The Limmat river

Zurich in a day – How to make the best of your Zurich layover

My Summer in Europe had everything I had imagined and more. The food was incredible, the art and the people were tremendously interesting, and the landscapes were breathtaking. Zurich had never been in my plans, but I had heard marvelous things about Switzerland, and when I was booking my trip from Lisbon to Athens and saw a flight that included a 10 hour layover in the city, I didn´t hesitate.

I knew I would be tired from catching flights at ungodly hours every two or three days; first from Berlin to Copenhagen and back, then to Ibiza, then Lisbon, so, the first thing I Googled was Zurich swimming pools. I discovered that the city is famous for its swimming pools and riverside beaches. I also found out that trains are affordable and they run very frequently between airport and city, and they take about ten minutes to Zurich Hauptbanhof, the main train station. Since I had ten hours, I decided I would have enough time to do something else, besides swimming and lounging by the river.

I am a big fan of Max Ernst, and I had an idea that there might be some of his art in this town. A Google search revealed that the Kunsthaus (Art house in German) was the place to go. So, I Googled how to get from the airport to the Kunsthaus, from the Kunsthaus to Mythenquai beach, and then back to the airport, hoping to find a nice cafe to have lunch in-between.

I truly had no idea what to expect when I landed in Zurich. There were a million trains departing from the airport, but I was able to locate my platform, purchase a ticket from a machine, exchange some of my Euro for the local currency CHF, and be on my way in a few minutes. As soon as I got off the train, I became enamored with the city. Everything around me was so beautiful that I changed my plans and decided to walk around, by the river, around the majestic old buildings and soak in some of that glorious Swiss sunshine. In a word, the city appeared perfect before my eyes.

As I walked by Limmat river, past the fast food stands and the relaxed pedestrians, walking their dogs and their strollers with their blonde babies, I could see fairy-tale like castles on the other side of the water, so, I decided to cross at Quaibrücke (Quai bridge). I was surprised to find out all those bewitching castles were financial institutions of some sort. Having recently seen THE BANKER, a documentary that eloquently portrays the ruthlessness of such organizations, I was mistrustful of the young guys in Armani suits and designer sunglasses talking on their cell phones and looking like they owned the world. I took a few pictures of the financial castles and went back to the other side. Then I had a snack at one of the many cafes lining the shore and saw an fantastic old church called Wasserkirche (Water Church), which stands by the river at the next bridge going North.

FInally, I decided to go back South to explore the Altstadt (Old City), the domes of which I could clearly see from afar. The skies were blue, the people seemed happy, the streets were clean, and the buildings spoke of other eras; history was all around, but also the feeling that this is a city of people who live for pleasure, people with no financial preoccupations, for the most part. Nevermind what that may mean for the rest of the world, for this people, it was bliss that you could feel in the air, and I loved every minute of it.

After my lovely stroll around the old town, I headed back to find the Kunsthaus, which is on the same side of the river. Over the meandering, and sometimes steep, pebblestone streets that took me there, I discovered many a charming old bookstore, bought a book by a Swiss writer, and just delighted in the familiar smell of old books and the dim light in which the old bookstore owner presided over ancient books, Renaissance style painting and marble busts.

The Kunsthaus provided a satisfactory experience. Although a giant mural by Max Ernst that they restored was not on display at the moment, there was a little jewel of a creation (see photo) by him, some great works by Dutch masters, Impressionists, Swiss painters, and famous pop and surrealist artists. Max and one or two other guys made me cry, which is the ultimate tribute I can give to any work of art, so, I considered the experience a triumph. I loved the way the exhibition rooms were designed. It was simply a pleasure to be there.

With only a couple of hours to be in the city, I then headed to Mythenquai beach. I was tired of walking, so, I took a ferry from the Eastern side of Quaibrucke to Enge, on the other side, towards the South. I paid a few Francs to get in, I took a couple of lovely swims, lounged on the grass for a while, and finally, found a tramway that could take me to the station, where I could catch the airport train. There were many people at the beach. There was a little dock, some benches, one of which I used as a lounge chair, because these were non-existent, several children playing, and some people kayaking. The water was cool, the sun was shining, I was in Switzerland, and in a few hours, I would finally reach the destination I had really been longing for: my beloved Greece. Not bad for a layover…

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