Grützi from Confoederatio Helvetica, a neutral state composed by 26 cantons, spanning 220 km from north to south and 350 km from east to west. Five neighbouring countries, four official languages and eight million people.
Facts are facts and who am I to deny them? What I know is that ever since first reading ‘Asterix chez les Helvetes‘ at age eight, I have associated Switzerland to bank vaults, muddy lake shores, Roman fondue orgies, pedantic cleanliness, the edelweiss and huge wheels of Emmentaler. So, when I found out that I was going to Zürich for work, I could not help smiling – there is a lake in Zürich, isn’t there?
Despite a hectic working week spent between a conference venue and the very centrally located Hotel Walhalla and thanks to some early morning walks, I had the opportunity to indeed see for my own eyes how the two rivers Limmat and Sihl run through the city and into the Zürich See.
I also came to realise that skipping room service, meant missing out on the piece of Swiss chocolate strategically placed on top of the white bed pillow, and that in case you feel lost, you will always find a Starbucks and if not next to it, then just some meters away a Burger King.
By a twist of chance, on Friday I could reunite with a friend from Thessaloniki and his Zürich based love and enjoy some genuine Balkan hospitality which started with a ride on the Dolderbahn cable car and a heartfelt dinner at Adlisberg, a tavern on the Zürichberg hill.
After a week of grey and foggy weather, we woke up to Saturday blue skies, just in time for a stroll around the old town, a visit of an Egon Schiele expo at the Kunsthaus and a walk followed by lunch at the city centre. When the rain started trickling, I was safely boarding the airport train, dry and very content.
What do I take with me from Zürich?
A piece of Gruyère and fond memories of a short, but sweet visit of a city equally charming and expensive. Some of my favourite spots are located on and around Löwenstrasse, a central street just off the main train-station. On it you will find Babu’s bakery & cafe, and a bit further down, on Sihlstrasse 71 is the marvelous Hallenbad City swimming pool. If I had time, I would have had a drink at Bar Basso, at a breath’s distance from the river.
Apart from the loads of organic food available in restaurants, stores and outdoor markets, Switzerland would not be what it is without its chocolate.
175-year old Confiserie Sprüngli is a living proof. Wherever you turn, there it is, a proud ambassador of Swiss confections. However, I decided to leave it for next time.
Luckily I have rarely visited a place that I would not like to revisit; I have therefore taken the habit of not saying goodbye but rather until next time. In this case, I’ll say auf Wiedersehen.