Today, Day 9 of our travels, we awoke at Hotel Allegra, and began our adventures of Zürich and the surrounding area.
The Swiss often joke that Zürich is “zu reich und zu ruhig“, or “too rich and too quiet”. While we enjoyed the quiet, it was certainly an extremely expensive city, even compared the rest of Switzerland. [For example, at a low-end restaurant, an average vegetarian dish with potatoes, vegetables, and maybe some cheese would cost at least CHF20. Dishes with meat would likely be double that.] As such, today’s post will be fairly uneventful. We took today slowly, exploring the city and taking time to rest before one more big day of travel tomorrow.
Our hotel in Kloten was about 100ft from the metro stop, so we walked over, purchased our a day pass on my iPhone, and waited about 10 minutes for the train to arrive. It was a very smooth 15 minute ride into Zürich HB, the main station.
The Romans created the settlement in 15 B.C., calling it Turicum, though archaeologists have found settlements in the area dating back 6,400+ years. It’s is the largest city in Switzerland, with a metropolitan area containing 1.83million people. Like Lucerne, the people speak a variety of Alemannic Swiss German, here known as Zürich German.
This region played a key role in the Protestant Reformation, fueled by reformer Huldrych (Ulrich) Zwingli.
On January 1, 1519, Zwingli, still a Roman Catholic priest, did away with the traditional Latin lectionary and began expository sermons through the New Testament in his native tongue.
By 1525, he’d finished the entire New Testament and then moved on to exposit the Old. In the interim, Zwingli dissociated himself from the Catholic Church, decried papal and conciliar authority, and had the Mass abolished in Zurich, making it the world’s first magisterial Protestant state.
– Alex Duke, 4 Ways the Reformation Changed the Church
The city is also the capital of the canton of Zürich, is a major global financial hub, and is widely considered one of the top cities in the world to live in.
The Canton of Zürich is Switzerland’s most populous, with 1.5million inhabitants. It’s residents speak a local variety of German, Züritüütsch.
The Canton is divisible into six geographical regions: the city, Lake Zürich (containing the island of Ufenau), the Unterland (lowlands) in the northwest, the Oberland (highlands) in the southeast, the Weinland (wine country) and city of Winterthur in the northeast, and the Knonaueramt in the southwest.
It is widely considered one of the wealthiest regions in Switzerland/Europe. The median income for an individual was a staggering ~$83,000/year in 2008.
Schweizerisches Nationalmuseum // Landesmuseum Zürich
Our first stop for the day was Schweizerisches Nationalmuseum/Landesmuseum Zürich, the Swiss National Museum. While the west wing was closed for renovations, there were still many exhibits to see.
Today was International Museum Day, so admission was free for all, though our transit day-pass would have also gotten us in.
First, we saw an exhibit of famous works and contributions of the Swiss.
The museum was highly interactive, with iPads relaying the background of items in up to 10 languages. Exhibits engaged all five senses, and were easy to understand for English-speakers.
Upstairs, there were more exhibits. One covered the history of artifacts of ancient civilizations that lived in Switzerland. Another other showed award-winning World Press photos from recent years, including the stories behind them. It was a very compelling exhibition.
Another larger section of the museum traced the history of Swiss back in time to the Confederation’s origins centuries ago. It included many interesting facts about Swiss neutrality, political views, democracy, commerce, and more.
The museum also had a tin diorama of the battle of Murten, which took place in early 15th century. This battle was essential in the forming of the Swiss Confrederation. The diorama included a step-by-step progression of the battle, complete with intricate descriptions and important details.
Lunch // Zürichsee
Next, we hopped on the streetcar south for a while, and then got our two stops early and walked past Paradeplatz (the financial district) towards Lake Zürich (Zürichsee). From a street vendor, we each grabbed a bratwurst, which came with a very crusty piece of bread instead of a bun.
Since our bread was a bit hard to chew (apparently that’s the style in Switzerland), we tore the crust into crumbs and fed the ducks and swans.
Gelati am See
Again, we hopped on a streetcar and traveled farther south to the Höschgasse stop, walked about two blocks west, and arrived at Gelati am See, a gelato shack on the shore of the lake. We got two flavors each: we both got biscotti (cookie); I got cioccaloto nero (dark chocolate), and Faith got caffe (coffee). As a tradition, the shop gives you a small bonus scoop on top so you can try another flavor. I got fragola (strawberry), and Faith got dark chocolate.
As we finished our gelato, we walked south towards Zürichhorn, and park on a small peninsula that sticks out into the lake. From there, we hopped on a boat and took the Limmat River Cruise north, back to the Schweizerisches Nationalmuseum.
In the park at Zürichhorn, we saw the Heureka, a kinetic sculpture that is essentially a “worthless machine”.
We got of the boat, walked back upriver for a while, and arrived at Grossmünster, which was Ulrich Zwingli’s church.
Directly across the river, the Kirche Fraumünster, known for its stained-glass windows depicting Biblical scenes, stands tall. We didn’t go in because they charged admission to see the windows, and we were both too tired to care.
Niederdorf // Sternen Grill
Once we began to be able to feel our legs and feet again, we walked down the hill, and then walked from Lindenhof to Niederdorf, the old town.
We walked around and checked out some restaurants, but even basic food was so expensive we couldn’t bring ourselves to eat anywhere. So, we got on the streetcar at the Central station, traveled about 6 minutes southeast to Bellevue station, where we got off and walked about a block to a restaurant I had noted as a good value during my pre-trip research.
Finally, we arrived at Theaterstrasse to the Sternen Grill, a local restaurant that specializes in takeaway food from a smaller kitchen below the restaurant on street level. Even better, one can get meat at a reasonable price! We each got a Schnitzelbrot, which is Kalbs-Wienerschnitzel im Baguette mit Salat & Cocktail-Bruzzitosauce (roughly translated: a pork schnitzel sandwich with lettuce and tangy special sauce). Each sandwich came with another hearty/crusty roll (bürli) and mustard.
The sandwiches were delicious, and it was a great meal to end the day.
Travel Back to Hotel Allegra
After our dinner, we walked around the river and lake a bit longer, and found a Coop (pronounced “cope”) grocery store that was open. We went inside and bought a few more containers of joghurt for breakfast tomorrow morning, as well as some AOP-certified [local] cheese and a bar of Lindt schokolade (made in Zürich) for dessert.
A short distance away at the main train station, we got on the S9 train to go back to our hotel in Kloten. We arrived back to the hotel well before 19:30, but decided we should go to bed early in an effort to get an early start tomorrow – the last non-airport day of our trip.
Goodnight everyone! Our plan is to wake up extra early tomorrow morning and drive west towards Liechtenstein, Austria, the Appenzell region, and whatever else we have time for. We might even got back to Germany if it works out.
Today certainly wasn’t the most exciting day of our trip, but it was nice to relax a bit. The Swiss certainly aren’t in any hurry about anything other than making sure their trains run on time. While Zürich might be too calm for some, there’s a reason it’s ranked the most livable city in the world.