I set off on my weekend trip to Switzerland on a Thursday afternoon, taking a more or less direct train (only one change, in Salzburg), and having a grand time watching the Alps roll by. When I arrived in Zurich’s train station, I immediately heard someone yelling my name. That’s pretty exciting regardless of circumstance, but especially when it’s a friend from high school that you haven’t seen in eight years! Carolyn graciously let me visit her over her birthday weekend, and I had a blast experiencing a little bit of European student life.
That night, we drank tea and started to get caught up, but I was basically wiped out from work + seven hours of train time, and I wanted to see as much of Zurich as possible the next day, so it wasn’t a late night. This turned out to be a good choice, because I walked all over Zurich the next day. It’s not a big city, so this isn’t as impressive as walking all over, say, London or Berlin, but I did a lot of winding around alleyways, backtracking, and occasionally getting super lost.
I started out in the main train station, saying “Guten Morgen,” to Zurich’s guardian angel.
Then I walked along Bahnhofstrasse–reputedly the most expensive shopping street in the world–towards Lake Zurich, which is conveniently located right in the city center.
I loved the lake, clear and blue against a background of Alps on one side, and charming old-town Zurich on the other.
I ended up going into one of Switzerland’s many awesome grocery stores (Migro, which has a whole AISLE of chocolate!) and getting a ready-made chicken curry meal to eat on the promenade by the lake. The weather was perfect, the musical accompaniment was peaceful, and it was a great way to pass half an hour.
I wanted to take a free walking tour at 12:30, but either the guide didn’t show up or I somehow missed them in the shifting crowds at Paradeplatz. Still, this minor misadventure led to me walking inside Sprüngli, an amazing and expensive chocolate shop, where I somehow managed to get a free macaroon (I asked if I could buy just one, and I think I looked little pitiful, because she said sure, pulled my choice–called Champagne Deluxe–out of the case, and whispered, “it’s okay!”). I hightailed it out of there before someone could take it away!
I spent the afternoon tracking down all the sights listed on the “Welcome to Zurich” brochure that I picked up in the train station. From the beautiful stained glass windows in the two big cathedrals (Fraumünster and Grossmünster) to the old Rathaus (town hall) which appears to be floating in the river, to an alleyway that reveals excavated Roman baths, I found Zurich to be full of treasures.
I finished off the day by visited an amazing exhibit at the Kunsthaus (art museum) and then chilling out in the park behind the Landesmuseum (which I would visit the next day!). Even on a short trip to Zurich, I would recommend visiting at least one of these museums, especially if there is a temporary exhibit that you find appealing!
Oh, and I went to this really cool second hand store, “Brockenhaus,” where I got a couple of books. They had a huge selection in all different languages, as well as clothes, furniture, toys, and a legitimate 1950s style soda bar. If you enjoy thrifting, doing some cultural excavation, or just want cheap English books, I would very much recommend!
So, I was supposed to go to a party this night, but I totally wimped out, got Thai food (which the lady stressed was “not European spicy–Thai spicy”), and went to bed early. I know. But the next morning, I was back at it again, hitting up a flea market (I got a great rain jacket for 5 francs–which I needed, because it ended up raining all day on Saturday!).
I spent the rest of the late morning/early afternoon at the Landesmuseum (a museum devoted to Switzerland and Swiss history). Located in a fairytale castle right behind the train station, it had a fabulous permanent collection that I really only scratched the surface of…because I was majorly distracted by the temporary exhibit about fairy tales!
I am currently taking my life-long love of fairy tales to a new level by reading the Brothers Grimm’s collection in German, so I was beyond excited for this exhibit, which focused on the ways fairy tales have been collected and retold throughout history, from Perrault and Grimm to “Tangled” and “Frozen.” It was a joy. I got to watch Georges Melies’ fairy tale films from the late 1800s in an actual castle. I learned that the current queen of Denmark designs film costumes and sets, and got to see some of her work. I saw dozens of parents reading fairy tales to their children. It was just perfect.
After that, I headed back to Carolyn’s apartment to prepare for her birthday party that night. We had a blast baking a “real American birthday cake” (yellow, with chocolate frosting and sprinkles, duh) and making paper chain decorations. Then the party itself was lots of fun. I met people from all over the world, had some great conversations (mostly in my current mash-up of German and English) and ate some delicious food.
The next morning, I took an early train back to Austria, and arrived home around three in the afternoon. For some reason (probably banking related) Zurich has a reputation as a boring destination, but I had a blast during my Swiss weekend, and would definitely recommend this little city. Major thanks to Carolyn for making it all possible!