Zurich, March 2018
I’ve been to Switzerland before – twice to be exact – but never had enough time to properly have a good look around my surroundings.
All three visits of mine, including this one, have been on business. Back in 2016 I was in Zurich to see Swiss banking software firm Avaloq, and then turned up in Geneva later that same year for the industry’s largest show, Sibos.
This time I’m attending two conferences, one after the other: The Blockchain Forum and the Open Banking Forum. Both are located in the Oerlikon district of the city, next to the main conference hall in Zurich.
Luckily, I managed to wrangle a little bit of spare time. In the afternoon following the Blockchain event, I pulled off the suit and tie and pulled on my hoody and jacket. About half a mile or so from the hotel I could see an imposing hill, covered with trees.
It had snowed recently, and the trees and ground were still dusted in a light coating of the stuff. As I heaved my way up the pathways, a little surprised by the gradient, I was struck by how quiet it was, despite being so close to the city.
I’m not one for hyperbole, but it was a pretty spectacular walk, especially as I was pretty much alone on that hillside. Flecks of snow drifted to the forest floor from the trees, dislodged by the breeze. Every so often the silence would be pierced by the sound of a woodpecker or the call of a woodpigeon.
I climbed and climbed, snatching glimpses of the city below me. All in all I think my journey took about 50 to 60 minutes, including quick stops to check Google Maps and ensure I wasn’t wandering somewhere strange.
Eventually I reached the summit, still covered in trees. 634m. I’d climbed to a height almost two-thirds that of Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in the UK. That was a little shocking, especially since my calves had given me hell climbing Scafell. That, and I was only wearing a pair of flat trainers, hardly suited to climbing.
A little further exploration and I found a downward slope, surmounted with a monument to the battle of Zurich in 1799.
A small ditch and escarpment, now covered with road, marked the spot French general Andre Massena had placed his lines of artillery to fire down into the city.
I emerged a little way further down to see Lake Zurich to my left, and the city in the valley below me. Despite the inclement weather, and poor visibility, it was still a pretty amazing sight. To think I had contemplated spending the afternoon watching Netflix in the hotel room!
Zurich has impressed me mightily. It’s a thoroughly clean, efficient city, with excellent public transport and welcoming, friendly people who have been most accommodating to my haggard attempts at conversing in German. Hopefully I’ll be able to come back to "Zuri" and explore some more.