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Tuesday, 1 April 2008

SWITZERLAND Zurich The Gateway To Alps.

Key words:  Switzerland, mountains, lakes, landscape, history, seascape

Zurich they say, is the Gateway to Alps. The largest city in switzerland, home to many museaums and Art Galleries, Bauschnzli, the popular Beer Garden and numerous bars and restaurants, it is also a panoramic city. A city with wide spaces, river canals and fantastic views of Lake Zurich, it is A City with a View. In fact many Views.

Zurich was founded in 15BC ( I think) by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (63BC-12BC), a Roman General and later a minister in the reign of Caeser Augustus. He won the famous battle with Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra and brought Gaul, Belgium and Germany under Roman rule. And Turicum in the Swiss Alps, was a garrison town and a Customs Post for merchandise entering Gaul (province of France) and Germany. Zurich was founded on the ruins of Turicum. So the city has Lake Zurich on its northern side and river Limmat flows from it through the old city to the South, with elegant shopping centers, old winding streets full of boutiques, Art & Craft shops, bars and restaurants. You can easily pass the whole day walking, as we did, going from one place to another.

The morning of arrival in Zurich was a sunny day, although it had rained when we left Basel and we were worried that parking may be a problem in the center of Zurich. However, we saw so many parking places that we decided to drive upto the center of the city and easily found a parking garage. When we emerged on the pavement, we saw a large plaza full of people and there was a street market in full swing. So for more than an hour we strolled around, browsing and admiring articles on sale. "One man's junk is another man's treasure" so goes the saying and I also bought a copper jug for CHF 10.OO (a goog buy) and two flower vases for CHF 15.OO. I told the lady that I had no more money and she told me that she could not accept as she was just looking after the stall. So we started chatting and she told me that she was a Dietrician and she very kindly told us about places of interest. I got the vases for CHF15.oo anyway.

The best way to visit the city is by Trolly Bus or by bicycle, which we found out later, were rented free. But we decided to walk and it was a marvalous experience. The Old City is surrounded by river Limmat, from Quai-brueke (Bridge) you have a wonderful view of the city on both sides, the river rolling out in a great arc, excursion boats going to and fro, wide pavements to walk on. If you stand on Quai-Brucke, on the right hand side you can walk to Rathaus (Town Hall) passing Limmatquai. Before you reach the Town Hall, you can see Grossmuenster (The big Church) and on the west bank Fraumuenster and Paradeplatz.

From Rathausbrueke you have the wide open plaza with shops and restaurants and on a sunny day like we were lucky to have, you can sit on the terrace of a Cafe and watch the people go by. At Lindenhof (backyard full of Linden trees) is a beatiful park, from its high ground you can see the panorama of the city with the canals running on both sides of the bridge. Lindenhof is the site of ancient Roman Customs Post.

It was our intention to stay in Zurich for two days, I wanted to visit some Museaums and art Galleries so we crossed the Muenster Bridge and came in to Bahnhof-Strasse as we wanted to take out some money from the automatic money machine. The street was full of people and I saw many sitting on benches in the sun, drinking white wine. So I entered in one bar and saw two slim girls behind the counter, speaking Spanish. So I asked them (in Spanish) where were they from and learnt that they were from Santo Domingo (Dominic Republic). I asked what their customers were drinking and was told that it was white wine mixed with sprite or soda water. It was typical Zurich summer drink. Naturally I also ordered the same. The wine tasted dry. In Spain in summer you drink Tinto de Verano, red wine with aereted water (with fizz) with lot of ice and a peal of lemon. Very refreshing. We paid CHF12.00 for the drinks. Naturally I complained that the wine was expensive and was told that Zurich is expensive. And it is a fact I already knew. But no harm in playing a joke.

It was almost five O'clock in the evening and although we have had a bread roll at noon, we were hungry so we asked the girls if they could recommend a restaurant where we could have some ethnic food. They told us to go to Aussersihl. Now this area, which in the old times was a working class residential district and now transformed into ethnic restaurants, was not an easy place to find. May be we should have taken a trolly, however after more than 30 minutes walking, we reached the area which also was full of inter-twining streets. In one street there was a Lebanese restaurant with a menu board sitting outside the door, announcing full buffet for CHF25.OO. We entered inside and on a small table were laid out a platter of humus which was dry, a covered metal dish contained grilled meat which had seem better days, rice and tabouli salad. Not for us.

Walking around we saw a Brazilian Churrascaria (In brazil you sit on a table around a charcoal or wood grill and big chunks of sizzling grilled meat is brought to you by the waiter, who goes from one table to the other, with skewers in hand). But the place was still closed and now we were quite hungry. Then we found Emilio's, an Spanish restaurant,
and sat down weary and hungry. It was nice to speak Spanish and it brought better service too. Spanish food I have found out, you should eat in Spain. Whether it is Paella Valenciana, Fabada Asturians, Pulpo Gallego (Galician Octopus)
marisco (seafood) it never tastes the same in cold climate. However Paella with shrimps and baby clamps was not bad, fried chicken in gravy was also alright but the house wine was nothing to write about.
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