Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A day in Zürich

So after the coffee morning in the clear fresh air of Lichtensteig, Switzerland, we headed towards Zürich - our only one-day destination in Switzerland. I will always regret that we did not have time to move about Switzerland and visit Geneva and Basal besides the snow covered Alps, due to our very compact and tight schedule limited by studies of my son back in Germany.

So we were to make the best use of our visit to Zürich and fortunately we had the entire day to ourselves. So we divided the day into three sections: Visit to Zürich city central including its railway station which has a city of its own in its basement, the Zürich Lake and a ride in the steamer, and finally the ongoing Zürich Film Festival at that time of the year.  

Hitting the city centre straight, thanks to the very accurate navigation system of our rented BMW,  the immediate worry was to find a suitable parking. It wasn't possible on any roadside parking as the city centre was packed to its capacity - so we got a slot in one of the parking lots with many stories after taking a number of turns. That solved our major worry and we hurried to the main downtown boulevard of the city center or the Bahnhofstrasse - the Station (Bahnhof) Street (Strasse).

The following map will help locate various locations and find some good hotels and restaurants in Zurich:

The city centre was already jam packed with tourists from all over the globe and busy 'window shopping' and taking photos. Yes Window Shopping for Zurich and even Switzerland as a country is one of the most expensive in the world - even expensive that the much talked about fashion street of Paris: The Champs Elysees. Most of the shops here sell international brands like Armani, Gucci and Cartier.

The real Rolex is sold here!!

While my sons strayed away in the streets and shops of their choice, I had to trail my wife into various malls like Jelmoli for her to find some jewellery, bags or shoes. And as cautioned by friends in Germany, the malls and their glittering shops were best suited for the window shoppers as the prices were far beyond the budget tourists like we who were visiting  for sightseeing and certainly not for shopping and that too in Switzerland.

And no wonder we were on the Bahnhofstrasse - Zurich's main downtown street and one of the world's most expensive and exclusive shopping avenues.

So after being satisfied that there was 'hardly' anything that we wanted to buy, we settled for roadside eateries and had something to munch. The Turkish eateris came to our rescue for halal food and we found these palatable to our taste and suiting our pocket.

How old is Bahnhofstrasse - well not decades but centuries old. It was build in 1864. The development as a tourist attraction picked up impetus with the construction of the main railway station between 1865 and 1871. However, some buildings were there even before trhe street came into being like the Sprüngli House built in 1858, much earlier than the store of Otto Ganz and 1899 the Jelmoli Glas Palace. 

There were all kind of tourists from God knows which countries but it was fun watching them moving, sitting, enjoying and shopping. One of the best couple that I saw was the one above - I liked the old man for his colourful shirt and the glasses with one round and the other square glass. One should dress up lightly and colourfully besides some ingenuity like the glasses of the man above.

The statue on the main Bahnhofstrasse is that of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827), who was a Swiss pedagogue (born in Zurich) and Romantic educational reformer. He was of the view education must be radically personal, appealing to each learner's intuition. His motto was “Learning with the head, hand and heart”. Here in the monument photographed above, called Pestalozzi Monument, erected 1899, Pestalozzi is depicted as leading a poor boy who is barefooted and wear ragged. The monument was made by design of sculptor Hugo Siewert.

Paradeplatz, one of the most famous squares in Switzerland, is situated towards the end of the Bahnhofstrasse closest to Lake Zurich. The Bahnhofstrasse is also the location of many Swiss and international banks and a center of the financial industry. The two biggest Swiss banks, UBS and the Credit Suisse Group, have their headquarters there. Paradeplatz is also known for its chocolate shop and cafe, Confiserie Sprüngli.

There were all major brands in the city center - from famous Swiss knives, did not buy as I already have one, to Rolex, and wow: Bata. I never thought I would come across Bata in Zurich - a shoe we grew up wearing since our childhood.

Walking and walking and window shopping took quite a heavy toll of us as we had walked almost to the end of the main street leading to the central railway station. Before moving on it is was prudent to have a rest and a few photos.

After a snack, it was time to move on and still find something to eat like the famous Swiss brands of the ice cream. We were to have more of Swiss ice cream later at night while at the venue of the Zürich Film Festival.

The hustle and bustle of the tourists


My son on the main boulevard with trams approaching from behind

The Bahnhofstrasse is largely pedestrianised - however the trams roam frequently to carry passengers and tourists from Hauptbahnhof, Rennweg, Paradeplatz, Börsenstrasse and Bürkliplatz.

The Bahnhofstrasse starts at Bahnhofplatz in front of the Zürich Hauptbahnhof, passing Rennweg, Augustinergasse and Paradeplatz before it ends after 1.4 km at Bürkliplatz on Lake Zurich.

The air plane overhead

It would be unfair to go to Switzerland and come back without tasting its world best chocolates that are displayed in many shops on the main boulevard so invitingly that one cannot simply resist walking in and coming out with tons of chocolates in their hands.

We too were tempted and could not resist walking in this shop with dozens of varieties of Swiss chocolates. The helpers of the shop were too busy in listening to tourists and holidaymakers and packing chocolates of varying tastes in quantities that were supposed to last months - but would be consumed by the evening as one cannot resist the mouth watering and extremely delicious chocos.

So we too got kilos of chocolates but made sure these last longer than estimated so that we could continue to feel the nostalgia of being in Switzerland once. 

 Zürich Hauptbahnhof

Alfred Escher monumental fountain, sculpted by Richard Kissling, on Bahnhofplatz situated at Hauptbahnhof in Zürich

My sons posing in front of the Zürich Hauptbahnhof 

The Zürich Hauptbahnhof or Zürich Central Station is the largest railway station in Switzerland and it is from here that one can not only travel to all destinations within Switzerland but also some of the neighbouring European countries such as Germany, Italy, Austria and France. In fact it is regarded as a central European railroad hub. Operating some 3000 trains per day, Zürich Hauptbahnhof is one of the busiest railway stations in the world. The station is included in the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National Significance.

While walking on the Bahnhofstrasse and shopping or even window shopping, it may be a surprise for many that there is another shopping haven right beneath the central station called the "ShopVille." This huge underground shopping ville consists of over 200 shops and one can buy souvenirs, gifts or even shoes and clothes.

Owing to its popularity and usage of the station round the clock, the ShopVille is open even on Sundays when the entire Zurich city is closed on account of the compulsory weekly holiday. 

By the time we came out of the central railway station, the sun light was getting pale and cold - indicative of the evening ahead, as can be noticed in the three photos below. And it was the time for us to say goodbye to the Bahnhofstrasse and head for the Lake Zürich - our second destination of the day. 

Erected since 1983 on the Bahnhofstrasse, the granite "Pavilion Sculpture" by Max Bill is a key work by the concrete artist from Zurich.

Besides being a shopping and a financial hub, Zurich is rich in culture and art heritage. It has over 50 museums, of which 14 are devoted to art. The Kunsthaus Zürich, the museum of fine arts, has a large collection of expensive paintings, including collection of works by Alberto Giacometti, sculptures and photographs besides a video library. videos. And not going far from the Zurich's main station i situated the Swiss National Museum – housed in a century old building which has a extended collection of exhibits relating to Swiss cultural history. 

Zürich a population of just over 400,000 - but almost 60,000 people study in some 20 universities, colleges and institutions of higher education in Zürich. Two of Switzerland's most distinguished universities are located in the city. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich) and the University of Zürich. Both universities were once (2007) listed in the top 50 world universities.

5:21 PM - time to say goodbye to Zürich Bahnhofstrasse 

So we moved to the parking lot to collect our car and head for the Lake Zürich - a must see for the tourists as it provides a refreshing evening for the tired tourists who had been walking and window shopping in the downtown Zürich the entire day. I will talk about Lake Zürich in my next post - so stay tuned.

My earlier posts on Switzerland:
To Switzerland - my childhood dream comes true
Two days and two nights in Lichtensteig, Switzerland
Coffee morning in Switzerland

Know more about Zürich at WikiTravel

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