To explore and enjoy new places, it is best to walk. I followed that advice in a busy city known for watches, chocolate, banking and business – Zurich. My little self-guided tour starts on pre-pandemic day in August, seeing many famous viewpoints, historical sites, trendy areas and art galleries.
At Bahnhofbrücke, I saw blue-and-white streetcars go by. Outside them, at the Zurich Hauptbahnhof, one of the world’s largest and busiest train terminals, crowds of dressed passengers appeared – many wheeled suitcases with airline labels. “From the airport,” explained an old woman who helped see my confused expression. Rail gates connect trains to airports, all of Switzerland and parts of Europe. Among those who came out were carrying brown paper bags with fresh vegetables, brochures.
“Buyers from the Farmers Market.” It is the woman again, waiting for a friend. The station, designed in 1871, was enormous. A series of beautiful sunlit curved glass windows adorn the world-class terminal. A large floating statue, the Guardian Angel, welcomes visitors. Interestingly, in this busy crowd, a well-organized weekly Farmers Market is taking place. Agricultural produce to bakeries and household necessities change hands in a long tradition where rural communities interact with urban consumers. Between the gastronome, the housewife checking out her products, I saw a Sikh with a T-shirt that said, ‘Keep Calm and Steam on’. In small talk, he said cities were many Desi restaurant, and it’s incredible chana bhatura can be found at the mall below. As I stepped out onto sunny BahnhofPlatz, I saw a huge bronze statue of Alfred Escher. Politicians, entrepreneurs, and early proponents of railways are credited with bringing Zurich into the modern age, out of its medieval remains and grips. An example of this accomplishment is right there, in front of me: Bahnhofstrasse. And Mr. Eicher keeps an eye on him. The tree-lined promenade elegantly represents the diversity and advancement of Alstadt. Inside are ancient architecture to innovative and futuristic designs – elegant homes, restaurants, luxury boutiques, department stores, watch and jewelery shops, Swiss banks and well-known international brands. Behind these places filled with vitality and economic activity are ancient, winding streets, cobbled alleys and narrow paths. Formerly a major thoroughfare in the Middle Ages, a manufacturing and industrial hub in the 1800s, it is now an upmarket district.
Switzerland may be small, but in terms of hours, it’s big. The country of cuckoo clocks and the ubiquitous watch brand is home to Europe’s largest church watch face. And there are four of them in Zurich’s oldest church, St Peter’s – each measuring 28.5 feet in circumference. There are medieval religious structures towering over this predominantly Protestant, German-speaking canton.
The Gothic Fraumunster (Church of Our Lady), recognizable by its sleek blue spire that looks up to the sky, has the famous stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. The third church I stopped by, on my way home via Quai Brucke, was a town landmark, the quiet, two-story 12th-century Grossmünster. Here, a female guide speaks to a group of tourists, “The Old Town is a cultural, social and historical meeting place with the highest concentration of pubs and clubs in Switzerland. It is in your 20 Minuten. “
News sites include information about dining, entertainment and cultural activities. It is said that James Joyce came here to write his masterpiece, Ulysses. Also guided by him, I went to the art museum, Kunsthaus to see Munch’s Screams… And also captures an exhibition of creative works by Switzerland, Monet, Picasso, Rothko, Warhol…
In the shade of Burkliplatz with trees, heavy traffic and on the other side, the lakeside is alive with the laughter of young children. Across the intersection is an Indian restaurant. And there are many in the city – from Mughlai to South India and even Sri Lanka. Before returning to the hotel, I stopped at the GPO Zurich in the Tuscan Renaissance style, a two-story bell-like building with a two o’clock face. This once busy post office has retained its old charm even though the internet has disrupted and eliminated its traditional businesses. This is where in 1997 five men came in – not to buy stamps and postal mail but with different agendas. Brandishing their guns and barking loudly, they burst in, looted around 53 million euros, and left without a trace. This incident goes down in Switzerland’s criminal record as the worst robbery in Zurich… partly because it happened with a toy gun! No wonder Lord Escher keeps a steady eye on the Old Town!
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