I arrived at Zurich as an invitee of an international corporation. At the time I was unaware to have been chosen by them to perform a technology transfer for my country; eventually that led to my leaving it and becoming a world wide pilgrim. However, for a week I had the opportunity to enjoy one of the most beautiful towns in Europe.
The largest city in Switzerland is a small town of less than 400000 inhabitants and is the main commercial and cultural center of the country; indisputably it is one of the main global financial centers. The name is Celtic in origin – Turus. It was Romanized into Turicum and afterwards Germanized into Zürich.
Within the Roman Empire, Turicum was a tax-collecting point for goods trafficked on the Limmat River. Afterwards – during the ninth century - a Carolingian Castle was built by the grandson of Charlemagne, Louis the German. He also founded the Fraumünster Abbey and endowed the Benedictine convent with the lands of Zürich, Uri, and the Albis forest. In 1045, King Henry III made the abbess the ruler of the area by granting the convent the right to hold markets, collect tolls, and even mint coins.
Emperor Frederick II promoted the abbess of the Fraumünster to the rank of a duchess in 1234. The abbess assigned the mayor, and she frequently delegated the minting of coins to citizens of the city. In the 14th century, the Guild Laws (called here Zunftordnung) were established and in 1336 Rudolf Brun, became the first independent mayor.
In 1351, Zürich joined the Swiss confederation as the fifth member; however, it was expelled from the confederation in 1440 due to a war with the other member states over the territory of Toggenburg. The event is known as the Old Zürich War. The city was defeated in 1446 and re-admitted to the confederation in 1450.
The city featured a central role in the Reformation. Zwingli began the Swiss reformation by preaching in Zürich; he lived in the city from 1484 until his death in 1531.
The first railway on Swiss territory was built here since 1847, connecting the Zurich with Baden. Even nowadays, trains are a main mass-transport system in the country. The beautiful and functional Hauptbahnhof (Zurich railway terminal) was built in 1871.
Zürich was built around the Sihl and Limmat Rivers; they meet at the end of Platzspitz, which borders the Swiss National Museum (Landesmuseum). Lake Zurich delimits the town to the south and wooded hills, which are part of the Albis Range, delimit it to the north. The Glattal – or Valley of the Glatt River – delimits its northwest. The historic center of the city is the Lindenhof, a hill on the left bank of the Limmat River, 700 meters north from Lake Zürich. The Old Town is not surrounded by walls anymore, but its maze of narrow alleys successfully keeps its medieval look.
The city is divided into twelve districts (Kreis in German), each one of which contains between 1 and 4 neighborhoods; District One contains the Old Town and is thus the most important one for travelers. The district boundaries follow the boundaries of previously existing municipalities before they were incorporated into the city during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Zurich has several railway stations: Hauptbahnhof (Zurich Main Railway Terminal), Oerlikon, Stadelhofen, Hardbrücke, Tiefenbrunnen, Enge, Wiedikon and Altstetten. The Hauptbahnhof is worth a visit even if not using it. The French TGV high-speed, the Cisalpino and the InterCityExpress stop in Zürich.
The Swiss A1, A3 and A4 motorways pass nearby Zürich, connecting the city with all the main destinations in the country. The Zürich International Airport is located less than 10 kilometres northeast of the city, in Kloten.
Within the city there are four means of mass-transportation: the S-Bahn (local trains), trams, electric trolley buses and diesel buses. Boats cross the rivers and the lake.
Switzerland has four official languages. The Canton of Zurich is a German speaking one. However, I could communicate easily in English, even while asking casual passerby’s for directions.
The Swiss Reform of the Church created several churches of historical importance. The Grossmünster is within the old city; there Zwingli was pastor. It was building in the ninth century and was declared by Charlemagne an "Imperial church." Another old church of interest is the Fraumünster, on the opposite side of the Limmat River, which was also built from the ninth century. Its Romanesque choir dates from 1250-70 and Marc Chagall prepared its stained glass windows. The Church of St. Peter is south from the Fraumünster, in the old city and features largest clock in Europe.
The Bahnhofstrasse is Zürich main shopping avenue; it starts at the main train station and reaches the lakeside. The sumptuous banks on Parade-Platz, the plaza in the middle of Bahnhofstrasse, seem to be the real cathedrals of modern Switzerland. This is the main visible testimony of Zürich being the world's primary centre for offshore banking, a result of the Swiss banks secrecy’s practices. This practice as well as the low taxation attracted global corporations like Dow Chemical, IBM, General Motors, Google, Microsoft, and Pfizer into creating their European Centers in Zurich.
The Lindenhof is near St. Peter, it was the site of a Roman castle.
The Old Town and the Guild Houses in its surroundings transport the visitor back in time, into a long gone Medieval Europe.
There are many interesting museums in town. The most interesting ones for the casual traveler are the Museum Bärengasse, which specializes in the history of the city in the 17th century. The Kunsthaus Zürich displays one a huge collection of Classic Modern Art in the world. The Swiss National Museum (Landesmuseum) is located in the Platzspitz Park in front of the Hauptbahnhof and provides an awesome glimpse into Swiss history.
Zürich's old town at offers a lot of nightlife and clubbing at the Niederdorf district and it hosts the Street Parade in August every year; there is an astounding variety of restaurants offering food from all over the world.