10 September 2012

In and around Zurich

Zurich Old Town is very pretty but not very large so I managed to cover most of it in one day so on my second day I ventured further afield. This started with a trek following the Limmat as it flows north away from the centre.

Very soon I was in stillness and emptiness with the constant murmuring of water as my companion. Frequent bridges linked the two banks and many of these were for pedestrians and cyclists only so traffic rarely intruded.

I crossed several of these bridges just to vary the view.

Heading slightly inland at one point, on the search for some breakfast (i was not going to pay Swiss prices for a hotel breakfast just for a bowl of muesli) I found the remains of a Roman viaduct that has now found another use.

Heading back to the river I found parks, swimming stations, a slalom course and heaps more bridges to cross.

All the infrastructure impressed, both by being there and by being well looked after. The playgrounds in particular made me wish that I had brought some children with me so that I could watch them climb, swing and dig. Watching other people's children is a little creepy.

One of the playgrounds had a small collection of animals including some chickens and a couple of unbelievably hairy pigs.

The final bridge of that part of the walk was Ampèresteg, another modern bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. The shape changes as you cross and the sides are much taller at one end than the other. Little tricks liker that are unnecessary but they add a little frissance to what would otherwise be a simple crossing.

I had a rest at that point and took the 17 tram back in to the centre. I had a choice of tickets and as the 24 hour ticket was only twice the price of a single I went for that in the safe assumption that I could find other journeys to take with the next day.

And I took another ride almost immediately after I got back to the centre, but this was not a tram, it was a funicular railway, the Polybahn.

This takes you up the hill on the east side of the river where the university sits grandly and proudly in acres of open space.

There are, as you would expect, several buildings in the campus and they all carry the tell-tale marks of academia. They are earnest, undecorated and quiet.

The meme is broken just a few times with some unusual statues and a couple of sunken water features.

But the university is not the point of going up the hill, you go up for the view back across the city.

As elsewhere in the city it is the towers that dominate the view with the clock-faces of St Peterskirche just about readable despite being on the other side of the river.

Having gone up the hill by funicular I then slowly walked down it towards the river and lake.

The old town on the east side is slightly older than on the west side, I saw many houses dating from the 1400s,but the characteristics are the same with narrow hilly lanes lined with decorative buildings interspersed with squares.

The character changes as you approach the lake. This takes you out of the old town (there is no ancient wall to mark the boundary but you know when you have crossed it) in to an area of grand baroque buildings.

This is where the opera house lives and the neighbourhood lives up to that standard.

The plaza in front of the opera house is being rebuilt, it may have been a car park, and so it is not very attractive now, hence no photo.

Another tram would have taken me back to the hotel if I had got on the right one. Instead it took me west rather than north so I jumped out at the next stop when I realised my error. I thought about taking a tram back the way that I had come (day tickets are brilliant) until I had a better idea.

A line of defence, now a canal, had been cut from the lake in the south to the river Sihl in the north. The Sihl then flows north-east until it joins the Limmat just north of the city centre. The waterway takes about 1Km to get there as it avoid the crow's advice and zig-zags along, as defensive waterways tend to do.

The sunken waterway has a path on one side that lets you sneak around the city unnoticed, except by all the other people taking advantage of the peace that is to be found there.

It is a lively waterway with boats, swimming areas, sunbathers, walkers and a few casual visitors like myself.

This was a busy, successful and hugely enjoyable day that had taken me away from the city in various directions before bringing me safely back to my hotel again. It was a day filled with walking and water, and that's an excellent combination.

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