A city I dearly truly miss: Zurich, Switzerland

It’s a place for day trips, for wandering, for cobblestone streets, good noodles, Luxemburgerli, and gorgeous views. Trams in admiral blue whiz efficiently, the people wander, couples relax on benches, and the Limmat river cuts the city neatly into pieces.

The Kunsthaus stole my heart, and I fell in love with the Grössmunster. Seeing Mondrian on a bare wall and being able to wander in an early morning haze made me feel ethereal and weightless. Regardless of the fact that I couldn’t afford to shop or stop in any of the boutiques, not to mention that my Deutsch is of the most rudimentary sort (I can order food, curse, and ask for things like tickets for the train or how to get to the cemetery), Zurich is still a city that I find myself loving.

The multi-lingual book stores beckoned me, the crowded energy in the Sprüngli cafes, and the quiet walk near the Bahnhofstraße all managed to spin me into a sort of fantasy world. When I miss Switzerland, I miss the crisp spring air of Zurich and the knowledge that I didn’t need to be anywhere, that I could go anywhere at all.

What a place.

My first trip to Zürich, in 2009.

The very first time I went to Zurich was September, 2009. I had just gotten semi-used to the humid hell that was Lugano, when our professor told us we’d be spending a Wednesday in Zurich for our Freshman Seminar class. Luckily, my friends Katerina and Laura came with me.

Zurich to my immature eyes was perfection. I haven’t changed that opinion much, now, but I can tell you that everything was amazing. The streets, the Altstadt, the trams, the train itself which was so quiet and smooth! Katerina and I went and saw an American movie, ate a great lunch near the Ferris wheel, and we spent the evening eating a traditional Zurich dinner in a dining hall that was over 500 years old.

Touristy? Yes. Magnificent? Definitely. I didn’t even know what the Grössmunster was, or how wonderful a Luxemburgerli tastes! And yet, I feel in foolish, uneducated love with this gorgeous Swiss city.

Note: All these photographs were taken by a teenager obsessed with contrast and saturation, and armed with a terrible Nikon Coolpix digital camera. I do not claim that these are quality photographs, only a medium to see through!

This year in review.

Five best things that have happened this year:

1. Went to Sicily, Istanbul, Zürich, and had fantastic adventures.

2. Worked really hard this summer, both jobs were challenging but I think I did really well.

3. Made some beautiful photographs that I’m truly proud of.

4. Was gifted some beautiful lenses for my Olympus OM-20 that have made me feel creative again.

5. Did really well academically this semester, improved my Spanish.

Five worst things that have happened this year.

1. Maggie, my spaniel, died while I was at school in Europe. She was my best friend.

2. Had to leave Franklin, say goodbye to all my friends- I’m really bad at saying goodbye.

3. Struggled with this new school, making friends, seeing people I never thought I would have to again.

4. Was really sick for over three weeks, sicker than I’ve been in years.

5. Being with people who don’t want to learn more and who are complacent where they are.

What have I learned this year:

-I have to constantly, actively work at gaining knowledge. I am more resilient than I thought. I have to push myself to be more creative, because I am good at it.

Was the year what you imagined?

-Not at all. I didn’t think that I would have to face all my old fears again, and I didn’t expect that. I had more adventures than I thought I would. My summer wasn’t anything special but it subtly pushed me to do my best, and I was proud that I did so.

What have you been watching this year?

The Office, constantly. I started watching more 1990’s films, and got really into Lord of the Rings.

Who have you been with this year?

I hung out with Hannah, but not enough. Julia a ton, which was glorious. My roommate weirdly became my closest friend this fall. My sister, but not enough either.

What is the best thing you’ve read?

Thomas Cahill’s books, which are witty, informed, hilarious, and brilliant. Also anything about Ernest Shackleton.

Did you do something this year that you’ve never done before?

I did more things alone than I ever had before, discovered how good I am at being independent. I taught my own art class to children, which was incredibly difficult but so rewarding.

What was your biggest success in 2011?

Remaining true to myself, despite the fact that my environment switched 180 degrees.

Best buy?

Blue velvet 90’s dress.

What did you spend the most money on?

Film, good food while travelling.

What more did you wish you had done?

I wish I had gone out of my comfort zone more, I wish I had written more letters.

What did you do on your birthday?

Went to Zurich, spent the day in the Kunsthaus and in book shops.

How would you describe your style in 2011?

Thrift store grandma-y with a lot of black.

Zurigo, how I miss thee!

On my birthday, I was miserable. I was far away from home and I was turning 20. I felt as though I had accomplished nothing, and my self esteem was non existent. I had barely any money, but I knew what I wanted to do anyway: go to Zürich. Something about getting away from Lugano, getting away from the people I loved, and getting away from the fact that at that point my future was so tremulous I got myself on a 7:00 am train and got to Zürich at early lunch.

I first went to the Kunsthaus, the art museum in Zurich with stupendous art from Mondrian to van der Weyden. They had a magnificent room devoted to Ferdinand Hodler, one of my favorite Swiss artists. I went from room to room, absorbing the energy from each work and wondering what the artists’ lives were like. I wandered around the gift shop and got some postcards with my favorite paintings on them- I do this and I collect these postcards so that I have a little miniature art collection of my own that is portable.

After the Kunsthaus left me full of artistic thoughts, I spent some time in Starbucks, listening to five or six languages being spoken simultaneously, then wandered through the Old Town, or Altstadt, walking to the Grössmunster, the two-tiered church right in the middle of the Altstadt.

The church has agate windows and draws many tourists, but I didn’t stop walking. I wandered around the Grössmunster, admiring the copper doors and the height of it all. I walked across the bridge where the Limmat River meets Lake Zurich, and saw the Ferris wheel and walked down Bahnhofstrasse, past the shop of Luxemburgerli’s. Of course, I couldn’t resist going in, fighting the crowded space and getting a box of them for the ride home.

Right off the Bahnhofstrasse on the right side as I was headed to the Bahnhof (train station) was an English book store- thank goodness! I had been craving literature and bought 3 or 4 reasonably priced books, deciding that even if I was going to broke I should have some words to salve the wounds.

On the train home I made friends with a Turkish girl studying in Milan, got off the train at about 11 at night in the dark, took the bus home, and collapsed in my bed. I didn’t feel so insignificant anymore, and it was a day well spent.

I just looked outside to the cold, familiar world outside my window and now I’m back in my seat instead of curled up in the SBB train waiting to get off and go to my apartment. It seems like a whole other world.

Mystery Vintage Postcards (can anybody decipher?)

Lugano has a tiny shop where vecchie cartoline are sold (antique post cards). For about 1 CHF (Swiss franc), I bought about 25 of them when I first moved. I sent them off to various friends and families, but kept a few with beautiful images and lovely script- before fountain pens became a thing of the past!

These postcards are from 1938 and…I don’t know when, perhaps a decade or two before? If anybody can speak pre-WWII German or Swiss-German, and you want to spend some quality time deciphering these, well- go ahead! Let me know if you do!

Tschüß!

Andiamo a Zurigo! (The Zürich post)

If I takes the 7:12 train from Lugano to Zürich, I go knowing that I’m heading to one of my favorite cities on earth. The train will quietly usher you over the Gotthard Pass and into one of the greatest places I’ve ever had the chance to explore.

Zurich seems sleepy; it’s metropolitan area clocks in at under 400,000 people, and is cradled in the mountains and hugged by a lake. Don’t be  misled, though. Zürich is a city of quiet efficiency, of money, culture and food, but it’s not overt or obscene. The Swiss bask in a great system, but part of being Swiss is not creating envy in others. When one goes to Zürich, a feeling of contentment comes. White noise from the trams, people and cars is soft, not overbearing. I am almost lulled into taking a nap on a park bench; another added bonus is that one could actually do so and know that the bench would be clean and nobody would pickpocket you whilst in a mid-city bench slumber.

It’s also a multi-lingual town: Switzerland has four national tongues (French, German, Italian and Romansch), but toss in English, some Russian, Scandinavian and Nordic languages peppering the air of Zürich, and you’ve got a  spiced up city (oh, and Croatian is popular, too!). If you want a truly multi-lingual experience go and sit in any of the cities Starbucks. Plunk yourself on the second floor where the university students are huddled, studying, people are having conversations, others chirp into cell phones; at least six languages will be heard in under 5 minutes, I swear it.

Zürich means the Kunsthaus- a rip-roaring art nerd’s paradise. Honestly, I can’t talk about how wonderful the Kunsthaus is enough- it’s so easy to get to, the collection is fantastic and well done, and it’s never really crowded, so it’s easy to take one’s time and get close to the art and examine it from all angles. Cy Twombly, Picasso, Mondrian, lots of Swiss and German Renaissance masters, and so much more. They’ve got a massively brilliant modern and contemporary collection- right now they’re making a new part of the museum open, and adding in more works. The Kunsthaus is also walkable from the Old Town and the Bahnhof (train station), and is super close to the lake, too.

If this city means anything, it means wandering, and it means staring at the beautiful Protestant churches. The Grossmünster is a sight to see, and the Fraumünster is right up there. The Grossmünster has stained glass windows, but also windows made from agate: agate pieces welded together to form beautiful combinations of light and color. If/when you go to Zurich do not miss out on these churches. They also have amazing carved doors and lovely steps and angles.

For eating, I’m a broke college student, so restaurants are the kind that serve large amounts of food for cheap (ish). Lee’s Take Out, in the Old Town, gives you heaping plates of noodles and rice with delicious toppings- and outdoor dining (this means picnic tables leaning at an angle on the cobblestone) for about 18 CHF. It’s not classy, it’s not dainty, it’s just good. If you’re not terribly hungry but want something to eat, a hot fresh brezel from outside COOP is 5 CHF and delicious- I like mine buttered.

 

If you want dainty things, Zürich proffers the Luxembrgerli for your refined palette. Made by the Confiserie Sprüngli, they are tiny little macarons made in a dazzling array of colors and flavors- my personal favorite is Cappuccino, although Himbeer (raspberry) is a top second! Any Sprungli store will be mobbed with metropolitan madness; the Luxemburgerli are a hot item at any time of the day. Thusly, if you want a Luxemburgerli, you can get one at a quieter branch in the Bahnhof or the airport, but the most fun is earning your Luxemburgerli by patiently and doggedly creeping up from the back of the ravenous (and chic) pack at the main Sprüngli branch on Bahnhofstraße.

And with that, tschüß!

One of the doors to the Grossmünster