The spirit of Zurich
As cities go, Zurich is a midget. Zurich Municipality has only 0.4 million people (that was roughly Chennai’s population in 1881! ) and even Greater Metropolitan Zurich has only 1.8 million. Yet it is an urban wonder— one of the world’s busiest financial hubs, and arguably the most live-able city, with an unbeatable transport system. With 25 million visitors every year, it is even more “important” than Bern, the Swiss capital.
Zurich Flughhafen Airport on a rainy day: still one of the busiest!
How it became great
From pre-historic times, Zurich has been a sought-after city. It was a vibrant Roman colony called Turicum by 15 A.D. In 1218 it had become an autonomous city state and by 1351 it was a prosperous member of the Swiss Confederacy.
Yet, the real credit for modern Zurich must go to Alfred Escher. He was the brain behind the massive Railway projects that made Zurich the most connected European City; the Zurich-Hauptbahnoff Rail-Station serves 2900 trains that carry nearly half-a-million passengers all over Europe, every day. Opposite the station, you can see a huge statue of Escher. (Please click on Seriously, are’nt the Swiss Serious? for a story about it.)
Alfred Escher, facing the Bahnhofstrasse. At the background is Hauptbahnhof Station
Escher established the Federal Polytechnic Institute (ETH) that added prestige to Swiss engineering. Einstein, Roentgen and many other Nobel Prize-winners worked here. He also founded the Credit Suisse Bank, and Zurich has been a leading the banking centre ever since!
HQ of Credit Suisse on ParadePlatz and … the ETF Technical University
Where heritage is preserved
Zurich is modern yes, but you still see history everywhere. They have preserved some of the old streets and railway stations rather nicely. They have not forgotten their famous residents too. Like these:
Cobbled streets with well maintained 18th century houses
Oerlikon Railway Station: quaint and neat
Lenin lived here, just before the Russian Revolution
The Cabaret Voltaire where the Dada Artists met & performed
Mother Nature’s Gift
Its just not history alone. They have protected their pristine natural environment too. Lake Zurich stands out, and here are some pics taken during different times of the day:
Then, there is the unusual River Limmat. It flows OUT of the Lake Zurich into the Rhine (usually rivers flow INTO an inland lake). For centuries, it has been a prosperous commercial waterway. Here are some pictures.
We were a little apprehensive about travelling in winter to Zurich. But apparently we stumbled on the right idea —the colours of winter are amazing!
Zurich bursts into colour in Winter!
The churches are awe-inspiring. St.Peter’s, on the Lindenhof Hill, has been built on the site of the old Roman Temple of Jupiter. The spire hosts the largest clock-face in Europe (a diameter of 8.6 metres). There are 2 other remarkable churches on the banks of River Limmat. One is the Fraumunster (Women’s Church), built over the earlier 9th century church commissioned by Charlemagne’s grandson, for his daughter Hildegard. The other, is the 13th century landmark: Grossmunster (Great Church ). It is believed that it was constructed over a church commissioned by Charlemagne himself!
St. Peter’s is on a narrow lane
Grossmunster as seen from the Limmat Bridge
Moon-rise over Fraumunster
Wine & Chocolates
The churches nearly made me forget the real reason for our Swiss pilgrimage: the more earthly pleasures! I attended the November Wine Festival on the Lake Zurich (click on Sozzled in Switzerland! for that story) and had fun. Later, my wife and I freaked out at the Lindt Chocolate factory. I felt like a kid in a toy-shop, and nearly blew up our life’s savings on chocolates alone.
Anu & I perform the most sacred pilgrimage in Switzerland
Wee Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Shops?
Zurich by night
Every night Zurich gets a new look: the entire city lights up, and looks like a brilliant festival of lights!