Sunday in Zurich is usually a slow, family oriented day. But add some sun; stir in a bit of spring warmth and like the flowering buds, the population seems to blossom, informal, easy and pleasant. So un-Swiss!
After a hearty breakfast at the 5 star Eden au Lac Hotel, located in the centre of this commercial city, facing Lake Zurich, and a two minute walk (here nobody talks about length but in terms of time) to the convenient nearby tram, the plan was to spend the day seeing sections of the city that I had not yet discovered on previous trips. The number 7 tram, and 20 minutes later, I was in Enge and the historical Villa Rieter and Museum Rietberg. Unfortunately, there was only a small exhibit of antique Chinese snuff bottles and some Indian art. However, it seemed unusual that there would be so many people climbing the steep hill of the gardens at this early morning for just this relatively unimportant exhibit. I soon found out that Heilende Klange aus Indien, an Indian musical octet, obviously popular and well known, were performing at 11 am. I couldn't get a ticket at this late hour so from outside of the small auditorium listened, for a while before leaving to discover the beauty of this privately owned lush garden.
Back to the centre of the city and this time onto the train (this is where a rail pass comes in handy since it's so easy to get around), another 20 minutes I was at Uetliberg (house mountain) where my companion and I had reserved a table for lunch at Restaurant Uto Kulm. This is the city's own small mountain, 871 metres above sea level. On a clear day the view extends over the town, across the lake all the way to the Alps. The 10 minute walk from the train station to the hilltop hotel was the challenge I needed but my ego waned as the regular Swiss trekkers zoomed passed me. Finally at the top, the newly built hotel, an adjunct to the 100-year-old one, seemed a strange match but perfect for small, local conferences, conventions and maybe even a party. The new hotel's rooms are small-ish but modern; the wellness centre deserved more time.
The panoramic view of the city made up for the mediocre wine of the region. My companion, a wine maven, was not a happy camper with this wine and I was less than delighted with the asparagus ravioli served on a bed of heavy cream sauce. But all was forgiven when the caramelized ice cream and 'erdbeeren' (berries) dessert was set in front of me. The joy of travelling is taking chances without any preconceived ideas and hopes.
Back in the city, the sun still bright, the day still young, I walked along the promenade beside Lake Zurich near the Eden au Lac Hotel. This area attracts the young, the old, the restless and the beautiful. One could call it navel gazing as the trendsetters had decorated their visible belly buttons with jewellery or stencils in their revealing hip-drooping pants and very tight minimal tops. What ever happened to the formal Zurichers? And there was more smooching in public than I had ever seen in Paris.
After a great cup of coffee at one of the outdoor terrace cafes, it was time to walk to the Bahnhoftstrasse and try to find the famous Tonhalle on Claridenstrasse 5, where there was an early, 6.30 pm, evening concert. The Tonhalle, built in 1895, opened in the presence of composer Johannes Brahms. The hall is a stunning example of Baroque at its best. But some bureaucrats stumbled when they decided to add a fifty-ish lobby to this historically wonderful building. The 50s was perhaps, the one of the worst eras of the century for bad architecture. The flip side is the acoustics in the halls are considered among the most remarkable in the world.
Young, handsome, hip, hair flopping, dramatic and wonderful violinists , Joshua Bell and his colleagues, gave a most impressive concert. With the on-going applause, it could have been a rock event as fans clapped for 15 minutes (but no encores) for this well deserved charming and most talented group who played Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.
By 8.30pm, we were, yet again, with our rail pass in hand, on my way to dinner in the new trendy West Zurich- the Soho of Zurich. The LaSalle Restaurant in the "Schiffsbau", was actually in its last persona, an former Zurich ship building complex. It has been reinvented and turned into a resplendent contemporary grey concrete and glass eatery suspended by heavy coils from the top and bottom. The décor and service are as luxurious as it gets. And when the Swiss are on, they're the best. The wine (again from my wine maven friend) was to his liking extremely full bodied from the Valais area. And the cuisine made us swoon with joy over the medium pink veal and curried aubergine choice. And when in Switzerland, have a chocolate dessert. Any will do.
Just goes to prove that even a Sunday in a city where everything is closed shut, life is wonderful
and full of surprises.
Story and Pictures by Barbara Kingstone
Hotel Eden au Lac, Utoquai 45: Tel 41011 2666 2525
Rietberg Museum Gablerstrasse: 15, Tel.01206 31 31
Uetliberg.. Top of Zurich : Tel. 01 457 66 66
Depart from the train station. Takes about 20 minutes.
Tonhalle Claridenstrasse 5: Tel 01 206 34 34
LaSalle Restaurant Schiffbaustrasse 4: Tel 41 1 258 70 71
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