bahnhofstrasse

A funny thing happened on the way down Bahnhofstrasse…

Ok so it's not Bahnhofstrasse...

Ok so it’s not Bahnhofstrasse…

I’ve lived in Switzerland for 2.5 years now. Things have got easier.

I had this feeling a while ago when I had a random hour or two to spend along Bahnhofstrasse and I ended up chatting to a stylish shop assistant in one of the fancier places for 10 minutes – we had a basic conversation mostly auf Deutsch just about our kids and that my eldest is almost perfect in Schweizerdeutsch and how when she lived in Lausanne for a few years, she wasn’t much good on the French but her kids were experts etc. I didn’t buy anything (it was all Moschino-level stuff, eek) but I left feeling like I’d gained an extra layer of confidence.

Today I overheard a conversation in a hotel where the lady asked for a black tea and the maître d’ said it was available at the breakfast buffet. Small, basic exchanges but I am understanding them.

My own German is still pretty bad – I lack confidence so I say things quietly and tend to mutter, which doesn’t help me OR the person I’m talking to. Then there’s pronunciation problems – I requested Ibuprofen in a pharmacy yesterday, saying it in my Australian way: “Eye-buprofen”. The assistant looked puzzled, until my friend chimed in with “Ih-buprofen” – A-ha! Then telling the same friend (who is Swiss-French) about a feature I’m writing that mentions Crans-Montana there was a moment…. “oh Crhuns-Montana!” (put on your best French). I will amend my pronunciation of this one from now on. Although there’s a certain appeal to Craaaans maaayte!

Anyway, here’s 11 things I am loving about my life in Switzerland right now

  1. More German conversations. Despite the fact I’m still pretty crap at German, more people seem to continue speaking to me in the language now (rather than switching to English), which must mean I’m improving.
  2. I’ve often theorised that the Swiss are the goths of Europe – rebels who like rules, smart, stylish (in their own way), intellectually arrogant, frugal but willing to spend where they see value, difficult and snobby-seeming (which can be basic shyness) but generally worth it when you get to know them. In this respect, I am not intimidated (mostly!) and I kinda “get” Switzerland/the Swiss
  3. My mum and my best friend who visited recently both said as an aside – “You should stay.” Women whose opinions I value.
  4. Wellness – a revelation. I used to think the whole idea was a bit wack but I’m a total convert.Wellness is a big thing - there's even a permanent sign directing you to the wellness hotel district in Baden.
  5. Frühstück / Brunch. They bring coffee then you go help yourself at the buffet. Ticks so many boxes.
  6. Swimming. There’s sooo much swimming here, and there’s water everywhere! Lakes, rivers, fountains. I love it. Although I do miss the ocean…
  7. Mountains. Also a recent conversion. So pretty and picturesque. I still have to pinch myself sometimes. I’m living in a postcard.
    picture-postcard views
  8. Church bells and shopping hours. After you get used to the bells ringing every quarter hour and the shops being shut on Sundays, it’s more a case of why doesn’t this happen everywhere? Shopping as a leisure activity is kind of horrible (although I do enjoy it and miss it). I like the enforced family time of Sundays and the bells… well… you do get used to them and I appreciate quaint old-fashionedy things.
  9. The sky. There’s these beautiful skies in Switzerland… after the grey of London, the skies here are wonderful.
    mountain
  10. We’re mostly happy here – the kids like their school and daycare, Himself is getting into hiking and cycling, the politics are OK (not that we have any influence), the pace of life is less hectic than London or Sydney.
  11. On a similar note, it feels like there’s time to explore some creative pursuits. I really want to see where this poetry thing might lead and I think I have the space to do it here.

 

I really hope we can stay.

Me diving into the Zurichsee. Photo: Katy Albany

Me diving into the Zurichsee. Photo: Katy Albany

More postcard views...

More postcard views…

20160525_155046

… and pretty skies

Zurich on a Sunday

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It’s very quiet in central Zurich on a Sunday. Especially if you’re out early, as I was this weekend. Around the lake, there’s a bit of activity. A few tourist buses, people catching ferries, joggers, dog walkers and a few people fishing.

I had a wander around the top of the lake on the Enge side – the West side of the Zurichsee, also known as the Silver Coast. I haven’t really been over there before. It’s a bit quieter and more residential than the opposite bank – the Gold Coast. But there’s Seebads (lake swimming areas) and rowing clubs on both sides. And nice looking restaurants / sail club type places too.

I didn’t go very far though, because I had spotted something interesting to explore at the top of the lake. A little estuary that weaves its way through central Zurich. It’s called the Schanzengraben – and a quick bout of internet research tells me it’s actually an ancient moat – part of the city’s fortifications dating from 1642.

Nowadays it’s a very quiet spot – a clear green stream rushing smoothly through town. Walkways on both sides (mostly) that dip down to below water-level underneath some of the bridges, so you’re walking shoulder to shoulder with the flow. Some bits have a wooden boardwalk or smooth stone walkway that’s almost at the same level as the water. Because it’s Switzerland, there’s no fence or anything.

I didn’t see many other people – a few dog walkers and a couple of lost-looking Japanese toursists. All the shops in Zurich are closed on Sundays, which means Bahnhofstrasse goes from one of the most expensive retail strips in the world to a ghost town. As for foliage-clad 17th century moats nearby… they’re even emptier.

I didn’t really know where I was going but I knew the general direction. And I’ve seen the top of the river Sihl from the train so I guessed I’d come out somewhere familiar. And I did, one block away from the Hauptbahnhof.

A very pleasant morning’s walk.