When my husband received an invitation to participate in the ISMANAM conference in Zurich, Switzerland, he included me and we made a quick decision to attend. And we were delighted that we did. We found the city “inspiring” with church spires dotting the horizon. Also inspiring was its clean water, great transportation, wonderful restaurants and lots of shops, and it is beautiful. In addition, each person we had contact with made us feel they personally valued our visit there and were committed to insuring that our visit was satisfying.
Zürich is a manageable size with a population of 380,000, with the surrounding area it is about 1.2 million. We quickly learned Zurich is very user friendly – at least it is with a ZurichCARD which we used on the trains, trams, boats, buses and so on. We also had admission to 39 museums, and half price on the city tour. It was easy to use and offered a sense of security.
Arriving at the airport, with our ZurichCARD in hand, we found our way to the train and three stops later we were in walking distance of our hotel. We thought we knew the way, but we needed help and fortunately, in every direction we found people in bright orange vests, watching for confused people and pleasantly directing visitors. It was especially reassuring when one guide directed us and said if we needed more help to ask again in a block or two.
We discovered once we were settled that Zurich Festival was setting up and would begin later that night. Zurichfest is the largest city party in Europe and takes place every three years. Before long the streets filled with people and vendors and music of all kinds, everywhere. Zurich is Switzerlands largest city but it is a small country and Zurich has a population of
This went on from Friday evening at 5:30 until Sunday evening at 11:00. As I understand it, people who visited Zurich fifteen or more years ago, would be amazed to see this level of frivolity. This is a city formerly know for hard work and “keeping your nose to the grindstone” and the impacted of a puritan ethic. But times change.
It was so noisy that our group had trouble hearing one another so we were pleased to find out way to the Restaurant Kronenhalle where we enjoyed a lovely dinner surrounded by the work of painters, including Miró, Picasso, Chagall who once exchanged paintings for their dinner.
Our next day began with a visit to the Swiss National Museum. The building in which it is housed is more than a hundred years old but it was redone recently and the furniture exhibit was opened only a few weeks ago. I found the museum charming and unusual. It was quirky with unusual displays such as a set of chairs jetting out from the wall and lots of items in “holes in the floor”. It was fun with very interesting information and a good foundation for our guided walking tour. We joined the group that gathered by the travelers’ information office at the train station.
Our guide, Sondria, had her work cut out for her that day. She managed to keep our group of about fifteen together as we walked through crowds, and musical groups scattered through the city and then large TV monitors showing the world cup with lots of cheering when goals were made. The mile walk from the train station to the lake was a wonderful look at Zurich’s history. We extended the use of our ZurichCARD to a boat ride on the lake, which was lovely.
Later that night, there were fireworks and I headed out alone at 11pm through streets filled with people from everywhere. I found a safe spot near two lovely ladies, Alice and Irena, by the river and watched what may be the most beautiful fireworks display choreographed to music that I have ever seen.
On a day when museums were closed, the ZurichCARD, provided the opportunity to ride the “little orange train” to the top of the “little mountain”, Uetliberg, Zurich’s highest point and enjoy the view and wonderful food in the hotel restaurant. And on another day we enjoyed the delights of the art museum, Kunsthaus, courtesy of the ZurichCARD.
It was pleasant walking the streets and finding interesting shops on the streets and under the train station, the grocery stores, a music store with instruments from all over the world, the churches, beautiful outside and in. Noteworthy is Fraumunster, dating from 1250 and sporting its beautiful Chagall windows.
The clean water was surprising. There are 1200 fountains, more than in Rome, with clean drinking water running through. There are 18 beach areas for swimming in the lake and in the river and we saw people swimming when we were in the boat and walking along near the river. The buildings are about three stories most of the time and looking up it was common to see a garden on the roof.
We loved the view from ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich) where my husbands’ meeting was held. The university has 15,000 students. It has graduated 21 Nobel Prize winners, including Albert Einstein.
We enjoyed a wonderful vegetarian restaurant, Hiltl. This has been a vegetarian restaurant since 1898 and the fourth generation is now in charge. The food was wonderful and I wanted to take them home. Here you can select food from a buffet of 55 items and weigh your food to determine the cost of your meal.
www.hiltl.ch or [email protected]
There are 26 active guilds in Zurich and they generally have restaurants. We enjoyed both the food and the excitement of the Guildhall, “Zunfthaus Zur Waag”, the linen and hatters guild. The house dates to 1636. A lecture was taking place in it top floor while one of the guild members was having a party for friends and family. The food was wonderful.
www.waag.ch or [email protected]
There was a banquet during the meeting held at the Schutzenhaus Albisgutli Festival, which also dates back more than one hundred years. The food was excellent but the Swiss entertainment was great fun.
When it was time to leave we were once again impressed by the convenient, punctual public transportation system. The tram awaited us a block away. We loved the solar powered monitor that told us when the next tram would arrive. Once on the tram, it was easy to follow our progress by watching a monitor on the tram and listening to the announced stops.
And when it was really time to leave, we were amazed that from the main train station, we had one stop to the airport. Entering the airport, we immediately came to a series of SwissAir desks and were quickly and easily set up for our flight with our luggage taken and boarding pass in tow. And the rest is history. If a return visit presents itself, we will jump at the chance. A visit might be very tempting from October 15, 2010 when Kunsthaus Zurich decicates a retrospective to Pablo Picasso, displaying hisfirst museum exhibition.
More information at Zurich Tourism: www. zuerich.com
Photos: Leon Keer