Zurich, Winterthur and the Rhine Falls
I came close to never making this trip at all. A long weekend is nowhere enough time to enjoy Switzerland although if you are not careful it may well be long enough to deplete your bank account. Every transaction in Switzerland made me feel as if I had been robbed! French fries alone will set you back 6 CHF, 3.5-5 for a cola!
After losing my passport in Slovakia I wasn’t sure whether I would get my passport in time and I was looking for a new job. My passport came surprisingly quickly and I was left in a rush to find a Couchsurfing host. I found one a few days before my flight in the very kind Livia. However for now I will write about Zurich.
There is the usual hyperbole from Lonely planet and others describing Zurich as a paradise. I am not sure about this and it is far from some really beautiful places like Interlaken and the train fees to places like Basel are prohibitive. However if you do go to Zurich you go to the defacto capital (Bern being the actual capital).
Switzerland for better or worse
#1 – Chocolate
Like Belgian Switzerland is a chocolate haven. Lindt and Confiserie Sprüngli are two of the better known Chocolate makers. And some of their delicacies can cost a small fortune. The one thing you can be sure of is the quality however. And within the cities you will find plenty of shops as well as at the airport as well. Don’t leave Switzerland without trying.
Zurich is where the money is made, a lot of it. The Zurich welcome guide for 2012/13 describes Zurich as worth visiting. being exceptionally cosmopolitan, having friendly people, close to the Alps among many other reasons. There is some truth in it all.
The city’s main feature is the large and pleasant lake with plenty of opportunities to hike or enjoy the cafes or walk the medieval centre. There are some old buildings and churches that have survived (at least outside). A lot of the Protestant churches in Zurich are incredibly plain inside (and one wonders whether that is down to the serious iconoclasm of Calvin and Zwingli) on any case it means that the buildings may be architecturally beautiful, featuring pretty clock towers on the outside, inside may be pretty empty and barren.
The key to enjoying there though is the weather. Without it you will be stuck on overpriced cafes as I was for hours. Spending over 40 CHF just while waiting is no fun.And I guess half of my 3 day trip was lost to miserable weather in all.
I stayed in Winterthur. Which is actually a city over 1300 years old. Not that you will be able to notice this. There is nothing that remains to tell its old history unfortunately. The oldest you will find are in the more recent industrial past. The factories today that are turned to nightclubs and bars. As a tourist destination it is not possible to recommend Winterthur despite its many museums and cultural events.
As a place to live in Switzerland, there is a lot going for it, its student life, festivals, cheaper property prices than Zurich. I was able to appreciate it from Livia’s kind flatmate Stephanie and her sister. And with Livia who was not staying at her flat that time, still made the journey to meet me in Winterthur and showed me around the town.
Switzerland for better or worse
#2 The Swiss and the Protestant Reformation
Calvin and Zwingli (two of the three men of the reformation were Swiss, the there a German Martin Luther)
The preacher Zwingli, once papal supporter was known as a firebrand and started his anti-Roman Catholic sermons at Grossminster.
Switzerland may now be known as a peaceful neutral country but a lot of blood was shed in this land in intra-religious warfare and there was not a lot of love lost. Zwingli died in battle, and Martin Luther is said to have remarked “He drew the sword, therefore he received his reward!”
John Calvin is famed for his teaching on predestination. Believing that one portion (no matter what they died) where predestined by God for salvation, while the others for damnation. Furthermore the elect were to enjoy the suffering of the dammed from heaven! He was not adverse to the execution of those he called heretics (i.e. those who did not agree with his new teaching). If you went bankrupt it was a sign you was damned. Capitalism and Weber was to owe a lot to Calvin in the years to come..
What the reformers would have made of the cantons today would be an interesting discussion. Switzerland is known for its conservative values especially in some of the small cantons, but on the other hand it is very liberal.
On my final day I made an excursion to the Rhine Falls. An incredibly popular place and the largest waterfalls in Europe. However I can honestly say give it a miss. Having being to Victoria Falls, there was nothing to compare in the Rhine Falls. Yes it is a different continent but anything it had in size, scale, scenery was far bettered by Victoria Falls. However if one was liking locally it might be a fun place to meet with friends for a stroll.
I made my trip back to England, accidentally sending my late (which had Rosti) crashing into pieces on the floor. Fortunately the staff were non-fussed and kindly suggested I get another (at no extra cost).