21 May 2014

Sarah in Switzerland, part 3

The Swiss adventures continue!

Now, if I were telling you about this trip in chronological order, today I’d have to tell you about the wedding of my dear friends. But... but! It just seems like it should be the finale, right? The pièce de résistance? I just gotta save it for the end. So instead today we’re skipping ahead to my next-to-last day in Switzerland, which I spent... in Zürich!

By this point in the trip, many of the other wedding guests had left for home or other places in Europe. So for this trip, our tour “group” was a bit on the small side – just the bride’s sister and brother-in-law and me! – but we had no less fun exploring Zürich together! Here are my excursion buddies in front of the Swiss National Museum (which we didn’t see the inside of, as it was closed the day we could visit).

In general, Zürich is a more fast-paced city than the others I visited. The train station is huge and full, the streets are full of cars and trollies, and everything feels a bit (just a bit!) more urban and modern than the rest of Switzerland.

But! It’s all relative. The other cities were just a bit more baroque than Zürich. That doesn’t mean Zürich is lacking in charm – if you know where to look (especially along the river!) it’s bursting with classic European city goodness.

Case in point: one of the sights we visited was the Lindenhof, an elevated city park built upon glacier debris.

The story (as Rick Steves’ guidebook tells it) is that this tall peak was the site of a Roman castle, and later, the site of the home of whoever was in charge of Zürich. Finally, the citizens decided that they didn’t want any foreign ruler living on top of this hill (or any foreign ruler at all, of course), so they made it a city park. By the people, for the people, all that jazz.

Of course, I can’t blame the invaders for wanting to set up house on this hill. The view is incredible, and probably was even before the city built up around it.

You can even see the remains of a Roman tombstone found at the site a while back.

After leaving the Lindenhof, we found ourselves in the old town, where St. Peter’s Church is. It’s all just so charming!

I try to avoid taking photos inside churches (especially if requested not to!), but in this case there wasn’t a sign asking me not to take a photo of the small room behind the sanctuary.

I played with the contrast so you could perhaps see the drawings on the wall – a large figure in red on the upper right, circles to denote halos around the heads of long-faded figures. Apparently the current building dates to the 1700s, but I think this wall had to be a part of the earlier structure built in 1230!

Zürich’s got lots of history if you know where to look. Our guidebook took us down some stairs to an otherwise unremarkable alley – you can even see a local passing by with a package, probably wishing the tourists weren’t cluttering his way.

But do you see what’s special about the street – or lack thereof? A few decades ago, they discovered that this alleyway had the archaeological remains of a Roman bathhouse buried underneath. So they made a little in situ exhibit around it!

We continued through the old part of town...

... until it started to rain. We ducked into what seemed to be a small sweets shop, but realized it was actually a huge cafe snaking through neighboring buildings. And their speciality? Hot chocolate.

You guys, it was like drinking a chocolate bar. A Swiss chocolate bar. Absolutely the best cup of hot chocolate I’ve ever had (and probably will ever have).

By the time we finished, the sun had come back out, so we could document the front of this fine establishment (if you’re ever in Zürich and hoping to have a divine cup of hot chocolate):

After that we made our way to another main church in Zürich’s city center, the Grossmünster. It was smaller than expected.

Okay, okay, sorry. You know I can never resist an awful joke. This is the Grossmünster:

Fun-to-say-words alert!

Again, I don’t have photos from the inside – if you ever have the chance to go, be sure to admire the windows (they’re all different styles!) and to visit the crypt with the 13th (?) century state of Charlemagne. We also spent quite a lot of time in the neighboring courtyard, admiring both the architecture and the botany.

The last church we visited was the Fraumünster, which is famous for its stained glass windows by Chagall. Again, no photos from the inside, but from the outside you can see three of the tall Chagall windows in the front of the nave!

After our historic site-seeing, we made our way back to Banhofstrausse, the main shopping street in Zürich. There we got our kicks by pointing out the most insanely expensive things we could find in the store windows.

And definitely got dirty looks from the immaculate clerks inside. Plebians! Looking at their wares! As if we would actually buy a $17,000 handbag!

Near the insanely expensive stores is where the people buying those handbags probably keep their money: the Swiss National Bank.

And just a few blocks away, we reached the end of the street and the end of our walking tour at the lake. After debating whether to take a short cruise further down the lake, we decided instead to take one of these funny taxi boats back up the river to our starting point.

It’s so low to the water that it seems like it’s part submarine! But it has to be low to fit under Zürich’s many old bridges.

Our short little boat ride cost only four bucks, and it was a delightful trip back past all the sites we’d seen! It was a great way to see the city as a whole and put things in their geographic place.

Finally, for my last big meal in Switzerland, we had something I’d hoped to try: FONDUE!

The restaurant absolutely reeked of cheese, but it was a super-tasty fondue (and the salads/veggies we had balanced out the bread and cheese quite nicely).

After dinner, my friends walked me back to my hotel before they took a train back to Thun. Since I was staying solo in Zürich, an insanely expensive city, I booked a small, cheap room near the train station. I hadn’t expected much, but my room was very comfortable and nicely appointed – and check out the view!

And with the sun setting over Zürich, it’s time to end this post. Tomorrow, it’s the whole reason I went to Switzerland... THE WEDDING!


Christal said...

what a fun day you had!