ZURICH – This is a town that doesn’t get enough respect. Yeah, there are banks and old hotels and stodgy folks. Same in New York and Toronto.
There’s also a wild part of town, West Zurich, where they’ve taken old industrial buildings and turned them into cool nightclubs. You’ll find scantily dressed ladies parading about various parts of town trying to drum up business. On my last visit, I saw a black van that represented a clothing company and had the words “Enjoy your fucking shirt” scrawled across the back.
Maybe 10 years ago, I was in town for the Toronto Star’s sports department and was driving on a main street and saw a man riding a bike wearing nothing but a red thong. Last time, which was a couple years back, I also witnessed a very cool wedding party of black Swiss citizens having their photos taken.
But it’s not just night life and sex that makes this place tick. There are also beautiful old buildings and churches, fabulous works of art by the likes of Marc Chagall and a beautiful lake with summertime swimming clubs and parks and lovely hotels like the posh, hillside Dolder Grand with lovely spas and restaurants that serve the most silky versions of birchermuesli for breakfast and scrumptious bread with creamy butter and fresh preserves and, yes, I’m salivating just thinking about it.
Here’s a post from when I was in town a few years back for Pride Day.
ZURICH – You can see the Gay Pride flag waving up and down the streets of Switzerland’s biggest city.
Europride, the largest gay and lesbian festival in Europe, is being staged in Zurich for the first time, having been held in Stockholm last year. And it appears folks are taking advantage.
I spotted four women dressed in black walking arm in arm down one of the main streets in the old city the other day. Three had red devil horns on their head, while the other had a white halo. A few minutes earlier, I saw three young males dressed head-to-toe in white, two of them with white top hats even Elton John would envy.
June 6 is the big finale, and a couple hundred thousand people are expected to descend on a city that used to be known as stuffy and rather dull but has become one of the hotter, more vibrant cities in Europe. More on that in a few weeks at Star Travel.
When you arrive here at the wonderful Zurich airport, there’s a large sign that explains you can take a taxi into the central city for 60 francs 24 hours a day or that, most of the time, you can get a train for 6 Swiss francs (about $6 Canadian). Actually, it’s gone up to 6.20 Swiss francs (CHF), so somebody’s likely in big trouble. But the trains run every 10 minutes and it takes only 10 minutes to get to the main train station in town, from which there are dozens of trams to choose from to take you anywhere you want to go.
You can take your luggage cart, and they’re free, from the airport across the road to the train station and down the escalator thanks to special rubber pieces on the bottom that keep the carts from sliding into the person in front of you. Little things, but they add up to a nice, welcoming experience. Is anyone at Pearson Airport listening?
Sunday was a pretty hot one here, with a temperature of about 28 C. The lake was packed with strollers and bikers and folks playing frisbee at the parks that dot the shore of the Zurich See, and the swimming pavilions were full to the brim. You can swim for free at many locations, but if you want to use a locker and sit on a floating dock and have a drink from the bar you pay $6 to enter one of many pavilions that dot the River Limmat or the Zurich See. The water’s still pretty bracing this time of year but it’s so clean you can see the bottom when it’s 10 feet deep. In fact, some folks say Switzerland has done such a good job cleaning the lakes that there aren’t enough plants for the fish to feed on.
What it means is that even the poorest folks here have a place to cool off on a hot summer’s day for free – if they don’t want to use the fancy pavilions. Wouldn’t it be nice if our lakes were that clean?
Zurich is on the north end of the Zurich See, and the closest part of the Alps you can see (not very well today given the heat, mind you) are to the south. For some reason, I find it weird to think of the mountains being south of the city. Makes no sense, I know.
Strolled past a jazz club in the trendy West Zurich area (kind of like the Distillery District or Liberty Village, with old industrial buildings turned into public spaces) and looked twice at the poster before breaking out in a smile. The main feature here at Moods jazz club on Saturday night? None other than our own Holly Cole.