was the first Emperor of Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Starting what is now referred to as the Holy Roman Empire. Charlemagne is the English version, which is derived from the French Charles-le-magne, meaning Charles the Great.
Snapping away on my camera from the Grossmunster / Grossmünster tower I saw loads of people sunbathing. In what looked like a private area or club; a decked area onto the river Limmat. Even a private cordoned off swimming area. Unusual for a city to have something like this I thought to myself. Cool idea. Not something you could or would want to do on the river Thames…who knows what disease you could catch (like most European cities!). Zooming in, this was in fact a ladies-only area. Free from harassing men and prying eyes. In case you think, did I take any pictures…no, I didn’t. I guess the heading gave away the outcome 😊.
UBS Polybahn – Funicular
For another lofty view of the city, along with its quaint journey. I would suggest taking the UBS Polybahn (funicular). I can’t remember the price. It leaves from Central Square, with only one stop, Pollyterrasse. Opened on the 8th January 1889, it is a short-cut and more pleasant journey to the Polyterrasse. Or, you can take the stairs; a distance of 176m with an incline of 26 degrees. Polybahn was my choice. The Polyterrasse, a huge terrace at the entrance of ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).
This blog post is hardly a flagship tourist endorsement for Zurich, nor is it my intention. With no plan whatsoever, I merely wondered aimlessly around the city. Zurich certainly has more to offer than my half-hearted visit. After New York I had had enough of cities. In Zurich defence, it’s a much prettier city than New York. Still trying to get into a rhythm of what to do in Switzerland, I am glad this was the first step in clearing my mind. After months on the road, I questioned whether my motivation had ended. Or, if I had simply fulfilled the years of desire to travel. Had my cup been filled? Was Switzerland to be the natural end of the journey. Lots of questions buzzing in my mind. No forthcoming answers. Indecision or procrastination to make any decisions.