When my friends asked me how was in Zurich (Switzerland) I said to them: Man, the average hamburger costs 14 euro! Beer approximately 9 euro. And their usual response would be: Whaaaat!
Yes, Zurich is expensive, one of the most expensive cities in Europe and also in the world. Luckily for my wallet, I’ve been there just for a few days. I’ve been in Zurich at the beginning of September this year for the first time and also in Switzerland in general. Came there by business. So, my purpose with this article is not to write about what I visited as you might expect from someone who writes about travel, because I haven’t got time to visit all things that travel websites usually suggest you to. I wanted to write about impressions, people that I’ve come across during these few days.
But first things first. The instruction I received from my Airbnb host was to take a train No.10 from Zurich airport (tram costs 6, 60 CHF more or less same in euros, Switzerland is not member of European Union and has its own currency called Switzerland franc) that will take me to the Seilbahn Rigiblick station near ETH Zurich University and from there apartment is just 5 minutes walking. That was the plan, but instead of tram I jumped into train, I only saw the sign of the Central station, bought a ticket, and sit. The moment train began to move I was starting to realize that this is not what I had to do. I felt a little bit insecure, and there was no one in train except one lady who read a book. I had to approach to her with question are we moving in right direction. Yes, stupid question, I know, but when panic hits you there are no stupid questions, right? So I arrived at the Zurich Main station, step out from the train and asked myself: Now what?
I had to find that tram, but first I had to find a way out of the station, because, at that time, it looked to me so big and complicated. And I found it, thanks to another very kind lady who showed me the way to the station of the famous Tram No.10.
At this point, I will make one digression by saying that my first impression, when I step out from Main central station, is that Zurich is such safe place, not even for a one moment I didn’t feel threatened or like I was in some kind of danger being robbed or something similar. Because I worked so hard back home I forgot to download city map, and didn’t have a patience to deal with the requests of various public wi-fi networks to register, I’ve decided to rely on my travel karma asking people how to get to the place where I was supposed to stay. At the tram station I met Jana, girl with a Russian origins who lives her whole life in Zurich and she told me couple useful information that I want to share with you:
1. Zurich is expensive to live in (if you read first line in this article you already know that)
2. Zurich has an excellent public transport, but the thing is that Zurich, comparing to the other big European cities, doesn’t have city center in a way that all other part of the city are gravitating toward it. Zurich, especially Old Town, is stretched on both side of the Limmat river which flows from the Zurich Lake, and one side of the city in situated on hills, so it very easy to be confused in what direction you are going, especially when you are in public transport. Before you purchase tram ticket ask someone local to confirm you are on the right station side towards place you want to go.
3. Buy and eat chocolate, as much as you can, trust me you won’t regret (My favorite advice for sure)
With this advices on my mind I went out at my Seilbahn Rigiblick station and began new episode of how to find as soon as possible the apartment. This time I approach to a guy, who has a phone, he checked map and show me the way into street which was very steep, and I had to drag my suitcase along the way, but what can you do. On a half way of the street, my instinct told me that maybe it wasn’t the street that lead to the another street where the apartment was. So again I had to ask another man to show me on map. It turns out that I was right, it wasn’t a right street. I had to return to my starting position at the tram station. The next shock for me was that the first guy who showed me a wrong way, came on bicycle apologizing because he showed me wrong direction. I have never experienced that kind of thing in my whole life! Although I was tired from the flight and my public transport adventure, this thing definitely made my day. So again thank you, you polite stranger and all other Zurich residents who speak to me on English.
Did I finally found apartment of my Airbnb host? Of course I did. 🙂
The following next two and half days I was participating at the Build Peace conference, with various workshop that were held basically from 9 am until 6.30 pm. In the evening, the group of 40 people from all around the world will gather and then we went to one part of the city where Street food market were held to have a dinner. I’ve noticed, besides of usual pasta dishes, street food such as hamburger, hot-dog… (Switzerland people are mostly mixture of Italians, Germans and French, with a lot of people from all around world) that they are crazy for healthy food, especially upcycled food. Honestly, I rather prefer pasta: cold mixed beans, carrots and wheat with sour sauce packed in a jar is not something I gladly eat. But, sweets, that is a totally different story.
One evening I met a guy whose parents were from China, and they moved to Geneva (capital city of the Switzerland). Guy’s surname is Pan, guess how they called their first born son? Peter! So I met Peter Pan in person. At first, I thought he was joking, then he showed me his ID. His parents have a quite sense of humor. And yes, he is Peter Pan indeed. He is now 22, and at age of 16 he travelled to Beijing to get to know better his family roots. Then stayed in China and travelled around. From Geneva to Zurich he came with his younger sister by hitchhiking. I could never do that! They had flight from Zurich to the city in one of exotic ex Soviet Union country, I don’t remember which one and they will stay there for a month with a minimum budget. So if you are looking for advice how to travel on a minimum budget just search for Peter Pan from Geneva on Facebook.
One afternoon, I caught some free time and went at the Zurich Lake, which amazed me with its clarity. During those days it was sunny and hot, someone told me that was first time after very long period that Zurich has so many sunny days in row without rain and with high temperatures in September. So there were lot of people at the lake that were swimming or just catching the last rays of the sun for that day. Since I love water so much, I sat down by the lake and just watched the sunset, and for the first time I envied people who lived here. Because they looked to me as if they have no worries in the world. They are living in a country and in a city that is safe. They have a very high living standard, and on the other side, there I was, coming from the country that have been in war during the nineties last century, from South East part of Europe, from Bosnia and Herzegovina that still struggles with a lot political, economical, societal issue. In that moment I felt I entered in fairytale. Alice in Wonderland. Vanja in Switzerland. But again, I am aware that nothing isn’t what is seems to be. If you loose your job in Zurich you’d probably have to sell your kidney to survive. I am exaggerating of course, but you got the picture how it works there.
Last day in Zurich I tried to find something to shop and not to bankrupt. My flight was at 8 pm so I had plenty of time to look around. Except of chocolate and cheese what can you find to shop in Zurich that has Swiss quality but yet reasonable price. Answer is watches. I bought Swatch watch (75 euro) which is now my favorite watch to wear. I tried to find some cheap magnets to buy but that was impossible (the cheapest one I find and I didn’t like it cost 7 euro), so I gave up.
I didn’t have money to spend it on museums, and I didn’t have time to visit Zurich zoo which I heard is amazing in a way how they treat the animals there.
Will I come back one day to Zurich? Hell, yeah. That is the reason why I bought piggy bank with Swiss flag on it. It costed me only 10 Swiss franc. Last 10 franc I had 🙂