Tripping the light fantastic


Tripping the light fantastic
Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

You can’t come all the way to the Black Forest and not eat Black Forest cake! Although I was disappointed to discover that they don’t grow wild on trees in the forest itself, I was still very grateful when Titia kindly picked us up a couple of slices on her way back from her morning rounds dropping the children at school. Delicious!

After our morning tea, Titia gave me my pick of her brilliant brooches, it was a tough choice but I settled on a blue on that I will treasure forever. She’d arranged for one of her neighbours to drop me at the train station in lieu of public transport which was out for the day due to industrial action. I’ve been so impressed by the sense of community here and the safe haven it provides to the children who roam free in and out of unlocked doors. With the stunning forest as a backdrop it really is idyllic.

I hugged Titia goodbye safe in the knowledge that we’ll meet again somewhere in the world and made tracks to Zurich. The first impression I had of the city flying in a few days ago was one of exquisite beauty, arriving again by train, that impression was reaffirmed. This is my first time in Zurich though my second to Switzerland having visited Geneva several years back.

I was admittedly underprepared for my one night city break. I had booked accommodation but where it was or how to get there, I had no idea nor what I was going to do with my limited time. Accordingly, my first port of call off the train was the Tourist Information office in the station for maps and directions. Next, I had to get me some local currency which is quite a novelty in Europe these days with the Euro. It’s been a while since I’ve played ‘how much is this worth and how much will I need?’, especially in a city as famously expensive as Zurich and me without a Swiss Bank Account. I settled on a modest sum of colourful Swiss Francs that I hoped would sustain me for the duration.

Straight out of the station, the city was literally sparkling with the sun dancing on the Limmat River which divides the city in two. I felt a desperate excitement to be out amongst it but thought it best to first dump my bag so I could explore unencumbered.

I found the tram stop and hopped on the perfectly punctual carriage and away I went… in the wrong direction! Luckily I wasn’t too far gone when I realised and was more than happy to ride back passed the stunning scenery that was already screaming out to me to get up close and personal with it.

I found my accommodation in the cool part of town with relative ease. I’m staying at Pension furDich which is basically a few rooms rented out above a cool little boho cafe/bar, Kafi furDich. The room itself is very basic but a great example of what a difference non-generic furnishings can make in creating a hip rather than hostel vibe. I ploughed through the reams of travel literature I amassed and settled on two reliable sources – the city’s own offline but interactive iPhone app and a hard copy of the Zurich In Your Pocket guide. I first came across this series of guides in 2004 while travelling around Eastern Europe – they were just starting out then but have spread much further since though still heavily focused on Eastern Europe. They’re compiled by locals, targeted towards younger independent travellers, published monthly and usually found free at Tourist Information offices or places of interest.

With my route set for maximum site seeing, I caught another tram to my first stop by Lake Zurich which was shimmering stunningly under a blue sky on this clear but crisp autumnal day. I crossed the road to look over the city to find a different story entirely with a deeply bruised sky threatening to rain on my parade. But it was beautiful. If anything, the sun reflecting off the heavily pregnant clouds imbued the cityscape with a haunting, etherial light (I hasten to add that I haven’t altered or added filters to the photos here at all, I have no photographic tricks, just point and shoot – the light was just this beautiful all day long).

I kept on my course around the old town and its many spired churches, pausing briefly at each to read the relevant information but never staying too long knowing the name of today’s game was to cover as much ground as possible. Aside from that, it was getting cold – double jacket, hat &amp; scarf cold! The clouds let loose a little of their load so I sought shelter in the comfortingly named Teddy’s Souvenir Shop. Inside, for the first time on this entire trip, I found a treasure trove of that which I’ve sought out and collected since I first left Australia’s shores some 13 years ago – snow domes!!! They had shelves and shelves of them and the exact right kind (classic half dome shape, blue plastic back, moulded 3D scenery inside and snow, such fine delicate snow). Like a kid in a candy store, I scooped up an armful of them before stopping to consider that they would belong to an ill-fated collection that’s neither mine nor Matthew’s but ‘ours’ in an ‘us’ that no longer exists. With a heavy heart but certain hand, I put each and every one back on the shelf with a sad acceptance that the snow has settled on that collection.

Somehow the rain didn’t bother me so much now and at any rate, had lightened to a sporadic sprinkle. I pressed on pounding the picturesque pavements of the old city made new by one independent boutique after another.

Feeling peckish and wanting to indulge another of my old travel habits, I stopped in at the supermarket to peruse and pick up snacks I could eat on the go. Like a good tourist, I included such swiss delicacies in my haul as Lindor balls (including champagne flavour!) and Toblerone. I would have liked to have had a fondue but fondue for one is no fun (and also prohibitively expensive!).

Back up the other side of the Limmat river, I took the winding back streets passed more affluent boutiques up to the highest point in the city – Lindenhof – an ancient park which no doubt is ordinarily frequented by the well-heeled citizens of Zurich but at present is home to a tent city as part of the global Occupy movement protesting social and economic inequality. I stopped a while and chatted with a few inhabitants who were most welcoming and gracious.

Onward and downward, I headed towards the newer, more commercial and less interesting district just as the sun was starting to set. I was trying to find the Jules Verne Panoramic Bar as universally recommended as the place to go up to watch the sun go down but it proved to be illusive. A friendly passer by saw me struggling with my map and kindly walked me back to the entry way I’d overshot. I caught the lift up to the top floor and found the small bar bustling which was perfect cover for me to enjoy the view without having to commit to a $20 drink on my own. I did a few laps, used the lovely lavatory and was on my way to rush through the remainder of my self-guided walking tour before it was too dark.

I ended up back where I started to find the light completely different but just as beguiling. By now it was absolutely freezing and I was hoping the clouds might give a little more because at this temperature, surely what was rain would now be a flurry of snow! I fished around in my bag for something, anything more that I could put on to fend off the cold and couldn’t believe my luck when my frozen fingers found a pair of Titia’s gloves. I’d inadvertently absconded with them forgetting that she’d lent them to me as a precaution against the cold of yesterday. Before I could feel guilty, I had them on and felt gratitude instead as sensation started to return.

For dinner, I headed back towards my pension, the surrounding area being touted as the place to be for the tragically hip. I walked the streets passed any number of cool little restaurants and bars but didn’t have it in me tonight to dine alone. I none the less enjoyed being amongst the scene so took my time strolling about before returning back to furDich to literally wash my hair instead.

At around 10pm, I switched on th
e hairdryer and out went all the lights! Clearly I had to go to reception to let them know and have to power flicked back on. The only problem was that I was in my pyjamas with wet hair and ‘reception’ was the very busy bar downstairs now full of the beautiful people. I contemplated getting dressed, repainting my face and slicking my hair back but ultimately decided that I couldn’t be bothered and only the truly cool would have the audacity to turn up to such a place in their pyjamas! So down I went in my boudoir chic and pulled up a bar stool. As soon as the lady behind the bar finished pulling a beer for the supermodel in the faux nerd glasses beside me, I told her what had happened. She followed me up to my room and agreed that the electricity wasn’t working. She told me to wait and she’d be straight back to sort it out.

I waited patiently, reading what I could by the ambient light from the courtyard below. An hour later when I’d got through all the travel guides in my room and my hair was practically dry anyway, I thought it best to follow up. I went downstairs again to be told that the lady had done a runner on me! Her shift ended half an hour ago and she was gone!!! This second lady was very apologetic and luckily knew where the fuse box was. She flicked a switch and voila, the lights came back on just in time for me to turn them out and go to sleep.



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