Sunday 30th & Monday 31st: An overnight in Zurich on the way home.
My flight from Porto didn’t arrive until after 10.30pm and so I didn’t get in to my Zurich Hotel, Hotel Marta, until 11.30 pm. It was a small and humble boutique hotel but was well located in the Old Town and more than satisfactory given I’d be in there for less than 10 hours!
Taxis in Zurich are expensive, in fact, everything is expensive. The trip from the airport was about 10 minutes but cost 50 Swiss Francs which equates to $66 AUD!
Reviews of the hotel had warned about noise but that wasn’t an issue for me. I had set my alarm for 7 am but, sadly, woke an hour before that. I had planned to take a morning walk but the realization that I could not charge my phone slowed my departure. We are in Europe but the Swiss have their own twist on power adapters. A visit to the front desk helped to solve that problem though, as well as the hair drier one.
Thus, once I finally got out to walk I didn’t get too far as I realized I’d need to get back to the hotel rather quickly to allow enough time for my phone to charge before heading out for my 11 am walking tour. So, back I went to prepare for the day, check out of the hotel and store my luggage.
The ‘Alte Stadt’, or Old Town, of Zurich is easily walked in one day as it is just a 30 min walk from one end to the other and less than that in its width. It is very pretty too given it straddles either side of the Limmat River. The city dates back to Roman times and there is some archaeological evidence of that around the Alte Stadt but the most striking architecture you will see comes from the various circa 10th Century Churches that stand tall across the landscape of the city. The two main Churches are the Fraumunster and Grossmunster Churches that stand either side of the Limmat River. The Fraumunster dates back to 853 AD and was an Abbey for Aristocratic women. The Grossmunster was founded by Charlemagne around 1100 and was a monastery church, vying for precedence over the women’s Fraumunster across the water.
My walking tour started down in a Plaza full of major global banks, I have no idea why this particular start point was chosen, but it was a 20 min walk away and so off I set. The concern I had of being the only participant on this tour, following my most recent tour, proved to be quite misplaced. There ended up being well over 40 people on this tour making it difficult to see, hear and understand our Swiss guide, Maria, that’s if you could find her in the crowd. It was another ‘free tour’ so I can’t complain, however, all historical tours seem to run by this ‘free’ regime now. The only advantage this tour offered was that it highlighted a path passing by all of the major sites and, given my time budget, this was sufficient enough value for me.
I did meet one interesting lady on the tour though. She was from the UK ‘Lakes’ district and about my age and also with a teaching background. She was here for 5 weeks whilst her husband was working. Home, for her, currently is in Qatar as her husband works for the Royal Family of Qatar. Whilst lamenting the state of the British Pound she did observe that their pay was in tax-free USD and so that somewhat offset the pain of the state of the GBP. I did also note that she was one of the few to not tip our guide at all!
The tour finished at about 12.30 and I wandered around a bit more before finding an affordable cafe to take a break and to decide on what I’d do next. Simply walking around until my 7pm departure time did not appeal as it was rather cold. Gloves and a scarf were needed today. Whilst checking through my various travel brochures I noted the Zurich answer to the ‘Open Top Bus’ tour; TheTrolley. These are actually old San Fransisco Trams but they’ve been repurposed to ferry tourists around Zurich ‘Old Town’ as an audio-guided tour.
There was a ‘Trolley’ leaving at 2 pm and so I hurried out of the cafe and up to the meeting point near the main train station and easily managed to secure a ticket. The tour was supposed to take 2 hours but Swiss precision got the better of them and we were done after 90 minutes. It was worthwhile though as it filled in some time, kept me warm, and I gathered a bit more history of the area and covered more ground than I would have done on my own by foot.
The tour finished back near the main train station and so I thought I’d check to see how easy it would be to catch the train out to the Airport. I was a bit wary given I had a large and rather heavy case to lug around. Although the train cost was 1/5 the price of the taxi, my concern about easily finding and accessing the platform and hoping I caught the correct train weighed in favour of the ‘taxi’ option. Expensive as it was, I did not want to miss my flight home.
My next challenge was to fill in the remaining couple of hours of the late afternoon by finding somewhere to grab a late lunch bite to eat for under 20 Swiss Francs. That was a huge challenge! I ended up back at the cafe I had visited earlier in the day and managed to source out a small quiche and glass of wine for under the allotted 20 francs. Zurich is VERY expensive. I had earlier checked in at one of the local McDonalds and was amazed at the pricing. A Big Mac small meal deal is 11.70 Francs !!!!! That is about $16 AUD!!!
I’m glad I’ve had one day here as I consider this reconnoiter work highly valuable as marking Zurich down as a place to never return to!
It was only 5.15 pm by the time I finished my quiche and wine and I still had 2 hours to kill before heading to the airport. With my phone on just 20% I thought I’d go back to the hotel and try and charge my phone a bit. The cold was too much of a deterrent to the ‘just keep walking’ option.
Some facts I picked up during the day: There are about 350,000 people living in Zurich and about 25% of these are foreign nationals. Most of the main business of Switzerland is conducted in Zurich and about 85% of this is in Services sector. The University of Zurich boasts 25 Nobel prize laureates and is one of the most prestigious Universities in Europe. In fact, 1 in 8 people in Zurich are employed in relation to their collection of Universities.
I’ve had less than a day here but consider I’ve got a reasonable and sufficient handle on Zurich. This is a wealthy city with a very clean, well maintained and beautiful ‘Alte Stadt’ that the well-dressed locals are extremely proud of. I can’t count how many street sweepers I’ve seen just today! The shops within the ‘Alte Stadt’ are all high-end retail, cafe or restaurant outlets and 20 Swiss Francs ($26 AUD) won’t get you much of a meal other than at McDonald’s!
My taxi trip to the airport proved to be interesting as well given my driver was a Polish lady of roughly my age. She was a classical musician but, now divorced, needed to drive taxis to supplement here performance income. We were poles apart, no pun intended, and had language as a bit of a barrier but, with daughters we cherished and issues with ageing parents, we connected rather firmly over the short trip; she even gave me a hug when I got out of the car!
Nothing was as comforting though as seeing that luggage ticket on my bag with the big letters SYD printed on them! I can’t wait to get home!