After spending the weekend in Bern, it was back to Zurich for work. I was extremely busy in Zurich, so I didn’t have much opportunity to see the city. Like the rest of Switzerland, it’s very safe, so I was able to stroll late one night, and I returned briefly at the end of my trip, since I was flying out of Zurich.
The city has achieved a reputation as boring, and it’s true that it’s not as exciting as Munich or Rome or other big cities. That said, it’s very livable (except for the high cost of living).
The city has a few major waterways, and a cute old town with some very impressive churches. It does have something a sterile feeling, lacking the charm of other Swiss cities. But I think it’s a good one to live in: large with good public transit, big enough to attract good music acts, directly next to a large, central, European airport, and with a reputation that’s unlikely to charm expats.
As you might expect from someone who mostly experienced the city while everything was closed, the big highlights were the churches, and my favorite exterior was the Grossmunster Cathedral: huge (Grossmunster = big minster), Romanesque (my favorite style), and surrounded by medieval-feeling streets, the courtyard also had a great view of the Limmat river (a picture is at the top of this post).
However, the best interior was the Fraumunster church, which had installed a set of stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall in 1970, when he was 86 years old. Personally, I feel like the internet and computers do justice to most paintings: it’s a similar experience in person and on a screen, but that’s not the case with stained glass, and here the windows were oriented to catch a lot of sun; each of the five windows was mostly one color, because they’re in the choir – tall with little floorspace – they tower over you. Really stunning. Pictures weren’t allowed, and wouldn’t convey the beauty even if they were.
Overall, the city still had an elegance and charm, and though I wouldn’t choose it as a destination, you could do a lot worse than overnighting here.
By the way, the hotel I stayed at – one of the hotels recommended by the company website – was really weird. It was a ’boutique’ hotel, and each of the rooms had one wall that was just frosted stained glass, and this wall was next to the bathroom. So, in the bathroom, you had the distinct sensation that people outside the room knew exactly was going on; it was the same with the wall between the bathroom and the bedroom. With only one person, it was just a bit weird.