We said we wouldn’t go to Zürich, owing to the terrorist-threat associated with the demise of Osama bin Laden, but then we shrugged and said, “Why not?”
These two words might be the famous last words of many, but not us, at least not this weekend.
We were partly intrigued by the number of Swiss who almost, but not quite, spit upon the mention of Zürich. They hate it.
Marcel, a well-traveled Swiss geography teacher, told Dave if there’s any part of Switzerland that can be missed, it is Zürich. Our concierge shudders at the mention of it. Our most helpful front desk clerk, Daniela who scales glaciers and thinks cliff-climbs are a leisurely way to get from one point to another, crinkles her nose and rolls her eyes when she hears its name.
“The place is full of bankers running around,” she said.
And that is the clue to Zurich’s low-standing in the eyes of the Swiss. It is to the Swiss what Toronto is to Canadians, what New York is to Americans and what London is to everyone. An expensive, over-rated, self-absorbed metropolis.
But we didn’t think so. First of all, we showed up on a Saturday and no bankers were in evidence. They were likely resting in Monaco from their week of racing from one financial institution to another, clutching fistfuls of lucre as they went.
It was an amazingly beautiful city with a train station that rivals Paris, but much less smelly. It fronts onto Lac Zürich, that on Saturday was dotted with white sails and swans so big that they have to gate the boat launch lest the things pad their way up onto the streets and take over the city.
The river that flows from the lake is a clear jewel-green. Its cobblestone streets roll up and downhill, meeting, then fanning out in random directions, none of which that can be said to be “right” or “left,” making following the guidebooks suggestions somewhat difficult, except that it turns out there is no wrong way to go. Every lane is charming.
It’s older “tourist” district is so large that it is something like seeing eight heritage districts at once. It goes on and on.
We visited massive stone churches, one with 1970s stained glass windows (Fraumunster), which might sound like a mistake, but these windows are perhaps the only artistic/architectural feature hailing from that decade that are worth saving. They are vibrant and unique.
We dined at a street cafe, trolled through shops, some so well-laid-out with such fascinating goods that to buy something would throw the whole decorative ambience into disarray. It was just perfect as it was.