Monday, December 2, 2013

The Zurich diaries

I have been lucky that my official travels have taken me around the world. I use such opportunities to spend a couple of extra days at any place going around the city.

One such travel took me to Zurich where I had the weekend to spend.

The first thing I noticed after getting down at the Zurich train station was the shockingly few number of people on the roads - something very different for someone like me coming from India.

There was a chill in the air, something that I had not expected in May. I walked to my hostel, which was less than 500 m from the station.

While having breakfast in the hostel, I asked for some ideas from my fellow hostelers for a day trip around Zurich. After discussing a lot of options like Mt. Titlis, Mt. Rigi and the blackforest, I zeroed in on visiting the Rhine falls - the largest waterfall in Europe - mostly because I like waterfalls and  also because I wanted a short trip.
The Swiss countryside - not the best of cameras though
The best way to get to the falls from Zurich is to take a train from Zurich HB (Hauptbahnhof). Switzerland lives upto its reputation of being one of the most beautiful countries during this journey. Once the train leaves the city limits, you can see 'DDLJ'esque Swiss countryside. One can be lost forever just appreciating the sheer beauty.

An hour later, the countryside is replaced by the sound of the Rhine and you know that the destination is close.

Once you get off the train and walk past the few trees that cover the view, the sight of the falls awaits. It is a huge waterfall, not in terms of the height that it falls from, but due to the sheer width and the amount of water that flows through it. I have not visited the Niagara, but this might be the closest I might have come to it yet.

The Rhine falls - the photo does not do justice

The place is extremely tourist friendly with a number of photo-clicking spots. I got to interact with a number of tourists - from the local Swiss and Europeans to the Asians like the Chinese and also some fellow Indians. One can easily spend 2-3 hours at the place just admiring the view.

Just look at the sheer volume of water behind me
(All this water was flowing from below this photo-clicking spot)
I left for Zurich around 4 pm, not because I was bored, but due to the fact that the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea was at 7 pm.

Came back to the city, rested for a couple of hours at my hostel and left again in search of a pub that would be screening the match. Luckily, found an Irish pub at 10 mins walk from my hostel and found the same filled with football fanatics - both Liverpool and Chelsea supporters.

It was an exciting match with great banter between the two sets of supporters. The end result was not to my liking but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and left the pub at 9 pm and there was still daylight outside (something that might be common to the Europeans but daylight at 9 pm was a new thing for me).

The jetlag started to hit me and I decided that it was time to call it a day.

Woke up the next morning and decided to spend the day going around the city.

The great thing about Zurich is that the town is not huge and you can cover almost all major locations on foot.

After a lethargic morning, I started off from the Old city area in the afternoon, which provides a great panoramic view of the City. The area was a quiet park and the location for the start of many walking tours of the city. I was not too aware of the walking tour concept at that point, else would have joined one. But I spent a good time just sitting at the place.
Panoramic view of Zurich

Then I made my way towards the St. Peter's church passing through streets covered with huge Swiss flags hanging from almost each and every building.

Swiss flag filled streets
After a brief 5 minute walk, I reached the church. Men dressed in traditional Swiss attire graced the area and while sitting in the church, you could feel that nothing has changed in the last couple of centuries at that place, except maybe the lighting.

Swiss men in traditional attire outside the church
Walking in the same direction for another 5 minutes would take you to the famous Zurich lake which I now know is a huge 40 km long lake, but seems to be much smaller because of its banana-like shape.

The great thing about European cities is the way the river fronts and the lake shores are developed for the citizens of the city - so that they can enjoy the place.

The lakefront
There was a beautiful park besides the lake with all kinds of flora (and some fauna too). I spent a great time just having a walk through the park, sitting there, watching the kids play, people cycling through or even just reading a book.

I was not able to visit the great shopping district of the city, as I discovered later, that all shops are closed on Sundays. While returning to my hostel, I walked past people playing music by the roadside. Since, I had nothing much to do, I just stopped and listened to the musicians for a while.

The street musicians - They are good
It was almost approaching dinner time by then (though did not seem like it because of all the daylight around).

One of my colleagues had also arrived by that time. So, we had a dinner at a great place near the lake and got back to our routine by retiring to our rooms and preparing for the work that awaited us the next day.

However, as always, I had made the most of whatever time was available to me to do what I like best - go around, see new places and just enjoy.

Useful Tips
1. Take the day tram pass - its worth it even if you take 2-3 trips in the whole day and it covers almost the entire city
2. Use the tourist information counters - they are the best among any city I have seen
3. Take a walk in the lanes of Zurich - and be prepared to see very less people on the streets

Must see places
1. Zurich lake and the surroundings
2. Rhine falls for a day trip
3. Mt. Titlis to see the snow-covered peaks

Photo Gallery

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