Trip: Switzerland May 2022
While we are still in Lauterbrunnen, I don’t want to forget to tell you that our breakfast was included with our hotel room and the breakfast was great! Not a simple buffet – but a very fancy one with excellent choices. Which makes me want to tell you, once again, that overall we have been really pleased with the food in Switzerland. It has almost always been of very good quality. The exceptions have been few. And a few meals have been great.
After breakfast, despite that the hour was not all that early, we went out to walk to the Staubbach Falls and take pictures with the sun on the falls. Our first day’s pictures of the falls were in the evening, and the sun was going down behind the mountains from where the falls originate. This morning, at about 9:15 the sun was just peaking over the mountains in front so they were lit quite nicely for us!
With heavy hearts and promises to ourselves to return, we loaded up our car and headed to Zurich.
The drive to Zurich and the return of the car at the airport all went smoothly, something we have come to appreciate in Switzerland and, almost, start to count on. We took a 15-minute train from the airport into the central train station and from there it was a short 20-minute walk to the hotel, made longer only because we had to drag our suitcases along with us.
Once settled in, we engaged in our afternoon routine – translation: reconnaissance walk. We are a bit later than usual, or things in Zurich shut down a little earlier, because though we walked to the Grossmȕnster, we didn’t go in because of what appeared to be a funeral. And at the Fraumȕnster (just across the river) the church was just closing.
The shore of the lake was beckoning and so we decided on the evening walk along the boardwalk, and we stopped for a cocktail in one of the open-air bars along the way. It was relaxing to sit in the warm evening heat, swans on water, and happy people with their beers and spritzes all around us.
We are all fascinated by Zurich – and somewhat surprised at how much we like it. The elements are those of most of the Swiss towns we have visited: Medieval quarters, river, lake. Zurich, however, is much livelier! There are lots of people around, millions of cafés and restaurants that spill into the platzes, shops and stores with a wonderful variety of small shops featuring Swiss artisans’ work, art, regional food, clothing, cosmetics and, of course, jewelry and watches. We had loads of fun window-shopping on the Bahnhofstrasse the BIG shopping street in Zurich, comparable to the Champs Elysées in Paris. In fact, this city has much the same vibe as Paris – with a young population and an active nightlife scene. I am curious as to how the two cities would compare on price – given that Switzerland is also quite expensive.
We dined at Rosaly’s Restuarant. Once again there seemed to be some trouble about seating us without a reservation, something I begin to think is a feint, since this seems to happen when there are plenty of empty tables and there always ends up being a table for us. As a result, I don’t know whether to advise you to make reservations, since it is often hard to foresee where one will be at dinnertime. But the reception seems warmer when you do have a reservation; the service is always warm, no matter what.
The food at Rosaly’s was quite good and different, too. This is the only place where we have been offered an amuse bouche, a tradition I love!
This morning we headed out with our guidebooks and maps. We started exploring the little winding streets in our own neighborhood, that of the Neumarkt and Spiegelgasse. I was surprised to find these old alleys in the midst of what I consider a big, modern city! This area is also famous for the Cabaret Voltaire, where the Dada movement was headquartered, and it is the area where Lenin planned the Russian Revolution of 1916-1917 while he was in exile.
The big churches weren’t open yet (not until 10am) so we wandered around, milling about in the area around the Fraumȕnster, waiting for things to open.
I discovered that the Fraumȕnster Cloister was already open, so I corralled Jackie and Gerry to come and see. The space is quite lovely with frescoes (by Paul Bodmer, 1920-1941) all around that tell the story of the founding of the church. The story was told to us by a man hanging around there for just this purpose. It is an interesting, if confusing, story about two granddaughters of Charlemagne who are guided by a deer with glowing antlers to the spot where they will build the church, the cloister and a convent, of which they will become the first abbesses.
Afterwards we visited the Fraumȕnster itself and, now we understand all the iconography, especially the antlered deer. The Fraumȕnster is worth a visit inside to see the stained-glass windows. Those in the chancel and south transept are by Marc Chagall (1970 and 1980, respectively), and those in the north transept by Giacometti (1947).
From the Fraumȕnster, we walked back to the Grossmȕnster (the cathedral) and took a good look at that church, too.
The Grossmȕnster is interesting for various reasons. Here is where Ulrich Zwingli, the famous native Reformationist priest preached, and so the church stands as a symbol of the Reformation for the German-speaking Swiss. The Reformation understood that the Bible, not the Church, was the sole authority for Christianity. (We often hear it referred to as the Protestant Reformation.) On the outer wall of the church is a colossal statue of Charlemagne, seated with a sword across his knees. This is a replica, the original being in a museum. It ties the 11th-13th century building to an earlier church founded by Charlemagne on this site. Inside, there are more stained-glass windows by Giacometti.
We saw quite a few interesting windows in the three churches we visited that morning. In addition to Chagall and Giacometti, there were windows that looked to have been made from slices of agates.
Continuing our walk, we wound our way to Sankt Peterkirche, and a wide terrace park called Lindenhof that overlooks the city.
Our guidebook encouraged us to seek out and walk on Augustinerstrasse, lined with rare-for-Switzerland oriel windows. Not having any idea what oriel windows are, we just HAD to see them! Well, they are nothing more than windows that protrude from buildings almost like balconies, giving the interiors more light and space. It is true we haven’t seen them often in Switzerland, but we have seen them in other European cities, notably Paris.
There are lots and lots of shops and wonderful window-shopping.
Gerry found us a vegan restaurant for lunch, the Neue Tavarne in Glockengasse, where we had some of the best food we have had in Switzerland – both appealingly presented and delicious. The chef had a two-starred Michelin restaurant called Focus.
After lunch we walked off that delicious food by going to the train station and to spend an hour or so getting ourselves the train tickets we will need to travel to Salzburg, Munich and back to Zurich, our itinerary for the final week of the trip.
The Swiss National Museum is right next door to the train station so, tickets safely stored in my backpack, we trooped off to see to see the historical rooms for which this museum is famous. The rooms were gorgeous but all similar, as in same time period, just different parts of the country. All had wood paneling, coffered wood ceilings, and wood parquet floors with various types of shutter-able windows. I was just too tired to really appreciate the small differences, especially given that this was in the siesta time after lunch.
After the daily restorative nap, we walked out again. On our way to walk along the side of the lake, we passed through many of same streets and alleys we have seen these last two days, but there are always nice little surprises tucked away in random a random platz.
We passed the tent for the Knie Circus. It has an interesting history: The man who started it was a son of Empress Marie-Theresa’s physician and was studying to be a medical doctor in 1803 when he changed course to become an acrobat and travel with a troupe of artists. He later started his own troupe, performing as a tight rope walker. His children and grandchildren followed him into the business, and in 1919 the circus was officially founded. Still active today, with 6th, 7th, and 8th generation family members involved, the Knie Circus, though private, is considered Switzerland’s national circus.
Our destination was the Le Corbusier Pavilion. We could only visit the outside. (I can’t remember if it was closed because of the hour, the day of the week or unfinished renovations.) It was the architect’s last building, erected in 1967.
Just beyond the Pavilion, is the Chinese Garden. It is a small space, but quite charming and beautifully laid out to give the impression of a place much larger. It was a gift to Zurich from sister city, Kumming.
Brasserie Louis was our dinner spot. We got to join the throngs eating out on a beautiful spring night, as the tables were set up in the side street along the side of our hotel.
Tomorrow, we are headed to Salzburg.