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08 May 2020 - Day 27 – Zürich

Awaking about 7:30 at the Hotel Ressliryti in Basel, as usual I hadn’t included breakfast, so I checked out and started my walk pushing the roller towards the train station. By this time, I’d established the route and had it cold. I was keeping an eye open for a coffee shop, but the first one I saw was on the other side of the road, and I was already well past St Elizabeth’s. So I waited until I got to De-Wette Park and got a coffee and a piece of hazelnut cake to go from Zum Kuss, the indoor-outdoor café in the park.

My ICE train to #Zürich left just after 9 and lasted less than an hour. The Zürich Hauptbahnhof is located at the north end of what could be called an island in the Limmat River. It is a huge building and the terminus for many train lines. Unlike in France, they have a tourist office and a checked luggage facility in the building, as well as many other services.

About a third of a kilometer away, I crossed the river and headed to the Garni Hotel Bristol. Situated on a corner, with the entrance on a sloping sidewalk, there are five floors of rooms over reception and a large common area, including a breakfast room. Barely half past ten, I was too early to check in, so I left my roller and jacket (shirtsleeve weather!) and headed out into Zürich. I had booked a FreeWalk tour at 11am, and needed to get to Paradeplatz. Located at the south end of the “island”, it was a 20-minute walk.

Clipping from their website, the Downtown Zürich Tour visits Paradeplatz, Fraumünster, Lindenhof, Grossmünster, Niederdorf and the hidden places in Zürich. The promo statement reads “Learn how a Roman toll point became the city with the highest quality of life and one of the most expensive cities in the world. See the influence of Charles the Great, Vladimir Lenin, Albert Einstein and Marc Chagall on the economic and scientific center of Switzerland. You will discover the power struggles, ruses, money and art that shaped the city. Visit the hidden gems and hear about the legends and life of Zürich.”

Paradeplatz is a big square and transit exchange point boxed by two large bank office buildings and two block-long buildings with retail at the street level. The meeting point was in front of Credit Suisse, the older, more ornate of the two large bank buildings. As tours are given in four languages and reservations aren’t required, seven guides had shown up and were sorting us by appropriate languages. Interestingly, today the largest group was German speaking (probably visitors taking advantage of their special Friday holiday honoring the 75th anniversary of VE Day), getting two guides, and the French, Spanish and English were all going out with a single guide, numbering between 6 and 14 per group. Our guide of course had to be named Heidi, and the breakdown of the group was 3 Yanks, 4 Brits and 2 Kiwis.

Heidi shouted for us to follow, and we began walking east towards the river. With five groups all following a similar itinerary, Heidi directed us more south, and stopped us at the Kirche Fraumünster, an eleventh century church which has Chagall-designed windows. With a green copper spire on the clock tower, its exterior is best seen from the bridge. The three Chagall lights are stunning stained-glass, but so is the nave and the organ in the rear loft.

Crossing the Limmat on the Münsterbrücke, we approached the double spire of the Grossmünster. Here’s where my research gets confusing. The term “Grossmünster” translates to “large cathedral”, although historically, it was administered by the bishopric of Konstanz, Germany. Google Maps and the SacredPlaces website refer to Grossmünster as a cathedral. Wikipedia, the Gcatholic and the official website contain no indication that the building had this status. Zürich was a small college town through the initial Protestant Revolt initiated here by Zwingli around 1500, eventually growing in size and importance after Calvin began leading the changes after the religious wars. I’m guessing it was never a cathedral, but it, along with three others (Fraumünster, Predigerkirche, and St. Peterskirche), can be considered important landmark churches in Zürich.

That all being said, it is a most impressive structure. The entrance faces to the northwest with twin tall towers capped with domes. (The composer Richard Wagner likened them to salt and pepper shakers.) Standing in the plaza in front, Heidi told us about the bronze doors by Otto Münch, and windows by Sigmar Polke (agate) and Augusto Giacometti (stained-glass in the choir). Photography is prohibited within, but visitors can climb 200 steps to the top of the towers for the view, and descend to visit the crypt.

Leaving the Zwingliplatz, with its statue of the mounted Charlemagne situated over the burial spot of the three martyr saints of Zürich, we headed north along the riverbank until we came to the Rathaus. The City Hall is four stories and sits in the river as the Rathaus Bridge crosses to a commercial complex.

Here we turned away from the river into the old city, and the area called Niederdorf. A pedestrian zone, the street level is full of shops. After two blocks, we moved inland a long block to turn north again on Zahringerplatz.

We came to the former Dominican cloister, Predigerkirche, which has a slender stone steeple capped in copper. Inside the barrel vault and simple adornment evoked for me a strong feeling of the Baroque. As one of the key four churches in Zürich, it also played an important part in the Protestant Reforms. While we were inside, an organist was up in the rear loft practicing, and I really wanted to just stay. Apparently, the Central Library in the Old City wraps around the north and east sides of the church.

One more block north, full of stores, eateries and lodgings, about a half kilometer shy of my hotel we turned west towards the river. Walking west a block, south and then west again, we came to the Rudolf-Brun-Brucke where we crossed the Limmat. Several steps in on the other side and we entered the park called Lindenhof. Veering around a parking complex plunked in the northern end of the park, we up a rise, a “hill”, and walked past areas for small children, sports fields, large outdoor chess boards with matches underway. While it was warm, I didn’t spot any sunbathers, as this is a spot where this happens. That slight rise in the park is where the Romans built a fort.

This was our final stop. Heidi answered questions regarding dining and other sites to see, and we all each gave her a tip. (I never heard anything about Lenin or Einstein.) It was 1:30, and I’d completed all my targeted sightseeing for the afternoon. Getting a suggestion for a light lunch, I headed a bit south of the park to TAO’s, an Asian influenced restaurant with a nice outdoor seating area (and no smoking!)

After ordering a stein of beer, I perused the menu and decided on a fusion salad: a sliced chicken breast dipped in a mustard sauce, finely sliced fried egg, half an avocado, with a chopped “log” of green leaf lettuce topped by sardines and shaved parmesan. With a fresh roll, it truly hit the spot. While eating I updated my journal, and talked to a Swiss couple as they were departing. That large journal and a pen do end up piquing a lot of curiosity. Realizing that I’d possibly not get dinner, I decided to have dessert, a scoop of pistachio ice cream with three raspberries.

Tao’s faces out onto the square which the fourth of the churches, St Peter’s, occupies. Oldest parish church in Zürich, it has the largest church clock face in Europe. Interesting feature for the nave, its roof the only wooden roof in Zürich. The nave is owned by the church, while the tower, a former fire watch, is owned by the city.

Zürich seems to be a town overwhelmed by Evangelical Reformed Protestant churches, so discovering a Catholic church begged a visit. Augustinerkirche dates back to the thirteenth century, as an Augustinian abbey. Apparently built over archeological areas, its proximity to the Linderhof hill and the old western gate has resulted in successful digs over the last thirty years. With the first Vatican Council (1870), the congregation rejected the reforms and this became an Old Catholics church. I’d had contact with this sect before, being introduced to it in Bonn at their cathedral church, much to my surprise.

Having decided to head to the hotel, I walked to the Rathaus bridge and then along the east riverbank. As I approached the Bahnhofbrucke, the walkway disappeared and I wound up walking north on Stampfenbachstrasse, which I’d used getting to and from the hotel originally. Once at the Bristol, I checked in, got a key and took the lift up two floors. Furnished with a queen bed, a small desk facing a window to the street, and a ledge next to the WC where my suitcase could rest, it was all I needed. And a nap seemed in order.

After my hour horizontal, I broke out the netbook and started this post. Downloading the cameras, I was making good progress until I noticed it was twenty past five. I had a train to catch at 6, so I shut things down, grabbed the journal, camera, passport and jacket and headed back to the Central Bahnhof. Finding the commuter train to Winterthur was relatively easy, and I was there in half an hour.

Exiting the train station, I took me a bit to orient to Google Maps. Five minutes and 300 meters later I was at the box office for the Theater Winterthur. Showing my online receipt, I was handed my ticket for row 6 in seat 762! It seems that every seat had its own number. Passing through control, I observed the preperformance crowd mingling in the foyer. My seat was on the right side, last row but one but close to the center aisle. Slipping into the auditorium, I got a picture of the theater from down near the stage on the left, and then headed to my seat.

Actually not bad. Decent airflow, so the body heat from downstairs wasn’t really too evident. With only 5 rows from me to the balcony edge, there really weren’t any site line issues. The Zürich Opera House, in conjunction with the Winterthur Music College, was staging a modern take on Joseph Haydn’s opera buffa Il Mondo della Luna. In three acts, there were two intervals. The lights went down, and the players walked on a curtainless stage as the orchestra finished the overture and pieces of the sets descended from the flies.

Not about to reveal the story – it’s much too complex to summarize in a sentence or two, suffice that the Italian libretto and German songspiel blended nicely and I think I may have gotten about a third of the jokes. (Reading a summary first helped.) At the breaks I wandered the lobby, watch the folks, which included children. Ending just after 10pm, I knew there was a train at 11:05, but lucked out to get a train within 15 minutes of my arrival at the station.

Walking back over the Limmat, I strolled to the hotel through a mildly busy Friday night crowd on the streets, patrons overflowing from a few bars. More interested in sleep than food, I got to my room, finished this and went to bed.

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