The One with Zürich, Switzerland

Thursday, June 26, 2014

We packed up the car and headed home - with a stop in Zürich, Switzerland first!

Zürich is a transportation hub where people fly in or change trains and don't tend to give stopping a serious thought. But even though you won't find a hint of Swiss Miss in Switzerland's leading city - and with limited time I'd certainly spend it up in the picturesque mountains - Zürich is surprisingly comfortable and enjoyable for a visit! Zürich was founded by the Romans as a customs post. Roman Turicam eventually became Zürich. It gained city status in the 10th century and by the 19th century it was a leading European financial economic center. Today, thanks largely to Switzerland's long-term economic and political stability, Zürich is a major hub of international banking. Its 370,000 people (1 million in greater Zürich) are known for their wealth and hard work. Zürich is the only place in Switzerland where you'll see men in ties running in the streets, haha. 
We parked in a garage by the Swiss National Museum - which looks like a castle!
Rick says this is the best museum in town offering an essential introduction to Swiss history. We had a 6 hour drive home ahead of us so we skipped it. But we admired the architecture :)

Across from the Swiss National Museum is the train station.

This major European hub handles 2000 trains a day including InterCity expresses to many major capitals. Built in 1870, its vast main hall was once lined with tracks. Today it hosts a farmers' market on Wednesdays and community hall - busy with concerts, exhibitions, and even "beach" volleyball. 
We found the fat blue angel, Zürich's "Guardian Angel" protecting all travelers. The angel was placed here in 1997 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Swiss rail system. We think it's super out of place and weird lookin'. And HUGE!
The front of the station is a huge triumphal arch built in 1871 to symbolize the triumph of industry. In the Industrial Age, Zürich emerged as Switzerland's leading city. Presiding over all this triumph is Helvetia, the personification of Switzerland. The Helvetii were the Celtic tribe that the Romans defeated in 58 BC to gain control of what is now Switzerland. Romans described them as "very good warriors with an affinity for bright and shiny metal." Helvetia was adopted as a symbol of the Swiss confederation in 1848 when the diverse cantons that banded together to create Switzerland needed some symbol of unity to transcend all their linguistic and regional differences. Helvetic ethnic heritage is the one thing all Swiss cantons have in common. The statue of Alfred Escher honors the man who spearheaded the creation of the infrastructure that allowed Switzerland to function efficiently within its mountains and connected this country with the rest of Europe. Without Escher it's quite possible Switzerland would never have become such an economic powerhouse.
We started strolling down Bahnhofstrasse - the mile-long road lined with all the big-name shops.
The only park along this pedestrian and tram only boulevard is dedicated to Zürich's most important teacher, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) and is called Pestalozzi Park. He promoted the notion, still prevalent in today's Switzerland, that a good education should be available for everyone - not only for sons of rich families. Parks like this are rare in central Zürich because of sky-high property values which are among the most expensive in the world.
In the far corner of the park is a copy of a Parisian Wallace Fountain. Chris' head was too big to get a sip. More than 1200 fun and fresh fountains are sprinkled around town spouting water that's as good as bottled mineral water (the city regularly checks its quality). This is a blessing in a town where restaurants charge for a glass of tap water. 
Crossing Bahnhofstrasse and loving the ginormous city flag overhead.
We walked a couple blocks following signs to the Stadtpolizei - city police. 
We walked inside and I took a picture (which wasn't allowed, oops, but I honestly didn't see the tiny sign!) of the amazing wall and ceiling painting by Swiss artist Augusto Giacometti. 
Giacometti's famous Hall of the Flowers (Blüemlihalle, 1926), awash in vibrant orange and red, reflects the relief and joy the artist felt when WWI ended. Augusto's nephew, Alberto, is the more famous Giacometti, much appreciated for his tall, skinny statues.

We walked by a cute arts'n'crafts store (right up my alley!) with these pretty tissue flowers glued on sticks out front. 
Unique table setting at the same store. | Loving the city outline painted on this building. 
We crossed the street to the riverside then took some stairs along the river.
Zürich across the river. 
More scenic Limmat River views. 
A momma duck with five babies! So cute!
Idyllic. Back when the city's trade depended on river traffic this small riverside street was Zürich's harbor. Today it retains its old river-merchant ambiance.
Rather than take a huge staircase up to our next point of interest we meandered through the city with our stroller and kids in tow to find an alternate route.
Important forts and strategic buildings stood on this square, Lindenhof, perched atop a mound of glacial debris - from Roman times through the Carolingian era. When Zürich became a free city in the 13th century the townspeople destroyed the fort here and established a law forbidding any new construction. The citizens realized that whoever lived on this hill would rule over the city - and they didn't want any more rulers. Today this is a people's square where locals relax under linden trees (for which the square is named) and enjoy the commanding city view.
The statue commemorates the local women who cleverly defended the town in 1291. Their men were engaged in another battle when the Habsburgs encircled the city. The women put on armor and made like a big, rowdy army, tricking the Habsburgs into thinking the whole city was prepared to attack. Girl power :)
Evans family on Monday June 16th 2014 in Zürich, Switzerland!
Views of Zürich from Lindenhof Park.
Props to Chris for this panoramic shot :) We could see the university (behind the green spire) which is the largest in Switzerland with 25,000 students. Left of that is Zürich's renowned technical college, the ETH (Eidenössische Technische Hochschule - the Federal Institute of Technology) with 15,000 students. The ETH has graduated 25 Nobel Prize winners including Albert Einstein and Wilhelm Röntgen (who discovered X-rays). 
We walked through little street after little street.
On the way to Glockengasse. 
St. Peter's Church was founded in the 7th century. It's the oldest church in Zürich and has one of Europe's largest clock faces (28 feet in diameter). The town watchman used to live above the clock. If he spotted a fire he would ring the alarm and hang a flag out of the window facing the blaze. This system seems to have worked - Zürich never suffered a devastating fire.
Down the narrow Thermengasse (Bath Lane) we looked under our feet through the grids at the lit-up excavations of a Roman bath, discovered by accident in 1984. 
I wonder if in 2000 years people will build right over our cities and then find the remains by accident. So interesting that people took baths here centuries ago. There was a big diorama with lots of information on the walls. 
Details from our walk. Love the peach walls with frescoes and aqua bike and the ornate doorway. 
Then we bought a new car. Not really.
We crossed the Rathausbrücke (town hall bridge) and gazed at the 17th-century Renaissance-style City Hall.
The City Hall faces a fancy Neoclassical police station.
Looking up at the fancy police station.
We walked a block uphill and wished we had bought a gummy pizza and dried fruits and such from the Cabaret Voltaire where Dada was born in 1916. 
Farther up the street we came to the Grossmünster - literally the "big cathedral". This is where Huldrych Zwingli - whose angry religious fervor made Martin Luther seem mellow - sparked the Reformation in German-speaking Switzerland. 
The domes of its towers (early examples of Neo-Gothic) are symbols of Zürich. They were rebuilt following a 1781 fire and after much civic discussion were left a plain stone color. 
Finally we went inside a church :)
Amazing doors.
In 2006 Sigmar Polke won the invited competition to design the church windows for the Grossmünster. It took three years to complete this ambitious project. Seven windows in the western part of the church consist of sliced ​​agate, creating brightly luminous walls of stone.
Um. Pretty much the coolest windows EVER!
So so so so so so so gorgeous!
Pictures weren't allowed in the cathedral but I snuck a few and the others are from the interwebs of these amazing windows. Good job Sigmar :)

I paid a few bucks to climb one of the towers for sweeping city views. 
Man oh man!
 I love views from way up high!
The Grossmünster doors once more and a blue building across from the Fraumünster. 
We crossed back over the river on the Münsterbrücke to go inside the Fraumünster.
 This was founded as an abbey church for a convent in 853 when Zürich was little more than a village. The current building, which sits on the same footprint as its Carolingian predecessor, dates from 1250. With the Reformation of Zwingli the church was taken by the Zürich town council in 1524 and gutted to fit Zwingli's taste. Today it's famous for its 30-foot-tall stained glass windows by Marc Chagall.

Chagall (1887-1985) gave an exhibit in Zürich in 1967. It was such a hit that the city offered the world-famous artist a commission. To their surprise the 80-year-old Chagall accepted. He designed the windows to stand in the church's spacious choir - a space where he intuitively felt his unique mix of religious themes could flourish. For the next three years Chagall threw his heart and soul into the project, making the sketches at his home on the French Riviera then working in close collaboration with a glassmaking factory in Reims, France. After the colored panes were made Chagall personally painted the figures on with black outlines which were then baked into the glass. Chagall spent weeks in Zürich overseeing the installation and completion.
The five windows depict Bible scenes, culminating in the central image of the crucified Christ. 

We meandered through another square and more small and narrow lanes to reach Paradeplatz. 
We walked into the recommended Sprüngli - Zürich's top café for the past century. Its "Luxemburgerli" 1" mini macarons are a local favorite so we had to try one. Or, sixteen.
They were almost too pretty to eat! I love the shimmery pink ones! They tasted the best too with a jelly filling. Mmmm.
We munched on our Luxemburgerli all the way back to the car and drove home. Passing lots of castles on the way!
That concludes our whirlwind Switzerland trip! Our next big adventure is to Paris! Eeeps!


  1. Awesome recap! That was a very fun day in Zurich. Could those little macaroons BE any tastier?

  2. Gorgeous photos!!! Loving the stained glass ... and you're right ... that big blue angel totally looked out of place! LOL!!!

  3. We here in blogland are all so very lucky that you share your adventures with us. I for one am living vicariously through you. ;) LOVE these photos!

  4. What a beautiful city! All those windows are gorgeous!!

  5. Just read through the post again. I LOVE having all our trips documented so thoroughly. Thank you for doing these!


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