I’m the first one to admit to a bad first impression. Mind you, I doubt my saying ‘You know, when I first met you, I thought you were a right prat, but now that I’ve gotten to know you, I quite like you’ would win me any medals in the diplomacy stakes. And despite the lukewarm reception such admissions generally receive, I still persist. Honesty is ingrained in me and while the world in general, and some people in particular, might be much better off and none the wiser had I kept my second-thoughts to myself, I can’t get rid of the urge to purge.
Switzerland and me got off to a bad start all those years ago. Our relationship wasn’t improved much by semi-frequent visits to Geneva (I was proposed to there once). It took this last trip to Zurich to make things right.
The centrepiece, the main attraction, was the lake and the old town. Nothing new there, given my predilection for things old and things watery. The last time the lake froze was in 1963 – the second time in the twentieth century. That’s something that was hard to get my head around, but even harder was to see someone fishing, downtown, when the rest of the world went to work.
Over on the far side of the bridge lies the old town with its church steeples and riverside walkways. It’s here, in the cathedral, where Marc Chagall’s (born Moishe Segal) famous stained glass windows are venerated. Used as I am to the gilded walls and pillars of Catholic churches elsewhere in the world, the stark plainness of the churches I visited in Zurich were a marked contrast and somehow much more conducive to prayer and reflection. Perhaps what is most surprising about these windows is, as James H. Charlesworth notes, ‘how Christian symbols are featured in the works of an artist who comes from a strict and Orthodox Jewish background’. Worth a visit if you’re in the neighbourhood.
So the verdict? If you’ve not been to Zurich, make time to visit. You won’t be disappointed. The people are friendly, the service is exceptionally good, and there’s plenty to do and see. Eat your fondue outdoors as it does smell a little and try, if you can, to visit in December. Take advantage of the mountains and be sure to visit a church or two.