Saturday, July 9, 2011

Zurich: The last of Europe

We were flying Swiss, so needed to leave from Zurich to get directly to the west coast of the USA, a long trip. The train was an hour late in arriving and I have to say that the SNCF staff were most helpful, carrying our luggage for us to the waiting room, ensuring we knew how to make our connection or following ones in Lausanne and generally ensuring we were comfortable. It wasn’t the first time we had received great service from them.

The trip from Lausanne to Zurich was enlivened by a delightful woman who spoke about the countryside, insisted we change seats with her to face forward and thus get the best view and generally gave us a bit of a guided tour as we travelled as far as Freibourg, where she left us. Zurich station, which is huge, had lifts and escalators and was literally a block from our hotel, the Walhalla. Hotels in Zurich are expensive and while this was a renovated, clean, bright hotel, it was not exciting but was one of our most expensive stays. However, it was also on the tram-line which was convenient for seeing the city.

We derived some amusement from signs in the trams, especially the one about destroying the seats.


The trams themselves were very modern and roomy, with articulated carriages and frequent arrivals.


Tram interior

The first evening it rained quite heavily and we were happy just to look around nearby and then grab a meal at a beer hall in the station area. This was noisy and fun, good sausages and great rosti along with a large glass of beer. Beware the fattening qualities of Swiss/German food.


It was still grey and threatening the next morning which may have affected our relationship with this city. We found it expensive and not particularly appealing, though when I look back we packed a fair bit into the day. A tram to the lake waterfront began the adventure and we had a nice panorama of the town, especially the church spires, before we walked our way along the most expensive shopping street.


Zurich from the bridge at the lake front, Fraumunster and St Peters to the left, Grossmunster to the right

Opposite was a huge sculpture resembling a spider, called “Maman”. I wish I had taken more care in photographing it, as it is a work by artist  Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) and is dedicated to her mother, who repaired tapestries. It is temporarily part of an exhibition of her works. While it looks a bit like driftwood, it is actually bronze.



We wandered up the shopping streets, admiring the jewellery (though not the watches which all seem heavy and clumsy these days) and the flower shops. The flowers were beautiful.

flowershop copy
Gorgeous flower shop
roses copy
Bunches of roses
eidelweiss copy
Potted edelweiss
Paeonies (note also the artichoke flowers at the back)

Other shops had cute (or confronting) signs. Loved the bubble blowing bear at a high window in a toy shop, but was not quite sure what to make of the ad for a men’s and women’s clothing store.

Bubble bear
ad copy

The city is bisected by the river Limmat which flows out of the Zurichsee. The tram travels down one side of the river and the main shopping streets are on the other side. There are a number of spires and clock towers, including the one on St Peters which has the biggest clock face in Europe. Photos were not allowed in any of the churches which was a shame because some of the windows were by Chagall and by Giacometti.


The Fraumunster (green spire) and St Peters Lutheran church with the large clock face

The pretty Fraumunster (1250)
The Grossmunster (cathedral, 1230)
Detail near the Grossmunster
Rich carving on the Grossmunster

We found the food very expensive and did not know where to find a place for a snack for lunch. We ended up in an Italian restaurant where we paid over 50chf for two pizzas and in the evening we had two mains and a beer each at a cost of 89chf. The hotel, bed and breakfast, was 235chf a night, or about $260, one chf being worth more than an Australian dollar. At these prices I wouldn’t want to holiday in Switzerland for too long.

In the morning they called a taxi (which had no meter) and off to the airport for the long haul to LA and thence to Portland. The Swiss food was quite good and the lie-flat beds very low to the floor but reasonably comfortable. We flew over Greenland and Iceland, so a Great Circle route which was a first for us, and totally in daylight outside which was disorienting. But a smooth flight.

And so the end of the European trip. I think we were ready by now to start the homeward journey.

1 comment:

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