Zurich, Switzerland is one of those cities that is deeply interesting to wander around, but remains as one of our stops that I knew almost nothing about prior to arriving in the city by train. An overcast afternoon split open to reveal a slash of sunshine on the city’s ornate train station. We later learned that the architect had used what the Swiss call a “historical style” and used Versailles palace in France as inspiration. Our first stop was to find the Tram #10 that would take us directly to our hotel, ibis, which was located outside the city just next to Zurich Airport. For any travelers planning a visit to the city, the tram is a very easy way to jump around town for a pretty cheap price (2.00 francs) for a 100 minute period, with the option of getting a 24-hour pass as well.
We checked in and left our luggage behind as we search for dinner after our long journey. We found an Italian restaurant, as if we hadn’t eaten enough Italian yet, just next door to our hotel. That evening we rested up and booked an extended city tour of Zurich for the next morning before our flight to Dublin the following evening.
The tour began with a tour around the Old Town part of the city, although there is the west of Zurich which is a modern area full of nightlife and young innovation, which we sadly didn’t have enough time to see. February in Switzerland results in some harsh, chilling winds so the bus was a welcome way to see the city on a time crunch. The tour guide was Zurich-born and was quite entertaining and talented, joking along the way in three of four different languages. He stopped the tour at the harbor section, where we were welcome to walk alongside the banana-shaped lake that had the clearest and cleanest water I’ve ever seen. They are even able to use the water as a drinking source quite easily and is provided to the citizens in the nearly 200 fountains across the city. The snow-tipped mountain ranges hover above the brightly painted dinghies tied to the docks with thickly knotted rope. We returned to the bus after a few photos and move on towards the hill at the north side of the city.
Atop the hill is a unique mix of expensive Swiss-style homes/The Grand Hotel overlooking the city like gods observing their patrons, and public areas for the ice rink, garden plots and the Zurich Zoo. This area is accessible by what I would call a mountain car, that operates sort of like a slow-motion roller coaster on ticking track up to the top of the rail. The bus retrieves us at the top of the hill, and we continue on to Old Town for a stop at Fraumunster Cathedral, where Marc Chagall was asked to created several paintings for the windows. They are in a contemporary style, unlike anything else I have seen in a religious building. Yet, they reflect scenes of the Old Testament, each in their own brightly colored panes of Crayola green, yellow, red and blue. It is beautiful in a peculiar way. We poked around Old Town along the river banks and above roman remains, where the sidewalk turns to grates to expose the ruins.
Then we returned to the bus towards the ferry that would take us across the lake and towards the cable car. Uetilberg Mountain is the closest one to Zurich and has trails for nearly a hundred miles the weaves through the white pine and balsam trees and is open in winter and summer. The cable car hovers above the ground on a metal cable, very much like a ski gondola, that is available for use of tourists and locals alike. The locals we encountered carried cross-country skies, foldable sleds and the kids were bundles in puffy layers. The day was still a bit overcast so we weren’t able to see beyond to the distance where the Alps are, but we could see across the city and a section of the lake we had just crossed.
We returned after the tour to our hotel to retrieve our luggage and enter the airport for our flight to Dublin. This was our first chance to get some Swiss food, and the menu was full of traditional fondue, beef and noodle dishes, and several plates with sides of applesauce. We boarded our flight and arrived at the Dublin Airport a few hours later.
After finding our rental car, we navigated the windy dark Irish roads to the Evergreen Malahide B&B a few miles away. The owners greeted us even late at night, and made us full Irish breakfasts to order the next morning. Equipped with area maps provided by our kind hosts, we visited the Malahide Castle only a mile from the B&B. The castle is unique in that it one family had owned and lived in the castle until the 1970’s. Following the last descendant’s death, the town council paid for the property and the attached gardens and preserved it for public use and visits. One of the owners had a passion for botany and collected tree saplings from across the world and nurtured them to grow in the gardens surrounding the castle. Pathways weave through the gardens and visitors are welcome to stroll these for hours on end if they chose to do so.
The castle itself is a beautiful collection of contemporary, Victorian, Georgian and medieval design features from the family developing from knights to wealthy, traveling aristocrats. The rooms and furniture are kept in the same format and condition that the family upheld over the years. The welcome center has a cafeteria and shop which is quite expansive, and we had a quick and delicious meal before starting our 2-hour drive across the country to Galway.
Next time, I’ll update on our visit to Galway and our final adventure abroad in Dublin, Ireland before our return to the good old United States.
Note: Currently assembling a collection of the best photos in the next few days, stay tuned for those soon!