two hours in zurich

One equates Switzerland with precision, efficiency and beauty. When I landed in Zurich, that was what I was welcomed with. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the juxtaposed medieval past right in the heart of the financial capital. It was drizzling mildly when I came out of the airport, and was told by my Swiss friend who received me, that it has been pouring the night before with winds at speeds that could blow people away, literally!
I had a few hours before I took the train to Davos, so decided to experience the city quickly and the bustling streets leading to the lake, despite the rain was reassuring to the soul. The paths interspersed by trams moving about in noiseless precision were lined by some big brands and bigger banks and financial institutions. Not surprising….but what took my breath away was this old cathedral, right in the centre of the financial town centre called the Fraumünster Cathedral, with unique glass paintings that were quite unlike anything I had seen. They were contemporary with modern brushstrokes, so I was quite thrown to learn that the glass paintings were made in early part of the 20th century, by a Jewish painter called Marc Chagall of Russian origin.
Chagall (or Shagal, as he is referred to in Zurich) was deeply influenced by Jewish traditions and religious culture he grew up in and those are evident in his works. Once I saw the paintings, I also connected them with some outstanding murals I had seen earlier at the Lincoln Center in New York City and also the huge stained glass painting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. I was not surprised to find that the creator of all these masterpieces was the same artist!
I took a detour into the bylanes of Zurich and discovered elegant houses lining the narrow cobblestone paths, clearly made for pedestrians as I couldn’t fathom a cart or even a bike passing through it without either brushing the houses or ramming someone down!
 Food is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about Switzerland. Unless of course it involves cheese or chocolate. But I was pleasantly surprised to learn about some traditional Swiss food, and more importantly Swiss food customs. Hearty dishes come from the country agricultural background, not surprisingly, mostly made from cheese. Fondue, which is perhaps the best known, is basically melted cheese in a boiling casserole in which you dip pieces of bread with a long fork. Everybody shares the same pot in this solid dish. “Raclette”, typically a shepherd’s dish is prepared by melting the side of a cut cheese on an oven. Each guest eats a cut of melted cheese in turn with potatoes and pickles until he has eaten his fill. Adding salt or mustard is a no-no and experienced raclette eaters always taste the cheese before adding pepper. Something I learnt the hard way!!!
The paragon dish of Swiss German-speaking Switzerland is the rösti which is roasted potatoes with cheese or bacon on top. I had a vegetarian variation of the dish, which I must admit was yum, though a trifle too rich for my tastes!!!!
The highlight of my two hour walk (in addition to the mesmerizing Chagall paintings) was the visit to this café called Sprungli. I was told that they do not have any branches in Switzerland outside of Zurich, because they do not use preservatives in their chocolates and the transportation kills the quality (!!). The Spruengli cafe, serves the best pastries I have ever had, and the elegant Edwardian-style decor café/tea room on the first floor, is the best place in Zurich to have a nice lunch, though a bit pricey! The distinctive blue-and-white Sprüngli wrapping has “sovenier from Zurich” written all over it!!!!!
My two-hour walk in Zurich made me realize that there is more to the Swiss than clockwork precision!!!!!!!

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