A Short Trip to Zurich, Switzerland’s Most Cosmopolitan Town

Take a rainy day in Switzerland. No lake, no trip through the woods, no trekking in the mountains. I went to town. The accurate train of the Swiss railway service leaves every half an hour from Affoltern am Albis – a small town in the German speaking part of the country – and arrives in Zurich in exactly twenty-nine minutes. Not thirty. Twenty-nine. It may even happen, two or three times every year, that the train arrives with a little delay, but after waiting in vain for thirty seconds the travellers stretching their neck on platform 27 will send a dozen bittered messages to the railway company – the SBB – complaining about such an abrupt fall in the service quality.

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Zurich’s main train station – Zürich Hauptbanhof  – also hosts under its impressive building a large complex of shops, restaurants, bars, fast-foods and street-food stands. Once I exit from it I am already in the middle of the town. The Limmat river is the border with the university area, where the Institute of Technology, the Zurich University and the College Hospital are to be found. The river ends in Lake Zurich, around which stretches Zurich’s downtown.

The streets are crossed by the rails of Zurich’s efficient urban service, which accurately connects every corner in town. With an F/R ticket from any place in Switzerland you can jump on any urban transport mean – bus, train, ferry – for 24 hours. Otherwise there are ticket machines at every stop, but buying single tickets will dramatically rise your expenses. Zurich isn’t cheap. All Switzerland is heavily expensive. Just a simple sandwich on the street will cost you from 9 to 15 Swiss francs (about 6 to 10 euros). Every day spent in Zurich makes your bank account look like a candle fated to burn out leaving just the memory of its sweet scent.

Beyond the city centre is the most interesting and – in my opinion – charming town area: Langstrasse. You won’t see many suits here, but various street styles ranging from punk to dark, biker-style and new age. It looks like all know each others, or maybe they are just used to talk with anyone even if it’s the first time they met.

Along Langstrasse are to most colourful and unique places in town, clubs and bars most of my Swiss friends wouldn’t even dare to enter. Zurich’s people are a different kind: they love music, street art, dancing, drinking and they love to exaggerate. They are sons of Italians, Spanish, Greeks, Arabs, Turks, Albanians and Yugoslavians who arrived in Switzerland looking for better luck. In Kanzlei, a picturesque bar in front of a small square used as flea market, they share drinks and chats, rich students and poor clochards alike, and plan the rest of the evening according to the current proposals. Tonight there are a rock band’s performance, a trance party and a latino evening. But I have a pizza waiting for me in Affoltern’s Italian Social Centre.

Shame, I was starting to enjoy even the rain.

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