A trip to Zurich during its hibernation

by Hannah Lindsay Fleming

January, I was told, is the most unremarkable month of the year for a trip to Zurich. Arriving at the Central Station, which 2 months prior had been venue to bustling festivities, I noticed the locals were departing.

The atmosphere was emotionless and unitising, a cold fact reiterated by the cities own citizens and the temperature. Serious expressions adorned the stampede out of Zurich, smoking furiously they transported themselves across the station with a gait that was amusing and unnatural; restricted through the clothing choice of salopettes and rigid Salomon ski boots. Destination: winter sport and gluhwein.

A lack of buzz, apart from mass exodus at the train station was apparent but quickly disregarded. In amongst the sea of water- repellent, dull-coloured ski-wear an occasional floor length opulent mink or Arctic Fox came into view on the shoulders of preened middle-aged women, sporting Jackie ‘O’ shades and carrying vast Bally handbags- abundantly available from the considerably sized flagship store on Bahnhofstrasse 66.   Monsieur Morrall disembarked mid afternoon for a much awaited reunion and was the first buoyant face encountered since arriving. His company was exceptional. The sparse interior of the Cafe Noir on Neugasse 33 seating a maximum of 10 stony-faced Swiss at any time, seemed as good a place as any for a hot ‘gourmet’ refreshment and a mandatory catch up en route to our accommodation.   Our hotel, The Old Gregory, located in the ‘rot’ district was the  crème de la crème of budget accommodation; clean and comical and a short saunter past a host of curious independent shops – and an oddly located American Apparel on Josefstrasse 74.

Rippling out from the epicentre Bahnhofstrasse, a recipe of high street and high-end  incestuously integrated, Zurich’s centre was quiet and subdued with few weekend shoppers. Monsieur Morrall led me unwillingly to the luxury locale; Bottega Venetta and Hermes were on his list – thankfully we didn’t have to queue at the entrance.

Visually more pleasing was the contemporary flagship of street and ski wear brand +Alprausch’s, located off Banhofstrausse in downtown Zurich, the persona echoing nineties Canadian series ‘Due South’ – but an uber-modern Swiss account. The interior, dominated with an actual-size deer on a t-shirt display table; looking down at shoppers with an expression of gargantuan self-importance was reminiscent of the Hermes Sales Assistant.  Over the river multi-label ethical clothing store Make Things on Grüngasse 20 had an equally no-nonsense  aesthetic; clean, delicious lines, housing an eclectic mix of innovative designers.

Saturday night was reserved for old friends and a traditional Swiss fondue or if preferred a ‘Fohlenfilet’ or ‘baby horse steak’ also available on the menu. During dinner Monsieur Morrall told the story of a man who had died from eating fondue; the cheese had congealed in his stomach- but we remained unmoved and continued eating and eating and eating. Gallons of wine and liquid cheese did not make for a peaceful nights slumber, nor did the raucous tranny who arrived back to The Old Gregory at 2.30am.

On Sunday, Zurich was even more like a ghost town, the majority of the shops were closed and a visit to the Mondejar Gallery, confirmed this. The gallery situated on Zentralstrasse 18, ‘celebrating both Swiss and Filipino artistic talent’ had been recommended and I had previously read that one of their artists was threatened by religious extremists last year for exhibiting a crucifix with a wooden penis attached.

Instead we decided on Brunch at Forum on Badenerstrasse 120. The fact that it had been formerly graced by Prince William and David Beckham was of no consequence to either of us; the warm atmosphere filled with high-spirited chatter and the menu with a choice of 11 European dishes was

more appealing. I chose Swiss, he chose the  Spanish ‘Valencia’ before a march around the beautiful 17th and 18th century architecture of old town; it was too cold to stroll. I wished for a balaclava, Monsieur Morrall disagreed, stating he didn’t like to have wet, vaporous wool against his skin- most disagreeable! Wandering through the narrow cobbled streets en route to the station, the perfect end to the weekend arrived in the form of a luscious, sweet-treat from the stylish cafe- come-restaurant Cake Friends situated in The Lower Village. We both agreed the cake was remarkable and the initial thoughts that the city may be lacking in va-va-voom were dismissed. Zurich we decided was deserving of a second visit sometime – perhaps just not in January.

Travel Article by Hannah Lindsay Fleming


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